Thursday, July 25, 2013

And so it begins...

We rounded a corner, my husband and I on our way to a Natural Bridge and, in the setting sun, we came upon a ghost town. An honest-to-God ghost town. No gift shops or commemorative t-shirts. No postcards. Just 3 abandoned homes and a couple of falling down stores...and an obsession.

After I forced my husband to stop the car at a rather precarious point in the mountainous road (I believe the locals call it "Hell's Highway"), I stood in the yards of homes and buildings that had some evidence of life. A potted plant that someone is watering. A garbage can, a pick 'em up truck parked around the back of a falling storefront. Still, I took my blinged-out phone in hand and clicked away. My phone and I seemed incongruent in that setting. I was definitely the intruder.

These last 24 hours have been filled with horseback rides and hikes through the forest down to the Cumberland River. But my head is filled with the story of that town. Research will soon begin. The people will move into those empty homes, shop in those store fronts, and fill this heart of mine.

As soon as I finish Jerry and get him out the door...

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Serving Cow to a Vegetarian

So you've finished writing a novel or picture book and you're ready to share it with the world. Everyone is telling you to do market research before you submit. There's one have no idea what they are talking about!

First of all,  you must make time to read. Sounds easy, right? You've always loved reading. But this is a blog for the full-time working author. I don't care when and how you read, but this step is a must. Look at the books listed on Kirkus, the YALSA Best Books for Young Adults, Goodreads, other author's blogs, and countless other sources for suggestions of new YA and Midgrade book titles.

Secondly, if you don't belong to SCBWI you must join immediately. Not only will the local and national conferences open many doors for you - meeting editors, agents, and other writers, the national website has invaluable resources. My favorite place to visit is the list of 'Edited by'. When I read a book that feels like one of mine - same topic, genre, voice - I look at the list to see who edited that book and then I know whom to query. Also, if I meet an editor at a conference, I can look up the list of their latest books and see whether or not we would be a good match. If I see books similar to mine after the editor's name, I make sure that I mention the titles in my query letter.

Finally, the agent's directory on the SCBWI website is also invaluable. I have used that directory to look up agents, go to their websites and read the books that they have acquired. Again, if I feel we are a good match, I query that agent.

Querying someone without knowing their tastes is like feeding half a cow to a vegetarian - a waste of time and energy (something neither you nor the person queried has in abundance). Doing your homework shows respect for yourself and the person with whom you hope to work.

Good luck!!!Society of Children's Writers and Illustrators

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Writing Days...with Fellows

No, not Gentlemen. Fellows as in like-minded individuals. Or fellow authors. Or fellow ex-pats. Well, maybe not the last one. But, you get the idea.

Because having the 'fellows' IS the idea. For me, in the summer, every day is a writing day (at least I try). But I value beyond measure these days when fellow writers come to my home (or I go to theirs) and we share fellowship, break bread (or chocolate), and write. I find that, when they are here, I am less likely to take that 2 hour reading break. Or update my status on Facebook - aka go on YouTube to check out the latest from 'Superwoman'. Or watch the Common Core videos I was supposed to be watching all school year - wait, I still haven't done that. The sun is less distracting, the phone goes unanswered. Writing IS the thing.

There's also an instant audience on which to bounce ideas - not the heavier ones because I don't want to cause any injury. And shoulders on which to cry at the mean, nasty business that fails to recognize our collective creative genius. And so, the scent of coffee fills the air as I get myself settled in and wait for my wonderful writing fellows.

Monday, July 8, 2013

New Formats, Old Dogs

So, I'm using Scrivener to organize my revision of Harry Back. It's a great program and I'm glad I purchased it. But I can only get it to work on one computer. At times like these I feel very old. I know that most people would be able to press some buttons, use some apps, tweet some twits, and have their story on every computer in the house. I am not most people.

Scrivener is very cool. I doubted the person who told me that it was the bee's knees. That was before I learned how to revise correctly. With Scrivener, I can take the Character Arc and put it on note cards which I can then attach to a clipboard. I can also take my Plot Arc and make sure that it follows the same progression. My story timeline is on a link in another part of the program - an easy click away!

I then break my Plot into three acts and my acts into the various chapters. I make sure that the Hero's Journey is represented in each chapter and that each chapter is divided into subsequent scenes. Chapters and Scenes are also on note cards attached to a clipboard. This is a very handy way to see everything. It is also so much easier for manipulation - moving scenes and plot points to better spots in the novel. I have been able to delete scenes that add nothing to the journey and beef up scenes that didn't have enough tension.

The only thing I still can't on this doggone story upstairs - where I have my pictures of characters and settings. Oh well, I will figure it out. After all, I have proven time and again that it IS possible to teach old dogs new formats.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Finding a Focus

I have finally decided what the focus of this 'Cathy the Writer' blog will be. It's such a crazy journey - two careers that are fulfilling and full time+++. I believe that it's worth exploring and sharing.

It's summer now and I feel so much pressure. My only time to create new stories. My only time to submit. My only time to pursue my dream. My only...

I put so much pressure on myself. I have new curriculum to write. Old curriculum to rewrite so that Common Core is addressed. Curriculum for all subject areas put into the school calendar. Tubs to sort through in the basement. So much...

And instead, I play Mahjong and Solitaire. And read voraciously. YA and Middle Grade books of course. And I am writing. But I panic when I look at the calendar and the clock. And I resent time and the job that supports my writing habit.