Thursday, December 16, 2010

Developing a Game Plan

Ok. I'm officially on vacation from French school, which is great; I needed a break. It's been a great experience and, even though I started with doubts, now I feel really happy since I've come to see a clear advance in my french; I even can make myself understood! Anyway, right now great news are cooking; I can't share the details until everything is settled but I'm super happy. Life is giving me a great big smile these days and I'm trying to enjoy it as much as I can because everything that comes up has to come down and I want to remember how good it feels right now to give me strength when things don't turn out the easy way.

I've had very few time to write something new but I expect to recover some time through the next few weeks. I have a story pretty much shaped and today I'll try to advance it as much as I can; the goal is to have it ready by monday and use next week to go forward with the other one. Those magazines for writers I've told you about have some kind of "classifieds" where other magazines that are interested in publishing new authors post their information; that's my next move. Once I have at least two more stories I'll start knocking on different doors to try to get my name across as many people as a Short Fiction writer can. The point is to broad my curriculum. Some Publishers looking for new novels ask about "Credentials"; well, so far only one editor knows my work and even though it'll be published, that won't mean much for somebody else. If different editors in different magazines (and hopefully, different contests) have been interested in my work, then an Agent or Publisher might feel a bit more inclined to read what I have to show; at least that's what my logic tells me... I might have it completely wrong but in the worst of cases, at least I'll feel better knowing that more than one person thinks my stories are worth it.

Well then, I have work to do! I promise I'll come back soon to let you in on my secret and give you details of how everything is going.

See you soon!!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A Little Taste

A few months ago I was writing what was supposed to be a short monologue from one of the older characters in my novel who was sharing some words of wisdom with the younger generation. Somehow that little monologue grew out of proportion and I had to cut it out, but I just couldn't part with it. I kept it, floating around without a place to be. It doesn't really reflect the story of the novel, since it is kind of a little essay in its own right. However, I share it with you today. I titled it 


Life is a crazy ride. Most of the time it's full of uneventful days, sometimes even boring. One day after another of the same occurrences and hard as you may try you end up sucked into the enormous momentum that is “routine”. Life goes on with its ups and downs and at some point we’re bound to find ourselves in a crossroad where we’ll have to make a choice that we know will affect the rest of our life. Usually we come across this kind of decisions maybe once a year every odd number of years, but certainly no more than 10 or 12 in a lifespan.

It's kind of astounding when you think about it: These are the moments that shape a life. When you are 70 and look back, everything you are and have is a direct consequence of merely a dozen crucial moments and most of the times you don’t feel as old as your body tells you.  

You don't think one decision a year every now and then would be hard to keep up with? Well, think again: College or no College? Get married or keep single? Take this job or that one? We don’t come across these questions that often but when they come, boy, they’re hard.

As you may have noticed before, life has a way of confounding us even more so when men in our usual arrogance think we have it all figured it out. “Lets send them a curve ball to spice it up!” And so it happens that one of those 'one-decision-year' turns out to be a 'several-decisions-year'; or even no decisions whatsoever but a series of events that are completely out of your hands and that end up not only defining the future but changing the whole ballgame. Then, at the end of those 12 months you find yourself looking in the mirror with a few more crowfeet and a bunch of new white in your hair but felling like a thousand years older. Those eyes looking back at you in the mirror look somehow wiser and you’re not yourself anymore but, if God was good to you, a new improved you. And you wonder, how is it possible that you suddenly caught up with your age when only 12 months ago you felt so much younger?

So here’s what I think. Had it not been for those “curve balls” we'd wound up at 70 feeling like a 5 year-old (which most 70 year-old men are, anyway). We need the uneventful years to help us process those life-changing years where we find ourselves growing wiser and older; then we use some of the boring times to carve a comfortable place in the new life that was thrust upon us to rediscover ourselves in a wiser state, so we are able to keep moving forward when life knocks on our door again.

After all the things you’ve gone through, when you turn 70 and look back to your life thinking: How the hell did it all go so fast? When the reflection in the mirror is that of an old man that somehow doesn’t seem to reflect who you really feel you are, look real close to those eyes looking back at you and you’ll recognize the wisdom in his eyes even though you don’t feel the years in your skin.

* * * *

There you go. Share your thoughts, any criticism is welcome and I can't wait to hear what you think of my little piece. I hope you liked it!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Good News

Well, I can finally call myself a Published Writer.

I left you at the point where I was editing my Short Story and Novelette. It turns out the Novelette was a far cry from ready; upon re-reading it I found it complicated at some parts where a lot of information was cramped and became confusing. You could say I wrote it anew. The bones were there but I didn't like the narrative and, in general, I found it terrible. I worked with it for a few weeks and came out much better and just in time for that deadline I told you about. The other story I sent was "Francis"; complete at 4000 words (more or less) I barely tweaked it after having sent it for the Contest.

Yesterday night I submitted both works and this morning; yes, this morning! (It was so fast!) I got my answer: Post Mortem Press will publish an Anthology of New Horror called "Isolation" where "Francis" will be included; it will be released in late January and the editor added he might be interested in publishing the Novelette, "Perpetual Night", as an anchor for a future publication.

OMG!! I read the mail while in bed this morning and jumped out so fast I almost fell when my feet got caught in the bedclothes. I jumped, cried, screamed... you name it. As you can imagine, I'm beyond happy but I'm also trying to keep my cool and reminding myself that I have to keep working and pray for many encores before I can genuinely call myself an Author.

I will start working in that other story I have in the rough and I have a great idea for a new one; in the mean time I'm enjoying myself today. YAY!!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Writing in Numbers

It's been a while since I wrote last. Finally time caught up with me and much as I ran I couldn't escape it, my french course started last week. It's quite interesting and I have to confess I'm enjoying it, though it has been hard to put up with eight hours of not understanding much. The worst part by far is that I had forgotten how tiresome school is and after university, I still have a house to clean and a family to take care of, forget about a writing career. I haven't been this busy in a long time. For now, I'm managing school, taking care of my two little girls, and cooking, cleaning... you know what I mean. On top of all that I'm still trying to write at least three pages per day but it's quite a frustrating exercise when your mind hangs up on you and all you produce are lifeless conversations and uninspired prose.

In any case, before the hectic days began I tried to write as much as I could to have something to work on while I got used to the new rhythm and feel more comfortable. I proudly state that I managed to finish a short story, (4000 wd) called "Francis" that I sent to a Short Fiction Contest; I got the rough basics of a second short story that it's in the works, and I finished the first draft of a not-so-short story (12000 wd).

Well, this last work posed a bit of trouble for me, I didn't know what market, if any, there was for it and for a moment I thought it would become a personal exercise with no hope for publishing. You see, I started writing in what, I felt, was a genre I was familiar with but there were things I'd never paid attention beforehand, like the length of the books and stories I read. I was resigned to leave this piece behind but, unwilling to find myself in this position once again, I decided to turn to the greatest source of information in this century: The Net.

After a short day of research I came out with more understanding of what was expected of me in each area and genre; it also reminded me just how much I don't know in this, my chosen field of work. It turns out that there's a name for every piece of work one does, that doesn't make it any more sellable, though. Here, I'll share with you what little knowledge I've gain on the subject.

An average page of a novel contains more or less 300 words, 250 if there's dialogue; keep that in mind when reading the following.

A work of up to 100 words is called Micro Fiction; this kind of story is becoming increasingly popular among magazines, though it is complex to write and do it well.

A piece that has between 100-1000 words is called Flash Fiction; extremely popular since long, it's the perfect work to put in Cosmo magazine as short romance or as a short comedy in a Men's magazine.

Now, from 1000-7500 words you'd call them Short Stories. These, you all know very well since they've carved a space in literary and film history.

A Novellette is the story that is anything from 7500-20K words-long. Alas, a name for my baby! But the good news stop there. These kind of pieces are the hardest to publish since most magazines consider them too long, and most publishers won't find it profiting enough to pony up with the cost of printing and marketing for a book whose point price has to be low. This work does better when put together with other pieces in a Compilation Novel.

The new electronic market has made popular a different kind of book called Novella. This work is 20K-50K words-long and fits perfectly with most e-readers' expectations; it offers a growing market with great promise for those with no interest of seeing their stories in print.

Finally, every genre of Novel has it's own especificities but in general a work that contains something between 50K-110K is acceptable. Epics and Secuels run even longer.

There it is, in a nutshell, what most writers should know about what editors and publishers are looking for, besides riveting stories. Back to my own work, I've called the Novellette "Perpetual Night" and I sent it to some friends; in general it got good reviews but it clearly needs more work. Right now I'm revising it and as soon as this weekend I'll start editing. My goal is to finish it before nov 30 because a publication has asked for such kind of work and the deadline is the end of the month.

I foresee many sleepless nights before I see it through but, if it gets selected everything will be worthwhile.

Wish me luck friends. I'll keep you posted!

Monday, October 25, 2010

A New Outlook

I finally finished that first draft of the story! I did it last wednesday, I think; I took the rest of the week to free my mind and give it a rest. I read, watched movies, and also started nurturing the early bids of those other ideas I had told you before. All in all it was a good week and I'm super excited because of the Writer's Digest Conference in NY in January; I will be there for sure!

Where am I in my writing? Well, I'm seriously doubting the story is publishable in its present state; it needs editing obviously but most importantly, it is way too long for a short and not enough for a "stand alone". I have to chose which way it will go and that's why, after writing this update, I will do my best to read it as a reader and not as the author. I also asked different people to give me their opinions about it and I'll try to use all these feed back in order to reach a decision.

Somedays I wonder if I'll be able to get a finished product that's worthy of being published. Last night I couldn't sleep and watching TV they aired Stephen King's biography. I have followed him since my early teens and I'd heard his bio before but with my aspirations at the moment, I listened with different ears. It took him ten years to get a novel published, ten years! He was, as he still is, a production machine that then wrote short stories like hot pancakes. A lot of magazines paid for his stories but he was neither famous nor rich; those days were still in the distant future. He was perseverant and never let go of his dream.

I signed in for this marathon a little late on my life but I'm still young and if I'm willing to persevere no matter how long it takes and how many rejection slips I get, I might become good enough to one day see my name in the cover of a paperback. All the stress and the feeling that time was running out has gone for now and I'm just interested in putting in as much time as it takes to write a decent story, weather it be big or small; as long as it is decently crafted, I don't care so much.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Bad Week

I guess we all are doomed to have a bump in the road at some point, the fist one came along last week for me. It was a wasted week for my writing and I'm starting to feel anxious that time is slipping out of my hands and I won't be able to finish. First of all, the so called short story is reaching its thirtieth page; granted, it's only missing the end, but you can see how it's only short by name. Then, a week ago I read about a contest for Fiction Short Stories (up to ten thousand words, thank God) with a Nov. 15th deadline; so, this is getting tight. And finally the last week was the straw that broke the camel's back.

Here in Canada last monday was Thanksgiving day, obviously, everybody stayed at home and I didn't write a word; that's ok, we all need a bit of a time as a family. Then on tuesday my oldest daughter didn't have school, so the younger one wanted to stay and play with her "siste"; anyway, another lost day. On wednesday my loving husband had to fly to NY for business... what happened to me? I had to take both girls to school, clean up the disaster of the two previous days, and pick them up; I know this is what most mom's do everyday but since my routine is different, it just messed me up. Thursday comes along and, wait for it, my husband lost his plane yesterday and I have to pick him up at the airport at NOON. Seriously? By now I'm wondering if there's a godly design to keep me from working.

Friday was my "good" day if you don't take into account that it was raining cats and dogs, the wind was blowing tree branches to the floor, and I got soaking wet when picking my oldest from school; but hey, at least I had some four hours of writing. On saturday I didn't even try, I decided to give myself some shopping therapy; 150 dollars later I was a happy camper.

Finally Sunday arrives and the morning was crazy; the girls were at each other throats and we got late to gym class. Once in the gym I realized it was the last day to pay for their pictures and I hadn't even had breakfast. To hell with it. I called my husband, pulled him out of his class to give him a full ear of my horrific week and how he had to figure out something before a meteorite came crashing down on my head.

After that relaxing exercise I got myself a BIG coffee and a doughnut and sat down to watch my girls' class. My husband got the pictures payed and he kept the girls entertained outside for the rest of the afternoon. I'm sure he did it more for self-protection than kindness but I don't care; I sat down and wrote.

Now, the plot thickens. Everyone has heard of "Writer's block"; I'm not sure exactly what it is but is one of those things that I'll know when I see it. Yesterday I got confronted by one of its many faces, I think; I had been so overwhelmed by the previous events that my creative mind wasn't flowing as usual. Normally I'll write some four pages in six or seven hours of work; I have no idea if it is a good or a bad rhythm but that's what I'm used to. Yesterday I wrote one, ONE; and I'm not even sure it's decent enough.

I have a couple of new ideas that are distracting me from this project; I have committed to finish this thing before starting another but sometimes I just feel I'm going through the motions just to see it finished and be able to move on. It definitively hasn't been a simple task to not let my mind wander to other stories and write the best thing I can 'till the end; don't worry, I'll do. I promised you, but most importantly I promised me.

In the mean time tell me if you have gone through something similar and how did you manage to complete the task that you had assigned to yourself.

I'll keep you posted!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Developing a Story

My first short story is going along pretty well, I haven't finished the first draft but I'm advancing at a pretty steady pace and close to that goal. What I want to share with you today is the creative process I've developed as I find my way in this career; I'd also loved it if you shared yours with me, as it might inspire me to tune mine even further.

When I began with the novel, as I posted in a previous entry, I didn't know quite well how to tackle the process of creating an interesting plot and appealing characters; I thought I could start writing and everything would fall in place as I told the story. Truth be told, it is nearly impossible to tell a compelling story when all you got is bits of pieces of it; so, after my first total failure I started writing down my ideas; and I mean pen and paper, no computer. My mind works better when I put in paper everything, weather I'm developing my newest novel hero or making a grocery list; there's something about doing it the old way that makes it more graphic and clearer in my mind.

I realized that the characters I had found the most interesting as a reader were those going through an ordeal, those who are overcoming adversity in some way; for example, if there were no animosity between the families, Romeo and Juliet wouldn't be a memorable story; had it not been for the fact that he is a vampire and she is a human, Twilight would be just another teen book. In order to make a story interesting, you have to make it complicated... at least in romance.

First I came with the outline of the novel, the main characters, their state of mind at the beginning of the story, their motivations and the complications they'd have to conquer. I'm telling a family story too, so, I also had to create a family tree, a background to it, and the interactions between them. Since I'm planning a series of books, my characters will have to mature as time goes on and I risked making them illogical as I needed them to do something; my way of avoiding this was to create a "Script", one for each important character, where I describe their personality; that way I have somewhere to look when I need to find someone with the right attitude or motivation to react in a particular way.

Finally, I imagine new plots and characters, but places and the details of them come harder to me; so I went to the internet and looked through tons of pictures of houses and landscapes until I found those where I could picture the events of the novel.

The whole process took like three weeks and was tedious at times but, once I went back to the writing, it proved to be worth it and I'm sure to repeat it in the future; as I did with the short story. I'm also sure that as I know better what I need in order to create a more rounded story, my research will be more limited to what I'll really use and shorter in time.

Next time I hope I'll be telling you all about my research into the most rewarding conclusion for anyone in this career, publishing. I'm already looking for magazines interested in new writers, since I'm about to finish that cherished first work. I'll tell you all about it next time.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Emerging Plan

In one of those "Writing for dummies" books that I read at the beginning, the author suggested the aspiring writers to subscribe to a magazine of the trade, for example The Writer or Writer's Digest. This, he explained, is supposed to reassure you on the path that you chose; and I repeat not his actual words but what they meant to me.

Those like me, who are trying to write our first novel, find ourselves faced with the big probability of never getting our work published. For the world there are only two kinds of writers: The ones who are published but can't live out of royalties, and Those who are published and are rich; Stephen King, Robert Ludlum... you know who I'm talking about. The thing is, we are neither of those because we're starting our career and, consequently, most people don't take us seriously. An important part of human nature is the need to be recognized and praised, if no one recognizes us as part of a guild, then we have problems identifying ourselves as a part of it. Cue for the magazine to come around.

Receiving or buying an "insiders tool" on a monthly basis gives us that feeling of belonging, its a constant reminder of our dream... they have cool, insightful articles too; =) and, since I have no published work to brag about, I make a point in taking my magazines to as many public places as I can and read them with the cover showing.

But, seriously, buying and reading these magazines have helped me learn about the industry but have also showed me hundreds of stories that, one day were as improbable as mine, and yet they made it. These publications have helped me become a better writer by being more analytical of my work; they have also helped me know where I'm standing and what can I expect form the industry once I finish my book; they have downfalls as well, though.

I keep reading everywhere how few writers have been able to get their first work published; well, I want mine out there! So, it got me thinking; this is my baby and I really want to do the best I can to help it get to a bookstore; right now I'm not the best I can be and the only way of getting there is to practice...

I gave it a lot of thought and I've come to the conclusion that I'll keep writing the novel but as a side work; my main focus will be to write short stories and get them into magazines; that ought to help. First, I will get more practice while finding my own voice and style; second, I'll have something to show a publisher or agent that will hopefully prove me to be a better investment for them to make; and third, I will be able to produce a better quality narrative to elevate my novel.

Now, for this plan to work I have to write in the same genre of the novel, start finding my audience. I've already chosen (or the other way around, maybe) Young Adult; within this category I think I can move through other genres, I mean Horror, Mystery, Romance... as long as my audience doesn't change I feel I have some freedom with the thematic of the story. Since what I've read most of my life is mystery, thrillers and horror, I've decided to try my hand at what I know best; that's how I got to where I am today.

I've been thinking about a compelling story, because it's meant to be short I think I will be able to get a finished product in one month; I've done my research and now, I'm starting to write it. I'm already in love with it so, I hope, soon I'll be able to let you all know what magazine to buy...

I'll tell you all about it the next time. Wish me luck!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The First Novel

Do you remember that first novel I told you all about? Well, I planned carefully the plot, I did my research and, finally, I started writing. At first I got so carried away by the story, which I find so interesting, that all I wrote were the bones of the novel; what I mean is that there was no metaphor, no similes, there were only facts and simple conversations. The entirety of the first chapter were something like ten lousy pages in double space, so there's no need to say it needed work.

A quick travel to Mexico took me away from my baby and gave a week to distance myself from it. By the time I came back and put my family back on tracks -my husband was barely able to survive on eggs, steak, and frozen pizza but my house was in serious need of a clean up and my girls, five and four, were in need of a home cooked meal- I had taken a two weeks "vacation" in total. I went back to my manuscript, re-read it and totally hated it. I restarted from the very beginning but this time I took the time to put in paper the outlines of all that, too important plot so I could take my time describing scenes and characters; I also wrote a list of all the points that I wanted to make through the first chapter in order to cover the story in as much detail as possible. You see, I was so excited with the realization that I was able to write and I had an idea for a novel!, that I had a very poorly thoughtout plan of how to express that great idea.

Another thing quite amusing that is kind of complicating this whole thing is, you always read that you have to write in the genre that you read... well, I've always loved horror stories but I'm trying to write a ROMANCE! Why on earth I got in my mind this story in particular? I have no idea, but I truly understand Stephen King now. He was asked once why he chose to write horror, his answer: What makes you think I chose? So, my plan to overcome this? I've started reading YA romance to get to know the pacing and development that a reader will be expecting.

So, all at the same time I've been looking for my own style, I've been learning about the genre that has chosen me, and I've been writing my dream story. The final result has been painfully bad at times but I keep reminding me that this is only my first draft and I can always go back to perfect it in a second or third draft. This second attempt has taken me a lot more time but, I feel, it has a much better quality; I haven't even finished the first chapter yet but, so far, I've written some thirty pages of not so abhorrent nature.

As you can see, everyday is a battle against the odds, and against my own questions about my talent but I'm hanging in here; somedays better than others but still in the fight.