I spent much of my time at Washington Elementary School and Hempstead High School outlining things. Roman numerals, capital letters, numbers, lower case letters—everything orderly and organized (and let’s not even think about the sentence diagramming).
When it comes time to plot my writing, I wish I could travel back in time when everything had its place and space. There’s always a vague idea of how to get to the HEA, but few specifics. When all the pistons are firing and the fingers are flying, it’s great. It’s not so hot when they’re not.
So, I’m a pantser with a desperate need of an outline. I’m short about 25,000 words, unevenly distributed in the middle of my masterpiece. I invested in a cute red Notetote for my handbag so I can scribble down scenarios as they may come. It’s still in pristine condition.
Are you a planner or waiting for the muse? If it’s the latter, send her to my house when you’re done.
After the infamous Avon writing contest, I did almost anything I could to avoid the large sinkhole that’s in the middle of my WIP (Starting this blog might even be an example!). I admire the people who began and finished books, entered NANO, caught on fire. I wasn’t one of them.
I did, however, enter the Court TV search for “the next great crime writer.” Now I don’t watch TV, Court or otherwise, and don’t write crime. So I stuck a dead husband into a plotline that had been kicking around in a little notebook for a while.
I have not as yet been arrested for murdering my husband. I don’t watch any of the CSIs wherever they’re filmed and don’t know ANYTHING about crime procedure. I have written something I cannot Google my way out of.
We’ve all heard “write what you know.” If we did that, our books would probably put us to sleep as we wrote them. So research is vital, and fun too. But it’s also important to write something you feel comfortable with. I know I can’t go into a courtroom or outer space. Give me a Regency drawing room or a suburban house and I just may have a shot at telling the story.
The dead body has got to go.
Do you find you’ve sometimes written yourself or a character into a corner? Where do you do your research to get out?
To paraphrase my fabulous The American Heritage Illustrated Encyclopedic Dictionary, when you sublimate, you’re transforming something into a more socially acceptable form of expression…like changing your frantic rantings into a compelling, coherent query letter.
But sublimation is a scientific concept too. Alas, I am not at all scientific. I stand as a stupefied child at the wonders of the universe. I took the two-year “Science for Dummies” survey course at my college. And I’m not precisely a dummy—I did graduate when I was only nineteen, after all. Although I must say when I reread the English papers I wrote way back when, I don’t understand them anymore!
My son and his wife own an art gallery in Key West, and they use sublimation every day. Here’s what they have to say about it on their web site:
Now… call it art or physics, SUBLIMATION is the art form that we have been specializing in for the last two years.
What is sublimation?
Although the term SUBLIMATION sounds a little daunting, sublimation, as a process, is less intimidating:
It is the method of applying an image onto specially prepared items of ceramics, cloth, metals, and plastics using three primary ingredients: special sublimation inks/pigments, heat and pressure.
Sublimation inks are unique in their ability to convert from a solid to a gas without going through a liquid form (just like dry ice). The conversion is initiated by heat and controlled with pressure.
So what does that mean? It means beautiful colors and high definition images on your ceramic coffee mugs, tiles, murals, mouse pads, puzzles, etc.
I’m jealous. I want those beautiful colors and high definition images. Where is my sublimation equipment, dammit?
What images do you long to see on your pages, as a reader or a writer? And if you write, what steps are you taking to transform yourself from civilian to writer? You know mine. I’m chanting the blog’s title!
On the blog’s title—can I say it was an accident and not a hopelessly megalomaniacal choice? Having been a complete blog-o-phobe, I was just fooling around. Imagine my surprise (and embarrassment) when it turned out I actually created this title.
The dilemma. Should I change it? Delete it? Could I follow simple instructions?
And then I wondered. What if it were a sign? What if I’m supposed to read it, chant it, make it come true? So, I’m sticking with it for now. I’m not delusional. Really. Come chant with me.
And Maggie Robinson Means Other Things, too. Like Business. Writing is an art, but publication is a business. So, I’m trying to get more savvy when it comes to selling myself. For two years I just wrote for the alleged fun of writing. For the past year, I’ve been tentatively querying. The hard truth: very few agents read sample chapters. They look at query letters only. And boy, compressing 90+ thousand words into a one-page semblance of sanity is tough. Even I wouldn’t want to read my two completed books after I described them!
I discovered Miss Snark’s blog. She’s a literary agent who hates romance but is so smart and funny (and snarky, of course) that I forgive her. She just ran the Happy Hooker Crapometer, where she looked at almost 700 assorted ravings of aspiring writers (for free!). I submitted two hooks to her for my unfinshed things, TRR and LRR. While she didn’t give me the dreaded purple WTF?, I did not master the whole “hook” concept. According to Miss Snark, it goes like this:
X is the main guy;Y is the bad guy;they meet at Z and all L breaks loose.If they don’t solve Q, then R starts and if they do it’s Lsquared.
Think of it as the blurb on a back cover. After reading it, are you going to plunk down $6.99 US/ $9.99 CAN or stick it back on the shelf? We had to do this in 250 words (or less). Not too much backstory. And not really conducive to romance, as we hope there’s not a bad guy! She described TRR as “spun sugar gimmick,” which I’m sure to her was an insult, but that was EXACTLY what I was going for, LOL! It was amazing to read other writers’ concepts for their books, intimidating sometimes—and other times quite unintentionally hilarious.
So, I learned a few things, the most daunting of which was that after reading almost 700 entries, she requested pages on about 50 of them. These are not good odds! Hmm, let’s do the math. 1 in 14 has hope of advancement. But then she explained about half of those would probably turn out to be disappointing.
All right. Is that going to stop me? Nope. I just have to get stronger and sneak into that very brief window of opportunity I have in a query letter to knock someone’s stillettos off. It helps if my story has a fresh twist, but if it doesn’t, I have to be brilliant at my hook. And, of course, brilliant on the actual page. …but sometimes the bulb seems pretty dim.
Last day of year.
No pithy comments or predictions.
However, my goal is to complete my WIP Third-Rate Romance, continue to flog the two finished books (whose names keep changing), think of ways to expand the five or six novellas into full-length books (because, really, how many more ideas and characters can I come up with?), and decide whether I leave the dead body in Low-Rent Rendezvous. That’s enough to get me started into 2007. Oh, and I want to get my hands on the quotes of Oscar Wilde so I can use them and feel smarter.