Friday, March 29, 2013

Not Blogging is Often a Good Sign

In the past, whenever I don't have anything to blog about, I get a sense of panic. "Surely it's a sign of a creative block," I'd think. The panic would soon affect my writing. Soon it would be accompanied by a sense of guilt, and thus begins a downward spiral.

I had a revelation today that explained why I've been blogging less and that, contrary to my previous belief, it might actually be a good thing.

It all goes back to my purpose for starting this blog. I'm the kind of person who wants to share everything I know with everyone. If I discover a great movie, website, or restaurant, my friends will surely hear about it multiple times. My blog is more or less to indulge that tendency; whenever I learn anything new about writing, I create an article so I can share that knowledge with my readers. It gets that itch to share out of my system.

I've noticed that whenever I go through a large change in my life, I don't blog as much. It's not surprising that the least I've ever blogged has been during my transition from a full-time employee at a bank to a write-at-home mother. This isn't because I'm busy or distracted.

It's because I'm learning. 

Any new experience will bring with it new lessons, and I can't share with readers the things I learned until I finish learning them.

This time in my life has been a whirlwind of learning. I'm still trying to figure out the best way to be productive while working from home. I'm querying Sacred Fire, which has been a pattern of trial and error mixed with a lot of waiting. I'm working on a rough draft, which has been a nightmare and caused a writer's block that I'm just now getting out of. And to top it off, I'm pregnant for the first time.

I have tons of ideas for articles that I'm just not ready to post yet. For instance, when you have an idea to add to your book that you know isn't good, should you pursue it anyway? How do you handle the disappointment when your book takes longer to get published than you planned? Should you force yourself to write when you don't feel like it? How do you juggle writing and parenting?

If I were to continue posting every day, my articles would read like this: "I'm still working on my rough draft. I'm still querying. I'm still pregnant." It would sound like I'm stuck in a miserable limbo, when really, I'm going through an important time in my life.

Someday soon you'll see articles about how I found my amazing agent, how I broke through and finished the best book I've written so far, how I handle writing at home with the new baby. Until then I'm still learning, and that's a good thing.

Still, perhaps I should push myself to post more often than I do. It would be good to see what happens when I get out of my comfort zone and get past my boundaries. (That would be another good blog article topic... once I've tried it and I'm ready to write about it.)

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

A Query Does More than Pull You In

Absolute Write Water Cooler is a fantastic forum for writers, especially if you want to get your query critiqued. I go there often to give and get advice about writing queries.

There's one piece of advice I give so much that I'm about ready to shout if from the roof tops so everyone can hear.

Often when I read a query, the author will write about the set-up and the inciting incident, which typically summarizes the first 50 pages of the book. The query reads like the back-jacket of a novel. 

The critiquers  -- including myself -- always ask the same thing: "What happens next?"

The author will get frustrated. After all, he's read enough back-jackets of novels to know how it's done. He'll say, "I thought I'm only supposed to pull readers in and give them a taste of what's to come. You want me to tell the whole story!"

Here's the problem: he said "readers." When you address readers, yes, you're supposed to only pull them in. But a query isn't for readers. It's for agents. They want something completely different.

Try to look at this from an agent's perspective: You're busy as all get out. You're very selective about which books you'll spend your time on because signing a new client is a huge risk and responsibility. You read a query that sounds like it has a fascinating beginning. But it doesn't have a middle or an end.

How are you supposed to know the book is good if the query doesn't have a middle or end? After the initial plot twist, anything could happen. The rest might suck.

Readers will take a chance on an incomplete summary because they like to be surprised. Agents, on the other hand, do not. They want to know if the guy gets the girl, if the decision to go on a quest was a bad idea, if the main character finds out his dead father is actually alive.

When you write for an agent, don't keep them in the dark. Tell them enough about your book for them to not just want to read it, but to want to represent it.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Books I Read in January

Lily of the Nile by Stephanie Dray

When Selene's parents Cleopatra and Marc Anthony are killed and Egypt defeated by the Romans, she must struggle to retain her identity while living in the home of her parent's killers: the current Caesar.

I wish I had discovered this book a long time ago! Of all the books I've read that take place in the ancient world, this one is my favorite. Selene is a powerful character and her quest to regain Egypt keeps readers rooting for her all the way through. I'm glad it's a trilogy.

On Writing by Stephen King

I adore Stephen King's writing; his humor, his perspective, his storytelling. This is a great irony because I'm emotionally incapable of reading his books. (Pet Sematary still haunts me and I watched the edited version of The Green Mile -- the edited version, mind you -- and I haven't been the same since.) Ergo, On Writing was a real treat for me. I laughed out loud at his crazy stories from childhood and was fascinated by his quest toward being an author. My only complaint is that this book is quoted so often that I had already heard all his good writing advice.

Killing Kennedy by Bill O'Reilly

An account of Kennedy's presidency ending with his assassination by the same author who wrote Killing Lincoln.

I don't really read non-fiction unless it's research-related and I wasn't super interested in JFK -- I just read this for a book group -- so it's hard for me to properly judge this book. It was thorough, detailed, and interesting, so I think anyone interested in the topic would enjoy it. 

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