Sunday, January 30, 2011

10, 9, 8...

It's not working.

7, 6...

Still not working.


My blood pressure is going up.

4, 3...

The minor words that demonstrate increasing frustration are starting to come out.


My voice is getting louder


It's reached dog-whistle pitch.

Moral of the story:  Counting backwards from 10 does nothing to relieve your temper when your 9 year-old is still up at 11:30 on Sunday night because she decided that 10:30 was the right time to start her weekend homework.  And it's not even like she normally has weekend homework.  This is homework that was rejected because she did such a poor job of it last Wednesday.

So now, the power cord to her computer is mine.  Time for her to re-prioritize.

Overall it's been a frustrating weekend.  I spent four hours getting 5000 hand-written words into my manuscript file, only to realize that I had transcribed them already.  So I'm no further along than I was last week - 20 handwritten pages left.  Should only take 6 hours or so.  I hope the kids have enough underwear to last them the week.  Come to think of it, I hope I have enough underwear to last the week.

On a brighter note, at 3:00 in the morning I submitted a fully revised version of the China Medical Mission article, complete with 7 captioned pictures and 600 fewer words.  Now all I need are the permission slips for the people in the pictures and I'm all caught up.

I'm feeling ferclempt, so I'm abandoning my post.  It's only fair that I should spare you from the miserable swirl of tarry, black emotions I'm feeling right now.  I'll be back when I'm worthy of your company.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Near Mrs.

I've arrived home feeling inspired and refreshed.  The decision to go to the Writer's Digest conference was the best one I could have made for my writing career, although it's a blessing and a curse all in the same breath.

Let's get the bad news out of the way.  I'm going to crawl into a cave with me, my computer and I.  I'm going to bond with my characters. I'm going to cut out the dullness that snuck into their lives.  I'm going to give them problems to solve.  I'm going to ramp up the tension.  Why is this bad?  Because I have a family and a career, and I'm already maxed out.  Something's got to give.  Sleep maybe?  I'm not sure yet, but I'm on a mission.

The good news.  I managed to see four agents yesterday.  Three asked for partial samples, and one asked to see the entire manuscript.  It was exhilarating to know that professionals in the field saw something in my story that piqued their interest.  And all of this was possible thanks to the new friends I met at the conference.

Joanna, you get all the credit for the many many pitch revisions.  I needed the outside perspective to remove the suckiness.

Mary, you get all the props for the title.  If the darn thing gets published, and even more, if they keep the title, you're right there on the first line with my mom, my family and my darling husband for solving the biggest problem I've had since I started this crazy journey.  If you flip back to my first blog post, you'll see that my book was called "Book Title" for the longest time.  I happily deleted Inertia and replaced it with Near Mrs.

Jennifer, Claire and Amelia, I loved our group, and I'm so glad you were part of it.  Jen, I'm glad you can now breathe like a normal person.  Anxiety's a witch with a capital B.  Trust me, I know first hand.

So, here's my pitch - the four sentences and two questions that went further to opening doors than anything else I did over the weekend:

Near Mrs. is a women's fiction novel about Hannah, a young ICU nurse who is about to settle for a mediocre husband simply because it's the next logical step.  The flimsy foundation of their relationship begins to crumble when she befriends Garrett, whose chivalry and willingness to listen give her a glimpse of what she doesn't have with her soon-to-be husband.  As she considers breaking her engagement, the sudden and unexpected revelation that Garrett is already married has her convinced that the perfect man who lives inside her head doesn't actually exist in real life after all.  Standing before the altar, the choice is hers to make.  Does she settle?  Or does she walk away from a marriage she knows is doomed to fail?

The funniest part was when the agents were telling me that they know so many people who this has happened to or is about to happen to.  I was thrilled that they could at least relate to what I was writing.  This also said to me, "There's a huge market out there for people who will want to, or who should read this book!"  The idea that they may actually pay for the ability to do so is a pretty cool side effect :)

I couldn't be happier with the outcome.  I'll keep you all posted on things as they progress.  You can live through the rejection letters with me and celebrate the positive ones with a real or virtual Cosmo, soda or some such.  And to my writer friends, Happy Revising!!!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

I am a Sponge

I'm so overwhelmed at the thought of actually attending the Writer's Digest (WD) conference this weekend that I have no idea where to start in order to prepare.  I'm printing business cards as I picture my wardrobe.  I nearly missed the dry cleaner today and the kids refuse to do the sleep thing.  None of these words are coming out of my head as I planned them and my darling husband is quite under the weather.

Cleaning and packing is one thing, but the mental preparation is what really has me scared.  Back in November, I reviewed the list of agents that would be at the conference and narrowed down the list so as to target those who would be most likely to show interest in my book.  I need to revisit that and get myself ready for Saturday.  I get 90 seconds to talk and then 90 to listen.  Must be prepared so I don't waste any of those precious moments.

The other night I snatched up my newest issue of WD and gave it a look-see.  As usual, a small pearl jumped out, and serving as my muse, I was inspired to write my pitch for my book.  Once I understood the point of the article, about 90 seconds of "Why you should represent my book" jumped out of my mind and onto three tiny notepad pages.  Now, if only I could find the little notepad.  The prudent conference attendee might spend some time reviewing and revising the almighty pitch.

I briefly read through the different sessions and mentally picked out the ones that interested me.  I should, however, write them down so I don't have a mental stutter and end up in a poetry workshop.  While poetry is a worthy endeavor, I'm not paying to gain insight into my poetic asides.

Reservations for dinner tomorrow night are made and confirmed - check that off the list.  Saturday night was intentionally left open just in case the opportunity for a networking dinner presented itself.  If not, we're off to the fancy Apple store that is underground with the entrance on the street level.  We'll fit dinner in somewhere.

My mind is still churning with ideas from yesterday's conference about Getting Published for Nurses.

It's a writing kind of week, and all I can hope is that I get enough out of it all to see me through the completion of my manuscript and publication of my article.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Passion is a double-edged sword

So, after being in the hospital, recovering, the holidays and the New Year, I'm ready to get myself back on track.  It seems I don't have a spare second in my life for my life, and despite my attempts at balance, I find myself failing at it miserably.  So I'll continue to puddle-jump from one commitment to another until I find that I have mysteriously transformed myself into a morning person.

Miracles seem to happen in the morning.  For some reason, the proportion of work I get done in any given day is inversely related to the time that I get out of bed.  So now, I'm convinced that if I got out of my warm, soft, husband-inhabited bed at an early hour, my life would somehow be perfectly balanced, all responsibilities effortlessly fulfilled.  Please don't crush this delusion by pointing out all of its flaws.  I'm content with thinking this is the photon at the end of my tunnel.

So, time for a little catch-up.

Until recently I've not been near my computer since November with the exception of a few brief forays into the time-vacuum known as Facebook.

Being sick had one advantage.  The only thing I could bring myself to do was scribble my thoughts onto a notebook page with a ballpoint pen.  As a result, I've nearly finished my novel.  I know what I want to write for the ending, but I decided to get the handwritten pages typed first.  I'm fleshing out some of the better details of my characters as I do the re-write, and I really want to have a good grip on how they've been dealing with conflict throughout the story before I try to resolve their lives at the end.  Maybe it's an excuse, but as far as I'm concerned, it's a worthy one.

The key to unlocking all of this was posting my work on a critique site and reading what other, more experienced authors had to say about my style, or lack thereof as it were.  I checked out a bunch of sites listed in a Writer's Digest article, and Scribophile was my favorite.  Next step - finish getting my work onto the computer and then pay the fee to have full access to the site so I can post all of the chapters.

If not for my Scribo-friends, the rewrite would most likely be as ghastly as the first draft.  Instead, I've melded all of their advice in my head and in the recent chapters practiced what they suggested.  Imagine my surprise when I saw how well it worked.  Who knew active voice could be so compelling?  And I don't think I've ever written something before that had me laughing so hard as to cause me to stop writing for the night.  My first real glimpse into "show, don't tell."  Boy is that good stuff.

It's amazing, the feeling you get when the words on the page exactly paint the picture in your head.  Olivia's sarcasm took center stage, just like it needed to.  (She and I will have to revisit her earlier performances in the story now that I know she has it in her.)  And Claudia isn't all she makes herself out to be.  To see Olivia pounce on the opportunity was, well, like I said, it was good stuff.

So now that I'm closer to my goal of finishing the book, I realize just how far away I am from having it polished.  Everything I wrote before November is valuable only in the ideas that lie hidden in the muddy prose and the fact that they're in some sort of order.  One step up from an outline, I suppose.