Just Write Cat

One Writer, One Journey

Working with Lisa Rector, We’re Only Getting Started… June 28, 2010

I had my first phone session with Lisa Rector last week.  Wow.  Um, she’s amazing.   The session lasted two hours and was part therapy (see below), part brainstorming session and part line by line commentary.  And slightly overwhelming, but in a ‘there’s a ton of work ahead of me, but with her guidance I can do it’ kind of way.  

To prep for the call, I sent her my first two chapters and ideas/general thoughts and questions (on those two chapters and the larger story).  We barely made it to the end of the first chapter.  🙂

Let me begin by saying that she is incredibly friendly and approachable.  I was a bit nervous given how – well, how good she is…but within seconds, she’d put me at ease.  When I’d contacted her to see if she could still work with me on my manuscript, I’d mentioned my less than positive experience with the previous editor.  Before we started on Set ‘Em Up, Joe – she asked me if I could share what happened.  I did (she’s a great listener), and then we talked about our expectations going in…and then she got right into things!

She asked me some questions about the overall story, but mainly she focused on characterization.  We discussed Joe’s motivations, which proved rather enlightening.  I spent a fair amount of time getting to know Joe before and during the writing of his story, but she helped me dig deeper into his psyche.  If Joe ever agreed to go to therapy, I believe this is what it would be like!  She even apologized for asking so many questions, which wasn’t necessary.  I enjoyed discussing Joe and the novel, and her questions helped me think about things I hadn’t fully considered. 

We worked through part of the first chapter – not line by line exactly, more like by paragraph.  She pointed out the paragraphs that stood out for her, the ones that ‘were all Joe’.  She suggested ways to lighten some of the exposition and to heighten the tension.  All of this was helpful, but what I really got out of this first session was to ‘go there’.

Lisa encouraged me to stop pulling back.  She told me that I was on the cusp of making Joe a fully realized vampire unique from other vampires.  Now given how many vampires are out there (uh, in books) – that was an amazing compliment.  She said I just had to stop pulling back.  I understood what she meant.  I’m constantly struggling with how far to take things or rather, how vulnerable I should make Joe.  Which is directly tied to how vulnerable I allow myself to be as a writer (and as a person in general).  Yikes, who is on the couch now??

I know I have revision work ahead of me, but rather than feeling overwhelmed – I’m eager, excited and relieved.  Eager to make my novel ‘more’ (more of whatever it needs to be for readers).  Excited by the deeper plot lines and character motivations that will follow.  And relieved Lisa will be there to guide me and to let me know what I’m doing right and not quite right. 

For the first time since starting to work on Set ‘Em Up, Joe – I have this weird kind of confidence thing going on.  Like, maybe I might be able to write after all.  Not stellar or anything right now, but enough to feel good about what I’m doing.  That the efforts I’ve made thus far are not a waste, that I’m heading in the right direction and learning, learning, learning along the way.   

See, I always thought writers were born that way.  And that either you had it or you didn’t.  If you had it, you’d know rather early in life.  Maybe pen a few gems in your alphabet soup or in crayon on your bedroom walls.  At least by high school.  If you didn’t have it, well – hey, what else are you good at?  Cooking?  Sure, why not.  Everyone needs to eat.  Teaching?  That’s good, too.  Everyone needs to learn something.  Turns out, you can learn anything.  Like how to be a writer.  Yes, some writers are born with it.  Some show their talent early and often.  But some don’t – until they turn forty and realize there’s nothing stopping ’em but their own doubt.  Doubt’s a heavy thing to wear for long.  It’ll keep you grounded, and then how will your dreams take flight?

Wow, how’s that for my first two-hour session with Lisa?  I wonder what the next call will bring? 

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In honor of Dr. Seuss June 22, 2010

Filed under: Where Did That Come From?? — justwritecat @ 10:42 pm
Tags: , ,

Say, did you know it was the celebration of Dr. Seuss’ birthday?  Um…a few months ago.  I feel really bad that I missed it, given how much I love his books.  To rectify my oversight, I thought I’d may homage with my own version of Green Eggs and Ham.  I’m still tweaking it, but at this rate…I can either wait until next year’s celebration or post it ‘as is’ now. 

Enjoy!

I am Writer

 

I am Writer

Writer I am

 

That Writer-I-am

That Writer-I-am!

I do not like

that Writer-I-am

 

Will you read

my manuscript

 

I will not read it,

Writer-I-am,

I will not read

your manuscript.

 

Would you read it

Here or there?

 

I would not read it

here or there.

I would not read it

anywhere.

I will not read

your manuscript,

I will not read it

Writer-I-am

 

Would you read it

if done at a vanity house

Would you read it  

with a weremouse?

 

I will not read it

if done at a vanity house.

I will not read it

with a weremouse.

I will not read it

here or there.

I will not read it

anywhere.

I will not read your manuscript.

I will not read it, Writer-I-am.

 

Would you read it

if I revised?

Would you read it

if I tried?

 

Not if you revised.

Not if your tried.

Not done at a vanity house.

Not with a weremouse.

I would not read it here or there.

I would not read it anywhere.

I would not read your manuscript.

I will not read it, Writer-I-am.

 

Would you?  Could you?

with a kid who’s a wiz?

Read it!  Read it!

Here it is..

 

I would not,

could not,

 with a kid who’s a wiz.

 

You may like it.

You will see.

You may like it

with a zombie.

 

Not with a zombie.

I would not, could not with a zombie.

Not with anything!  You let me be.

 

I will not read it if revised.

I will not read it if you tried.

I will not read it if done at a vanity house.

I will not read it with a weremouse.

I will not read it here or there.

I will not read it anywhere.

I will not read your manuscript.

I will not read it, Writer-I-am.

 

An apocalyptic!  An apocalyptic!

An apocalyptic!  An apocalyptic!

Could you, would you

as an apocalyptic?

 

Not as an apocalyptic!  Not with a zombie!

Not with a kid who’s a wiz.  Writer! Let me be!

I  would not, could not, if revised.

I could not, would not, if you tried.

I will not read it with a weremouse.

I will not read it if done at a vanity house.

I will not read it here or there.

I will not read it anywhere.

I will not read it, Writer-I-am.

 

Say!

What about a YA?

Here, now it’s a YA!

Would you, could you, as a YA?

 

I would not, could not,

as a YA.

 

Would you, could you,

with a vampire?

 

I would not, could not, with a vampire

Not as a YA.  Not as an apocalyptic. 

Not with a kid who’s a wiz.  Not with a zombie.

I do not like it.  Writer, you see.

Not if done in a vanity house. Not if revised.

Not with a weremouse.  Not if you tried.

I will not read it here or there.

I will not read it anywhere.

 

You will not read

my manuscript?

 

I will not

read it

Writer-I-am.

 

Could you, would you

if self-pubbed?

 

I would not,

could not,

if self-pubbed!

 

Would you, could you,

if my mom said she loved?

 

I could not, would not, if your mom said she loved.

I will not, will not, if self-pubbed.

I will not read it with a vampire

I will not read it an apocalyptic

Not as a YA, not with a zombie

Not with a wiz kid.  You let me be!

I will not read it if revised

I will not read it if you tried.

I will not read from a vanity house

I will not read with a weremouse

I will not read it here or there

I will not read it ANYWHERE!

 

I will not read

your

manuscript!

 

I will not like it,

Writer-I-am.

 

You will not like it,

SO you say.

Read it!  Read it!

And you may.

Read it and you may love it I say.

 

Writer!

If you will stop querying me,

I will read it.

You will see.

 

Say!

I read your manuscript!

And I do! I love it, Writer-I-am!

And I would read more, too.

I want to read more manuscripts from you!

And I will read it if your mom loved.

And I will read it if self-pubbed.

And I will read it with a vampire.

And a YA.  And with an apocalypse.

And with a kid who’s a wiz.  And with a zombie.

This one is so good, so good you see!

 

So I will read them because you tried.

And I will read them once revised.

And I will read the one done in a vanity house.

And I will read one with a weremouse.

And I will read them here and there.

          Say! I will read them ANYWHERE.           

 

So I will rep YOU,

I do so like

your manuscript!

Thank you!

Thank you!

Writer-I-am.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oh, You Shouldn’t Have… June 21, 2010

Filed under: Life,Social Media,You Can't Do It Alone — justwritecat @ 3:03 am
Tags:

 

Now this is fun.  Bryan over at the Time Guardian Blog was kind enough to give me a Versatile Blogger award.  I’m not fully sure why it’s called that…but hey, I’m happy my blog was so noted.   The way this works is I need to award the blog to fifteen other bloggers (see below), thank the person who gave me the award, and share with readers seven things about myself.  Ok.  I’m into introspection.  So here goes…

First, thank you so much to Bryan.  I’ve enjoyed visiting your blog and always appreciate the comments you leave here.

Seven Things About Me (other than that I live to write, eat chocolate and listen to Michael Buble of course).

1.  I ran my own (small) catering company back in college.  Catering by Catherine.  I took on gigs during breaks from college (holidays, summer), working from my parents’ home.  My then boyfriend, now hubby even tended bar at one of the parties I catered.  Guess we’ve always enjoyed working together.

2.  My husband and I owned a small bakery in Ann Arbor, Michigan before we moved to the Pacific NW.  Deda’s Bakery and Say Cheese Cheesecakes.  We hope to open our place out here, once the building in A2 is sold.

3.  I used to like Spam.  Past tense.  Hey, sometimes in life you make choices you’re not proud of.

4.  My super secret desire – like the kind that could never, ever come true – is to be an Olympic ice skater.  Um…I’ve never skated on ice in my life.  And yet, I dream about it all the time.

5.  When I was a kid, I would pretend I had my own cooking show (this was before the food network was big).  While cooking in our kitchen, I would talk to my ‘audience’ – explaining how to cook or bake whatever I was working on at the time.  I’d do that for just about every meal.  I had quite the following.  🙂  Years later, I had the opportunity to do cooking classes for several local places (back in Texas).  I did one at this fancy grocery store and if felt very much like having a show.  Cool.

6.  I’ve seen at least one of my guardian angels. Enough said.

7.  I saw Silence of the Lambs over twenty times (most of those in theater).

That was fun!

Now for fifteen other bloggers!

1.  Echoes of a Wayward Mind

2.  Anne Riley’s Blog

3.  Rachel Bateman

4. VR Barkowski (which would be the PERFECT name for a Private Investigator)

5. The Scribe Sisters

6. Writer Unboxed – there are actually several bloggers who contribute to this site.  I love their content…and the name of the blog.  Writer Unboxed.  Perfect.

7. Expatriate Games – Bethany is one funny gal.

8. OneFineMess – I like Andy’s attitude.  And he’s really putting himself out there…that takes courage.

9. I’d Type a Little Faster

10. Cassandra Jade in the Realm – I like blogs that have someone’s name in the title.  🙂

Ok – I should list 15…but I got 10.  So clearly, I need to find some more blogs to read!

Now – I visit the blogs above and let them know of their award.

Thanks again, Bryan!

P.S. – Do  you see how the award matches the colors on my blog?  Now, I love that.  I mean, I cannot express how much that appeals to my inner ARness.

 

A Different Type of Revision Process June 20, 2010

I start working with editor Lisa Rector next week.   Wednesday, to be exact.  And yes, I’m counting down the hours.  I’m super excited about working with her, even though I know there will be a great deal of revision work involved.  I don’t mind revision work (it’s so much better than writing the first draft, imo).  The hard part is finding someone who gets your writing and your story, someone who can guide you as you try to make your novel all it can be.  I posted about this last week – why I feel this will prove a good fit.  But basically, everything she said in her initial emails resonated with me.  My instinct tells me I’m going to learn so much about improving my craft…and you have to trust that instinct.

The way this is going to work is this – we’ll have a series of phone calls to review my completed manuscript Set ‘Em Up, Joe.  Each call will last between one to two hours (total of ten hours for the package of sessions).  We’ll handle about twenty pages per call, going over any issues/shortcomings.  I think the real-time feedback I will get as we review each page/line will prove amazingly helpful.  And efficient – I’ll be able to get immediate feedback on possible ways to change the plot/story instead of rewriting and waiting for the thumbs up or down.  I like efficient.

The really cool thing about this process – as I revise the pages we cover each session, I can resubmit them to her for a quick second look.  Also, I can send in chapter outlines, goals, ideas for changes – anything that might help us during the review sessions.  I really love that…it helps her see my vision/goals for each chapter and for the larger story arc.  And of course, with her guidance I’ll be able to ensure those goals are met (or change them if they’re not working).

In the contact email I sent to Lisa, I included the novel synopsis and first five pages.  In her reply she offered her initial thoughts on the pages.  And wow, just those initial comments helped me rethink some major things in my novel.  I’m going to include some of the things she mentioned, because I think it raises questions worth asking when reviewing any manuscript.  If readers are telling you the plot is not engaging enough or they don’t get why they should care – maybe you can apply some of the comments below to your own work.

(this is paraphrased, with my own comments italicized)

What is the larger threat?  Readers need to get an idea of that threat right away – in the first pages.  In other words, why should anyone care?  This is related to What’s at Stake?  Personal stakes, societal stakes – something has to matter, and in a big way.

There must be a sense of urgency in what’s going on.  Certainly related to stakes, but also to tension.  Readers must feel that things are happening, or might happen if the protag doesn’t act/do something.  Right now.

Conflict.  Stories are all about conflict.  Inner conflict, outer conflict, the intersection of the two (especially).  There can be no easy choices, no clear ways out. 

To prep for the first call, I went ahead and revised the first chapter to address the things mentioned above.  I made some major changes, and also worked on adding line-by-line tension.  I think it’s better, more intriguing – a stronger sense of why things matter (to the reader, to Joe).  I introduced a change to his existence, once that has him uneasy and uncertain of how to proceed.  Joe likes to be in control, to know what to expect…so hopefully this will start to address inner conflict. 

Rewriting those pages involved some work, but really – it was more a matter of approaching things differently.  Of trying to decide how to put Joe at a clear disadvantage at the start of the story.  And to set things up to get much, much worse.  Before, I wanted things to be sort of tough…but not too much at first.  That is not tension.  Certainly not enough to hold a reader’s attention.  I know I’m going to have to keep working at the tension aspect.  Putting Joe and the other characters – and me, for that matter – in places that are beyond uncomfortable.  Places that are ugly, places that most people don’t want to be. 

But that’s fiction.  It should be ‘more than’ real life.

 

Hesitation… June 14, 2010

Filed under: Editing,Life,Writing,You Can't Do It Alone — justwritecat @ 2:47 am

So, I got a ‘pass’ from the agent who requested my full manuscript.  I must admit, I wasn’t too surprised.  I was bummed – it was my birthday after all (the day I received the email), but I wasn’t surprised.  Here’s why…

Earlier this year I worked with an editor on my first novel, Set ‘Em Up, Joe.  I’ve blogged about the experience, but the short of it – it was not the best experience for me.  I did receive some good feedback, but I don’t think the match was ideal (editor-writer).  And that’s an important part of the equation – finding someone who gets your writing, who understands your vision.  As a result of the experience, my confidence suffered a bit.  Enough to keep me from writing for about three weeks.  After working with the editor, I felt unsure of myself (and of my story, my characters, and everything else). 

And that uncertainty manifested itself when I did start writing again.   Not good.  I allowed my insecurity to hold me back, to hold my characters back.  And it showed in my writing.  As I revised, I wrote from a place of safety.  I tested the waters, pushing my characters only as far as I felt comfortable doing so.  At the time I didn’t realize I was doing this, but looking back it’s clear I gave my characters easy ways out.  Which didn’t make for high-stakes tension in my novel.  The agent who passed told me she loved the voice, but the plot was not engaging enough.  Fair enough.

About a week before I received that pass, I realized that my manuscript was not all it could be.  I don’t know how I came to that realization, it just hit me one day.  So when I got that email, as I stated – no big surprise. 

I believe in my characters and my novel.  I sincerely feel the potential is there…my novel just didn’t live up to that potential.  But I believe it can. Which is why shortly after receiving that pass, I contacted another editor.  This editor was someone I’d contacted before – and she’d offered to take on my manuscript, but I’d gone with someone close by so I could meet in person.  I was thrilled when this new editor gave me a second opportunity to get her input.  We exchanged a couple of emails, and then scheduled our first phone consult (in two weeks). 

How do I know this editor is the right one?  Here’s one reason – after reading my first five pages she mentioned something that resonated with me so completely, I just knew I was in for an amazing learning experience.  She stated that, as a reader, she hesitated because she sensed my hesitation as a writer.  Let me write that again…

As a reader she hesitated because she sensed my hesitation as a writer.

Wow.  Bingo.  Exactly. 

You cannot write from a safe place.  You cannot hold back.  You cannot hesitate.

You have to push your characters to places that are so beyond comfortable, that you almost (or do) squirm in your seat while writing the scenes.  If you’re like me and you prefer endings not totally devoid of happiness, fine – give your characters what you want them to have…in the end.  But rake them through the goals before they get there.  Push them to their breaking points, give them horrible choices and make them do things that they don’t want to do.  It’s the only way to create inner and outer tension – which is the only way to keep readers engaged.  If everything is hunky-dory (or worse, so-so), what’s the point of reading the story? 

In real life, most of us avoid conflict.  We don’t like tense situations.  Tension leads to stress, which leads to sleepless nights, body aches and overtime at the gym because we look to chocolate for moments of peace.  Or maybe that’s just me.  Whatever, what we try to avoid in real life we often seek in fiction.  And that includes tension.  You cannot achieve this state unless you push your characters and push yourself as a writer.

Don’t hesitate. 

More on my experiences with this editor as the work begins, but for now let me say that I’m eager, ready and willing to not hesitate.  Oh, and I’ve already thought of ways to push Joe to some very, very difficult places.  He won’t be happy.  But happy is not the emotion I’m trying to invoke in my readers.

 

Some Thoughts on Writing Your Next Novel… June 1, 2010

Filed under: Baby Steps, Baby Steps,Life,Writing — justwritecat @ 3:14 am

I started my first novel – Set ‘Em Up, Joe – last year.  When you begin to write your first novel, many things happen to you.  You feel a bit overwhelmed, you go a little crazy.  Maybe you start talking to yourself – more, and in public.  You dream, you hope, you pray.  You laugh at yourself, but not too much because you think you might just be able to swing it. 

Then, on the second day, you think it might be better to not worry so much, not over think the situation – or you’ll never get past the first scene.  So, you write.  And at some point, you finish (really finish, like after the many critiques and revisions).

Then, you find yourself in the middle of the submission process.  Maybe you have some partials, or even a full, out.  You wait a week or two before getting seriously into your next project- you know, just to give yourself some breathing room and a little time before you go through the whole crazy, glorious journey again.  You may have some ideas swimming around up there, a few possibilities jotted down on your favorite notepad.  You’re not quite sure which one to give yourself to, so you mull things over.  You could study trends, see what might be the best idea to foster.  But then you quickly realize doing so won’t do you any good – by the time you write the novel, the trend will be over (or on hiatus).  Plus, you should write what speaks to you.  Write what you have to write, not what you think you should.

Then, you decide on a project.  Could be one jumps out at you fairly quickly, or you might have one of those moments where you realize idea number five on your list of eight ABSOLUTELY MUST BE WRITTEN NOW.  Maybe one of the characters whispers sweet somethings (because nothings would be…nothing) in your ear or visits you in a dream and threatens you –  “Write this now, or else I’ll Stop. Talking. To You.”  Egads, that wouldn’t do at all (I’ve always wanted to use egads, thanks).

If you’re like me, you write the opening scene knowing it’s going to change and quite possible go away completely.  Then you do some research, interview your characters, start working through questions you find in the How to Write the Breakout Novel Workbook by Donald Maass.  You know, get a better feel for the story and the people.  Then suddenly the real opening scene appears, hovering just within reach, and you make a mad dash to your computer or notepad, shut out the world, and START YOUR NEXT NOVEL.

And you realize something.

That thing you read or heard about authors – you know, the one about how you never, ever find an agent to rep your first novel because it’s rarely good enough – you realize its true. 

And the other thing you heard about – that you have to write two or three or four or more novels before you can hope to have any idea of what you’re doing – you start to think maybe that one’s true, too.

So you fret and maybe cry – just a little bit, just enough to work out some anxiety and fear.  But then you tell yourself something you never thought you would hear yourself saying (or think yourself thinking):

It’s o.k. if my first novel doesn’t find a home.”

Because some day, it might – even if that is after your next one does (or the one after that or after that…)

Because, you have to write.  You Have to Write.  And each and every single novel you work on is worth it. 

If you have kids, you’ll get this – you love each child as much as the other.  Maybe you love different qualities about each child, because each child is different, unique.  But you love all your kiddos so darn much you can hardly breathe at times.  You want the best for each child – that includes doing the best you can as a parent.  Sure, you learn as you go and so maybe the way you parent your next child is slightly better (or way better, maybe) than your first.  Because you’ve learned some things – tricks of the trade, what works, what doesn’t.  Plus, remember – each child is different so you cannot parent all kids exactly the same.  What works for one may not (always) work for the other.  Which is good.  Parenting should never be easy.  It should be hard, it should force you to try better each and every day.  You won’t always – some days, you’ll be too tired or you’ll fall into old patterns of (bad) parenting.  But that won’t last long, not if you really want to be the best parent you can be and you really want the best for each child.

Now – substitute writer for parent and novel for child. 

That’s how you approach the next novel.  And the one after that and the one after that…

Cat

Submission Update – I’ve not heard back from the agents that have partials/full.  I did have the opportunity to meet one of the agents at a recent workshop.  She said she’d keep her eye out for the partial (I’d just mailed it out) and that she’s looking forward to reading it.  That made my day.  And she was so very nice!

Hard at work on my second novel – a supernatural thriller.