Friday, January 29, 2010

You Know in Your Heart You Want this Skittle

Today at the Stiletto Gang I talk a little bit about tackling self doubt, something I think all writers experience. Self doubt can be big or small, and like all things, I believe that managing it takes practice. Click through to read about my latest personal challenge. :-)

Monday, January 25, 2010

What's in a revision letter, anyway?

The revision letter came, and I promised I'd share. In the interests of demystifying the process, here it is with as much detail as possible. At the end of the letter I'll add a few closing remarks . . . one potentially helpful to fellow writers, the other just plain funny for anyone. Here we go!

Dear Rachel,

I hope this finds you well. Happy new year.

I finished the MS of Dead Lift. Much improvement in some areas we discussed, especially Jeannie and her interaction. And less of the old story.

I will write to you fully when I get back end of the month, but some points to consider are:

Emily working for [character omitted] – is there a satisfactory wrap up to this issue, ie her dislike and the role Richard has put her into…. Maybe she needs to consider more the ramifications of a new job and thus how to execute it (doing stuff she doesn’t like). I do think you do a good job with the mix of [character names omitted], it’s a poignant position for all.

The cell phone deal, Richard not replacing hers, its unreliability. I see why you need it disabled for the plot mechanics, but a new cell would be so easy and so cheap to pick up, this isn’t very credible. What real reason can you give when say Jeannie is flinging money around on clothes etc and Emily at the spa while snooping why Emily doesn’t just buy a new one? Why must it be a phone purchased for her by Richard and why is she willing to leave herself vulnerable and unable to do her job well by waiting on him?

[Character]. Is it believable she is so criminally careless with [details omitted]?

The largest problem has to do with [character names omitted]. First, if [this guy's] mom was 90, then how old is [this guy]? Mom left two sisters and a brother in law who are still alive albeit elderly. So where are they in this picture? Is [this guy] an only child?

[Unfortunately, I'm cutting a huge part here in the middle because it has to do with the Whodunnit portion of the novel, sorry.]

Further, I see no way [character] would have [done that]. And anyone who went into the house would discover as easily as did Emily what [bad guy] is up to.

One way you could deal with this – you perhaps should get legal advice about [character's situation] – would be to [editor suggests a plot alternative here].

You should try to talk to [professionals in the field, basically do some more research] and think this through. It’s a good plot idea but simply can’t work the way you have set it up.

When we get back I’ll send the MS to you with my usual scribbles and they may reveal a few other points but this is the big one.

This is a relatively short novel so you have room to expand without damaging the pace as long as you weave it in with dialogue etc and don’t drop in facts. Might be fun to embroider on the plight of people like [character].

You have already realized that your audience for this is going to be mostly women via the spa setting, which is fine. But it’s a bit different than the appeal of Final Approach, and a landscape of interest to men, ie sky diving. No criticism, just reiterating. It probably fits well with the central trope of Emily, Annette, and building some kind of family.

Vince progresses nicely and as said, Jeannie is great!



When I received my first revision letter for Final Approach, I wondered what "TEE" meant, because those are not her initials. I was afraid to ask. Eventually, another author at the press clued me in: The Evil Editor. But the truth is, she's not evil at all. In fact, "I luv my Editer." :-)

Cell phones, on the other hand, are the devil to mystery writers. Or at least to this one. That bit about the phone up there says it all. To put characters in true peril, we take away their lifelines and force them to be resourceful. But today phones are so fast and easy to replace. I shake my fist (and my red editing pen) at cell phones.

As promised, here is a helpful article by Jennifer Hubbard about dealing with revision letters. I was lucky to read this before Final Approach sold and still approach the revision process the same way.

And finally, an oldie but a goodie. This is kinda how it feels to be me today. Enjoy!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Last Ditch Effort: My Latest Race Day Screw-up

Sometimes things go wrong on race day.

I've missed a tri because of a flat tire when I had no spare tubes. Once, at a breast cancer 10K, I wore pink ribbon socks, even though they weren't running socks, because I wanted to be in the spirit. That decision ended with blisters. Last year I forgot how old I was and went out in the wrong swim wave. My friend Carrie and I once missed the turn-off to our race site and overshot it by about twenty miles. I've even wrecked my bike on the course. Things go wrong.

I'm also a horrible driver and back into lots of things. This has included a couple cars, my own garage (twice), and a pole. But today was the first time I've combined my poor driving with my penchant for messing up races. I drove into a ditch two hours before gun time.

Since this is a writing blog, I'll tie this into writing eventually. But it's also a "how I fit it all in" blog, and wrecking cars and screwing up races is some of the stuff I fit in.

To shorten a very long story, the only things hurt were my pride and my wallet (turns out, AAA only tows for free when your car breaks down, not when you are stupid). My friends came to the rescue and got me to the start line on time. My car was waiting for me after the race in the parking lot across from the Extraction Point.

It was an embarrassing drive home, but I think I got it washed before the neighbors noticed.

We had a good half marathon this year. I didn't beat my personal best, but had a fantastic run considering my level of training this season. The hardest part was running past a donut shop at Mile 8 and then running past the same shop again at Mile 10 after a turn-around. Heavenly smelling donuts. Lisa had a funny song stuck in her head all morning and sang about having our "Pants on the Ground" loud enough for all to hear.

As to how it might tie into writing. I once read that bad decisions make good stories. If I'd had an uneventful morning, I wouldn't have written about it. Conflict and tension is good for a writer, even when it makes you wish you could crawl under a rock.

Parting words . . .

I'm fond of a t-shirt that says "Run Like a Mother." After this morning, my husband says I need one that says, "Run Like a Mudder." I think he's right on.

Friday, January 15, 2010

20 Great Things About Dating a Writer!

An adorable post I found via a Facebook friend: 20 Great Things About Dating a Writer

Monday, January 4, 2010

Pre-submission rituals. I have no shame.

Last month I turned in the first draft of my next book. After finishing the substantive changes my critique partners suggested, I went through some pre-submission rituals to check the copy. My list isn't exhaustive, but I thought it might be useful for some.

1. Spellcheck. Enough said.

2. A "Find and Replace" that changes two spaces to one. When I learned to type, we were taught to space twice after periods. The habit is mine for life now, but it's unnecessary now that we use computers instead of typewriters.

3. Check that chapter headings go in order. This manuscript went from Chapter 31 to Chapter 33.

4. Search for my personal over-used words. When I turned in my last manuscript, my editor said I used the verb "yank" too much. I checked it out. Sure enough, curtains were yanked, hair yanked, etc. She also said, "Everybody in this book wears a boring t-shirt!" It's normal; we all do it. A best-selling author I enjoy has a protagonist that "turns on her heel" every time she gets upset, in every book. The thing is to try to become aware of those words and phrases and find substitutes. This manuscript had a few that I found:
"irritated/irritate/irritating": appearances cut from 12 to 5.
"for the first time": appearances cut from 8 to 4.
"random": cut from 6 to 4.
"eyebrows": cut from 16 to 8.

5. Look for words I don't need. Examples: just, that, was, saw (28 uses), heard (41 uses), smelled (0 uses). There is almost always a stronger way to build a sentence.

6. Check for unnecessary dialogue tags. "Said" is the preferred one, but if it can be removed and replaced with a character action that indicates the speaker, all the better: "I can't believe I used the word 'eyebrows' sixteen times." Rachel reached for a cookie. "Am I really going to admit this on my blog?"

7. Try to remove adverbs. I did a search for words ending in -ly. I was horrified! 931 uses! Thankfully (there's another -ly) these weren't a bunch of quicklies, swiftlies, softlies, tenderlies, and smoothlies, though. Most common -lys that I found: Emily (34 uses, and that's excusable!), mistakenly, definitely, only, probably, eventually, actually, finally, family, personally, immediately. You can see that not every -ly word is an adverb. Still, I think it's worth a look.

The revision letter is coming, guys. If there are comments that I can share without giving away story elements, I'll post them in all their horror so we can learn together.

Write on!