Friday, October 24

Question Friday

Hi, all! Nan here! It's Friday and that means it's time for our new meme here at WordWranglers. It's Question Friday! I’m the questioner this week, so here we go. 

What’s the toughest criticism you’ve received as a writer? And the best compliment?

Margie’s Answer: I guess the toughest criticism has come just lately. I had three fulls out of my eighth rewrite of Bix and every one of the agents said that at times it read YA and other times MG. Death note. Why didn't someone tell me this six rewrites ago??? So, now I have to decide if I want to try and fix it—in which case, do I go up or down?? I'm kind of leaning toward going MG and cutting a bunch. But man, it's tough. Kristi and Liz know how long I've been working on this and this news was particularly heartbreaking.

My favorite compliment is when someone reads what I wrote and says, "I forgot that you wrote this." Because for me, it seems as if they got sucked into the story that they forgot they were reading it as a favor to me.

Liz’s Answer: My greatest criticism has been that my writing is old fashioned. It's come from more than one source and I'm sure it's true know...I'm old fashioned. The first time it was said--in a review--I was offended. Since then, I guess it's just okay with me. I don't know what makes it that way, but just as I would look ridiculous dressing like a 17-year-old, I think I'd probably sound ridiculous trying to write like a 25-year-old.

Best compliment? A reviewer on Goodreads (not my finest venue!) said, “This book had to be one of the most 'healing' books in my life” about One More Summer. I have never felt more honored.

Kristie’s Answer: Good question, Nan! Hmmm...Criticism is hard, no matter where it comes from. I get revision notes and suggestions all the time from my editor and agent as well as my critique partners. I can't remember who said this to me and I think it may even have been more than one person, but early in my career (this would be before I was published) someone told me that they couldn't 'see' my characters even though they knew what the characters looked like. I realized that I was so busy getting from Point A to Point B that I wasn't developing the characters in my story enough. I've really tried to focus on character development ever since - note just the physical, but their emotional development, too.

As for compliments...My very first editor, Jennifer Lawler with Crimson Romance, wrote in a comment bubble that my dialogue made her laugh out loud. I love dialogue, and I work at it, but that particular scene just kind of flowed. I thought maybe I'd gone too far with it, so it was great to learn that she was responding to the characters and dialogue. 

Nan’s Answer: My greatest criticism came from my editor, the amazing Lani Diane Rich. She read the first iteration of Sex and the Widow Miles and her first reaction was, “Your hero’s an asshole.” I was kind of shocked because I thought I’d written a guy who was cute and fun and charming, but interestingly, the day I sent her the manuscript, I’d reread it, and the thought occurred to me that he seemed a little pervy. Apparently, it was my better writer nudging me because that’s exactly how he came across to her. So I not only rewrote him, I even changed his name. ;-)

My best compliment also came from Lani. After several times of rewriting the opening scene to Once More From the Top, I finally received this comment: “Love it. This opening is damn near perfect.” My heart sang!

So talk to us, fellow writers? What are the worst and best criticisms you've ever gotten on your writing?

Thursday, October 23

To NaNo or Not???

 Yep. It's that time of year again. To commit or not. To Nanowrimo.

I've tried to win for the past three or four years. And I get off to a good start and somewhere along the month, life seems to rear it's ugly head and interfere.

I have yet to win NaNo. The most I've written on a book during November is right around 25K--which is more than I usually write in a month, so that is not a bad thing. It just means I didn't win Nano. As for writing, it's still a win for me.

I have two projects that I'm considering for this years NaNo--if I decide to partake of the festivities.

For the past couple of month's I've been focusing on Pages Of Life and have about 22K written already. If I write 50K on it, I will have a finished first draft to send off to some critique partners--you know, after a round of edits in January.

I love the story of Pages--the reconciliation and reunion of a family, along with a hot romance. Me--writing a hot romance. That should be worth something right there.

The second project is also a romance. It's a reunion rock start romance with a recovering sick child. When I write a romance, I want as many tropes as possible in it. This one even has a bare bones outline. By outline I mean something along the lines of "Chaper One: VMA contacts Claire." 

So, while deciding if I can commit and go for the gold,I'm also trying to decide which manuscript deserves the chance to get finished--which basically means which one is the muse pushing at me?

Tell me, is anyone out there in Wrangler Land attempting NaNo this season??

Wednesday, October 22

My Favorite Books

I saw this quote by Judy Blume recently and it struck me...that one of the greatest gifts my parents ever gave me was a love of books.

Growing up I classified myself a middle class, but looking back we were probably more like lower-middle class. Not that that matters, really. We had plenty of food to eat, clothes to wear and a home to live in. My siblings and I argued, our parents argued. It was a normal upbringing. I have favorite memories with each of my siblings, but my most vibrant memories are of sitting in our parlor (we lived in an old Victorian house in the country) in an over-stuffed chair with a velveteen finish. Legs slung over one arm, back resting against the other and a book in my hand.

The books changed over the years. One of the first books I remember reading alone is In a People House. I graduated from single-sentence books fairly quickly and moved on to chapter books like Ramona Quimby, Age 8 or Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. I loved those books. I liked the adventures that kids were having and I couldn't help wondering if I would have more adventures if we lived in a huge city like New York or Chicago instead of our small town in Missouri.

Because my brother was reading it, I decided to try out The Chronicles of Narnia when I was about 9. I hated it. I didn't understand a lot of what the books were about (I got the adventure, but the sub-text was lost on me), but I diligently sat in my reading chair and struggled through books 1-3 before giving up. I would take aim at them later on and love them. Still do.

And then, around age 10, I discovered Dear Mr. Henshaw. Oh, how I loved that book. I think I checked it out of the school library about six times when I was in 4th grade. It was (also) a little above my reading level, but I didn't care. I liked how this boy would write to his favorite author and his favorite author would (sometimes) write back.

I wondered if I should write to my favorite author, which brought on about a week of debating the merits of Beverly Cleary vs. Judy Blume. In the end I decided I couldn't choose and I wrote two incredibly over the top letters to both of the authors about how they'd changed my life. At the age of 9. I'm positive they were impressed with my devotion to them and my wielding of the literary pen.

I've tried out every genre since those childhood days in my favorite chair and I can say that I love them all. But romance is the genre of my choice, both as a reader and as a writer and I think those early reading days are part of the reason. Because whether I was reading about a kid who hated his younger brother or living through the trials of school bullying, I was also finding a happy ending. Not always the love-kisses-sex happy endings of romance novels, but a sense of completion and acceptance that I equate with happiness.

And I'm also grateful to my parents who put limits on how much television we watched (of course, we found ways around their rules) and encouraged us to adventure through books...

Did you have a favorite author/book as a child? 

Tuesday, October 21

The Fellowship of Other Writers

Writing is a very solitary business. Well, that is, if you’re doing it right. The stories come from inside your head, the characters from your imagination, and the words from your heart, so it is, by its very nature, a job you do alone. I know all about working alone because my day job is being a freelance copyeditor—another very solitary career. I’ve always been a writer, ever since I could hold a pencil and spell, but when I began writing with purpose again several years ago, I believed my years as a freelancer meant I didn’t have to learn how to work by myself.

I confess, I take undue pride in my discipline as a freelance editor. When people have ask, “How do you ever get anything done working at home?” I simply smile serenely and reply, “You just do it. You have to because they’re paying you.” I am a very disciplined editor—okay, I’ll admit there are days when the laundry or the weeding or the ironing seem much more fascinating, but mostly, I sit down at my computer in the morning and work until noon. After a lunch break, I go back to work until supper and sometimes, if deadlines are tight, I go back to work until bedtime. It’s okay. It’s been my life for over 25 years.

But you know what? Writing is different. You do invent the stories by yourself, but you need to go to a well of creativity every so often to fill your cup. That well for me is the fellowship of my local Romance Writers of America chapter. The writers there range from multipublished authors to beginning writers, but unfailingly, their enthusiasm is contagious. The meetings are topical, and the members are interesting, supportive, and friendly. I may go into the meeting weighed down by a story that just won’t come together, but when I leave, I’m filled with a renewed sense of purpose, a new drive. Even better, close friends have come from being a part of a writers group. I can’t imagine my writing life without the good friends I’ve made there, and I know that I can call on them any time for advice, support, or even commiseration if that’s what needed.

Our chapter has a writers retreat every fall. To be honest, I avoided that weekend the first couple of years I was a member because I was too intimidated by the success of the authors in the group. But two years ago, I sucked it up and signed up for the event. What a wonderful, welcoming experience! The atmosphere is relaxed and casual. We all bring along our works-in-progress, as well as whatever authorial issues are bogging us down at that point in time. The fellowship is amazing as we all talk writing and editing and creativity. We write, we talk, we nap, we hike, we write, we eat (oh, dear lord, how we eat!), and then we talk some more. Evenings around the big stone fireplace become a time for catharsis and confession because we’re all secure in the knowledge that what happens at Retreat and what’s said at Retreat stays at Retreat. It is a glorious weekend!

Writers need the fellowship of other writers—it’s as necessary as dictionaries, research, and our thesauruses (thesaurusi?). The camaraderie is unlike any other friendship because we share that longing to be storytellers, that need to be storytellers. That’s one reason I’m so pleased to be part of Word Wranglers. I know I shall find new and special writer friends here as I settle into being a part of this world. I can’t imagine my life without my writerly pals, can you?

Monday, October 20

Having a little whine with my Christmas.

          I will apologize beforehand for what I think I’m about to write, but I’m looking for some answers and think you’ll have them for me.
          To start off with, I’m an old-fashioned-Christmas fanatic. (It’s always about me. Have you noticed? Okay, I apologize for that, too.) I start listening to Christmas music in October. I watch all the old Christmas movies, Hallmark Christmas movies, and TV Christmas episodes. I’m pretty sure I  could recite the Andy Griffith Show one if I had to. I go back and read Christmas anthologies and Christmas romances I’ve collected for years. Mary Balogh is a favorite―I think I could recite the A Christmas Promise, too. Well, not really, but I’ve read it a ton, and recently bought it for my Kindle because the covers are wearing off my print copy.
          I should add that one reason I love old-fashioned-Christmas everything is that I’m a Christian. The original “reason for the season” is still
the best one for me, and I read some inspirational Christmas romances, too. I enjoy them, but they are not what I’m looking for or talking about right now. What I'm talking about in this post is traditional stories that are not about the protagonists' spiritual path.
          Here’s where it gets sticky.
          I recently bought a box set of “sweet Christmas Romances.” There are a bunch of stories included in it, and I admit I’ve only read about half of them so far. They’re well-written, mostly well-edited, and cheerful reading. They all take place at Christmastime. I have no quarrel with the stories or the people who wrote them! I am a true fan of some of the writers.
          But so far—and let me repeat, I’ve only read half of them, but the blog was due this morning—most of them aren’t really about Christmas or its feelings and traditions. The only real reason they’re Christmas stories is that they take place in December.
          Remember I said I was looking for some answers? I’m hoping you’ll give them to me, both as writers and as readers.

  • Has traditional Christmas lost its spot in romantic fiction?
  • Am I being unreasonable to expect “sweet” and “traditional” to be synonymous in this instance?
  • Can you lead me to some new Christmas stories that are traditional?
  • Am I just starting too early? Are the snow, trees, Santa, children, carols stories still on their way?
  • Is there really a Santa Claus? And, yes, I’m being facetious with that question. I know there is.