The Valuable Lesson

PAGES

At the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Day, not only do I hope to have finished the first draft of my YA novel, but I hope to enjoy a glass of Petite Syrah and a well-deserved sigh of relief. Unfortunately, my dreams of meeting that deadline were dashed this week when I opened the PAGES app and noticed three-thousand words missing from my document.

You see, I spend most days holed-up in a quiet corner with my iPad opened to PAGES. I’ve been writing my novel this way for the past year. I open and close the PAGES app without any problem or complaint. And I rarely tap the Documents tab. I simply type and close the app. Typically, this process works in my favor.

Until this week when a new PAGES update came while I was working. I needed a break anyway, so after writing my three-thousand words, I closed PAGES and updated the app. Then when I opened the app again, my three-thousand words were gone.

Gulp.

Now, instead of being one chapter away from completing this first draft, I am three. Worse, I had forgotten to turn on my iClouds button.

Two very valuable lessons have been learned, and now I am passing them on to you.

1) Always tap the Documents tab to save your document, especially if you are updating the PAGES app.

2) TURN ON iCLOUD!!! It will save your tush if this same thing happens to you.

Meanwhile, onward I type. Perhaps with a little more anxiety every time I close and open the app, but maybe a Petite Syrah will help with that.

Happy Writing!

The Write Path

Image

A tough part about being a writer is knowing if your manuscript is on its right path. In other words, is your work strong enough to outshine the millions of other manuscripts vying to compete in the big publishing arena?

This weekend, I attended a fabulous SCBWI conference in San Antonio and had the pleasure of hearing what Folio Literary Agent, Molly Jaffa, had to say about initially impressing an agent. In a nutshell, it boils down to the first ten pages. Sometimes, even the first sentence.

Later in the afternoon, I was expected to meet with Molly for a 15-minute critique session on–you guessed it–my first ten pages!! As you can imagine, I was a little stoked (and nervous!). So, I did a checklist of the following bits Molly said she enjoys and does not enjoy when reading our first ten pages:

GENERAL:

1. Establish the stakes. What does the protagonist stand to lose or gain?

2. NO PROLOGUES!!!

3. Create narrative tension in the novel’s beginning to where the reader cannot put novel down.

VOICE:

1. Make sure voice is not too generic. Specificity in voice makes reader relate more than a bland voice.

2. Extra level of detail makes a BIG impact!

3. Avoid too much slang, jargon, and throwback and classic voices.

DIALOGUE:

1. Do not have characters constantly address each other by name.

2. Tags should almost always be “said.”

3. Avoid meaningless conversations.

4. Do not recap what another character already knows.

5. Do not info dump.

6. Avoid starting story with a dream sequence. You can do better!

7. Avoid having too many characters, especially in YA.

In the end, the critique session with Molly was better than I could have hoped for. Of course, the rest of the novel must also impress. So perhaps I should stop blogging and start writing? After all, my YA novel is not going to complete itself. 🙂

Happy Writing!

Writer vs. Outline/Synopsis

Every conference, there is always one editor who advocates writing an outline or a synopsis. One editor almost convinced me, too. But my own mind prevailed and I have gotten away with writing manuscripts without such confinement.

Until today.

An upcoming conference deadline put coals under my feet. I am scheduled to meet a pretty awesome agent there, and our first ten pages plus a synopsis is due by THIS THURSDAY! My problem is that I only have twelve chapters written. Even though I know how the story will end, I had no real idea of how it would get there.

Now I do.

Thanks to the required synopsis that must accompany my ten-page submission, I had to make some decisions and make them quick. What emerged was a strong climax and much stronger ending than what I had originally created. A lip quiver and a tear followed my last sentence so it must be good!  😉

Although my manuscript is not yet finished, my hope is to get professional feedback on its beginning and a possible invitation for the full manuscript once it’s done.

My fingers are crossed.

Now, I am a full believer in writing a synopsis even before I start writing a manuscript. Meanwhile, the outline can still suck it. 😉

Writing With Attention Deficit Disorder

I read today that the real-life Bella is cheating on the real-life Edward with the real-life director of SNOW WHITE & THE HUNTSMAN. Ouch for poor Cedric Diggory whose heart was mutilated more by Bella than it ever was by He Who Shall Not Be Named.

And this is what distracted me today while I sat in Barnes & Noble for a cool two hours trying to tap words into my iPad.

I am always impressed by those who can sit for hours and days on end, finishing their novel in a matter of months. My goal is to finish MOONSAULT by the end of 2012. I am only 11 chapters in. My trouble is not my drive nor my passion; I have both by the truckload. It is my battle with Attention Deficit Disorder and my attempt to handle it without medication.

Most days are a success. I sit wherever the vibe is right and I tap, tap, tap away, until my brain reaches a lethargic, fuzzy place. And since I edit as I type, I tend to squeak out only one chapter at a time, never moving from a sentence or a paragraph until the flow feels right.

But today, I struggled. From the love woes of Robert Pattison to the small audio vibrations of those around me (ie. pencils rubbing paper, fingers on keyboards, pages being turned, etc.), I simply could not find my stride. Even now, I have chosen to write this blog because I cannot focus enough on the manuscript I am so eager to complete.

I can best describe the struggle like this–I literally see a million butterflies fluttering around my head. I see them all clearly. But they are all fluttering so fast, I cannot catch any one of them, even though I have a large, tightly woven net and an extra long handle. It feels impossible.

But it’s just today. Experience has shown me that sometimes my mind will slow down enough to let me write. Until then, maybe I should consider the meds my awesome NYC therapist had put me on. I only stopped taking them because my brain started depending on them more and more, and I was uncomfortable with that. But perhaps its worth it?

Either way, Robert Pattison is so much better without her.

My Picture Book, My Problem

Like millions of others, I wrote a picture book. Also like millions of others, it was about Christmas. The difference is, my picture book about Christmas has caught the attention of a handful of agents and editors. My roadblock, however, is that I have never been published before and they always say–“We do not publish Christmas books by new authors.”

Grrrr….

So what’s a new author to do? The manuscript has been praised by notable Scholastic editors who have asked to see more of my work, but… I do not have another perfectly polished picture book manuscript to send them. I am so divided between jotting down new pb’s and completing my YA novel by the end of 2012, that I am spread fairly thin.

Furthermore, while I understand the logic behind not publishing holiday books by new authors (marketing dollars and all), I can’t help but wish more publishing houses would take a chance.

So what’s an unpublished author to do? Actually consider self-publishing? Or place the PB on the shelf until my YA novel is complete and published, then try the Christmas PB again?

Has anyone else hit this roadblock? And if so, were you able to find a satisfying resolution?

My blog is new and will go unread for a good long while, but still… maybe someday someone will stumble upon my dilemma and have some thoughts to share. Even better, I may stumble upon a satisfying resolution someday and share my thoughts with another writer who is going through the same dilemma.

Either way, big hugs to you all. And happy writing!