Archive for the ‘Stories’ Category

My writing output seems to drop in direct correlation to any increase in blog reading. That’s a problem, I know β€” but if I don’t take the time to read a few blogs, how can I expect anyone to read mine?

Besides, if I stopped reading, I’d miss out on gems like this one from Janice Hardy’s blog, The Other Side of the Story. She writes:

Choices that don’t cause trouble are wasted opportunity. The whole point of a book is to show someone overcoming adversity to win. If there’s nothing to overcome, there’s no point in the winning.”

What a way to put it!

It’s no secret that I struggle with conflict. (I blame it on being a Libra. Libras strive for fairness and avoid conflict.) Judges’ comments I got on my first completed MS β€” even after several new drafts β€” consistently said “not enough conflict to sustain the story.”

What? You mean a girl falling for one guy when she’s trying to “snag” another one altogether isn’t conflict?

Not according to Hardy. She writes, “A choice between two good things with no consequences for making that choice is probably not going to hold your reader’s interest.”

Well, I already knew Brad and Erin’s story needed help. I tried to remedy it in subsequent drafts by casting suspicion on him … I even hacked out their original “black moment” (such as it was. The “Battle of the Birth Control” was pretty silly when I look back at it with a more experienced eye.)

The key for me is to remember that my hero and heroine have to make choices. And those choices have to mean something. The potential for disaster should loom around every corner.

I think that is the case in my more recent stories. Bethany’s decision to talk Cody into applying for the TV show lands them in a heap of trouble. When Kenny asks Kristi to pretend to be his fiancee, things get out of hand quickly.

Hmm. All my blog reading must be teaching me something about the craft.

January 30, 2011

Bethany & Cody, Musings

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The hero in my WIP, Cody, has a tendency to use big words and shrink-speak when he’s upset, angry or flustered. (There’s a reason he has a T-shirt that says “I’m fluent in psychobabble.”)

It turns out Cody and I have that in common. Now that I’m writing fiction fairly regularly, I notice myself trying to flaunt my vocabulary in the articles I write for the newspaper, too.

When I was in journalism school (way back in the dark ages … the early 1990s), we learned the average reading level of the newspaper audience was eighth grade. (I think I’ve heard it’s since dropped to sixth grade, but I might be mistaken there.)

I analyzed my writing style with a computer program once (way back in those same dark ages) and it told me I wrote at a 10th-grade level. That has more than likely changed the farther I’ve gotten from college (where everyone used big words in an attempt to show off what they thought they knew) and the more deeply entrenched I’ve become in journalistic style.

We journalists are trained to use simpler words. A school bus is just plain “yellow,” not “canary” or even “that shade of mustard peculiar to school buses.” Don’t use “growled” or “yelled” when a simple “said” gets the point across without embellishment.

Sometimes I wonder if that training has affected my fiction writing. In first drafts, I often go with the most expedient word. Then I scramble to change it later on.

But now that I’m shifting my focus to making a good impression on agents and editors, I find myself choosing words with a little more razzmatazz … well, like razzmatazz. πŸ˜‰

That’s not a bad thing at all β€” unless I’m writing a story for the newspaper. When I’m in journalist mode, I have to catch myself before I use words like “eschew.”

At least I haven’t tried to throw “bifurcated” into a sentence. I stumbled across that one while editing someone else’s story one night and spent much time complaining to whoever would listen that “bifurcated” was unnecessary when “forked” meant the same darn thing β€” and didn’t send readers scrambling for the nearest dictionary.

How about you? Ever catch yourself using words that make you feel like a big fish in a small pond?

December 19, 2010

Bethany & Cody, Musings, Stories

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We had a write-in/brainstorming session at Starbucks this afternoon before work, and I lamented the fact that I’ve only written about 600 words since the end of NaNoWriMo.

I’ve had days when I want to write, but the simple fact is this: I’m stuck.

The (finished) NaNo novel has been shelved, and I’m attempting to work on Bethany and Cody’s story, “Trouble in Paradise?” The key word there is “attempting.”

Beth and Cody are on the island, completing the network’s tests as they film their “Temptation Island”-like show … but nothing really awful has happened yet. They’re bumping along as happily as they have been. Nothing’s really settled, but nothing’s bothering them too much.Β Neither one has strayed β€” nor will they, even if Cody does develop some serious doubts about Beth’s faithfulness.

It may be time to up the ante here. (At least that’s what my romantic-suspense writing friend suggested. She said there’s a saying among suspense writers that when you’re stuck it’s time to boost the body count.)

I don’t have anyone to kill off … but I guess I could boot one of the couples off the island. (Any couple who fails three tests gets sent home.) I’d prefer it to be the contestants no one likes very much, but I suppose it would make for a better read if it’s someone I like. Bumping off the creep is too easy, right?

Alas, I think that means Jack and Jill must exit. They’re young and enthusiastic Β β€” friendly, likable characters who want to win the prize money so they can pay for their own wedding, thus putting a stop to parental interference.Β Cody has recruited Jack as a running partner.

I just hate to see Jack and Jill go down in flames β€” but better them than Beth and Cody. πŸ˜‰

Besides, their exit might make both Beth and Cody wonder : If Jack and Jill, young and seemingly madly in love, can’t avoid succumbing to temptation, perhaps no one can.

An e-mail arrived in my inbox today with the subject line: “Your Submission: …”

Since I was at work at the time, I had an argument with myself.

“You can’t open that! You’re supposed to be working,” the me with the Midwestern work ethic said. (It’s the same me that never calls in sick because I don’t want to leave my coworkers in the lurch. I have something like 140 sick hours built up because never feel like I can take it.)

“Open it. It won’t take long β€” and it might be good news.”

“No, really. Good news or not, you can wait until you get home,” the angel me insisted.

My impatient side snorted. “Yeah, right.”

No need to guess which side won. I clicked on that e-mail faster than a hungry dog scarfs down its dinner. I’m not even sure I took time to carry on that conversation in my head before I opened it. (I should have!)

Unfortunately, the news was not good. Another rejection β€” the second on the partial MS for “Blind Date Bride” … well, the third. Two agents and one publisher have taken a pass.

I still have hope, though. At least it was an encouraging rejection, complete with a “hang in there and stick with it.”

The agent’s complaint? Worry that the voice isn’t unique enough to stand out in the market.

Now that’s a little worrisome, because I don’t have any other voice to write in. And confusing, because in the Beacon Contest judges’ comments, they loved my voice.

Then again, the judges’ comments are on “Beauty and the Ballplayer,” not “Blind Date Bride.” Maybe BDB still isn’t ready for prime time.

And maybe I just need to continue my agent search. Somewhere, out there, is the agent who will fall as in love with my story as I am. I just need to find her (or him).

Lucky for me, my friends at the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood wrote a blog post about just that topic today: the agent hunt.

It’s funny how wildly my mood has swung. I was euphoric about my contest final two weeks ago, especially after reading the judges’ feedback. I had a feeling it was the start of something big. I imagined myself on the verge of signing with an agent, selling a novel or both.

Now, I’m down in the dumps, questioning my story … my voice … even my writing talent. Yes, even a “good” rejection stings. (I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that.) πŸ˜‰

I know rejection is a β€” huge β€” part of writing. We all get them. Even the bestselling authors got them at one time.

Even so, I can say it definitively: I don’t like the downslope of the writer’s roller coaster.

It’s time to make something good happen so I can crest another hill. πŸ˜‰