Preparing for the 2013 San Francisco Writers Conference – Yikes!

OMG. I just realized that in one short week, I’ll be packing to go. Am I ready?

Not really, and it’s not just because I realized when my wayward 7 By 7 (code for San Francisco) daughter came home for Christmas that her suitcase was bulging with MY sweaters (I was wondering where my sweaters ran off to…I dry clean them, so they couldn’t have gone the way of missing socks) and I really need to shop for replacements to fill the holes in my trendy, business casual wardrobe – retail therapy I don’t have time for.

No, it could be that my re-write on FINDING CADENCE still is not finished.

That’s because I’ve been tightening and deleting, and tightening some more. Then I had to reread what was left to determine if it all still made sense. I have to balance a tenuous psychological component with the fact that my antagonist is an attorney running for Governor,  so I’ve had to button down the legalities of my story. And I still need to exterminate at least 5K words, to take it from the scary, over 126K mark down to a count that won’t scare off an agent. (I’m fairly confident a little white query lie of 120K will petrify anyone in the biz.) Every once in a while, I drag out my query and take a stab at it. The art of the query is not my major forte. Honestly, it’s like trying to kill an opossum with a chopstick. It’s slow, I’m stupid, and it just won’t offer me a speedy demise.

And while I’m feeling super confident and open to any and all suggestions, I am suffering from the same stomach-trapped butterflies I found in my stomach five years ago – just before attending my FIRST San Francisco Writers Conference. When I was a newbie and afraid of not only agents and editors, but of fellow writers.

Now editors and agents don’t scare me anymore. They’re people, just like me. And fellow writers are the best! They are helpful and kind and many of them stay in touch after our weekend is over. While I’ve made huge strides in my writing, have learned, struggled, written a LOT, queried, even self-e-pubbed, there is still the lingering d.o.u.b.t. You know the drill. Am I good enough? Will my epic tale ever find a home with a good agent, one who has faith in me and my work? Will I ever sell more than a hundred books?

I recently learned I’m not a finalist in the contest this year, another semi-crushing blow (for a minute).

And the final, Big Truth moment? THIS IS MY FIFTH CONFERENCE.

Not that I don’t love it; I do. When I go, I get caught up in the enthusiasm and all the positive energy. I learn something new every year. The SFWC is what I need to drag me out of winter doldrums and writer’s slowdown. No, while the venue is heavenly, it’s just that one would think my learning curve might have improved over time. Over the span of five years (not counting the two years before that I spent on the first draft). Shouldn’t I have been scooped up by now?

Well, I have expended my twenty minutes of doubt and self-pity. It’s time to get back to the edit, and my Honeybaked ham bean soup. And my edit.

See you in San Francisco.

🙂

Post NaNo, Post Problems

This will be a very brief post, because I still have a chapter of Finding Cadence that I’m wrestling with. I really want to finish TODAY. More on that later. When I’m finished. *grin*

I’m happy to announce that I made significant progress on that other WIP (Oaks and Acorns) during NaNoWriMo, in fact, adding 51K words. This year, I decided not to keep a daily tally. I was working from two different documents (each one a point of view of one of the characters) and could see the number of words at the bottom. I’m math-challenged, but I had an inkling of the total.

Between the November chaos, I decided to try to edit Cadence. Not exactly a bad move. My brain was on super ADD mode and I needed the distraction from NaNo. About a week ago, I realized how I was going to end the story! (Most [professional] writers will think I’m insane, but I only had a vague idea of how the story would end, not a concrete finalization of Cadie’s problems.) I only hope my fictionalized ending is legal in most of the fifty states. (Well, at least in Michigan.) Even if it’s not, I have a tidy ending.

And now I am seriously reconsidering my initial decision to publish Virtually Yours as an ebook only. Some reviewers want to look at it – a hard copy of it – which means I have to somehow provide a review copy.

November also saw my dad turning 80, so of course I had to be there for the festivities. Or as he says, remaining vertical. This took away three precious days of writing, but they were replaced by three more precious days with family.01granddad

A Warning To My Friends and Relatives…

The last few weeks have found me mostly editing Virtually Yours Forever, so new story ideas aren’t exactly on the front burner – yet. However, one of the recent exercises in the Savvy Author Donald Maass workshop I’m taking has to do with brainstorming for new ideas.

It may sound easy, but not for me. I’m a pantser. My creative methods include sitting down and writing the first thing off the top of my head. After a few hundred (or thousand) words, I might have story that could take off. Or I might not. This is how I wrote Finding Cadence: I started with a stream of consciousness meme that exploded into something huge.

The Maass exercise comes at a most opportune time. This is the time of year when I gear up for NaNoWriMo. I won’t have a story this year (VY2 was an anomaly, since I had the characters AND the story). I might have a few characters, or I might have a theme. I’d like to say that I jot everything down in a notebook (neatly) but that would be a lie. A lot of times, stories reside in my head only, although now that I’m sliding into old age, taking notes is a good way to stave off the effects of pre-Alzheimer’s.

Unlike some major talents, I write what I know. I’m totally blown away by people who pen fantasy or sci-fi. I just finished The Hunger Games, and it was great! The whole time, though, I kept wondering how the author did it. I mean to come up with the futuristic world, the Games in question, the brutality? In the same way, I’m in awe of those who write historical novels. Not only do these take a lot of painstaking research, the story has to be told in such a way to make it interesting to the modern reader.

I couldn’t write fantasy or historicals. Which is why I concentrate on modern women and relationships. I guess it’s what I know best.

I know what most authors say. “Sure I write what I know, but this is fiction and not based on my life.” The disclaimer is a necessity to prevent getting sued. And yes, my work is fiction, although many times I use real settings. There is no REAL Janna Abraham or Cadence Reed or Amberly Cooper. But I’m not going to lie or sugar coat the truth; I’ve used my own life experiences and my own acquaintances to populate my books.

Everybody walks past a thousand story ideas every day.  The good writers are the ones who see five or six of them. Most people don’t see any. ~Orson Scott Card

Orson Scott Card is right. Real life is heady; the story lines are endless. Good themes weather the test of time. Potential characters number in the millions, the plot situations may be out of the ordinary. Even the most mundane person or story line can be peeled back to reveal a treasure of the human condition.

Since I’m now actively mining my life for characters and story lines, this is a warning to those who I know both intimately or mildly. Don’t be surprised if you become a star in my fiction.

Anonymously, of course.

🙂