Thursday, February 25, 2010

Market Research

Sometimes it can be fun and other times it feels like your banging your head against a wall. We've all heard the cry that more and more publishers are no longer accepting unagented submissions. I don't know if that's necessarily true and some advice will tell you to ignore the unagented road sign and go ahead and submit to them anyway. That is of course up to you.

In doing some basic market research I found about 19 publishers so far that take the genre that I've written. Out of those 19, seven of them say they only accept submissions from agents. Not bad. And this was only after looking through one market guide. I went to order the new Writer's Market for novels and was disappointed to see the bad reviews for it. Anyway, have the current edition? Is it as riddled with mistakes as the reviews state? Trying to decide if I should wait for the 2011 edition on that one.

I've been perusing various websites with publisher lists. Do you have any favorites?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

To Contest or Not To Contest

So, just thinking about contests today, probably because I just finished judging my final Golden Heart entry in my packet. Will be sending in my scores either tonight or tomorrow night. Supposed to keep real hush hush about the entries so have no idea what I'm allowed to say or not say - so just won't say anything. LOL

What do you think of writing contests? I've entered several myself. All of them have been RWA contests from one chapter or another. I know writers that enter contests all of the time and others that have never entered a single contest. Some will only enter contests that have no entry fee while others stick to a certain selection of contests they like.

I myself have mixed feelings about contests. Contests can get you in front of an editor or agent in a short period of time. Plenty of writers have landed a publishing contract or agent via these types of contests. But plenty of people having nothing to show for all the contests they enter. I remember one contest where the contest winner did not get a request from the editor/agent, but several of the runners up did. The contest winner was trying not be upset, but you could see his/her confusion. If their entry was good enough to win why wasn't it good enough to at least get a partial request? She/he might have a point. But also, as someone pointed out, could be the agent/editor already had a book in the works too close to her entry or some other particular reason that agent/editor didn't think the book was the right match for them even if he/she felt it was the best entry in the category.

The few contests that I've entered have had me scratching my own head. Mostly because you'll get such a wide reaction on exactly the same words from different judges. One judge will give you a near perfect score while another will hate it and score you accordingly. Maybe I'll feel different when I win a contest (notice the positive thinking LOL), but at this point I'm not real sure what I think of all the contest hoopla.

What about you? What do you think of writing contests?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Redefining Goals

How are your goals going? Are you staying on target? Given up on all your goals? Or are you redefining them?

This is the perfect time to reassess your goals if you started working on them at the beginning of January. You've had well over a month to see how your goals fit into the daily stream of your life and how your creativity flows. Check out this blog post on Goals and Dreams by Kristine Kathryn Rusch.

So, onto my own goal setting. At the beginning of the year I printed up a calendar and wrote deadlines on the days and my goals for that month. I did not reach all of them, but enough to feel good about the progress I made. I also realized more about my working style that will help me reassess my goals to ones that I can reach more of them.

In January, my goals were to edit eight pages of my ya fantasy a day, write 1,000 words of my paranormal novella, write 1,000 words of space opera, and work on my online nonfiction book project.

What I actually did: 2,000 words a day on paranormal novella (followed by 2 weeks of editing, revising, and critiques), about two chapters edited total on ya fantasy, and work on online nonfiction book project.

What I learned: I do better if I am only actively editing/writing one project. I like having a backup one sitting in the wings to switch too if I hit a wall, but I need to focus on editing/writing that world alone so I am not distracted.

What I'm doing now: Instead of having multiple projects going at once. I am focusing on one at a time with a backup in the wings should I need it. I've rewritten my goals to reflect that. I plan to meet my two goals by the end of this month. Online nonfiction book going live to the public and ya fantasy edited to send out to publishers. March will bring new goals to work on.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Positive Thinking or Not Getting Your Hopes Up

Do you do the positive thinking and imaging or do you go with the not getting your hopes up?

I got a couple of rejections this week that knocked me down for a little bit and it got me to thinking about what is the best way to handle submissions and the possibility of rejections. Generally speaking, I've gotten pretty good at shrugging off rejections. I file them away and send off the next batch or to the next market depending on what the submission is for. But ever so often I'll get one where I can't just shrug it off and move on, and it got me to thinking, what is it about that particular rejection that got to me?

And I think I figured it out, I was putting more weight on that submission. Practicing what people like to call positive thinking when sending it out, etc. I was trying out the idea that positive thinking brings back positive rewards. But as we all know in the writing game - rejection is a massive part of the submission process.

If I send something off and not think positively or hopefully toward that particular submission, I am much more able to shrug off the rejection and go on to the next one. It reminds me of something a horse trainer told me once. She always went in expecting to get last place so she would be surprised and happy when it didn't happen. But, I thought, aren't we supposed to go in visualizing the perfect run and performing flawlessly, because our demeanor and thinking going in can cause an outcome. If you expect to do badly - you will do badly.

I'm not sure I know the answer to my own question. Which is, should you send something off positively, visualizing the acceptance, etc? Or should you send something off with a "so what, it's just another submission" attitude?

So, what do you do?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Finding Inspiration in Other Writers

I touched briefly on this in my last post.

You can find a lot of inspiration from studying other writers. Kristine Kathryne Rusch has a great post on Role Models. You can have different types of role models. It can be someone who has mapped a career you admire, someone with a writing style you aspire to, a professional who behaves in a certain way, etc. I mentioned Nora Roberts, Linda Howard, and Jayne Ann Krentz as a couple of writers whom I admire. I actually met Jayne, in an elevator, and saw both her and Nora in seminars that they conducted at a writer's conference. I also met many other writers that I admire or enjoy reading at said writer's conference. If you're interested in meeting one of your role models - conferences can be a place to listen to them speak and perhaps have some one on one time. Though note Kristine's Role Models post on being disappointed by a role model and whether you are willing to risk your illusions about this person being dashed. We are actually very lucky to be writing right now as it is fairly easy to find articles, blogs, and interviews with our favorite authors.

You can also find inspiration with your peer writers. Kristine also wrote about Professional Jealousy which you should go and read to help you recognize it in yourself and recognize it in others when it is directed at you. Peers are wonderful in that they share our triumphs and disasters with us. They understand as many of our loved ones don't the highs and lows that our creations give us. They can help inspire you through the rough times and you in turn can help them through their lows.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Finding Inspiration In Books

Since, I've been talking a lot about finding inspiration in movies whether you're studying how an adaptation came to be or just watching something in your genre to get your creative juices flowing, I figured I'd better talk about books as well.

We all have our favorite authors that we come to again and again. Sometimes these authors stay with us for years, other times we grow out of their style/genre/voice, and other times their style/genre/voice changes to something that doesn't resonate with us.

One of the biggest pieces of advice you'll ever hear if you want to be a writer is to read, and read, and read, and read some more. Read within the genre you wish to write and read outside that genre.

Unfortunately in making time to write many writers often schedule out reading forgetting how crucial that part of studying the craft is. You must make time to read as well. For different writers the amount you need to read can vary. But you have to read. Whether you're opening an old favorite, a new book by a favorite author, or reading something entirely new.  Just read.

You can study the books you are reading. I know many writers that actively critique and break down books that they think our great to see how does the writer do it. How did this writer craft such a compelling story?

But I'm gonna cover more of the inspiration side of things. For me, you need to read to see what it is you like. How do you like your heroes/heroines? What type of plots do you like? What type of settings? What type of narration?

You can use the story lines, story devices, etc. to help you with your own plot/character/arc problems. Maybe you notice in a book how one author used a sub-plot to resolve the issue in the main plot. Perhaps you could use that same technique in your own book. Struggling with a certain type of scene: description, narration, back and forth dialogue, dialogue between four characters, intimate scenes, highly emotional scenes, etc. Read and look at how other authors do it. This is not stealing (unless, you actually copy the scene, then yes, you are stealing), but seeing how another author uses words, sentence structure, paragraph lengths, POV, etc. could help you figure out your own scene.

Learn about the authors that write these books. Hear them speak if you can or read a blog they are on. I take great comfort in the fact that Nora Roberts "vomits out" her first draft. Jayne Ann Krentz hates writing narrative/description. Linda Howard said, I'm paraphrasing, that the books she writes never live up to the ones in her head, but she keeps trying because maybe one day she'll get it right.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Finding Inspiration Answers

In case you missed yesterday's post on Finding Inspiration, I'm going to answer the questions I posed to my readers here.

psychics working against a corrupt government organization - Push, The Gift, Powder, Minority Report, Dreamscape

a quirky and awkward girl who prefers playing with her dog and building forts has to take a ballet class. - Eloise at the Plaza, A Little Princess, Andre, 12 Dogs of Christmas, Frankie and Hazel.

So, what five movies did you come up with?

Monday, February 8, 2010

Finding Inspiration

I took a class on inspiration. It was a one week online class offered through UCLA Extension writer's program. Taught by Jacqueline Zambrano it was called From Inspiration to Completion. I took this class before I caught on to copying all my assignments and notes instead of just typing them into the school interface (DUH!). So, unfortunately I can't refer back to my notes on all the activities that were included. But I do remember the most helpful, which have also been mentioned by other screenwriting teachers so I don't think I'm stealing anything from Jacque by sharing with you. Jacque, by the way, is a wonderful teacher and if you are ever thinking of taking a screenwriting class I highly recommend her (I think I took 4 or 5 of her classes).

Whether you are starting a project, in the middle of a project, or in the rewrite phase and are struggling on one aspect or another here is a tip to get your creative juices pumping.

Pick five movies that are in the same genre you are writing or have a theme or subject matter that is similar. You don't have to have watched these movies before or not watched them. Also, don't worry about only picking "good" movies. You can learn just as much from movies that miss the mark as those that do.

Watch your five movies. You can take notes on what was done really well and what didn't really work to help you see in your own writing. But the most important aspect of this exercise is that, most likely, by the time you reach the fifth movie you will have seen something that got your creative juices pumping and your brain working.

Here are some examples to show you what I'm talking about. For a young adult fantasy with a lot of horses you could pick The Black Stallion, Peter Pan, Legend, Narnia: LWW, and Eragon. These are all movies with young heroes/heroines. Four are fantasy movies and one is a horse film with a close bond between the horse and the hero.

For a young adult contemporary with witchcraft, Practical Magic, Harry Potter, Roswell, 10 Things I Hate About You, and The Craft. The first movie is about family magic, the second the most popular movie with magic, the third about teens having a secret life, the fifth a smart teen movie with the hero and heroine at odds, and the last a teen movie about the positives and negatives of witchcraft. 

For a spy action adventure with a love story, The Bourne series, The Saint, Casino Royale (other Bond flicks), Sneakers, and True Lies. The first movies are about a rogue spy, the second movie is a spy that falls in love with his target (and she him), Bond should be self explanatory, the four are more corporate spies with a lot of humor, and the last goes into more of the cliches of the spy movies.

Sometimes it is easy to find movies that tie into what you are working on and other times you have to expand your circle wider and wider picking certain elements. Here's one that would need to look for things in different elements of the theme or subjects. For a space opera with pirates and strong female lead, Serenity, Star Wars, Aliens, The Terminator, Pirates of the Caribbean. The first is a space opera with strong females, the second is the movie that really defined the genre, the third probably one of the most famous sci-fi female leads, the fourth a strong female lead and sweet romance, and the fifth pirates with a female lead.

So, now it's your turn. If you had to come up with five movies to inspire: psychics working against a corrupt government organization. What would those movies be?

Or for the children's writers: a quirky and awkward girl who prefers playing with her dog and building forts has to take a ballet class. What movies would you pick?

Sunday, February 7, 2010

From Book to Script to Movie

Sorry, I've been gone for so long, I was having major can't decide what to write about. If I'd been smart I would have just made a list and went through the list daily, but nope I logged in each day and went back and forth ending up writing nothing as I ran out of time. So, here I am, still wanting to write about multiple things, but just gonna jump in with both feet on one topic.

Analyzing stories. I took a really great class from UCLA a while ago on adapting screenplays. As part of the class you had to read the original book and then watch the movie. The point being to see how screenwriter's change or keep things the same because what works in a book will not necessarily work in a movie. In other classes, I had already been reading scripts and watching movies, and then analyzing them for the class. I think I amused and confused my instructors as I really refused to do the oscar winners and contenders that the other students were doing. Nope, not me, I picked movies like American Outlaws, The Mummy, The Bourne Identity, X-Men, The Relic, etc. Though in the adaptation class I did have to do the Oscar nominees, LOL, since we then discussed what we liked and didn't like of the adaptation.

So, if you like a good story, I'm gonna clue you in on a past time of mine, when I have the time, LOL, on analyzing stories. Pick a movie that has been adapted from a book. You can watch the movie first or last. I often watched the movie, went and got the book, read the book, compared what was different, and then the super interesting part, read the script. Some scripts will be the first script (try to get these if you can) and some will be the shooting scripts. What's changed? One that is really interesting with the amount that changed from the book to the script and then the script to the final film was The Relic. Truthfully, it's a very fascinating analysis.

On script to film (as in no book first). The Mummy was very interesting since it was written by the director (of course, based on the older movie). Number one, he got away with a lot more character thought, description, backstory, than any other screenwriter would, LOL, but secondly the difference in the characters from the script to the screen is fascinating. X-Men is another great one to analyze. The original script is good, but not nearly as good as the movie. In looking over the changes, I have to seriously wonder if they brought in a script doctor to rework the script to follow the Hero's Journey. It made the movie better. Made the reluctant hero that much more of a hero than in the original story. As I've never read the comic books I can't comment on that end of the adaptation.

I could go on and on, but I'll stop here and just suggest that if you want to see how a story is put together, how an overall theme works, etc. studying book to script to screen can help you get a better understanding of story structure. Though, caveat being, what works on screen doesn't always work on print. A great place to find free scripts to read is Drew's Script-O-Rama.