Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Receiving the Dreaded Revision Letter Part One

Like death and taxes, it’s almost impossible to escape receiving the dreaded revision letter, either from an agent interested in representing your novel, an editor acquiring your book, or, most likely both.

I’m going to tell you about my experience with the revision letters I’ve received from my editor at Carina Press. I’ll spill all about the highs, the lows, and the slogging in-between.


The first was an invitation to Revise and Resubmit, which meant that while they were interested in my novel, they felt it had some issues that needed to be addressed. I must admit that I had mixed feelings about that initial R&R request. On the one hand I was pretty jaded. I had done them before for this same manuscript for both agents and an editor. On the other hand, the editor at Carina Press who made the request was none other than Charlotte Herscher!!!!

Okay, maybe hers isn’t a household name, but to me she represented the Holy Grail of editing. Why? Because she edited all of Allison Brennan’s suspense novels. I’m a HUGE fan of Allison’s. For years I’ve been saying I want a career just like hers. Her books are a lot like mine, complete with REALLY creepy killers. (I’d had a number of people tell me that my killer is “just too creepy”.) I was so convinced that my book was similar to Allison Brennan’s books, that I compared my work to hers in the query I sent Carina Press.

Fate decided to smile at me. Charlotte Herscher had left Ballantine and was now working for Carina Press and my novel was forwarded to her. She liked it. She really liked it…just not enough to recommend acquiring it at that point in time. Hence, the first revision letter.

If there was one editor I believed could see the potential of my novel it was Charlotte Herscher and yet…

…and yet…

I don’t know how other writers feel, but I was conflicted about it. Yes, the opening comments were a balm to my ego as she listed what she liked most about my book (she was creeped out by my villain, but in a good way) but then I got to the meat of the letter. The part that outlined what she thought was wrong with the book.

For the record, she didn’t say anything was “wrong” or “bad” or “total dreck“ (her thoughts were all phrased in a generous and kind way). I supplied all that commentary as I read about the issues she had with the story. I had re-written and revised this story so many times already that I couldn’t possibly do it again. She was wrong.

Stewing, I closed the email, turned off my computer and went for a walk. Unfortunately this is how I tend to handle most problems. I get defensive first, think things through later. On my walk I slowly realized she might be right about a couple of things she was right about. I went home, opened the email and read it again…and again…and again.

And lo and behold, I realized she “got” my book. She understood the story I was trying to tell and had sent me what I’d always hoped to receive, a blueprint to take my novel to the next level. Her suggestions were spot on, and she helped me to see clearly how to address issues I’d sensed were problems, but hadn’t had a clue how to solve.

I’m not going to lie to you and say I embraced the revisions whole-heartedly right off the bat. It was more like they were a nasty smelling medicine I needed to take to get better.

And the manuscript did get better. Once I’d completed the rewrite, I resubmitted the manuscript and was eventually offered a contract.

And then the hard work started. I received my official edits/revision letter. I’ll tell you all about that adventure next Tuesday!

Tell me, how do YOU feel about revision letters?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Shopping, Snoopy Dancing, and Swigging

We're back! Did you have a good week? We sure did! Here's what we've been up to:

Jenny: I had one of my best friends come and visit over Thanksgiving weekend, and we shopped. And shopped. And shopped. And talked, and ate, and shopped some more. I only feel a little bit guilty about it.

Goals for the week: I'm off to Cabo San Lucas tomorrow! Woo hoo! But don't worry, thanks to the magic of early scheduling, my Wednesday posts will run as usual. (I'm sure you were all very worried).

Joann: Oh man, so jealous of Jenny's trip to Cabo! I've never been, but it's definitely on my list of places to visit. I didn't do any shopping over the holiday (I'm an online shopper through and through), but I did get a TON of writing done. Of late I have felt compelled to participate in the traditional Snoopy Dance because this new manuscript (WALKING AFTER MIDNIGHT) makes me SO HAPPY - not the writing (it's crap right now), but the layering of ideas that just keep coming. I love that energy.

Goals for the week: work, write, teach, repeat.

JB: I'm jealous of both Jenny's trip and Joann's Snoopy Dancing (and I'd like to see pictures of both!). I'm not a shopper, but I did celebrate Thanksgiving with another tradition. I did a Turkey Trot which was a lot of fun. With a December first deadline looming for this first round of edits/revisions I must have admit I've spent an awful lot of time swigging coffee and staring at my computer screen. My post tomorrow will be all about what it's REALLY like to receive an edits/revision letter.

Your turn KILLER FRIENDS, tell us what you did this week! (If you're finishing up NaNo, please be sure to tell us how you did!)

Goals for the week: Meet my deadline. Pass out. Follow up with the agents who have the full of my other manuscript (yes, I AM a glutton for punishment, lol).

Monday, November 22, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Monday, Killer Friends! This will be our only post for the week, so in the spirit of the Thanksgiving holiday, we'd like to update you on our progress and also tell you what we're thankful for.

JB: Because of the extensive revisions I've been working on for my contracted novel, I've had to completely shelve my NaNo project. Not only did I not have the time to devote to it, but it was way too confusing to jump back and forth between stories and voices. Since I really want my Carina Press novel to be the best it can possibly be, I've committed to giving it my full attention.

Speaking of which, next Tuesday I'll write an entire post about my adventures with this round of revisions, but I'll tell you now that they're hard work...exciting stuff, but definitely a challenge! In addition to rewriting, this week I attended my first Harlequin/Carina Press teleconference--such enthusiastic and informative folks! I also had my first phone call with my editor (so cool to have someone in my corner who "gets" my story and is pushing me to make it even better) and we brainstormed a list of possible titles to send to the marketing folks.

What I'm thankful for: Everyone at Killer Chicks, the entire team at Carina Press, my incredible crit partners and readers, family and friends (especially she who had just emerged from a coma this time last year) purple ink, hot showers, thunderstorms, coffee, the Dog of Death, and Long Suffering who puts up with me saying on a fairly regular basis, "Hey, this would be a really good way to kill someone." Oh, and for all those agents who are preparing to offer me representation for my other book....(can't hurt to think positive, can it?)

Joann: Yay, JB! That's fabulous progress! SO thrilled for you.

I finished FULL DARK, NO STARS this week and LOVED it. Something Stephen King said in the afterword really resonated with me: "Take a bright light, and shine it on everything. If you don't want to see, why in God's name would you dare the dark at all?" This has helped me come to terms with delving into WAM's darkest places and I'm happy to report that the second draft is coming along swimmingly.

What I'm thankful for: So, so, so much: a warm house while it's snowing (SNOWING!), my wonderful hubby, my cuddly, affectionate cats, my fun coworkers, my awesomely proactive and encouraging agent, my students, my siblings, my fabulously talented blog partners, all our wonderful Killer Friends, and the good health to pursue so many of the things I'm passionate about.

Jenny: Woo hoo! I'm so excited for you, JB. Can't wait to read your revisions post. And Joann, I'm salivating over King's book. So glad you've recommended it.

I received a draft of my cover copy – no, not the actual cover (I know, that's what I thought it was, too), but the blurb. And I love it! I am also happy to say that the first draft of my new WIP is now officially done. Done done done! No more novel writing for me until January. Yes, JANUARY. Let the six-week marinate begin! (I'll still be blogging, though.)

What I'm thankful for: My supportive husband, amazing friends, my two awesome blog partners, a great agent, a fabulous editor, and a really productive 2010.

What are you thankful for, Killer Friends?

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving (for those who are celebrating) and we'll see you back here on Monday, November 29!

Friday, November 19, 2010

If you had 5 minutes to spend with your favorite author...

... what's the ONE question you'd ask?

Joann: This is a toughie because so many writers are fully accessible via Twitter, FB, and personal blogs, and they answer all sorts of questions very openly. I'd want to be clever and smart, which would undoubtedly make me go red-faced and silent. I think I'd ask Stephen King the following: "If you had 5 minutes to spend with your favorite author, what's the ONE question you'd ask?" Then I'd ask him that question. <------ You say cheater, I say clever. :P

Jenny: I just laughed out loud! Clever, indeed. I would ask Stephen King (because yes, he's my favorite author, too), what his worst experience in publishing has been so far. It just seems like he's had this dream career. Has he ever been insulted by an author he admires? Has he ever been embarrassed at how one of his movies turned out? Has he ever been embarrassed about anything? Okay, so that's one big question and three mini questions, but come on, they're all related.

JB: She's not my favorite author, but I'd love to ask J.K. Rowling about some of the choices she made in the HP series (mostly the stuff that drove me nuts).

What about you, Killer Friends? It's Free-For-All Friday! Who's your favorite author and what would you ask?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Time keeps on slip, slip, slippin' away

Some folks have a Biological Clock, some a Career Clock. I have a OMG-Must-Fulfill-Dreams-Fast-Fast-Fast Clock.

When I turned 34, the idea of time passing too quickly (and an overwhelming panic) hit me full in the face. A few months after my birthday I finished graduate school and had a strong desire to switch my career path, so I did. And I thought, now that damn clock will stop its infernal ticking and I can get on with developing this wonderful new career.

Can you guess what happened? Yup, the ticking got louder. The job was (is) fantastic, but instead of satisfying my need to create, it fed it. A year and half in I started writing again and finished my first novel. The clock got louder. I put that book away (very trunk-worthy) and wrote another. The ticking turned to drum beats, slow and steady and LOUD. I found an agent who loved my book and went out on sub. Now…surely, some peace. Um, no.

And then on one particularly agonizing day not too long ago, I let go. Sounds easy, right? It wasn’t. It was really hard. I wanted it to be as easy as deciding on a new career path, but that didn’t happen. It had to be a conscious choice – one not another soul in the world could make for me. And now, a few short weeks after I decided to stop being such a drama queen? The ticking is softer and I’m relaxing into the fact that there is no way I can accomplish everything I want to in this brief lifetime. I’m going to turn 38 in a few short months and, I’ll tell you what, not a drop of all that panic made the last four years slow down.

::whispering:: And wouldn’t you know it? After I relaxed, I received a bit of good news...and, while very excited, also took it in stride. It’s not Full Blown Awesome OMG Double Rainbow good news, but I’m happy and I hope to share more with you in the coming tick tocks.

I would love to hear your thoughts on how you handle the insanely fast passing of time, friends. Do you let go and just Be or do you struggle against the ticking of the clock?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Champagne wishes and caviar dreams

I took an online fiction writing class through the Gotham Writers' Workshop a couple of years back (great school, by the way), and at the end of the ten week session, our instructor posted a final discussion question on our class message board:

What's your writing dream?

The responses came in fast and furious.

"Gina" said she'd love to write a short story anthology just for herself.

"Carolyn" thought it would be cool to finish the first draft of her novel.

"Mike" said he'd like to be published in an online magazine.

And so on and so on.

I read all their posts in surprise. I double and triple checked the instructor's question. And I totally felt like shouting (I didn't, but I wanted to, in whatever way you can shout on an internet board):

"Come on, people! She said writing DREAMS! Not goals. DREAMS! As in, FANTASIES! They don't have to be based in reality. They don't even have to make sense. Surely as writers we can DREAM bigger than this!"

I found my classmates' responses so underwhelming. I couldn't tell whether people were afraid to be honest, or whether it was really possible that nobody in this writing class had a really big writing dream. Of course we all want to finish our novels. Of course we'd all like to be published someday. That's why we took the class.

But she said writing dream. Which, in my opinion, refers to a level far beyond goals and reasonable expectations. 

So here's what I posted:

"My dream would be to write a bunch of bestselling novels, one of which gets made into a movie starring Angelina Jolie. I want to be interviewed in Entertainment Weekly and I want Stephen King to talk about how much he loves my work in his monthly column. I want to be touted as having redefined the thriller genre and, after I'm dead, I want critics to have heated debates over who "the next Jennifer Hillier" will be."

Feeling a little giddy from allowing myself a moment to imagine the impossible coming true (because yes, I realized how completely over-the-top it sounded), I hit "post".

Silence.

Nobody responded.

Days passed.

Finally, the instructor popped back in to check on the discussion and said, "This is what I was looking for, a really big dream! Good for you, Jennifer. Why not add winning back-to-back Pulitzers to that list?  Because that's definitely mine!"

And I thought, Nah. I'm perfectly okay with just commercial success. <grin>

So what about you? What's YOUR writing dream? Let's hear it, and don't hold back!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Push that snowball down the hill (week 3 of NaNoWriMo)

If things had gone according to plan, I'd be writing act 3 (of 4) this week, but a combination of a week spent visiting family and edits/revisions for a book that's actually under contract, have derailed my NaNo project. (How is YOUR NaNo manuscript coming along?)

Last Tuesday I mentioned tackling the midpoint as the climax of Act 2. This means that something major has just happened. This event will change the direction of your story. It will increase the stakes. The pace will pick up.

Everything is going wrong for your character, but things are suddenly looking up for you, the writer. Why? Because once you've reached the midpoint, gravity is on your side. All this time you've been pushing a giant snowball up a mountain, but now that you've reached the peak, all you have to do is give your story a giant shove and race downhill toward the end. (HA! as if it were that easy, lol)

You've created your own momentum. Ask yourself what is now driving your story forward and keep those elements in mind at all times.

In my story my protagonist fails (which forces her to come up with a new plan -- a change in direction). There's a very real and imminent threat that she'll lose what she holds most dear (a raising of stakes). She's running out of time (an increase in pace).

You're now closer to "The End". Maintain a sense of urgency and keep on going!

What are your tips and tricks for getting through the second half of a novel? (I need all the help I can get so PLEASE share!!!)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Chugging, Evolving, Revising

It's Monday again! Is it us or are the weeks flying by? Here's what we've been up to:

Jenny: I'm about a third of way through my plot hole plugging, and I'm running on fumes. I've been thinking and breathing this WIP for what feels like an eternity (it took less than three months to write the first draft, but I started trying to write the first draft in January), and I can't wait to get it all organized so I can stick it away and not look at it for awhile.

Goals for the week: Keep chugging on my plugging. Groan. Cut me some slack, I'm tired!

Joann: The ever-evolving ms. that is WAM is...ever evolving. But it's going well and that's what matters. I'm knee-deep in the second-draft and rewrites. Very little of the first draft is making it in. Goals for the week: keep on keeping on.

I'm reading Stephen King's FULL DARK, NO STARS and I'm LOVING it. If you opt to read it, take a close look at the reviews on Amazon (if you pay attention to them at all). The poor reviews are strictly to do with the pricing set by the publisher. Why do people do that? Grrrrrr! It's the first time I paid $15 for an e-book, but that's my choice! Anyhoo, loving the book. It's old-style King and what could be better than that?

JB Lynn: I'm very excited (and a bit overwhelmed) because I've received my revision letter and first round of edits from my editor at Carina Press!

A combination of needing to get a new computer, a week-long visit with family, and working on the edits (while trying to figure out how to solve the issues raised in the revision letter) put me WAY behind with NaNoWriMo. I only wrote 5217 words this week. I hope everyone else who is participating did better!

Goals for the week: Edits, revisions, NaNo -- Repeat daily!

Check in, Killer Friends! What's up with you?

Friday, November 12, 2010

What qualities of a villain capture your imagination?

JB: I must admit that I have a thing for brilliant villains. I don’t care whether they’re evil genius serial killers (John Doe was my favorite character in Se7en), mastermind world dominators (I’m thinking about all the Bond villains here) or the psychopath next door (I’m talking about you, Annie Wilkes!). Smart villains don’t get caught or stopped (at least not right away). Smart villains have interests other than killing (fava beans anyone?). Smart villains are a match for, or even superior to, the heroes and heroines they go up against. Smart villains make a story interesting!

Jenny: Man, do I love villains. They're always my favorite character in the story, even if I'm not rooting for them (I usually do root for the hero). Villains can do whatever they want. They don't have to worry about being likable and they definitely don't have to worry about being sympathetic. They don't have to play by the rules. They can be flamboyant or they can lurk in the shadows. I enjoy writing villains more than any other character because there's such freedom in it. My favorite kind of villain is smart, original, and has motives larger than what they seem. So I have to ditto JB that John Doe from Se7en is one of the best villains of all time. He was the ultimate mastermind.

Joann: Count me as third fan of Se7en's John Doe. It's funny, I love complex villains when I'm reading about them or watching them on the big (or small) screen, but I have a tough time writing them three-dimensionally. In real life, I think it's easier to understand an "evil" act when it's perpetrated by someone who is clearly bad or seriously dumb. Such a concrete view keeps the ickiness at arm's length. I think that's part of why John Doe and the Joker and Iago and all those other really freaky villains both appeal and scare the bejesus out of me: they're intelligent, often funny, ambitious AND they want to watch the world burn.

Your turn, killer friends. What qualities of a villain capture YOUR imagination?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Give Me Specificity Or Give Me Death!

If you’re a writer, you know the setting in your novel has all the potential to become a character unto itself, separate from the cast of protagonists, antagonists, and supporting peeps. Seriously, how important was Hogwarts in the HARRY POTTER series? How crucial was that flight of stairs in THE EXORCIST? The Lincoln Tunnel in THE STAND? All were pretty damn significant, I’d say.

When I’m reading a novel, picturing the setting is as important to me as liking (or not liking) the characters. My imagination doesn’t want Vanilla High School #3 or Plain City In American #10. I want the DEETS. I want to SEE that ominous, killer staircase and FEEL the cold drafts from Nearly Headless Nick and SMELL the rotting flesh of all those dead folks crammed into the Lincoln Tunnel (ok, maybe that’s a bit much).

I think about this all the time in my own writing and I’ll tell you what, setting is one of the hardest things to get right, in my opinion. It isn’t just about place, it’s about atmosphere and season and circumstances. Setting isn’t just a backdrop in which our characters play out their assigned roles. It needs to be as well drawn as everything else. Otherwise, we’re gonna give our readers a big old case of the Blahs.

In my own writing the setting tends to spring up spontaneously and then shows me its significance later on. Sometimes it’s about conveying wealth or poverty, separateness, mental illness, death or new life, but it’s always, always symbolic of the big issues in my characters’ lives.

If we infuse our settings with as much care as we do our characters and our plots, we have the potential to create an almost physical space that readers can occupy for the hours they’re spending with us. What an incredible opportunity!

When it comes to setting, don’t go Blah. Go Big!

I’d love to hear your all-time favorite novel setting, killer friends. What was it about the place/time/circumstances that affected you so deeply? If you’re a writer and you care to share, how do you choose your settings?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Finding balance

Confession time: I am addicted to the Young & the Restless.

For those of you who might not know what this is, the Young & the Restless is a soap opera that's been on television longer than I've been alive. Yes, the storylines can be ridiculous (everybody's been married to everybody and people come back from the dead ALL THE TIME... and no, not as zombies), but I still tune in. I need this soap opera in my life. The ridiculousness of this one TV show somehow helps me balance out all the seriousness I experience in my day-to-day life, and I really need that balance.

For me, Y&R is the fastest and most enjoyable way to unwind after a tough day of writing. Even if I've missed an episode or two, it doesn't require brain cells to figure out what's going on. After an afternoon of staring at my WIP and contemplating different ways for people to die, nothing feels better than to curl up on the sofa with a mug of tea and find out what the back-stabbing, incestuous, poison-tongued residents of Genoa City are up to. It's a great way to decompress, to get out of my own head and just indulge in something utterly fluffy (because fluff is exactly what I try to avoid in my own work).

Having recently finished the first draft of my third novel, I've learned the hard way how necessary it is to seek balance, even in the midst of a draft. Being constantly consumed by a project has never helped me, and has, in fact, hurt me by causing me to slam right into the Burn Out Wall long before the book is finished. So now I know: when it's time to stop writing, it might also be time to stop thinking about writing. At least for a little while until my mind refreshes and I'm ready to go at it again.

Other ways I wind down: cooking, cleaning (picture me armed with a can of Pledge and a rag, hunting for a dusty bookshelf), and dancing. I like to jack up the volume on a favorite song and just let loose. Nobody's watching, so who cares if I look like a fish flopping around or if my moves are so totally 2004? When Outkast tells me to shake it like a Polaroid picture,you bet your ass that's exactly what I'm going to do! Five minutes of no-holds-barred dancing clears my head and recharges my batteries. (As does chocolate. Can't forget about chocolate.)

It's those little breaks that keep me going all the way to The End.

How do YOU keep going? Do you take breaks too, or do you push hard all the way the through until you're finished?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Avoiding a Sagging Middle (week 2 of NaNoWriMo)

Okay, so last Tuesday I told you about how I’m not a plotter or pantser, but a paradigmer. This week I want to share how I approach getting through the dreaded middle of a book. In no way do I think this is the “right” way. It’s just the way I do I do it. If you’ve got a system that works for you…don’t deviate! But if you’re struggling, maybe my approach will help you to think about it differently.

For many people (count me! count me!) writing the middle of a novel is like entering a land of quicksand. One minute you’re on firm footing and the next the life is getting sucked out of your story.

But, let’s back up a step. Most people would agree that novels have a beginning, middle, and an end, which in turn leads to our understanding of basic three act structure. Therein lies the problem, imho. Most writers believe one of two things:

1) Each act/section is equal (a third is the beginning, a third is the middle, and a third is the end)
2) The first act is ¼ of the story, the middle is HALF of the story, and the last act is ¼.

With me so far?

No wonder the middle is intimidating. For one thing, the middle is long. For another, most of the flashy stuff – introducing characters/story lines and completing a characters arcs and a big bang climax occur in the other two acts.

Now here’s my crazy idea. What if you break the middle into two acts? What if you start thinking of your midpoint as the CLIMAX of your second act?

Something big is going to happen at the midpoint -- a giant plot twist, an unexpected failure, a point of no return. Hell, your protagonist probably believes that the action they take at the mid-point will end their ordeal (sure, you the writer know that their life is about to get worse, but they don't). They probably think things are getting better/going well for them. Write toward the midpoint as though it’s a climax and your story won’t sag in the middle.

In my NaNo novel, my MC is going to do the one thing that can put her life back on track. She truly believes if she accomplishes this Herculean task, all will be right in her world. She makes the attempt. She fails. All is lost…

What’s the midpoint of your story? What does your protagonist think they’re going to accomplish? Infuse this section of your novel with the sense of urgency they’re experiencing. They’re not approaching the midpoint as an obstacle to overcome. He or she believes it’s the finish line and they’re rushing forward to cross it.

Now it’s your turn. What are your tricks for avoiding middle-of-the-novel slump? Please, please tell me -- I need all the help I can get!

If you’re participating in NaNoWriMo, how are you doing? (Don’t forget I’m posting tips, tricks, and pep talks every day on JB Lynn’s Confessions of a Crime Writer!)

Monday, November 8, 2010

Jenny's CREEPing along, JB is juggling projects, and Joann is making progress

It's Status Check Monday, Killer Friends! Here's what we've been up to:

Jenny: Over the last couple of weeks, I had lots of cool things happen with CREEP, my debut novel, which I talked about on my blog last Thursday. The highlights: edits are done (copyedits are next, I believe), the book will be available in Canada, and it might just get a reading guide! Pretty exciting stuff.

Goals for this week: keep plugging the holes in the current WIP. It's actually not as awful as it sounds. Mainly because the book is written, and I'm definitely all the way out of panic mode. Hooray for that!

JB: I survived the first week of NaNoWriMo! My current wordcount stands at 12906, so I'm ahead of the game by a little. How's everyone else doing?

The real NaNo test will be this week because on Friday I received my first round of edits for my Carina Press manuscript. Oh, and my executed contract, which went 'round the world, ended up in my mailbox on Saturday, so now everything feels more official, lol.

Goals for the week: Make a dent in the edits and keep on NaNo-ing! (Oh, and not losing my mind in the process is pretty high on my list of priorities.)

Joann: Woo hoo, Jenny! Such awesome news! Yay, Jen! Congrats on your first successful week of NaNo. That is an incredible word count.

My biggest accomplishment this week: twelve amazing years of marriage - as of TODAY! Happy Anniversary to my wonderful, brilliant, sweet Hubby.

Writing-wise, I'm making A LOT of progress on WAM (title to definitely change), which is such a relief. I’ve been so excited about this book since I started it, but kept running into brick walls. I switched POV and wah lah! the second draft is flowing. Whew! I’m also typing in The Unnamed and Very Mysterious Handwritten Manuscript, which is fun. The ms. is actually longer than I originally thought (YAY for tiny handwriting!). Also, I bought a beautiful new book about astronomy. It's for research (she says defensively).

Goals for the week: continue to focus and make progress on my current projects, hope to hear something about TIN LILY.

What have you been up to and what have you got coming up, Killer Friends?

Friday, November 5, 2010

WINNERS of the 3-3-3 Contest!

Thank you so much to everyone who participated! We appreciate your support and hope you had as much fun as we did.

Without further ado, here are the winners:

Missie at The Unread Reader
You have won a $25 Amazon gift card for being a blog follower!

Joni at Bear Nekkid
You have won a $25 Amazon gift card for being a Twitter follower!

Adam Purple at Writer, Not
You have won a $50 Amazon gift card for your outstanding flash fiction piece, The Museum of Obscure Cartoon References!

Congratulations to all the winners!

Missie, Joni, and Adam, please contact Jenny at jennifer98101@gmail.com by Friday, November 12 with the email address you'd like your e-gift card sent to.

Once again, thanks to all who participated, particularly those who submitted a flash fiction story. We were blown away by your creativity and talent. Bravo! We'd also like to extend a very warm welcome to all our new followers. Hope you stick around.

In case you missed Adam Purple's story, here it is. Have a great weekend, everyone!

The Museum of Obscure Cartoon References
by Adam Purple
I entered through the revolving door and found the information desk. The woman behind the counter spun her chair toward me. A pencil protruded from the tight bun atop her head.

"Yes?"

"I’m looking for the band that did the cartoon--"

"South Park, third episode, 1999. Second floor. The Kornucopia Room. Stairs are on the left."

"No, see, there was a song, but it was about growing up…learning--"

Her eyebrows arched. "Cartoon Chicks. Downstairs, in the Betty Boop Basement. West Wing, the Jessica Rabbit Repository." She leaned forward to eye me over the top of her glasses. "Adults only."

"No, not like that. Just listen. They did a song. About tying shoes…"

She nodded, just once. "Spongebob, episode 21. Third floor. The Hall-o-Ween.

"That’s it! You’ve got a killer memory."

Her lips turned upward at one corner. "Murder and Mayhem. Gary Larson Library. Third floor." She spun away.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Beauty and Writing

Sometimes there's so much beauty in the world I feel like I can't take it, like my heart's going to cave in. (American Beauty, 1999)

Friends, don’t you just want to get out your butterfly net, snag those incredible moments of beauty, and pin them to a piece of cardboard so you can always remember how they made you feel? Tom Lowe at Timescapes managed to do it in video and I hope you’ll take a couple minutes to view his stunning work and then join me below for a discussion about how this all relates to my most recent manuscript.


TimeScapes: Rapture from Tom Lowe @ Timescapes on Vimeo.

Back in September I read John Green's Paper Towns and loved it. The nostalgia got to me in a big, big way. Shortly after finishing PT, I traveled to the town where I grew up and visited places I hadn't in years, relived memories I’d let slip away because they were too painful/too embarrassing/too whatever, and (to my surprise) began a new manuscript on the way home. I didn’t think it would turn into anything – just a quick little writing exercise that would keep me limber.

I spent the next six weeks writing, still expecting nothing much to come of it. On Tuesday I put down my pen (literally - this is the handwritten ms. I'm talking about), and not because the exercise had run its course, but because it was finished.

I think the combination of reading PT at the time I did and the trip home stirred something in me that allowed this book to emerge. I LOVE when just the right mishmash of elements come together to create something new, when you can point to a specific moment and say, “That’s it! That’s when the idea came to me!”

I won’t know if the manuscript is viable until I get into rewrites and edits, but I do know in writing it I felt my heart cave in a little, not from the beauty of my prose (Ha! Ha! First drafts are NEVER beautiful), but because in using a pen instead of a keyboard I more clearly saw each scene, each character flaw, each moment of discovery as if I was glimpsing something rare and wonderful. That is a true find and I will always be grateful for Paper Towns, my trip home, and a notebook I threw into my bag at the last minute – my own little moments that conspired to create, for me, something beautiful.

Any moments of beauty you've experienced lately, Killer Friends? Hmmmm?? Perhaps a new torture device for one of your exceptionally villainous villains?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The art of selecting a book

I don't know about you guys, but I take book buying very seriously. Whether I'm shopping in a bookstore or on my Kindle, the magnitude of choices I have at my fingertips forces me to be extremely selective about what I spend my hard-earned money on. Yes, looking for a new book is always fun. But that doesn't mean I take it lightly! Let's face it, nothing's worse than bringing your new book home (or on vacation, or to work to read on your lunch hour), only to realize you bought a dud.

Here are the four criteria I always consider when shopping for a new read:

Author recognition
We all have our favorite authors, and when I see that one of mine has a new book out, I'll almost always buy it without too much thought. Jeff Lindsay just released a new Dexter book?  Sold! Jeffery Deaver has a new Lincoln Rhyme novel out? Sold! I'm a loyal reader, and supporting the authors I love is a no-brainer.

Cover Art
I admit it, I've been known to take a chance on a book simply because I liked the cover. I'll use Fangland by John Marks as an example of this. I knew nothing about the author or the book, but the cover was wonderfully creepy. It reminded me of a movie poster, so I bought it (which turned out to be a good decision – I loved the book).

Back cover/jacket flap blurb
Quite often I'm enticed by the blurb – and that's exactly why it's there. Consider this from the jacket flap of The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins:
"In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV."
I had never heard of Suzanne Collins. The book cover didn't do much for me. And at that point, I hadn't really read much YA. But this blurb? Those two sentences sent me straight to the cash register.

Personal recommendation
There's nothing I appreciate more than a book recommendation. Now, please don't confuse this with book reviews, which are a different animal. I love it when someone I personally know, who knows my tastes, tells me there's a book I really need to read. My mother recommends (or not recommends) books to me all the time, and she's almost always right about what I'll end up enjoying.

What I don't take into consideration when buying a book?  
Anonymous reader reviews, like the kind you find on Amazon.com. I'm wary of listening to the advice of somebody I don't know. Which isn't to say they're without merit, it's just that anonymous reviews don't sway me personally one way or the other.

What about you? What makes you decide to buy a book? What makes you decide to put a book down and keep looking?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Plotter? Pantser? Or Something Else?

There's no magic formula for writing a book. (If there was I'd patent the sucker and make a gazillion bucks....but I'd give you, dear readers of Killer Chicks, at a significant discount.)

In this Writer's Digest article, best selling thriller writer David Morrell talks about wanting to be surprised by his story, while the equally successful Ken Follett reveals his outline is typically 50 typed pages.

I'd guess from reading that article that Morrell is a pantser and Follet a plotter.

Me? I like to think of myself as a "paradigm-er".

Outlines never worked for me (I blame those pesky Roman numerals). I have trouble envisioning things that are presented in list form, while horizontal paradigms make perfect sense to me.

(If you're unfamiliar with paradigms, check out these examples from Syd Field. Yes, they're for screenplays, but the basic concept can be carried over to novels. No, I don't think they're the "right" way to do it...I just happen to use a bastardized version of the concept (I'm a big believer in working in 4 acts...more about that next Tuesday) to get my own story down.)

For my NaNoWriMo project I made up seven separate paradigms.

They are:

1) My main story
2) My main subplot
3) My motivation story
4) Employment
5) Love interest
6) Mentor
7) Allies who are also Complications

***I don't really have an antagonist in this story, but if I did, I'd definitely have an antagonist paradigm too....after all he/she is just as responsible for driving a story toward its conclusion***


Here's how my Employment paradigm works (keep in mind that this is not a main storyline, just something that complicates my MC's life):

Inciting Incident -- MC finds out she's in danger of losing job
Turning Point 1 - She's fired
Pinch 1 - Starts job search
Mid Point - Meets someone who suggests a new career path
Pinch 2 - Job interview
Turning Point 2 - Begins training for new job

(no climax or resolution needed because it's not a main storyline)

Can you see how figuring out all of these moments for each of your storylines, could be helpful?

So that's how I'll be tackling my National Novel Writing Month project, what about you? Are you a pantser? A plotter? Or something else entirely?

You can find me at NaNoWriMo under JB_Lynn (don't forget the underscore) and I'm tossing out tips and tricks every day this month over at JB Lynn's Confessions of a Crime Writer.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Status Check: Joann's Big Ideas, JB's NaNo insanity, and Jenny's awful first draft

It's Status Check Monday!  Did you all have a good Halloween? We sure did, considering all the fabulous entries we received for our flash fiction contest. We'll be announcing the winner this Friday, November 5. Thanks so much to all who entered!

Here's what's up with the Killer Chicks right now:

Joann: I'm not used to having more than one idea at a time. Not saying it's a bad thing (at all). In fact, it's somewhat of a relief because I thought after I'd written two novels I'd be sort of spent, you know? Not true. Ideas breed more ideas, which then have little baby ideas, which may grow up to become adult ideas...you get the idea. Right now I have four Big Ideas, all I think will make very interesting YA novels. I'm working on three of them. When I get stuck on one, I move to another and when I get stuck on that one, I move to the third (diagnosis: WIP-ADD). Trouble is, this distributed-focus model SUCKS when you're trying to finish anything. My goal this week: focus, stop being so ADD-y and start moving toward some finishing lines. I had myself half-convinced I need to join NaNo this year. Don't let me, friends. I do not need another idea.

JB: I want to throw up. I'm vascillating between being ridiculously nervous (what was I thinking?!?) about starting NaNoWriMo and being overly-excited (I'm getting so sick of catching myself thinking "this is going to be awesome!").

Tomorrow I'll explain what I hope to accomplish this week.

Best of luck to everyone who is joining me in this temporary insanity.
Current word count: 0

Jenny: Yay for Big Ideas and yay for NaNoWriMo! I have partnered with some very productive Chicks.

As for me, I FINALLY finished the first draft of my current novel. 98,255 words. 366 pages. And yep, it's all shit.

But it's okay. Over the next few weeks, with a lot of restructuring and the filling in of some ugly, gaping plot holes, it'll be less shitty and ready for marinating (which is when I don't think about it for six whole weeks). Maybe during that time I'll be able to think up a decent title.

Killer Friends, check in! What do you have going on this week?