Thursday, September 30, 2010

SCBWI Winter Conference

Anybody out there planning on going to the SCBWI Winter Conference in NYC this year? Registration opens up on October 6th.

I've attended the past two years and absolutely loved each time.

I'm definitely in.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Guest Post on Adventures in Children's Publishing

Marissa and Martina over on Adventures in Children's Publishing...you know the site that is so freaking full of awesome blog linkage and advice and contests that my head explodes each time they share THIS -- well, they asked me to write a guest post and I was honored to do so.

Those two are an incredible resource for writers!

Click HERE for my guest post. Hope you like it.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Epic Query Fail


Since I haven't posted all week I thought I'd end on a funny note. Here's how this came to be...I do quite a bit of thinking just as I'm drifting off to sleep and then I quick grab my pack of post-its and write my ideas down in the dark. I do this nearly every night. I realize it's sort of crazy.

Last night I had a particularly interesting post-it moment. I thought, hey, why not try and make my readers laugh tomorrow? And then the three words Epic Query Fail popped in my mind.

Behold a completely fictitious and completely ridiculous query letter which breaks just about every query rule there is...and then some...ALL for your entertainment.

Happy end of the week!!!!!

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Hi!

I met you at a conference back in 98; I was the one who said you look just like a movie star. Remember me? Well, I’ve written fourteen novels since then and I’ve been working like a dog to get one of these suckers in print. I’ve been rejected by everyone at least once. Ha!

I’ve done a lot in those twelve years. I got married, had a few rugrats – my oldest is a real piece of work, bought a house…then tried to sell it but it wouldn’t sell because of the cat pee smell in our basement and then finally it sold and I bought a new house back in 2001, I lost Sandy – my pet turtle …that was a real tear jerker let me tell you and twelve of my novels are about that spectacular turtle, I put on some weight – got real chubby if you want to know the truth– but then lost it and then dangit put it back again…but that’s a whole novel in and of itself, I visited my Uncle Walter a few times…the man’s a hermit – a weird old hermit who eats French onion dip with a spoon, I came down with the worst cast of the Swine Flu my county hospital ever saw – you should’ve seen me – all sweaty and gray – I even made it on the news for that one – you probably saw it, I lost my job back in 99 – real tough times we had then – ate mac and cheese every damn night – but I’m back to work now so it’s all chicken and steak around here, and like I said, I wrote a whole bunch of novels. No one’s read them but me though. I figured I’d wait for someone who knew what the heck they were doing to read them all. Someone like you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Ha!

If you’re wondering, that’s what’s in the box – it’s all fourteen manuscripts and some pictures of me so you can get reacquainted with me some. There’s one of me and the rugrats, and me and Sandy, then me in front of our first house and my favorite one – me in the hospital. I know you agents are busy so I did the right thing and just made you a copy of each book. You’re welcome. When you’re done reading them all would you mind mailing them back to me? I think it’ll only cost you like $10 and I know you wouldn’t mind because you make a heck of a lot more money than I do. Ha!

I’m sure you’re dying to hear about all of my books. I know you probably want me to explain all fourteen in detail ,but listen, I don’t have time today because our new pet, Fluffernutter, has a pedicure appointment in about an hour. And you know how much raccoons like their nails cut! You’ll have to settle for hearing about just one book. You can call me and I’ll give you the details on the other thirteen – my home number is (511-511-5111) and my cell number is (311-311-3111) and in case you can’t reach me on those two numbers here’s my wife’s cell (312-312-3122) and my oldest son’s (313-131-3123). I think you’ll definitely be able to reach me!

So my one book is about this turtle named Sandy (you know why) and she isn’t like any other turtle in the whole entire world. She’s a runner. So she’s got a mom who is really slow and a dad who is really fast. That’s where she got her fastness from. And she has four brothers who are really slow and four sisters who are really fast. They fight all the time over how fast and slow they all are. Sometimes the fights end up with them having a race. Those are the really page turning parts – the races. One race the brothers win and then another race the sisters win. It’s really, really, really exciting, trust me! Then at the end Sandy dies.

I know the Sandy books would make a blockbuster movie series. I’m pretty sure they would be bigger than Harry Potter and Twilight combined, because who doesn’t like turtles? I’m sure you have a million contacts in Hollywood so I’m going to let you take over what I’ve already started. I’ve written to every Hollywood studio probably fifty or sixty times – I did get a response from Universal. Well, it wasn’t actually from them, it was from the police department asking me to stop writing. I figured it was because they had already started writing the script and they didn’t need any more letters. So I stopped, but I haven’t heard from them in a while. I’m going to give you a little bit of advice on the movie deal stuff. We’ll be a team soon, right?! After I sign with you I think you should reach out to Universal first to see what progress they’ve made. I already have my outfit picked out for the movie premier – you’ll see!! Ha!

Oh, I forgot to tell you that I’ve also written thirty seven picture books because we all know how easy they are to write. Thirty of them are about Sandy the turtle. They’re in the box too so you can read them all. I know you’ll love them because who doesn’t love picture books about turtles? Ha!

I can’t wait to talk to you. Call me. Oh and I was thinking I’d take a drive to the big city and stop by your office for a visit. I got your address online and already have the directions printed out. Who am I kidding, I’m already packed! I’ll bring more pictures of me and Fluffernutter – you’ve never seen a cuter raccoon in your life, trust me. And I’ll bring my Aunt Florence’s fruit cake and we can have iced coffee with whipped cream and straws like all the fancy people do.

Your favorite new client,
Cluey Less

p.s. I was thinking I could just crash at your house while I visit because money’s been a bit tight, what with my younger son’s arrest and all. I guess he’s a piece of work too. I’ll tell you his story when I see you. Kids! Ha!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Music & Writing = A Happy Marriage

I'm the type of writer that needs complete quiet while creating the brilliance (ha ha), or when the desperate moment arises when husband/children can't seem to tip toe quietly enough for me...I'll play classical music as loudly as my earphones allow.

That is not the music of which I type about now.

This post is about the songs we hear on the radio or on our iPod that create a rapid heart beat and cause a ridiculous ear-to-ear grin to form because we know, with the identical certainty that the sun will rise in the morning...we know that the song playing would be perfect in the movie version of our, as of yet, unsold manuscript (or sold - for the lucky ones).

Don't lie. You know you've done it.

However, I believe I may have taken it to a new level of kookieness. See...I have the entire soundtrack planned according to key scenes -- all written down, tucked safely in my idea folder. I've always dreamed big.

But there is a song popular right now that when I hear it, I swear to you, I hear my MC's boyfriend's voice singing it to her. Maybe not singing it -- he would never do that -- but definitely dedicating it to her or asking her to listen to it because it's exactly how he feels. And I do that goofy smile thing in my car.

There are a select few of you out there who have read the book of which I speak. It's called OUT OF ORDER.

Have a listen. And if you know who Trick and Ruby are you will smile. I promise.


**Sorry some of it is chopped off. If you find it annoying, you can watch it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LjhCEhWiKXk&feature=fvst

And I ask the rest of you fine, fine people...what songs remind you of your characters? What songs do you know would be perfect in your movie version?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Tension


Your stomach clenches. You gnaw at your fingernails. A cool sweat covers your skin. You blink, like a maniac. Maybe even pant a little bit. Who knows?

Tension.

We all know what it feels like in real life. Heck, we wouldn't be human if we didn't experience tension. Some of us are even pretty boss at creating tension. Don't drop your eyes, you know who you are ; )

I'm probably not alone when I say I hate tension. I hate arguing and feeling uncomfortable. I hate yelling and anything resembling anxiety...stress...worry. But in a book, well now, I say bring it. And since the undercurrent of my blog is writing that's where my focus will shift.

I ask you this...can a book have too much tension? So much that you end up doing a few eye rolls and say aloud, "Oh please!" How much is too much? How do you know? Don't you wish I had a clear cut answer to those two key questions? I wish. But I have some good news and it involves my gut. Nice eh?

See, my gut is telling me that the answers lie in industry readers (BETA, agent, editor, etc...). Allow them to gauge, critique and comment. When I hear or read professional feedback indicating too much tension, my first reaction is to question...myself...not the reader. I question my initial motivation for including the tension. I question the effect it had on the character. I question if I really do need it or if it was just there for a bit of cheap drama.

When I peel back the top layer of my writing and look inside, reflecting upon my (and my characters') motivation, it really helps me to either justify the tension or chop it the hell out. It is actually quite refreshing, sort of like a crisp fall breeze blowing my hair back as I frolic in a pile of leaves. I kid. I would never frolic in a pile of leaves because it would increase my chances of coming face to face with a spider. And I hate spiders. See my sidebar list of Things I Hate...

Oh, tension and spiders...why do you taunt me so?

I'd love to read your thoughts on tension...too much tension...comment away...

Monday, September 13, 2010

Pacing and Stuff


I'm 3/4 of the way through a book. I'm liking it...I'm actually liking the main character. He is snarky and brilliant and endearing and really funny. But I am not ripping through the book in my normal fashion, as a matter of fact it's been over a week since I started and for me that's unheard of. It got me thinking. Why wasn't I finishing this book?

I loved the MC.

I loved everything about him.

As I read another loooooooong inner dialogue part from this MC...that I love...it hit me. The pacing was off. There were expansive amounts of nothing-really-going-on stuff in between the exciting or emotional parts (and those parts WERE exciting and emotional and well written). The expansive nothing-really-going-on parts made me put the book down way before my eyes typically betrayed me and closed on their own. I was kind of awake when I put the book down. Again, unheard of.

Now, I'm not saying I like books riddled with over the top drama either. That can get old. But pacing is definitely something I allow into my psyche while writing...I always have an undercurrent running behind the scenes asking, what is propelling my story forward? What will keep the reader hooked 100% to my characters? Do I need an "event" or "moment" soon?

I do NOT want readers to be able to put my books down.

Thoughts? What do you think?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Never Forget


I was on a plane on 9-11. I was heading to England with my husband. We landed, headed to our hotel and took a nap, completely unaware our country was under attack. My husband went into the office and called the hotel room about an hour later and said, "Kate, turn on the television right now."

We all know what I saw.

Today on MSNBC, in real time, I watched for the first time, the original Today show coverage of the entire events. Being in England we only got the international news -- so today, to watch the U.S. coverage with hosts I know and to experience each horrific event as it happened was...well, I have no words to adequately describe it. Does anyone?

God bless our nation today. God bless the fallen citizens. God bless us all.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

MORE on Revising


I think some readers found the last post on revising to be helpful. So, here goes some more.

This is a before and after excerpt from that same novel. Book 2 of my planned 3 book series. As before, I'll put my thinking in red.

This particular bit of writing (the before bit) definitely didn't read true to the twelve year old character, Sebbie. I used the language of an adult...me. I also had things out of order.

You'll see...

THE BEFORE excerpt:

Movement came from behind the shed and a teenage girl slowly, apprehensively emerged - shoulders down, head down and dressed in all black. Black pants and a thigh-length black coat covered her five-foot-five slim frame. She looked to be in high school and had pearly white skin. Sebbie thought she looked completely emo or goth.

He couldn’t tell what her face looked like yet because her long, straight, black hair hung down blocking his view. Inside, he really hoped she didn’t have a scary face; he was already freaked-out enough.

She now stood a mere five feet from him and she raised her head as if she had something to say but instead she simply stared at him. There was no malice in her stare or he’d of probably run all the way home. She had very dark, very sad eyes, eyes that looked as if they’d seen their share of heartbreak. Thankfully her face wasn’t monster-like it was rather attractive with small, almost dainty features. Sebbie decided to break the stare.

“Did you hear me? I said I know she’s really a…”

The girl with the sad face interrupted in an oh-so-soft voice, “I heard you.”

“I’m sorry, what did you say?” Sebbie didn’t know a single person who talked as softly as she just did. “I didn’t hear you.”

She repeated herself in the same exact volume, “I heard you.”

Both times, when she spoke, she broke her stare and looked down at her feet, as if she were embarrassed to communicate with him.

MY OBSERVATIONS:
- A 6th grade boy wouldn't use the word 'apprehensively' or 'emerged' or describe someone using 'slim frame' or 'dainty features' - nope - no way.
- How would he know she had white skin when he hadn't seen her face yet?
- How would a twelve year old kid know when a person's eyes showed 'their share of heartbreak'?????

- I broke POV when I wrote: She repeated herself in the same exact volume, "I hear you." - Sebbie would never use the word 'malice' either. Too sophisticated for him.
- The words emo and goth aren't even used now with kids.

THE AFTER excerpt:

Movement came from behind the shed and a teenage girl slowly came out. She looked scared and kept looking from side to side. Her head and shoulders were hunched down like she was afraid to stand up straight or something. He couldn’t tell what her face looked like yet because her long, straight, black hair hung down blocking his view. Inside, he really hoped she didn’t have a scary face; he was already freaked out.

She wore all black – black pants, black coat, black gloves, black boots. Sebbie liked her combat boots. She definitely looked like a high school kid.

She now stood a mere five feet from him, and she raised her head and just stared at him. His stomach flipped as he exhaled. There was no wickedness in her stare or he’d of probably bolted. She had pearly white skin and big dark eyes. She had very dark, very sad eyes. He thought she was pretty though. Sebbie decided to break the stare.

“Did you hear me? I said I know she’s really a -”

She interrupted him in a really soft voice, “I heard you.”

“I’m sorry, what did you say?” Sebbie didn’t know anyone who talked as softly as she just did. It wasn’t a whisper or anything, it was just the tiniest little voice. “I didn’t hear you.”

She repeated in the same exact volume, “I heard you.”

Both times, when she talked, she broke her stare and looked down at her feet. It was like she was embarrassed to talk to him.

MY OBSERVATIONS:- Now the moment comes from Sebbie's POV.
- And more importantly, the scene now comes from Sebbie's VOICE. Can you tell?

- I fixed the timing of him seeing her face.
- Overall, it's shorter and tighter writing. IMHO.

What you you think? Was this helpful?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

On Revising


Since I have spent long, delicious hours revising lately I felt it timely to post on the subject. But, rather than me just telling you about my countless word-related epiphanies how about this?

I'll show you.

The excerpts I'm sharing come from the second book in my MG sci-fi trilogy. My lovely agent has yet to read this one. She's read the first book and gave me her invaluable feedback.

Quick history of this book:
- It was the second novel I've ever written. It was pre-blogging...pre SCBWI conferencing...pre-online researching...pre just about everything that makes a writer a good writer. I'm simply giving you my excuses...to make myself feel better.

- It was only read by friends and family. No BETA's - no industry professionals.

- After devouring the FIRST book in the series...each in one night...my mother and sister practically ripped my Staples printed and bound copies out of my hand...And my own mother said after finishing book 2, "Honey, I wanted to put this book down." Ouch X infinity.

- I went back in and tried to revise this 71,000 word middle grade novel. Oh no, that's not a typo, people. And you know what I did? I added 5,000 words. Holy hell.

...You know I like time jumps, so jump ahead with me. I learned Mt. Everest amounts of technique and style since summer of 2008. Wrote 3 more novels -- each much better out of the gate than poor, over-stuffed book 2.

So, may I present, one example (and commentary in red) of my revision journey as of late...

Opening Paragraph of ORIGINAL DRAFT
*I advise grabbing a tissue or some sort of device to dry your tears...of laughter. Don't worry, I can take it. And I've already laughed myself silly. *

Sebbie waited for the bus alone. He watched his breath cloud and dissipate, and he wished it was still cool to bundle up in winter. Gloves, scarves and proper winter coats lined with fabrics designed to keep him warm had all been packed away since the end of fifth grade. West Chester Middle School started in sixth grade as did his complete immersion in all things cool. He discovered skateboarding, snowboarding and the skate shop in town. His skull covered Volcom hoodie just wasn’t cutting it against this Pennsylvania winter morning. Thick blonde hair escaped his Element wool cap by nearly two or three inches; he hadn’t had a real haircut since last August. He looked like your typical blonde-haired, blue-eyed skateboard punk.


MY OBSERVATIONS AND THOUGHTS:
I am not inside this character's head. Clearly. I mean, what 6th grade boy uses the word proper?!? And I have him "thinking" that word in the third sentence. Also, he wouldn't describe himself! At least not in such a lame...adult-language way. This whole paragraph SCREAMS author's voice. Can you hear it? I know I can. And I hate it.

Authentic character voice is buried under layers and layers of AUTHOR voice. So I excavated...

Opening Paragraph of SHINY NEWLY-REVISED DRAFT:
Sebbie waited for the bus alone. He watched his breath cloud and disappear and wished it was still okay to bundle up in winter. Gloves, scarves and what his mother called, ‘proper winter attire’ had all been packed away since the end of fifth grade. Nobody cool at West Chester Middle wore that junk. His skull covered Volcom hoodie just wasn’t cutting it against this winter Pennsylvania morning. His hair escaped his Element wool cap by nearly two or three inches; he hadn’t had a real haircut since last August. He knew he looked like a typical blonde-haired, blue-eyed skateboard punk, and he liked it that way.

MY OBSERVATIONS AND THOUGHTS:
I feel like Sebbie is present in the revised paragraph...present in every sentence...the way it should be if this chapter is from his point of view.

Can you feel him now?

Some Final Thoughts:
In my revision travels throughout this manuscript I blew my own mind with how many times I either head-jumped or suddenly changed POV. Like a ton. I also kept hearing my adult voice on the page...not the character's voice. Something else I apparently "hearted" was back story. Mama-mia did I slather it on, thick as cream cheese.

In this, my first serious-I-sort-of-know-what-I'm-doing revision, I slashed this sucker bloody and raw...16,000 words removed.

I wish it were pounds. Oh how I wish it were pounds.

(Depending on the response to this, you know, if anyone out there finds it to be remotely helpful, I have loads more where it came from. And I would share again. I'm brave.)