Friday, December 29, 2006

A New Year is Coming

  • 2007 is around the corner! I can't believe how fast 2006 went by. I thought I'd have my first WIP completed, but unfortunately I got stuck in the middle of the story and haven't made much progress in weeks. My critique pal, Denise "Chicki" Jones, has inspired me to really sit down and set goals for the coming year. With goals written down and in my face to inspire me on a daily, weekly and monthly basis, I hope to make some inroads with my writing and submissions this year.

    Some of Denise's ideas that I think I'll adopt for myself are:

    Completing one or two full manuscripts,
  • Find an agent,
    Participate in writing contests,
  • Educate myself on marketing and promotional tactics,
  • Renew my membership to RWA and Virginia Writing Group,
  • Submit my finished manuscript to publishers, and
  • Buy a laptop or Alphasmart (Dana).

Facing these goals in a list is daunting. But challenge is good! Thanks Denise!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Starting a New Story

Even though I didn't fulfill my goal to complete at least 50K words for NaNoWri this year, I was excited by what I had in my latest African American romance. So in my excitement I posted my first chapter to a three of my critique groups this week.

Oh boy, what a rude awakening I got!

A majority of the reviewers so far were bored by what I considered an exciting, emotion-fulled opening: an argument between a financially challenged, overwrought single mother and her spoiled, rebellious teenage daughter. Only later in the scene do I put my hero and heroine in the same room. The consensus was that I needed to skip the argument for now and get to the interaction between my hero and heroine sooner.

Humph! I thought the tension between mother and daughter was a nifty way to exemplify the stresses in the heroine's life. I saw comments like "boring," "get to the point," "story should start later," and "who cares?" After reading all the comments - and I haven't absorbed them all - the lesson I learned this week is:

Don't fall in love with your own work.

Not that I have to nix the parent-child argument, typical in most household. I received many suggestions to use it later, particularly after letting the reader get connected with the heroine and care about what she is going through. All writers need to begin a story by putting their main characters in a situation that will let the reader understand them, how they think, and how they feel. Will the reader learn everything there is to know about the main characters? No. But the reader should be given enough insight to care about reading further.

Plainly, I had too much backstory and exposition and not enough dialogue and emotional hook. Very few folks cared about the argument between Bri and a spoiled Jaime, at least at this point. I was told that I need to draw the readers in so that they can "root for her because of who she is [and] not just because of her circumstances."

Granted, this was my NaNo effort, inflated with a lot of words to try to meet my goal, and in need of alot of work. But I was surprised by this flaw right off the bat.

Bottom line: Get to the heart of the matter and create an opening that neither a reader nor an editior wants to put down.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Counting My Blessings

Goodness, this week has been one for counting blessings.

My car broke down and I had to plunk down my Christmas savings in order to get another one. For days, I was depressed because of the loss, lamenting about my new financial plight, how hard it is to live on disability as a single mother. But then I remembered the blessings within the situation: I am in a better situation financially than many other people in similar positions, that I was able to get financing for another car on my own and without a co-signer. Yeah, the next few months will be tight but I will be fine.

Then, five days later someone rear-ended my new car! Unbelievable! I could have spit nails.

Again I had to remember the blessings: Neither my daughter nor I were hurt, the accident wasn't my fault and the other driver's insurance will pay for the repairs, and compared to the other car, my damage was minor.

The next day my apartment was flooded when a pipe burst. Carpet was damaged and the smell was atrocious. The blessings here? Well, let's see....

Since I live in an apartment I was able to call the maintenance crew, who called in plumbers. Even though I had to put up a big "stink" about how unsanitary the conditions were becoming while the problem was being investigated, the property manager finally saw the merits of putting us into a hotel for a few nights. When we returned the carpets had been replaced and the pipes repaired. Sure, my daughter and I have been displaced and inconvenienced, but we still have a home, heat on this cold night and food in the frig. I remember the Katrina victims who suffered so much worse and are still not home this holiday season.

On a daily basis, I remember to count my blessings.