Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Tuesday Tally: What I learned last week

EotF Update

total words to date: 94,627

pages: 417

chapters revised: 27/27 (draft 5)


T.C. Status

word count: 1471


This Months' Goals:

  • Finish uploading the recent version of EotF to WDC at one or two chapters a day, including the elusive chapter 26, by Oct 11
  • have a poetry chapbook outlined and other assignments ready for Muse Conf, which starts Oct 13
  • use latter part of month (20-31) to put all that aside and make progress on TC
  • to accomplish all of the above, spend at least two hours daily (at least M-F) on writing related activities


    The Muse Online Writers Conference was a brain-load of information, and a boost in creativity. I didn't keep up with all the workshops I signed up for initially, but the forums will be open for another month so I can go in and copy any information I want to save. The workshops I put the most time in were both poetry related.


    The Creative Block Buster for Poetry workshop had a one-hour chat every morning Monday through Friday in addition to the forum. The chats were very enlightening. We brainstormed, discussed, and learned techniques to free our stuck poems. I learned how to listen to my poetry. I workshopped two poems during the week, and am very happy with the end results for both. Lisa Gentile, the presenter, had a power outage and was not able to make the Friday chat. I think it was a blessing in disguise for the rest of us. We talked about what we had learned, and by the end of the hour we had decided to put together an anthology of poems improved by the course, and meet again for future chats. Essentially, we formed a Poetry Group. Yay! We'll be meeting once a month to chat. Very exciting.


    The other one I focused on was How to Turn Your Poetry Into a Saleable Chapbook. Yes, a mouthful, but an educating one. With encouragement, I went with the dark theme. Even my husband had once commented that a lot of my writing had the thread of darker emotion. The title I chose is Chiaroscuro. What, exactly, is my chapbook about? Exploring the darkness, bringing the monsters of death and abuse into the light. Thanks to the workshop, I have a completed chapbook, all formatted, and the tools to either submit or self-publish. I traded in-depth critiques with another member. Thanks to her feedback, I'm polishing/tightening the individual poems. My acknowledgements section is rather bare, so here's the plan:

    1. Polish poems (mostly tweaking, no major revamps; I'm not in the same place I was when I wrote them)
    2. Submit the best to various markets.
    3. Once I get some publishing credits, submit the chapbook as a whole to poetry chapbook publishers.


    (warning: rambling thoughts ahead)

    Another Authoress Secret Agent contest recently ended. I made changes after the last one, and submitted a revised opening. The general consensus this time - opening much improved. However, my ratio of yes/no hooked didn't really go up. Out of 11 comments, 3 were definitely hooked, 4 definitely not, 2 said it was improved but still not quite hooked, 1 would read on for the genre though not quite hooked, and 1 would need to read the blurb first. Due to the tightened opening, an issue appeared on this first page that used to come up on a later page (see comments on opening, or skip to agent comment below to name that issue). I had received a couple comments prior saying it might turn off readers, or be a tough sell, but now that an agent and a couple more readers have expressed the same thing... and my husband admitted to not liking it as well... Gosh, tough stuff.


    The event in question shapes my MC and though nothing is ever shown (trauma occurring before story opens), it does trigger some events and conversations in the first five or so chapters. No one seems to be bothered by the physical abuse, just the other kind. My husband did make the point that the issue is probably more that it appears so soon in the book, before the reader has a chance to really care about the characters. A backfired attempt to create reader sympathy (more a side effect, as the issue isn't there just for reader sympathy, but for character shaping and those aforementioned event triggers). I don't want to narrow my audience too far, or kill my chances to get an agent or publisher, if it really is that big of an Issue. So, in my next read-through and revisions, I will see if it is plausible to take out the problematic content. *sigh* Much work ahead.


    Analyzing the agent's comment:

    I do like how this adds some backstory detail in without being obvious, but I'm just not feeling enchanted. I'm not a reader of this kind of YA, but what hooks me regardless is character. Work on making your characters deeper, even on first glance; if you're writing a fairy story, there's a temptation to mimic fairy tale language, and that keeps your characters flat. Add details that make them seem real and full of life. I also balked at the suggestion of sexual abuse ahead, it didn't seem to fit with the tone.

    On a plus note, no one complained that my opening had "telling dialogue", instead I got complimented from the agent. One problem fixed at least. Another issue in that comment. She refers to it as YA. My story is not Young Adult. The MC does start out as a teenager, but that alone doesn't make a YA. Would the confusion be cleared up with merely the introductory query letter or back blurb? Most likely. The question is, does the opening voice imply YA? Any opinions on that matter are welcome.


    ... Well, that was quite an entry. Probably could have been broken into three parts. Kudos and thanks to all those who made it this far. Don't be shy about sharing your opinion on anything in this post. I need to hear it straight.


    Additional question for any who might help: Today, whilst using Windows Live Writer to compose this post, pressing enter is frequently creating a bullet point rather than simply starting a new paragraph or line break. How do I make it stop?? I'm pretty sure all my list html is closed, yet it keeps spawning new ones... This post is a mess...


    Going to take a nap while B is still at school.


    1. I read the new opening, and I agree that it is much improved, so great job! I think the reason the agent thought it was YA is because the scene is of two sisters bickering, and they are/seem young enough to call someone (even if it's not their real dad) Father.

      It seems to me that the problem with the dark implication of abuse at the end of the opening is that the overall tone of the excerpt is light (they're bickering, Terra pouts, Marian rolls her eyes--it's not in keeping with the serious issues of abuse. Neither of them seems thoroughly afraid of Father, more just annoyed at the inconveniences he imposes--Marian sighs as she gets dressed, which speaks of weary irritation, not fear). The light tone also contributes to the YA feel, I think, so a darker, more serious tone would read as more adult as well as in keeping with the subsequent abuse-stuff.

      One option to get to the action faster--cut out the hair washing entirely and start when Terra is startled by the door slam and jerks the comb in Marian's hair. Though that cuts out the first mention of Terra's tinker, I think the second mention does the job of inserting backstory just as well, and more seamlessly. Also, starting with the door slam sets up immediate tension, instead of the happy sisterly-bonding feel that the hair-washing introduces. Also, letting us immediately see their fear (maybe Terra bites a suddenly white lip instead of moans, or Marian's stomach clenches) would get the reader to care earlier.

      Hope this helps! You're making great progress--keep at it!

    2. Thanks Lynn. I wanted contrast and scene-setting, but maybe starting with the door-slam would be better after all. I'll try your suggestion. The trick will be finding some fresh eyes to read the new version.

    3. There were so many YA books in the AYH contest that it might have been that. Maybe she mistook your book for YA? I don't think it reads like YA.

      Since the opening is important maybe you could backtrack a little and start a few hours before? Give us some time before this happens. Or skip ahead and explain the situation later on?

    4. Oooh, that's lots of words! I bet they all look pretty!

    5. Brandon Turner [MSFT]October 21, 2008 at 6:56 PM


      I am one of the developers of Windows Live Writer. If you send me the contents of your:

      C:\Users\*username*\AppData\Roaming\Windows Live Writer\blogtemplates

      I might be able to see if I can find the reason that a bulleted list item was appearing.

      Just email it to me at bturner[AT]microsoft[dot]com