Friday, February 18, 2011

These Shoes Are So Similar...

But if you look close enough, you'll see that one pair is shinier than the other. I've been talking to you this week about the three qualities that Mary Kole believes separates the aspiring writer from the published author. We've talked about character and voice. Now, we're going to talk about the third quality--Authority. The word itself is self-explanatory, but what does it mean when it comes to our writing? According to Ms. Kole, it means writing with confidence. Ms. Kole feels that this takes time, and lots of it. It's the point at which you become a true story teller. When a writer reaches this level, mistakes and breaking of the rules go unnoticed. In fact, the author bends the rules in his favor. This brings to mind the whole "know the rules so you know when to break them" concept. Again, there's no specific formula for getting to this point. It's all about practice and more practice. Ms. Kole stressed that each of our journeys will be different. One of us might acquire these three qualities sooner than another, but if we keep at it, every single one of us can and will get there. She closed the Webinar with these four pointers: 1. Keep honing the craft 2. Enjoy and respect the journey 3. Get at least one crit partner 4. Keep learning the marketplace So, there you have it. I wish I had more concrete advice for all of you, but this has given me a lot to think about, and to work on. Which I'm going to be doing a lot of over the next week. Yes, it's time for me to take another break. I'll be back on the 28th. Until then, if any of you get good news (and I'm guessing someone will... happens every time), please email me. I don't think I can wait to hear about it until I return. Have a great weekend, and I'll see you all in a week or so!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Dang! She's got a mouth on her!

When it comes to a pair of shoes, or a nagging woman, this may be a bad thing. But when it comes to writing fiction, a powerful voice is essential. Monday, I talked about character and how it's one of the things that Mary Kole feels separates the unpublished writer from the published author. The second thing is voice. As you all know, voice is near impossible to define. It's not something you can teach. It's not something you can learn. But it is something you can develop over time. And by time, I mean years and years of practice that ultimately result in you finding your own voice. In the Webinar, Mary Kole didn't even attempt to give pointers on the matter. Instead, she named books that she felt were perfect examples of strong voice. Tantalize by Cynthia Leitich Smith and Feed by M. T. Anderson were among this list. She also stated what her most frequent voice notes consist of: dry and clunky writing; reads like a business memo; and too adult (of course this only applies to children's literature). She also commented that the voice must be authentic and natural. No author can force it. Readers, even kids, will notice if you're a poser. So, what did I learn? Well, I didn't get any solid answers, but I did learn that my voice is unique to me, and only practice will get it strong enough for publication. I'm sure you all are a bit disappointed that I didn't have some greater words of wisdom, but we are talking voice here. I'm not sure that anyone can give a concrete explanation of what makes for a good voice other than that it captures the reader and won't let go. What do you think? What makes for a powerful voice?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Interesting Shoes...

They certainly get my attention. They may resemble shoes I'm used to, but there's something a little different about them. This, according to Mary Kole, is what makes for a good character. (Okay, so these shoes aren't appealing on any level, but bear with me... I'm trying to make a point here.) A good character is both a mirror and a window. The reader should see something of themselves in the character, but should also see how the character can take them to somewhere they've never been. This, to a certain extent, mimics the advice of Donald Maass in The Fire In Fiction. If your main character is a hero, give him some quality the reader can relate to. If your main character is an everyday guy, give him some heroic quality. In other words, a hero is naturally a window for the reader. And an everyday guy is naturally a mirror. As authors, we need to make sure we give the character the ability to be both. Mary Kole feels this is a difficult thing to achieve, and as I mentioned Friday, one of the things that separates an aspiring writer from a published author. I have to admit, I see her point. An unforgettable character is hard to create. That's why I work hard at it every day. So, what do you think makes for an unforgettable character? Oh, and Happy Valentine's Day!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Bring On The Coppertone!

Yes, it's supposed to be a balmy 35 degrees here today. Possibly near 50 by Sunday. It's a heatwave I tell you. A heatwave! I hear dripping outside my window as I type. I'm pretty sure that's the beautiful sound of snow melting. I know I promised to tell you the three things that Mary Kole thinks separates the aspiring writer from the published author, and I still plan on doing so. However, as I started to write out the post, I realized it would be an extra long one. And you all know how I feel about longs posts. So, today, I will list the three things, but save all the details for next week. First, let me say that Ms. Kole considers these three things the last to come together for any writer. They are vague concepts and near impossible to define but unmistakable when achieved. As with everything else in this industry, I'm guessing there is still some subjectivity involved in deciding whether a particular person has mastered these concepts. Still, I think knowing what they are, gives us something to strive for. Okay, so here they are: Character, Voice, and Authority. I told you they were vague, but I promise I'll elaborate a little more next week. Until then, feel free to comment on what these things mean to you. My kids are out of school for conferences (as if they haven't had enough time off for snow days), so it will be a battle for Internet time today no doubt, but I'll be visiting as much as possible. Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

I've Been Wearing These A Lot!

Good thing they're stylish and comfy, huh? Yeah, we got more snow last night. I'm so desperate for good weather that I started rewriting some of my favorite winter songs. Like, instead of "Frosty the Snowman", it's "Toasty the Sandman". Then, instead of "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas", it's "I'm Screaming for a Bright Marchmas". My latest masterpiece is inspired by "Let It Snow", but I call it "Let It Glow", and it goes something like this: The heat outside is heightening, but the pool is so inviting. I know I'm not the only one trapped in these Winter blues, so I'll quit complaining and get on to the Webinar with Mary Kole. First of all, I'd like to explain that this Webinar was geared for everyone from the beginning writer to the more seasoned, ready to query writer. She covered a lot of ground, much of which you probably already know. I did pick up a few helpful tips, which I will share with you over the next couple of posts. Let's start with querying. Keep in mind that these are just one agent's opinions and may not hold true for all agents. Here's what Mary Kole would like to see in a query: 1. Personalize it--state why you are querying this particular agent 2. Isolate the hook 3. Necessary Info--word count, genre, whether it's a multiple submission 4. Keep the bio brief and to the point 5. Tell about the book: Who is main character? What launches story? What does main character want? What stands in his/her way? What's at stake if he/she doesn't get what he/she wants? On Friday, I'll share with you the three things Mary Kole thinks separates an aspiring writer from a published author. See you then!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Too Many Shoes!

There are so many things I want to blog about today, and I don't know where to start. I planned on telling you a bit about my webinar with Mary Kole, but all these other things came up. So I'll hold off on that until later in the week. For now, I want to thank Nancy for honoring me with The Stylish Blogger Award. She has to be one of the sweetest people I know. I'm not one to follow the rules with these types of awards, but I do want Nancy to know how grateful I am and that I truly appreciate the friendship we've developed here on blogger. If you don't already follow her, you should drop by her place. You're sure to find a heartwarming experience. Also, I want to congratulate Jennifer Shirk on her 3rd book contract. And get this... I wasn't even on a break when this good news came in! (Don't know what I'm talking about? Then click here). Of course, technically, we could say it counts considering my Internet was down last week and I didn't hear the good news until Friday. Yeah, I know that's a stretch, but still... Finally, did you hear about the drawing my awesome friend Kate Walton is having? If not, you should go check it out. The prizes include 7 YA books and a first chapter critique by the lovely Sarah LaPolla of Curtis Brown LTD. It doesn't get much better than that! Okay, this post is long enough. I'm sure there's more I want to talk about, but it will wait until Wednesday. Have a great day!

Friday, February 4, 2011

I've Been A Bad Blogger

But, in my defense, it isn't entirely my fault. Nor is it my fault that I don't have a shoe picture today. All my shoes are buried under 6 foot snow drifts. And with the winter storm, our Internet connection has been sketchy at best, so I haven't been able to get around to visit all of you as much as I'd like. Being trapped at home, however, has allowed me to do a whole bunch of other things. I wrote a lot. I read a lot. I ate a lot. I cleaned a lot. And, I watched way too much television. Lucky for me, our Internet didn't cut out once yesterday when I sat in on a Writer's Digest webinar instructed by Mary Kole of The Andrea Brown Literary Agency. Let me just say, it was fantastic. I'll post about what I learned next week. Until then, I'll be trying to dig some of my shoes out from the snow and reading as many blogs as my Internet connection will allow. Hope you all have a fabulous weekend! And for those of you experiencing the same weather as I am, stay warm and remember that spring is just around the corner.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

I Want To Wear Flip Flops!

And I don't want to wear them in the snow. I also want an 80 degree day with sunshine, a spotless house, and a Hawaiian vacation with my husband. All of these things will come in time... but not now. In a few months, it will be 80 degrees because it will be summer. In a few years, my house will be spotless because my kids will all be out on their own. In a few decades, I will have that vacation to Hawaii because my husband will retire. For now, though, I have to be satisfied with 0 degree temps, a messy, um... I mean cozy home, and a night out on the town with my husband. If I focus only on what I want to change, I miss out on the pleasures of the present. I may want it to be 80 degrees, but there's something to be said for curling up with a good book on a cold winter night. My house might be cleaner when my kids are gone, but it won't feel as homey without the constant activity. And when my husband retires, we may be able to go to Hawaii, but he'll be home EVERY SINGLE DAY, ALL DAY LONG, pacing because he won't know what to do with himself (which will drive me absolutely crazy). The same could be said for my writing career. I want to be a published author, and I can do everything in my power to make it happen. But (and this is a big but) some things are out of my control. Not only that, but when it does happen, things will change in many ways. I'll have to spend more time marketing and less time crafting. I'll have deadlines that aren't just self-imposed. I'll face criticism on a much broader level. So, for now, I am satisfied with the present. I write for the pure joy of writing and am loving every stage in my journey. The rest will come in time, and who knows... I might miss this part of it.