Friday, August 31, 2012

Giveaway Winner

Want to know who the lucky duck is that wins a copy of UNDERCURRENT? Watch and see the drama unfold...

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Thursday, August 30, 2012

What Can You Say in Six Sentences?

I came across a fun writing website called Six Sentences. With our house going on the market on Friday, I didn't really have time to play around with this idea for very long today. Okay, so I didn't play around with it at all...but I'd sure like to! The gist of it is to write 6 sentences about pretty much anything. Sound easy? Yeah. Try it, smarty pants.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Reading vs Writing

"If you don't have time to read, you don't have time time (or tools) to write. Simple as that."
~ Stephen King

School started yesterday. No, I'm not a student. I'm the teacher. Go figure. Anyhoo, a parent of a former student stopped in to see me after class. She and her daughter were debating over which writing class mom should enroll her in. One provided all the basics and would hone her writing skills. The other provided writing and literature.

In light of today's quote, which class do you think I suggested?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A Half Full Perspective

Do you ever have days where you just feel empty? Not depressed. Not stressed. Just kind of blank, stuck in a white cold zone of nothingness. Those kinds of days make writing really hard, but you know what? You can use it to your advantage. Bring one of your characters into the zone with you. Whatever scene you're writing at the time, have your hero or heroine experience it with lack of feeling, then wonder why they don't feel anything. This could be especially jarring for a character who's normally vivacious and will add a whole new dimension to their personality.

See...even on empty days, there's always something to use in your writing!

{{don't forget the big drawing for a free e-book of UNDERCURRENT is this Friday...make sure to leave a comment this week for your chance to win}}



Monday, August 27, 2012

Survival Mode

My house is under full-blown gotta-make-it-picture-perfect-by-Thursday chaos. Translation: Writing in the midst of plaster dust and paint is more than challenging. It's impossible. I managed to squeak out a measly 500 words last week, but that's it. Surprisingly, I don't feel one bit guilty about it.

And neither should you feel like a worthless writer when life whaps you upside the head with a busy stick. There are still writerly type things you can do so you don't feel like you're wasting precious writing time:

1. Continue character conversations in your head. Next time you do sit down to write, you won't lose their voice.

2. Plot out in your mind the next scene in detail.

3. Put on some inspiring music while you complete other must-do tasks. Music has a way of pulling you into story even when your hands are busy with something else.

4. Allow your senses to experience whatever it is that you're doing. You can use those sensory details in the future.

Now then, I'm off to finish painting the eaves. Hmm. Wonder what it feels like to fall off a ladder?

Nah. Not going there.

{{don't forget the big drawing for a free e-book of UNDERCURRENT is this Friday...make sure to leave a comment this week for your chance to win}}

Friday, August 24, 2012

Fun Friday Giveaway

Looking for a chance to win UNDERCURRENT? Here are the details...
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Thursday, August 23, 2012

Striking or Charming?

from freedigitalphotos.net

I’ve been around the ol’ sign-a-contract-with-an-agent block a time or two. Okay. Three, to be exact. Needless to say, when it comes to agents, I’m a little gun shy. I knew that the next time I signed, it would either be three strikes I’m out, or third time’s a charm…so what’s my verdict?

I’m going with charming. Barbara Scott of WordServe Literary is my current agent, and I can honestly say she’s an agent extraordinaire.

Before you newbies bust a gasket and freak out over the fact that you have yet to land a single agent, let alone three, let’s back up and walk down the long road together of how I got to this point.

Rewind eleven years. I was sick to death of reading Christian fiction pablum and figured hey, I can write a better story. So I did, kind of. I wrote a story…which wasn’t better. I was too stupid to know that at the time, however. Yes, I was one of those obnoxious rookie authors who sent her manuscript to every publisher and agent I could find. One editor was kind enough to spend a significant amount of time telling me how to make my story better (thank you Jeff Gerke!!!), but I didn’t snag any agents or publishers that go-around.

I took that editor’s 3 pages worth of suggestions to heart, though. I rewrote the whole manuscript, incorporating every one of his ideas. This time when I sent it out, I once again didn’t attract any publishers—but I snagged an agent. He was new to the agenting business, though he’d worked in publishing in other various other aspects. I rewrote that manuscript one more time, and he resent it. And (drum roll please)…nothing. No interest. Plus I lost the interest of my agent. He didn’t exactly fire me, but he didn’t really keep in contact either. I decided we should part ways.

I went on to sell that manuscript—GALLIMORE—to a small, independent publisher.

In the meantime, I worked on craft. Attended conferences. Joined a crit group. Networked like crazy. And my next finished manuscript grabbed the attention of another agent…one with a British accent. What’s not to love about that?!

I sure did love her. She used all her sweet agenting skills to sell UNDERCURRENT. But alas, she decided to go out of the agenting biz before someone scooped up my big beefy Vikings. I ended up selling yet another manuscript on my own to another small, independent publisher.

Along comes finished manuscript number three, which attracted a few agents, but I was a little nervous to sign a contract on the basis of one of my manuscripts alone. I wanted someone who was interested in me as a writer, my whole career, not just a particular story I’d written. I also wanted someone who planned on being in the business for the long haul. Enter Barbara Scott.

One of my crit buddies told me she’d heard Barbara was going to join with WordServe as an agent. Taking my friend’s advice (waving at you, Ane), I queried her right away, as did about 500 other people. She called me about a week later, saying she’d asked God to help her choose the few clients she could manage out of that whopping big pile. My manuscript was one of the blessed that connected with her.

So far that manuscript hasn’t sold. It’s come very close, but no cigar. Who knows? Maybe the whole point of writing that story was just to sign with my agent extraordinaire?

Whatever. That’s my agenting story, and I’m sticking to it.

Top 3 Questions An Agent Wants To Know

BARBARA SCOTT
So I chatted with my agent extraordinaire, Barbara Scott of WordServe Literary the other day. I asked her what it is she most likes to find out when she sits down with an author-wannabe at a conference. Here are the top 3 questions she's looking for answers to...

1. Is the manuscript completed?
2. Are you a debut author or have you published before?
3. Can you give me a brief overview of your project?

There you have it. Before you attend a conference meeting with an agent, I suggest you polish up your answer to these 3 biggies. It just might land you a new agent of your own.


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

What's So Great About An Agent?


An agent is a handy dandy buddy to have on your side. They come in a variety of flavors and sizes, but here are a few common traits you’ll find in most…

Bullies Beware
They can help you with the sticky icky issues like not getting paid your advance and/or royalty check on time. Agents know the legal aspects of contracts and what to do when strife raises its ugly head in a writer/publisher relationship.

Sweet Networking Skills
They can get your manuscript into publishers that don’t take open submissions. It’s an agent's business to cultivate and maintain connections in the publishing industry. They know where your story will fit the best and bring it to that editor’s attention.

Wheeling and Dealing
They negotiate a higher rate of payback with a publisher that a timid author might not be able to finagle. Writers are generally solitary animals. Agents understand that and go out there into the big, scary world to fight for them.

Friends Like None Other
They hold your hand during the dark times like when you think you might not be able to make a deadline or have just gotten smacked upside the head with a rejection. An agent encourages you when the going gets tough, and trust me, it will.


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Misconceptions About Agents


Sometimes the cartoon bubble of what an agent is and does is skewed. Here are the top 4 misconceptions about literary agents and the truth to clear them up.

They are expensive.
Read my lips. You don’t have to pay up front for an agent. If you find one that charges you to sign with them, run far and run fast. Most reputable agents are paid a commission when they sell your manuscript for a pre-arranged percentage and require no payments before that sale.

They are easier to get than a publisher.
Nope. Not so much. You jump through the same hoops to get an agent as you do a publisher.

You don’t need to have an agent.
True. I’m living proof that you can get published without an agent. But (and I’ve always got a big but) your opportunity for snagging a bigger publisher is pretty much squat. It can happen, but that’s rare. A good agent is worth his or her weight in gold…and in this day and age, that’s a hefty amount.

They are hard to find.
Not really. Good agents are hard to acquire, but agents in general are not hard to locate. Check out conferences. Even if you can’t afford to attend, you can see who’s lined up to speak and snoop around their websites. Ask writer buddies for recommendations. And when you do find one that looks good, don’t forget to make sure they’re really all that and a bag of chips by visiting Preditors and Editors.

Monday, August 20, 2012

How To Find An Agent


Welcome to Agent Week here at Writer Off the Leash. We’ll discuss everything you’ve ever wanted to know and then some as it pertains to those cuddly little mammals every writer aspires to acquire. And what better way to kick off the topic than by answering the most essential question every new writer wants to know…

How do I find an agent?

Write a stellar story.
Before you even think about querying an agent, polish your work to a fine sheen. I belong to a critique group called the Silver Arrows. The name reminds us that we’ve only got one chance to snag an agent’s or editor’s attention. Since you’ve only got one shot, send out your finest possible writing, your ‘silver arrow’.

Research the field.
Every agent is different. Some want historicals. Others love thrillers. Most agents represent a variety of genres, but each has their own parameters they like to stick to. Find out what they are. Don’t bother sending your paranormal to an agent who prefers women’s fiction and vice versa. A great resource is Sally Stuart’s Christian Writer's Market Guide.

Ask around.
This is where some sweet networking skills come in handy. Ask your writing buddies who they’ve worked with or who they know. Begin to get a feel for the various personalities of the agents out there. Some are all three-piece-suits. Others are kilts. While you’re asking, it wouldn’t hurt to find out if your writer buddy would recommend you to their agent. Just don’t get all devastated if they say no. Usually it’s nothing personal, just a writerly policy many writers have.

Contact the agent.
Once you’ve narrowed down the field to your top three picks, it’s time to get personal. The best way to connect with an agent is by attending a conference where they’ll be guest-starring. Set up an appointment with said agent and see how you click with them.

Or send out a query.
If your budget is as depressing as mine, you can simply query those agents you think might work. A query is simply your story idea cut to the bone and stated in a few snappy, succinct paragraphs.

Then you wait. 
Wait to hear if they’d like to see a full proposal. Wait to see if they reject you. Wait to see if you get any response at all. Surely you know by now that writing is all about waiting, right silly rabbit?

Friday, August 17, 2012

Thursday, August 16, 2012

one word

Guess who was playing around on the internet again? Yep. Me. But if I didn't surf around, I wouldn't be able to bring you fabulous new sites that I discover, right? Yeah. That's what I tell my husband, anyway.

So the latest and greatest fun wordie site I found is called one word. It's a great way to get the ol' writerly juices flowing.

Basically, all you do is click go. A word will appear at the top of the screen. You have 60 seconds to write whatever comes to mind. When you're finished, you'll get to see what others wrote. Some of the entries will make you feel like a genius. Others will make you curl into the fetal position and cry for your mama because they're so good. Either way, it's a great exercise to make your writing flow.


It's a ton of fun though. Give it a whirl next time you want to waste time, I mean find excellent writing exercises to share with other authors.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Setting is Everything


And here's the new setting for the next chapter of my life. We are moving our family to the 'hood in south Minneapolis. I wonder what kinds of characters I'll run across there???

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Tough Crits

One of my crit buddies, Ane "The Smiling Butcher", sent me an interesting comment that I think is worth pondering. She said:

"I can't help it if your story grabs me and I can't crit. LOL. Actually, that's a good thing, because you know I'm hard to grab anymore. I've become a jaded old thing."

You know what? I'm super glad she's a jaded old thing and that her critiques of my work sometimes draw blood. Why? Because it pushes my writing to a whole new level. I know that if I can get a rise out of her in some way, shape, or form, that my story will definitely tweak the emotions of my future readers.

Tough critiques, while painful at the time, are seriously worth their weight in gold.

Shortly thereafter, I received a thank you note from a contestant who I'd critiqued. I didn't sugarcoat my comments and I don't think I gave him/her a particularly high score. Even so, this person said:

"Your constructive feedback regarding my style has been really helpful as I edit and revise. How easy it is to be a style-conscious reader and a style-oblivious writer."

So WRITER:
Go ahead and lick your wounds after a red-penned butcher job on your manuscript, then drop to your knees and thank God that you've now got some great new ideas and ways to polish your work to a fine sheen.

And CRITIQUER:
Simply be honest. If you spot some writing that reeks, have the guts to say you smell something rotten. You don't have to get personal about it and suck the spirit out of the writer you're critting, but don't error on the side of nicey-nicey just to spare a buddy's feelings. And of course, don't forget to point out what's good in the piece either.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Two Hardest Words

I am so close to finishing my manuscript, the one I started here at Writer Off the Leash in November. I've only got three more chapters to write. They're even mapped out. Yet finding the time to park my rear in a chair and pound them out is next to impossible, and when I do finally sneak off, guess what...

The words just aren't there. Some call it writer's block. I call it fear.

I know. I hear you. "What the flippity-doo-dah are you scared of, girl? Writing the grand finale is the fun part!"

Yes, it is fun, but for me there's a certain amount of trepidation involved. Did I tie up all the loose ends? Is it satisfying enough? Is my ending too abrupt? Too drawn out? Why am I such a freak?

While most authors whiz through this stage of the game, I'm sure there are a few out there like me who wrestle with these demons. I wanted to let you know you're not alone. And you, like me, have to deal with these burning questions because otherwise they'll hide in the corner and grow into monsters large enough to maim.

What to do? There aren't any easy answers, but here's my plan. Write the following 3 bold items on a sticky notepad and fix it to my screen.

This is only a rough draft.
Get it down on paper and then you can change it.

Trust your critique partners.
If your ending is giving off an odor like the rotten potato I found in my kitchen drawer last night, trust that they'll point out the stinky parts.

Write for fun.
Sit down and write for enjoyment instead of for the purpose of writing The End. If you're tense, it'll show.

Feel free to give this a whirl yourself.

And don't worry. Just because the two hardest words for me to write are 'The End', I will persevere and get 'er done. Then it will be party time here at Writer Off the Leash!

Friday, August 10, 2012

One Equals Twenty-Five

Don't ask me about math, but if you want to know about research...
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Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Weakest Link

Trust: The firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability or strength of someone or something.

Trust is a commodity every writer must learn to trade. After you've lived through the painstaking work of writing an entire manuscript, there's a fair amount of wheeling and dealing in the ol' trust market. You must:

  • Trust your story idea is valid.
  • Trust your agent is knocking on all the possible publishing doors to find your book a house.
  • Trust your editor will buff and shine your manuscript better than the local car wash.
  • Trust that readers will understand the overarching theme of your novel.

Putting your trust in these things, while necessary, still leaves a writer with a whole lot of angst. Why? Because any one of the items on the list can be a weak link. If one snaps, your manuscript, or even your whole career, can crash. So what's a writer to do other than pop Prozac like M&Ms?

I advocate that you don't trust your story, your agent, your editor, or readers. Shoot, you can't even trust yourself. Humans, by their very nature, are the weakest links.

Good news, though. There is One who is trustworthy. One who looks out for your best interests. One who is ultimately in charge of your writing career and is for you, not against you. In the book of Psalms alone, trust is mentioned 44 times...and it's all directed toward God.

And believe me, there is NOTHING weak about Him.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Ugly Truth

Rejection is comforting. 

Yeah, you heard me right. No matter how much you deny it, there is a certain amount of fuzzy-sweater comfort in every nope-don't-want-your-manuscript letter. 

Why?

  • Because secretly it's what you expected all along and yippee...you were right.
  • Because it confirms that publishers don't know fantastic writing when they see it.
  • Because you won't have to shoulder all the responsibilities of marketing, deadlines, or having to come up with a sequel that's even more amazing.


But if you take out a flashlight and shine it in the cob-webbed corner deep in your heart, you just might find the biggest reason rejection is freakishly soothing is because you don't feel like your writing is worthy of a contract anyway.

The ugliest truth of all is writers are an insecure herd of animals. Not to worry, though. I don't offer a cure, but I do know of a place that offers support. 

On the first Wednesday of every month, there's an Insecure Writer's Support Group here. It's a group of bloggers who dedicate that day to post about writer's angsts. Check out the list and read a few next time you're feeling a little too gleeful over a rejection.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Reason #42 Why It's Tough To Be A Writer


You drag yourself out of bed, shuffle over to the calendar (after a stop at the bathroom, of course), and when your mind deciphers what that blank little square staring back at you means, your eyes flip-flap open like the snapping up of a shade. YOU DON’T HAVE ANYTHING TO DO TODAY!!!

Ahhh.

So you French Press yourself a java, fill up a cup the size of Detroit, toodle outside with your laptop in hand, and park yourself at the patio table. You are armed to write a gazillion words, or at least pound out the ending of the novel that you’re dying to finish (see yesterday’s post).

And then the phone rings.

“Hi! This is the dental office. We’ve had a cancellation and can see your daughter in an hour. Isn’t that great?”

You figure the receptionist must be a blonde cheerleader because no one else on earth sounds that bubbly. Or else she's on drugs. Whatever. You grunt in the affirmative, then go drag your teenager out of bed and get yourself into some kind of clothing that doesn’t look as if you’ve slept in it. You fail. On both accounts. So you slug back the java and conquer at least getting the kid moving, but when you walk through the dentist’s door, you still look like a wrinkled, rumpled mess.

No worries, though. The morning may be shot, but the afternoon is still clear. Drop off teenager at home and head for Starbucks. Surely you can write a gazillion words there—especially since you left your cell phone at home. Cue evil laughter.

You order a triple shot mucho grande latte, station yourself at an outside table, flip open the laptop, hover your fingers over the keys, and…

“Boo!”

Freak out because someone just whisper-yelled into your ear. It’s your twenty-something son who you haven’t seen in forever because he’s too busy gallivanting around the country. You have to connect with him. You don’t know when he’ll swing by this way again. Besides, isn’t it every mother’s dream to have their adult child seek them out and talk over life’s grand issues? And he does. For two and a half hours.

There goes the afternoon.

No problem, though. You swing by to pick up frozen pizza on the way home because doggone it, you’re going to write tonight! You’ve got nothing planned.

The cell phone warbles as soon as you walk in the front door.

“Found some great houses for you to look at tonight, and one of them is fresh on the market. Are you free?”

You know what? I hate empty white squares on my calendar.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Overdue

When I first started this blog, my intent was to log the ups and downs of writing a novel from start to finish. That got boring. So I rabbit-trailed into helpful writing tips and other bright, shiny topics to dazzle your attention. But for today, I'm back on track.


My novel baby was due (by my calculations) on August 1st. I approached this novel writing journey as a pregnancy. I figured God makes a complex human being in 9 months, so I ought to be able to write a manuscript in that amount of time.


Well...my baby is late.


Just like real life, this one is overdue. I've only got about 5k words left to pound out. Think I can finish that by the end of this week? Before you answer, take a look at the following pictures.





And that's just a small sampling of the disaster my house is currently in. In the midst of finishing my WIP, my hubby and I are preparing our house to go on the market. It's not a for sure thing yet, but we're moving in that direction.


So...still think I can pound out 5k words this week? Here's hoping!

Friday, August 3, 2012

You is Kind ~ You is Smart ~ You is a Writer

Who can't use a pep talk now and then? Here's yours for today...


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Thursday, August 2, 2012

Veil of Pearls

Don't panic. Writer Off the Leash is NOT turning into a book review site.

But (and I've always got a big but) being that yesterday I pitched a buddy's book as a great summer read, there's just one more I need to recommend you toss into your beach bag. Newsflash: I have more than one friend. And this buddy just had a new release as well.

Check out MaryLu Tyndall's Veil of Pearls. Here's a blurb:


Welcome to Charleston, 1811…a city bustling with immigrants like Adalia, who is a runaway slave so light-skinned that no one guesses her past. Terrified her secret will be discovered, she settles into a quiet life making herbal remedies for a local doctor. But when Morgan, the handsome son of a prominent family, sweeps her into his glamorous world—a world in which the truth about Adalia’s heritage would ruin them both—suspicions and petty jealousies are aroused. What will Morgan do when he discovers that the woman he has fallen in love with is a runaway slave?

MaryLu's books are always a great visit back to the past. Make sure to grab this book, a tall glass of lemonade, and park yourself in the nearest hammock.

Yes, you can thank me later.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Words in the Wind

Looking for something to do this summer? Have I got a vacation for you! Way cheaper than a road trip and you won't have to put up with any blue-gloved gropers from the TSA.


Check out my buddy Y's latest release...WORDS IN THE WIND ~ book 2 in the Gateway To Gannah series.


Dassa, the leader of planet Gannah, crash-lands 10,000k from her intended destination. She's hurt and lost. And just when her people need her leadership the most, mutiny is abrew.  


I realize sci-fi may be entirely out of some people's boxes, but her characterization is so endearing, you'll forget you're reading about alien lifeforms. Seriously. And she nails the Gospel message. Did I mention there's non-stop action as well?


So open up your beach bag and toss this baby in next to your sun block. You won't be sorry.
 
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