Optimism is NOT Arrogance

Arrogance is the belief that you are BETTER than others. Optimism is the belief that you have the same CHANCE as others. We all have the chance to achieve our dreams. Don't ever let anyone tell you differently.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Big Shout out to my friend Mary Kaley - Critiquing is Critiqual

It's always fun to give an interview, so a big thanks to Mary for giving me the opportunity to answer some questions on critiquing. Oddly enough, the SCWBI Southeastern PA chapter has asked me to coordinate their critique groups and help our chapter get set up with one another for critique groups.

It's an honor and I'm really excited about the possibilities. Critique groups are essential, and a great way to network. But most importantly? They get you with fellow writers who are in the same boat as you.

There's not a whole lot I can add to Mary's already awesome blog, so all I'm gonna do it post a link.


wait.  Not big enough.


better.  Check it out - critiquing is fun, valuable, and time DEFINITELY well spent.  Stop by, say Hi to Mary for me, and get your critique on!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Don't Edit Where You Write

My opinion, but for what it's worth - I don't like editing where I write. They're two different mindsets, and for that I like to have two different locations.

See, I'm getting ready to edit my manuscript some more, and thus I'm ok laying back on the couch with my Irish Setter's nose in my face. I'm fine with that, because I already know the story and I'm looking for nit-picky things. Even content and all I can focus on while there are distractions around me.

But writing and original manuscript? Forget it. My favorite location would be an isolation chamber like in Altered States. I want headphones on, music blasting, and the entire world shut off.

Stephen King wrote that he thought he would write best with an inspirational window in front of his desk overlooking the serene forest and the beautiful landscape.

He scrapped it and moved his desk to a dark corner of the house underneath the stairs.

When I'm writing the original manuscript, I'm taking notes on a movie that's playing in my head, transcribing what I see at a breakneck pace (I type around 74 words per minute, so I'm lucky). I don't have time to stop and answer questions from kids, shoo the cat away, or wipe off the dog slobber on my keyboard. Having to deal with all that can only lead to frustration and anger. So I write when the kids are in bed, in my office with the doors closed, and headphones on playing anything by James Horner, John Williams, or Thomas Newman. Soundtracks provide the soundtrack to my story.

However, that's what works for me. What works for you is up to you. But I'd love to hear about other writing caves!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Take 3...First Person Solo Attempt

Ok, why not? I'm starting re-writing the book AGAIN but with Jeff being the only hero and Ben's voice taken out completely, other than what he actually says.

This presents some challenges. One of the best things about dual first person narrative is you can get two different perspectives as stories diverge. So when Ben is rushed to the hospital we still are able to keep up with him while Jeff is somewhere else fighting off the evil that is Professor Ferguson.

A single first-person narrative takes that away. Now all the reader knows is what Jeff knows.

I did write to a friend of mine at Random House asking his professional opinion on the subject - can a dual first-person narrative work for middle grade boys? His answer didn't really surprise me, nor did it disappoint me.

He said: "I'll get back to you."

So more waiting. Meanwhile, I'm going to go through the manuscript for first person and then again with the dual first-person but with a very honed attention to detail. I don't think I've been obsessive enough about the quality. I've been sloppy.

Never be sloppy in the writing business. You have to tend to your art like you're manicuring a bonsai tree - careful, precise and every word intentional.

So, I'm off to clip some more.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

A lesson for me...

First of all, congrats to Amanda Hocking - a self-made self-published author whose bidding war with publishers just pushed her past the $2M mark. Amazing!

Now. For all of you struggling to get your FIRST book published, breath in and out with me.



I don't know about you, but my first reaction to such news is "WHAT?!?! That's SO UNFAIR!"

Well, actually, it is, and it in NO WAY means we won't get our chance. See, here's what's happening:

The mind, having read or heard such news, immediately rifles through it's past experiences (usually in the form of rejection letters) and interprets the event we've just read/heard into something that we can now prepare ourselves for: More rejection.

The mind is in survival mode most of the time. When it's not working out math equations and the like. And as such, the first thing the mind does it put a break on any optimistic thoughts when such an event occurs. "WHOA THERE big fella! Don't be thinkin' that'll happen to you. Because it hasn't yet, and all you've gotten is rejection. So let's just presume that it ain't gonna happen. If it does, fine, but if it doesn't, than at least we won't be all disappointed."

That's the way the mind works. And that thought about your work, your chances, etc. etc. manifests itself into an emotion (let's call it jealousy). And all of this happens in a blink. If you control your thoughts, you control your emotions. Trust me.

Now, if you're AWARE that this is happening, it becomes easier and easier to smack your mind shut. "There's NOTHING in the world right now to indicate that that can't happen to me. Not even the millions of rejection letters I got." Or, if it has been a MILLION rejection letters, you could think "That could happen to me, but I've been rejected a million times. I need to approach this differently. That'll help!"

Neither of which cries defeat or hopelessness. They cry out perseverance, and tenaciousness. They cry out strength.

And we ALL have strength.

For more, check out my page on Facebook - HERE. From there I'll hook you up with the group The Strength to Stand Up - Memoirs of the Unemployed. It's a spot for us to vent our frustrations, and to become aware not only of what our mind is doing, but of what possibilities exist for us as human beings, if we only let them.

Check it out and let me know what you think.

Remember, be aware of your inner thoughts, and you'll find that they can definitely respond to you instead of the other way around.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Quick update - I have a Facebook Page!

Yaaaay! You can like me now! Just click on this link, and then like me. The "love me" button is hidden. You need special permission for that...

Click Here!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Optimism struggles...gasping...falling...

CPR! Quick!

Ok, two more strike outs, and I'm too friggin' tired to go through the lineup again. Bottom line, we're down to two publishers left after missing on all the others. Here's the response from Caitlin:

"No good news I'm afraid. First, I've heard back from two more editors who are passing--Ari Lewin at Putnam/Penguin and Wendy Loggia at Delacorte/Random. Both sent relatively generic letters without any useful feedback.

I'll nudge the two editors who still have the manuscript--at Greenwillow and Dial/Penguin--but it's hard to be hopeful at this stage..."

Gaack. Air...need....air...

Also, Caitlin mentioned that the third person re-write wasn't working, and even if I did take out all the time/point of view errors it still would be weaker than the two voices that I have.

So I called her, and we're going to retry the pitch, and I'm going to look at the dual-first person to see if I can make it cleaner.

But it's something no one's ever done before. There's not a single Middle Grade fiction instance of a dual first person narrative. Something conversational, casual, as if two best friends were relating their experiences with you.

Wait...no one's ever done it before? It's hopeless? Forget it?

"The horse is here to stay but the automobile is only a novelty, a fad."
The president of the Michigan Savings Bank advising Henry Ford's lawyer not to invest in the Ford Motor Co., 1903.

"Flight by machines heavier than air is unpractical (sic) and insignificant, if not utterly impossible." - Simon Newcomb; The Wright Brothers flew at Kittyhawk 18 months later. Newcomb was not impressed.

"This 'telephone' has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us."
A memo at Western Union, 1878 (or 1876).

(hat tip to 2spare.com! http://www.2spare.com/item_50221.aspx)

Bottom line? In a few years, someday, you will read about a popular new writing style for middle grade boys - a style in which TWO main characters relay the story in a conversational mode, like they are in the room with your reader. They banter back and forth, while still conveying the basics of the story, enthralling young readers and bringing them into the very world of the heroes.

Mark my word.


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Nothing more...yet

This is driving me crazy! A flurry of activity and then....NOTHING.

Ok, so to kill the time I'm going to do some internet magic. Starting with juggling five knives.



...ok, internet magic kinda loses it's thrill...

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Transformation Is Complete

It's now in third person, completely. Not an easy task. Had to go through it with a fine tooth comb to make sure every Our became Their, every He became the person and (the one I missed the most) every MY became HIS. It's actually pretty funny reading "Jeff put his hand in my pocket", but I don't think it'd sell.

One other thing I noticed a lot and gained an appreciation for was the use of pronouns. "He" especially - if used too often it becomes really ambiguous as to who you're talking about. Used too infrequently and you get really sick of the name of the person. Takes a lot of balance.

Anyway, I wrote to Caitlin to ask her the next steps, so we'll see. Hopefully I'll hear back from her on Monday, and I'm going to remain optimistic that the news will be good.

Until then, time to start something new!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

From First to Third

No, not another baseball analogy. Although if I were to give one it would be "WHY IS CAITLIN AT THE FRIGGIN' MOUND FOR SO LONG! LET'S GO! GET THE GAME GOING!"

Still no word. But hey, in the meantime I've managed to revise the entire book from first to third person. It's a trick, but it's not as hard as it seems. The key difference is losing the internal dialogue and thoughts of the characters. That's the real insight that you can't get too easily in third person. Take this passage for example:

"Only boys? Dude, I would seriously kick your butt across the attic if I had to. Fortunately for him I didn’t. He leaned in close to us, so close that I could smell his breath, which, by the way, totally grossed me out.
“I don’t know who you are,” he said, “or what year this is, but listen to me carefully. Whatever you do, do not go looking for it. Leave it be.”
I told myself “Don’t say anything. Don’t say anything. Don’t say anything.” This guy made NO sense and I didn’t want to upset the crazy person."

Very personal and up front. You not only know what the character's thinking, but the multiple thoughts he's having and the conflicting emotions - bravado versus fear. It's more intimate: we're in their mind.

When I changed it, it came out like this:

Ben was actually offended by that. Only boys? He thought. Dude, I would seriously kick your butt across the attic if I had to. At least, that’s what Ben’s mind said. His body told his mind to stick it - no one was moving anywhere. Pinchbeck leaned in close to them, so close that he could smell his nasty stale breath.

A third person narrative can still have the perspective of the character, but it's not as intimate. The conflict is still there - the bravado of the mind against the immobilizing fear of his body. But you can't have too much inner dialogue in a third person narrative or else you come across as a first person narrative wanna-be. So I kept the one piece in about kicking his butt, but had to put the rest in the third person. I also took out the crazy person reference because that was another internal thought, and in the third person it became kind of unnecessary.

What do you think? I like the first person better, obviously, but the third person narrative might be more sellable. At least to the editors. The kids I had read it loved the first person.

Well, at least now I'll be prepared for both...

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