Tag Archives: Novel

Novel Girls: Credentials, Conferences and Taking a Break

30 Sep

This version of Novel Girls is a little less technical and more theoretical.  I hope you’ll leave a comment with your opinions.

Nicole and I met Thursday night to do our usual editing and pizza.  Before we got to the red-pen marking up, we were just chatting over our shared garlic butter and three things worth discussing came up.

The first is credentials as a writer.  I touched on this briefly in my post about being published.  When submitting a query letter, it’s recommended to list your credentials as a writer.  As of right now, all I have is my two stories published in Summer Legends.  That’s not much to go on!

I don’t have an English degree and the only reason I understand grammar at all is because I had to learn Spanish grammar.  I haven’t taken a creative writing class since high school.  I did well writing essays in college, but they were only essays (mostly business essays at that, which are a different category altogether).  I read a lot, which I think makes for a better writer, but that’s hardly a qualification.

So, what would I put on a query letter?  I was high school Lit Mag editor?  I have a blog with 32 followers?  I have a really really great personality?

I’ve read to just leave any references to your qualifications off if they don’t pertain to writing.  So ignore the fact I have two bachelors degrees, graduated Suma Cum Laude and work for a Fortune 500 company.  NO ONE CARES!  Right? I’m doomed to be the unqualified writer for the rest of my life.

Reader, what’s your opinion?  Am I out of the game without an English degree (and please don’t say MFA, I’m thinking MBA is a bit more applicable to the job which brings in some money)?  Besides being published in a journal, what kind of credentials could I gain before querying my novel?

The second thing we discussed, which kind of follows from the former, is writers conferences.  I’ve seen some places that say a writer was a participant in XYZ writer’s conference or workshop.  The first thing I think when I read this is that they took six months off of work to go sit in the woods with some hippies and write what came out of their acid-fueled dreams.  (PS- I know this isn’t true)  So what does one get out of going to these conferences?

I did my two-hit Google search research.  A lot of conferences seem to be weekend meetings where an writer can talk to authors, agents, publishers, etc. to get their advice and guidance.  That sounds awesome!  I’m not going to lie, I’d love to go to a conference.  There’s one locally that sounds great but it’s the weekend of my brother-in-law’s wedding.  I hope to go next year.

So my question is, what have you gotten out of a conference that made you a better/more successful writer?  Was the money/time invested worth it?  What are some things to look for to find a good conference?

And the last question.  It’s pretty timely as NaNo comes up.  Nicole told me her goal is to finish the novel she’s working on before NaNo so that she doesn’t have to stop in the middle of it.  I realized that I stopped for about six months in the middle of my first WIP.  Of course, I never stopped thinking about it but my job at the time was too demanding for me to do anything else.  When I switched to my current job, I had the time and I finished the manuscript.

Have you ever taken a prolonged break in the middle of a manuscript?  Was it to write another book, for a job, family, etc?  Did you feel you’d lost something when you came back to it?  Had you forgotten where you wanted to go?

I’d love to hear all of your thoughts on these three topics!  Please help give this fledgling writer some guidance.

Novel Girls: Revision Process

16 Sep

One of the writerly topics I’ve been contemplating is the revision process. When I was in school, nothing I wrote ever needed major revisions; I could get away with changing a few words, at most a paragraph. Now, as I write entire manuscripts, I realize that I’m not so lucky.

Nicole and I met up to work on our novels yesterday. After my Novel Girls meeting on Thursday, i realized I had a lot of major updates to do. (Many times we meet, KK and Nicole will give me some major things to change and I usually put them off. They’d caught up with me.) These major changes hanging over me, along with a blog post I read by Emily on Adventures in Fantasy, made me start thinking about my own revision process.

For the WIP I’m currently on, I’ve done a re-write and I’m now going through chapter by chapter in a workshop, which is bringing out a few scenes that need another re-write. This weekend I’m going to do a read-aloud to help point out a few more scenes that sound weird/are inconsistent that need a re-write. I have a plan to take all of my dialogue and make sure that each character has a unique voice as far as idioms and speech pattern. I have a writing workbook that I’m thinking of going through as well. After that, I have a few betas lined up, which should lend itself to some more re-writing. Hopefully I can micro-edit from there and call it ‘done!’

Being the planner I am, I already developed a plan for my NaNo. The obvious first step: write a 50K+ word novel in 30 days. Easy enough. After that I plan to leave it alone for at least a month if not two. I then plan on doing what I call ‘the notecard thing’ which is where you write your major plot points from each chapter on a notecard. Then, you throw the notecards in the air and put them in an order that makes sense. You might have notecards you can take out, or might move the order of the plot to something more logical. (You can also have someone else put the notecards in order. They might be able to come up with something you missed and needs to be added a bit better.) Then, I’ll do a re-write without even looking at the first draft. I figure that at this point, I’ll know my characters better and this re-write will have more character consistency and development. I’ll go back through the rough draft and do what I’ve decided to call ‘digging for gold’ where I highlight sections that I absolutely love in the rough draft and re-write scenes to bring them into my second draft. Depending on how useful I find the workbook and dialogue pull from WIP 1 revisions, I might try those. From there, chapter by chapter workshopping, specific scene re-write, betas, and micro-editing before I’m done.

I’m a very methodical person and I need to have a plan to work to. What’s your process? Do you have a standard process you go through before you call a manuscript ‘done’ (or at least ready to send out)? Do you have suggestions for me? Please leave a comment and let me know!

Novel Girls: Two Writer-ly Questions

9 Sep

Today, Nicole and I met up at a Starbucks to do some writing reviewing.  I think we picked the world’s smallest Starbucks.  There was one free table when I got there and there were only five tables total!  Add in a co-ed bathroom and my vote is in for smallest.

Anyway, it’s good having someone to chat with who’s going through some of the same writer-ly problems.  I thought I’d enumerate a few here.  Leave a comment if you have some similar problems or any advice on overcoming them.

  1. Feedback from critique groups: This was a problem I proposed to Nicole.  I recently took the third chapter of my novel to a monthly critique group.  (Nicole has read my manuscript in whole and is usually the person I bounce changes off of before doing anything drastic.)  One of the critiques I was given at the group meeting was to change the ending of the chapter.  The father of one of my protagonists reveals a big plot element at the end, and the critique group said that he gave up the information too easily!  They were shocked that he would reveal this information to his high-school age children and a trusted family friend.  In the meeting, I told them that the children are going to help him solve the problem created by this plot element and their reaction was that these characters are children and they are too young to help.  I was appalled!  In the 1920s, most teens over 15 held a job and not many went to college.  Getting married at age 18 was common and many people were working in their career at the same age.  At 16 and 17, my characters are practically adults.  All the same, this group recommended I change it so that the father does not as quickly divulge said information.
    I had an issue with this.  If the father knew that his children were going to be helping, why would he hide the information from them?  Nicole knows what happens a few scenes later and agreed with me that I should keep it as is; it makes sense in the grand scheme of things.
    So this brings me to my problem, Do you ever get feedback from a critique that you completely disagree with?  Does it make you feel compelled to change something in your story?  When do you decide to ignore it or change your plot based on it?
  2. Planning a story:  This is something I’ve been toying with.  My completed novel, I wrote out a multi-page outline, complete with a chapter-by-chapter breakdown of what was going to happen in each part.  I’m working on a similar outline for the story I’m going to write for NaNoWriMo.  Just to be different, there’s a novel I’m working on casually right now that I’m not outlining and trying to ‘fly by the seat of my pants.’  Nicole is in the middle of one story with an outline, and she hasn’t yet started outlining her NaNo, and isn’t sure if she plans to.
    Question number two: Do you have better luck outlining a novel before beginning, or figuring the plot out as you go?  Do you ever write yourself into a corner without an outline?  Do you find you lose plot points?  With an outline, do you find writing point-to-point is too boring and lose interest?

I’ve love to hear any and all opinions on these questions!  Dealing with feedback and planning are probably the two hardest points for me as a writer.  Thanks for taking the time to read!

Novel Girls: Voice, Description, and Motivation

7 Sep

I’ve been fortunate enough to find a group of other females around my age who are also aspiring writers.  Because we’re all working on long-form fiction, we decided to call ourselves the Novel Girls.  (It’s a novel idea, HAH!)

We try to meet weekly on Thursdays to have dinner and critique each other’s work.  There are four of us, NJ, KK, and SG.  SG’s been on an extended business trip for the last six weeks, so it was just NJ, KK and I last night.

There were three main writing points we went over last night that I wanted to note here, either for my later reference or to help another writer.

  1. Distinctive voice: KK shared a great piece with us last night that rotated between three settings and four characters.  The opening scene was a female character and she used some wonderful description, internal dialogue, and flashback to give the character a very distinctive internal voice.  The next time we saw this character, she was in a scene with three other people and her voice was a little lost in all the action.  The other characters were busy having a conversation and this female was standing by, listening.  It almost seemed to me like KK had rushed through writing that part because she didn’t give the character the distinctive voice she’d worked so hard to give her in the first scene.  This helped me remember that my characters have personalities and will react to everything around them.  It’s important to be sure this personality shines through in every scene and that they have an appropriate reaction to the things they hear and see. even if they’re not narrating that scene.
  2. There’s a limit to what one line of description can show: NJ shared a piece that started with two female co-workers at the end of the day, getting ready to leave for work.  NJ described one as having a large shoe collection that matched her outfits each day and the other as having a wrinkled business suit.  A few lines later, she wrote that unlike the first, the second character didn’t care about her appearance.  This one took me a second to process because to me, a business suit with wrinkles at the end of the day didn’t imply slovenliness.  With one or two lines more of description, the character could be more developed, come across as a careless dresser, and it might not even be necessary to say she didn’t care about her appearance.  This made me realize that my character’s clothes aren’t even described very much in my text and that how a character dresses can tell a lot about them.  (For reference, my book takes place in 1920s Chicago.)  I recently was invited by an acquaintance to visit her grandmother’s old house, where she still has some of the clothing worn in the late 20s and early 30s.  I hope that after seeing these clothes, I can find a way to show my character’s personalities through their simple clothing choices and be a little less ‘show-y’ and more ‘tell-y.’
  3. Character motivation needs to be strong, even if the character isn’t speaking: I have a scene where my male protagonist is trying to evade a female character he doesn’t like AND the scene is narrated by my female protagonist (confused a bit?).  KK’s comment was that she didn’t understand why the male protagonist was doing what he was doing; she couldn’t find his motivation!  Our ultimate decision was that I should switch the order of a few scenes, but it made me realize that in scenes where the non-narrating character needs some motivation, it takes a lot of attention to detail to make sure that motivation is clear.  It could be done with dialogue, description, etc., but it needs to be there.

 

I’m not sure if this helps anyone else, but it sure helps me to think through it!  What’s some advice you can share about writing?  Maybe it will help me with my next critique group!  Please leave a comment and share.