All fizz and no gin

Sunday, September 26, 2010

That was one of the expressions a former advertising colleague used to describe campaigns that didn't work for him. His other was "all zip and no vinegar." They both meant the same thing: nothing for a consumer to connect with.

And that happens in novels sometimes. There may be a lot of stuff happening, but if you don't care about the characters involved, it becomes sort of a "so what" situation. And that's never a good thing.

But don't "they" want us to start a novel at an exciting, engaging point? You know, the one where all the action grabs the reader by the collar and drags her along for the ride?

Add some gin.

Give us a peek into your character's inner workings. No, that's not an invitation to fill the page with oodles of introspection, but add in a little bit about her fears or flaws or favourites -- something that makes her more real to a reader.

The fizz/gin rule can work wonders on a query letter, too. By focusing on the meat of your story, you can resist the temptation to "dress it up" with too many distracting side dishes.

Of course, some folks may prefer to have a veritable buffet of a query letter. You just never know until they respond... or simply ignore you. ;)

Wow, all these mentions of food is making me hungry. Hungry to finish my revisions. ;)

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posted by Bonnie Staring at 11:47 PM 0 comments

Moving targets

Thursday, September 9, 2010

No, this is not about a certain retail chain changing locations. ;)

The more I learn about publishing, the more I realize that the easiest part of the publishing process is the novel writing itself.

Everything else is a moving target. Genres heat up, genres cool down. Some publishers are fine with your name, others have a pen name in mind for you already. Agents retire, new agents start out. One day everyone is selling novel series, the other day stand-alone sales are it. Contracts are iron-clad, contracts are revised. And let's not get started on the covers. Le sigh.

So what's a writer to do? Write.

Sure, that's easy for me to say, especially when getting words on a page can feel like trying to tweeze my eyebrows with a plunger at the best of times.

For all I know, novels about narcoleptic accordion players could be totally out by the time I'm shopping my manuscript around. But then I can just change him into a guitarist. Without the beret.

How about you? How do you keep tabs on what's in, what's out and what to write?

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posted by Bonnie Staring at 11:12 PM 1 comments

Happy September

Thursday, September 2, 2010

I had such awesome plans for today's post. This would be my chance to wax poetic about the scent of fall, the cool breezes tugging at my shirt collar and all that fall crispiness. But with the heat and humidity making everything, including the Kitten of Mass Destruction, all lethargic and blah, I thought I'd save that for a more fall-like day.

August was a blur with family gatherings, a visit to the parent's cottage and a lovely wedding in Ottawa. The weather was perfect, the couple were tipsy during the speeches and there was a pool on site at the reception. Very cool. If only I left the chiffon at home. ;)

But the real reason I'm writing today (and coming out of hiding) is because I discovered something while I took a wee break from novel writing: I missed doing it.

Not right away, of course. Right before the separation, I considered never coming back. Why? Lots of reasons: writing a novel is hard, getting published is even harder, staying published drives people to drink and then... Amazon reviews.

Yeah, I'd let all the darkness get to me. It wore me down so much that parts of me were shiny. And no, I don't have pictures.

After a while, I imagined not writing. Snap! Suddenly I'd have all that time I spent staring at the computer, attending workshops, reading books on the craft of writing, going to my RWA chapter meetings, taking part in fun brainstorming sessions... wow, it would have been like when I quit smoking: I'd have an extra three or four hours a day.

So I gave myself the month of July to think about it. And July turned into August.

And then the first YA manuscript started poking at me in the dark, whispering about how I could make it better. Then the second YA manuscript threw a hissy fit and told me she needed a simpler storyline so the hawt hero could spend more time with her.

Le sigh. It's hard to sit on a dock at the cottage and enjoy the scenery when you've got two teenaged girls cat-fighting in your head. So I promised them I'd think about it if they'd shut up already.

But I lied to them. I was enjoying my non-novel-writing life. Heck, I even read a few books without pulling them apart or looking at character arcs and motivation...

That's when a scene popped into my head. And another. And another after that.

Problem was, these were scenes from both of the novels--and the third one I hadn't thought about in months. Suddenly, out in the middle of nowhere, all I needed was a good pen and some paper. I cursed myself for not loading the manuscripts onto my 400-pound laptop, but at least I could either write longhand or just tap away without worrying about missing anything during the rainy days.

So even though I'm back to writing, I'm really back to rewriting. And that's okay. The time apart on both manuscripts gave me some needed perspective on which darlings can stay and which ones I'll have to kill.

When do I expect to have the revisions done? No idea. Let's just see how September goes with getting some words on the page every day.

How about you? Has stepping away from a project ever helped you?

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posted by Bonnie Staring at 12:01 AM 3 comments