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Learn more about my books at ShoshannaEvers.com

Monday, November 30, 2009

Submitting to Harlequin

Hello Fellow Writers!

Yesterday I went to the last official NaNoWriMo write-in of 2009. I used the time productively, by adding a new opening (and another 1000 words to my word count, bringing my manuscript to 51K) and making all of the little changes I needed to.

While it's still a first draft, it's a first draft that I can now show my writing group. I'm planning on emailing them the first chapter today.

At some point soon, I need to gather up the courage to submit my previous novel, "The Movie Star's Very Personal Assistant", to Harlequin. Here is an article about important things to consider when submitting to Harlequin, from their website.

  • Do polish your story before you submit it. Read through your story several times for spelling, grammar, clich├ęs, unrealistic or stilted dialogue, heavy exposition, continuity errors, plot holes, etc. Consider giving it to someone else to read for a second opinion. You want to make sure that the editor that reads your story won't have a single excuse to put it down. For more tips on polishing, read Harlequin Superromance author Helen Brenna's article Polish Until it Shines.

  • Don't sweat the small stuff. After you've gone through your manuscript very carefully, don't get hung up on things like font or formatting or other stylistic considerations. Ultimately, if you've written a good book, it won't matter whether it's in 10 point Book Antiqua.

  • Once you do submit, do include a self-addressed stamped envelope if you want to be notified that your manuscript has been received. You may also want to indicate that you would like to be notified on the envelope or somewhere within your submission.

  • Don't expect a response right away, though. Even if you are just looking for an indication that Harlequin has received your manuscript, this can take several weeks from the time you send your manuscript in to the publisher. It has to be processed by Harlequin staff before being mailed, and the mail delivery in itself could take a while.

  • It will take longer still before you get a response about your actual manuscript. Often stories are evaluated by more than one Harlequin staff member, and this process takes time. Moreover, the editors like to make sure that they have crafted a useful and appropriate response to your manuscript, and try to put quality over speed of response.

  • Do have the story completed before you submit it for consideration. If after all of the time you have been waiting for a response from Harlequin you have not been working on your story, the editor will not be impressed that you are then going to make her wait for you. She's looking for a finished product—something that will live up to the potential that she saw in your partial. And if you rush to finish the story, it will likely read rushed and not polished, so when you finally do submit it to the editors, it will likely fall short of their standards.

  • Don't wait for a response before starting your next project. If the book that you have submitted is already done and is as polished as it's going to get, start the next one. If you are talented enough to get interest from a Harlequin editor, they will want to know that you have more than one good idea and will be happy to see evidence of this. Or if your first manuscript doesn't work out, you can always follow up with another book that may be more to the editor's liking.

  • Do include the fact that you are working on another book in your query letter. This will indicate that you are committed to writing and that you have many stories to tell. However, you may not want to say that you are working on too many manuscripts at once—this may signal to the editor that you can't finish a project and do not give each one enough attention.

  • Don't submit to more than one Harlequin series at a time. Only the first manuscript that Harlequin receives will be evaluated. The others will be sent back to you. So choose your targeted series very carefully. Is it really the line that best fits your book?

  • Do send your manuscript to the appropriate office and the correct editor. There's nothing that turns an editor off faster than reading a submission that clearly doesn't fit her line. This shows that you are too lazy to do your homework, and you probably won't be given very serious consideration. Luckily, finding this information is relatively easy. Each Harlequin series has a writing guidelines page on eHarlequin.com which can be found here. At the top of each of these, there will be an editor, assistant editor or editorial assistant's name. Address your submission to this person—and make sure you spell it correctly! These guideline pages will also indicate which office houses your chosen line. The addresses for the three editorial offices can be found here.

  • Don't get discouraged. You know that writing is a skill that takes practice, but so does submitting. It may take you a few tries before you find the right tone to use in your query letter, or the right amount of information in your synopsis. Keep writing, keep submitting.

  • I find it interesting that they want you to mention that you are working on another book in your query. I'll have to add that to my query letter before it goes out.

    Today I will be writing a spec advice column and submitting it to a new local newspaper.
    Wish me luck, and good luck to you too!
    Yours Truly,
    Shoshanna Evers

    Sunday, November 29, 2009

    "The Road" Author Cormac McCarthy

    Hello Fellow Writers!

    I am on my way to the very last NaNoWriMo write-in at Panera. I'll be sad to see the month end, but I'm glad that I will continue to meet a couple of the other women on the weekend to sit and have coffee and tap away on our laptops.

    DH and I saw the movie "The Road" last night. My husband read the book very quickly, which is saying a lot because it normally takes him forever to get through an entire novel. Personally, I love fun movies that leave you feeling good, with a nice neat Happily Ever After. "The Road" is not such a book or movie. But you can't argue with the awards it's received (like the 2007 Pulitzer for fiction). It's not my taste, but it's still an amazing book (and movie). If it doesn't win some sort of Oscar I will be shocked.

    Cormac McCarthy, the author of "The Road", did a wonderful interview with "Oprah". You can watch the whole thing here by clicking on the different parts. In this section, he discusses how he feels about writing.

    Today I plan on writing that new opening scene for "Snowed in With a Millionaire" and also to make some of the minor fixes that I found on my initial read-through of the first draft.

    Wish me luck, and good luck to you too!
    Yours Truly,
    Shoshanna Evers

    Saturday, November 28, 2009

    Advice Regarding Word Count

    Hello Fellow Writers!

    Yesterday I didn't get as much done on my revisions of my WIP as I had planned. Tomorrow, however, I will be going to the last NaNoWriMo write-in and I will get a lot done then. I'm sad that the official write-ins will soon be over, but I have plans to continue meeting on the weekends with a couple of the other girls.

    I read a great Silhouette Desire book by Jennifer Lewis yesterday, called "The Maverick's Virgin Mistress". I read that book so fast because it was just so much fun! I won't spoil the ending for you, (well, we all know they live happily ever after) but I literally squealed at the ending and then read it out loud to my husband.

    I know a lot of people have questions about word count. We've established that Harlequin category romances have very specific guidelines on their tip sheets, and they use computer word count. Here is an excerpt from a wonderful article by Jessica from one of my favorite blogs, Bookends, LLC, about word count. Read the whole article here.

    First and foremost, what length should your book be? My answer is when in doubt think 80,000 words, give or take. I don’t think that you can ever go wrong with 80,000 words whether you’re writing mystery, romance, fantasy, literary fiction, or nonfiction. Okay, sure, it’s never going to work for children’s books or poetry, but since I don’t rep those it doesn’t matter (to me anyway). In fact, I think 80,000 words even works for YA. Sure, with some of these genres you’re going to be on the long end and with others the short end, but again this is the “when in doubt word count.” 80,000 words is pretty much safe everywhere.

    What about range, I’ll be asked. Can you give us a range or can you be genre specific? I suppose I can, to the best of my abilities.

    Mystery: I think that for mysteries you often have the freedom of writing a book that’s a little shorter. In the case of mysteries 70,000 to 90,000 words will likely work for you.

    Romance: 80,000 to 100,000, and no, I’m not counting category. If you’re writing category you’ll need to follow the very specific word count requirements of that line.

    Fantasy or SF: Here you can go a little bit longer. Some publishers will accept books in the 80,000 to 125,000 range.

    YA: 50,000 to 75,000, and yes, this is an area that can get really fudgy (I made that up), but again, in the 80,000 range is good. **I corrected these numbers after feedback from others (and comment from Kim) although I do think with YA these days you can still be safe in 80,000 words although maybe a tad high. Fantasy YA of course can be higher.

    Women’s fiction, literary fiction or anything I failed to mention above: 80,000 to 100,000 (sometimes 125,000, especially in the case of literary fiction).

    Now all of these are ranges and estimations. You are unlikely to be rejected simply because you’re at 78,000 for your women’s fiction or 110,000 for your romance. That being said, if you start coming in at 175,000 words, 200,000 words, or 41,000 words, you better take a close look at your book. No one in their right mind would think you’re somewhat close to range. Let’s put it this way, we give a range so that you know what the fudge factor is. We’re all smart people and we all know that when we ask something to be within a range we’ll allow for some leeway. Just think about how much leeway you’d allow and keep it at that.

    Today I am going to see the movie "The Road", which is based on the book by the same name. I'll let you know it goes!

    Yours Truly,
    Shoshanna Evers

    Friday, November 27, 2009

    How She Did It - Joan Hohl, Romance Author

    Hello Fellow Writers!

    I hope everyone had as lovely a Thanksgiving yesterday as I had with my family! I finished reading through my manuscript and making small changes. Today I'm going to put those changes in the computer and also write a new opening scene that I think will provide more of an insight into my heroine's daily life before she meets the hero.

    I also just finished reading a Silhouette Desire category romance entitled "In the Arms of the Rancher", by Joan Hohl. It was very fun read. Imaging my surprise when I learned that this very sexy story was written by a woman who, according to the dates she gives in her bio, must be at least 70 years old now! One of the nice things about writing is you don't have to retire!

    From eHarlequin.com, here is an article that explains how Joan Hohl got her start in writing. I think it's absolutely amazing that she was possibly the very first romance writer to write using the hero's point of view in addition to the heroine's POV.

    For as long as she can remember, Joan Hohl has always wanted to be a writer. Her mother said Joan had her head in the clouds, always daydreaming. The only thing was, Joan's daydreams had plots!
    Thinking herself audacious for even considering joining the ranks of her heroes — the authors — she never put her ideas, or dreams, into words, never made notes or wrote anything down. She worked at several jobs — nothing remotely close to a career — some sales clerking, but primarily factory work, because that paid better.
    Then when she turned 40, Joan experienced a definite turning point in her life. Deciding that at her advanced age she could handle rejection, had nothing to lose and by some miracle, possibly much to gain if only in self satisfaction, she quit her job. With no employment, but her decision firm, she sat down at her kitchen table with pencils and a spiral notebook and let her imagination take wing.
    Joan achieved her impossible dream three years, and many rejections, after she began writing. Her first book sale was to Vivian Stephens at Dell Publishing. A few weeks later she received a call from an editor at Leisure Books, with an offer for a manuscript she had previously submitted to other houses…and believed was dead-in-the-publishing-waters, so to speak. The second sale was the first one to be published, in 1979. Her first ten books were written longhand at her kitchen table. As she wasn't a typist, she paid one to transcribe her handwritten manuscripts before biting the bullet and going to the typewriter herself to hunt and pick her way through future stories.
    Some years later, Joan sold a formally rejected, completed manuscript to Silhouette Books…and found a home. She is considered by many in the business a trailblazer in sensuous romance writing, and having been one of the first, if not the first, author to write male point of view in category romance novels.
    Many of her books are set in her beloved Pennsylvania, by an ocean, any ocean, but usually along the South Jersey coast or the West, with its mythic Western heroes.
    Now, a few years… ahem — past 40, after 60 some books (she now no longer keeps exact count), Joan is still writing two to three books a year, although she laughingly tells everyone she is semiretired!
    Joan has been married forever to her husband, Marv. They have two beautiful daughters, Lori and Amy, and two grandchildren, Erica and Cammeron.
    Joan has one question: Does she have a career yet?

    Um, I'd say yes, most definitely! Today I'm going to write that new opening scene and get my manuscript in good enough shape to allow my writer's group to take a look at it. I'm also considering adding another little element for comedic relief that will involve going back through and weaving it into place. That might also happen today.

    One thing I will not be doing is leaving the house and braving the Black Friday parking lots. Too crazy for me.

    Wish me luck, and good luck to you too!
    Yours Truly,
    Shoshanna Evers

    Wednesday, November 25, 2009

    Fantasy Writer Robin McKinley

    Hello Fellow Writers!

    Yesterday I sat down with my manuscript and my red pen and had fun going through it. I wish I could read the whole book in one sitting, but my baby won't let me do anything for more than twenty minutes at a time unless he falls asleep, at which point I promptly fall asleep as well.

    Nevertheless, I managed to finish the first draft of my romance novel "Snowed in With a Millionaire" with a week still left in the month of November. NaNoWriMo is still in full swing, of course, so this morning, sitting in my inbox, I found a pep talk for week 4 from author Robin McKinley.

    Robin McKinley won the Newbery Medal for The Hero and the Crown, a Newbery Honor for The Blue Sword, and the Mythopoeic Award for Adult Literature for Sunshine. She writes fantasy.

    Here is her advice to writers:
    Dear writer,
    As I write this less than twenty-four hours before NaNoWriMo’s deadline for this pep talk, I also have a book due in eight days. Not just due. Absolute, final, already overdue, my-editor-is-a-patient-woman-but-publishing-schedules-are-publishing-schedules, due.
    When NaNoWriMo contacted me last April about writing a pep talk for this year's masochi—er—enthusiastic writers, I had just decided to whack PEGASUS in half and make two books out of it. I have always been a write-each-draft-straight-through-and-don’t-look-back storyteller; it’s the way I develop a feel for the pacing, for where the high and low, careening and meditative, places of each story are—and how I discover where and how it's going to end. Consistency and clarity (and spelling) begin to emerge in the second draft; there are a lot of complete re-rewrites and outtakes during the second draft, and probably the most-per-page screams of frustration: the first draft has told me that the story is there but now I have to make it work on the page. The third draft should mainly be giving the story a really good brushing and plaiting its mane and tail—but there are hazards even here (ask anyone who has ever plaited a mane or a tail), nor is it likely to stand quietly for this operation.
    Some time last winter, still on the first draft and beginning to panic, I... stopped. I did not write straight through to the end. I went back to the beginning and started on the second draft as if I knew what I was doing—as if I knew how it ended. I seriously don't know how PEGASUS ends. I won't know till I get there. And I didn't finish the first draft, so I didn't get there. I've never started a second draft without having finished a first draft—without knowing how it's going to end. I've never split a book into two books...
    Writing is like this.
    Oh, not exactly like this; every writer is different as every human being is different, one from another. (Some writers make their deadlines. Some writers know where they're going. Some writers don't mind not knowing where they're going.) But the chief thing I would like to get over to you, as you look to me to say something inspiring about this maniac—I mean, this energizing and felicitious project to write a first draft of a novel in a month, is the liveness of Story, and therefore the unpredictability inherent in writing any story down.
    You need that live, tensile, surprising strength between you and the story you're trying to write, or it'll die on the page. But this doesn't make it easier. It makes it harder. It's more exciting—more thrilling, more appalling: on good days you'll fly higher than a peregrine cruising for dinner, on bad days someone will have to scrape you off the floor with a spatula. This is what writing is like. You have to write on through the highs and lows, the careens and the meditations of your stories. And that's what you're here for now: to write. Go for it. Good luck.
    So last April, when NaNoWriMo contacted me, I had decided that PEGASUS was two books, and had cheered up a lot. My due date was the end of August—and for once in my life I was going to meet a deadline with no problem. NaNoWriMo suggested I send my encouraging words to them by the beginning of August. Fine. Happy to. Thanks for asking.
    I got to the end of the third draft of the first volume of PEGASUS on 13 September. But PEGASUS has not been one of the easy brush-and-plait ones. I’m still combing the burrs out. I am going to make it. I am going to turn PEGASUS in on the 8th of October. I’m even going to get my pep talk in to NaNoWriMo by tomorrow.
    If I can do these impossible things, you can do the impossible thing of writing the first draft of your novel in a month. It’s a first draft! It does not have to be a thing of beauty! Don’t worry about the spelling (or the consistency)! Just write it. I bet you can even get to the end, and find out what it is.
    And may you have an absolutely brilliant time doing it. Writing can be the worst, and often is—but it can also be the best. May you come out of that month knowing what you want to do next, and eager to keep going. Try to remember the peregrine days on the days that your husband/wife/roommate/dog needs steel wool to get you off the floor. And keep writing: the only way you can learn how your stories work is by letting them tell you. By putting live words together.
    Good luck.
    Robin McKinley

    Today I will continue going through the first draft of my WIP. DH is coming home early from work today since it's the day before Thanksgiving, and we have big plans to make a home video of the baby. Surprise, surprise.
    Have a happy Thanksgiving! I won't be posting a new blog entry tomorrow, but I'll still be writing.
    Wish me luck, and good luck to you too!
    Yours Truly,
    Shoshanna Evers

    Tuesday, November 24, 2009

    Rewrites, Revisions, and Red Pens

    Hello Fellow Writers!

    Yesterday I basked in the happy glow of having a completed first draft sitting on my lap. I decided to take the day off from writing as a reward for having finished writing a 50,000 word romance in three weeks. Instead, I realized that for me, writing itself is the reward. I like doing it, that's why I do it. So I picked up my red pen and started reading through my novel.

    I had written it so fast that I barely remembered putting the words on the page. I even found myself laughing at some of funny things my saucy heroine says - it was almost like I didn't write it myself. So strange.

    From FictionWriters.com, here is an excerpt from an article about revising your manuscript. Read the whole article here.

    • 1. Look for the deadwood, the unnecessary bits that don't move your story forward.
    • 2. Check the first paragraph of each chapter for "hooks."
    • 3. Check the end of each chapter for "cliffhangers."
    • 4. Examine each page for balance between dialogue, action, introspection and description.
    • 5. Find places to build in more character traits.
    • 6. Look for inconsistencies.
    • 7. Look for repetition, words (and ideas) repeated too often, too close to each other.
    • 8. Find typos and grammatical errors.
    Each time you sit down to reread your manuscript, choose one point from the list to look for; ignore everything else. Every rereading needs to accomplish something specific. Have a set goal in mind each time you start. Know what it is you plan to accomplish, and your rereading time will accomplish more.
    Today I will continue reading through my manuscript, red pen in hand.

    Wish me luck, and good luck to you too!
    Yours Truly,
    Shoshanna Evers

    Monday, November 23, 2009

    I Finished The First Draft! Now What?

    Hello Fellow Writers!

    I am happy to report that yesterday I finished the first draft of my 50,ooo word category romance "Snowed in With a Millionaire".

    Yup. Done.

    I went to a NaNoWriMo write-in with 43k words and found myself writing for 6 hours straight until I had pounded out those last 7K and wrote the words "The End". Since I started writing November 1st, that means it took me 3 weeks. I've never written so fast in my entire life. It was so much fun!

    Now that the first draft if complete, the work is far from over. Now the real work begins - I need to get the manuscript in good enough condition to be able to show my writer friends. They'll help me figure out what's unclear so I can get some nice revisions going.

    Today I'll share with you some advice about first drafts from Karen Miller.
    Karen Miller is the author of the bestselling fantasy duology Kingmaker, Kingbreaker, the fantasy trilogy Godspeaker, the bestselling tie-in novels Stargate SG-1: Alliances and Stargate SG-1: Do No Harm and Star Wars The Clone Wars: Wild Space. Writing as K.E. Mills she is the author of the Rogue Agent series.
    Here is an excerpt from her article "The Tyranny of the First Draft". Read the whole thing here.
    Writers are schizo people. We need to wear two hats: the Writer, and the Editor. And we have to keep one locked in a box while the other is working, or we won’t finish the book. The Writer writes – and must be free to write even though the work is still far from perfect. In the first draft it doesn’t matter if the prose is clunky sometimes, if there’s some word repetition, if the dialogue is occasionally stilted. None of it matters. It can be fixed on the rewrite. The Writer must not be paralysed by the carping of the Editor, who notices everything that’s wrong with the work and wants it fixed now. It doesn’t need to be fixed now. It’s more important to finish the first draft and fix it later.

    Of course, when the first draft is finished the Writer has to sit in the box so the Editor can assess the story, iron out the lumpy bits, fix all the plot-holes and so on and so forth without the Writer bleating and complaining about the cuts and changes. But only when the first draft is finished. Turning the Editor loose in the middle of the writing process is usually fatal. The Editor is critical. The Writer is creative. These two essential personas must be kept apart, or there’s a chance that first draft will never be finished.

    The only way to do this is to do it. There are no magic bullets, no quick fixes, no secret handshakes that can get you over the finishing line. The only way to run a marathon is by putting one foot in front of the other for 26 miles. The only way to produce a finished novel that you can show to an agent or an editor is complete the journey from page 1 to the end. That’s it. It’s that simple … and that hard.

    There is no point, if you’re a new writer, in showing an agent or editor the first three over-polished chapters and a synopsis. More than anything, these people want to know you can go the distance. Writing a novel is a mammoth task. You have to prove you’ve got the stamina to finish. You also have to prove you’ve got a good style and a good plot and engaging characters … but if you can’t finish the book, none of that matters.

    Yes, it’s scarey. It’s a lot of time and energy invested with no guarantee of success. No promise that you’ll be recognised, or published. Or, if you do have that contract, that anyone will buy the damned book when it’s in the shops. That’s the nature of the beast. You either accept it, or you take up knitting. You know what they say: feel the fear and do it anyway. Because if you don’t, then it’s game over. Nothing happens without a first draft.

    So write the damned thing. Get it done. Get it finished. Give yourself permission to write badly. Give yourself permission to write worse than badly. Give yourself permission to stumble, to flail, to thrash around on the pages like a raving loon.

    It doesn’t matter.

    Finish your first draft, so you can turn it into your second draft, and your third draft … or as many drafts as you need to make it a fabulous novel.

    Without a completed first draft that will never happen. The first draft is the first step, it’s not the end of the journey. It’s where the story begins. Do I need to say it again? Keep your eyes facing forward and write, write, write, till you reach The End.

    And enjoy yourself. It’s supposed to be fun!

    Today I am seriously considering taking a break from writing to just revel in the fact that I wrote a whole book. Either that, or I'm going to sit down with my manuscript and a red pen and go to town on it. One or the other!
    Wish me luck, and good luck to you too!
    Yours Truly,
    Shoshanna Evers

    Sunday, November 22, 2009

    "Graceling" author's Pep Talk

    Hello Fellow Writers!

    Yesterday I went to a write-in for NaNoWriMo, which was so much fun. I love getting together and hanging out with other people who are as interested in books (both reading and writing them) as I am. My word count is now 43,000.

    I saw "The Twilight Saga: New Moon" last night. Wow, that werewolf grew up. He got about a million abs and biceps now. In the movie, as in Stephanie Meyers book, I found myself rooting for the werewolf instead of the vampire. Who wants an old man who's very cold and can't physically love you, when you can have a hot-blooded guy your own age who can go out in the sun?

    I got another pep talk in my inbox today. This one is from Kristin Cashore, who is the author of the New York Times bestseller Graceling, the winner of the 2009 Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children's Literature, a Publishers Weekly and School Library Journal Best Book of the Year, an ALA Best Book for Young Adults, and a finalist for the Andre Norton Award and the Indies Choice Book Awards. Her recent book Fire also a New York Times bestseller.

    Here it is:
    Greetings, fellow novelists!

    So, now that you've been writing for a few weeks, here's my question. Have you started to realize what you've gotten yourself into? Is the realization accompanied by a creeping sense of panic?

    If your answer is no, rock on. But if your answer is yes—if your novel has gotten more complicated than you ever thought it would—if you're not sure you've got what it takes to pull this project off—then I'm here for you today with a message, and the message is: don't panic. Don't panic! No one would ever do anything great if they knew at the outset what they were getting themselves into. And I happen to know, at the core of my soul, that you can do this. How do I know? Because I've been there, many times. Sometimes it feels like my permanent state of being. And you know what? I've learned that I'm capable of a lot more than I generally think I am—and you are, too.

    A lot of people who don't write novels don't really understand what it's like. They think that something easy to read must have been easy to write. What a lark! How fun to just let your imagination run wild and jot down stories all day!

    I suppose there's nothing wrong with these people. Doubtless, there are thousands of occupations I don't appreciate the complexity of. For example, doesn't it seem like it would be fun to be the weatherman? But, then, everybody expects you to predict unpredictable events, and when you get it wrong, everyone thinks you're a bozo. Plus, you probably have to sit still in a chair for ages every day while people do your makeup and spray smelly things into your hair.

    Here's what it starts to be like for me somewhere in the midsection of a novel:
    (1) I've written the beginning, but I'm pretty sure it's a pile of crap.
    (2) The end, when I even dare to contemplate it, feels as far away as Uranus.
    (3) The prose I'm writing right now, here in the middle, sounds like a stiff little busybody who's sat down too hard on a nettle.
    (4) I've discovered that my plot, even if it's an engaging plot, has sections that are not engaging to write, and I'm bogged down in those doldrums sections, when all I want is to move on to the exciting parts that are just ahead but I can't, not until I've written the parts that will get me there. Boring!
    (5) The house is strewn with post-it notes on which are written about a gazillion important reminders of things I must somehow remember to find a way to weave into the novel at some point, although, where, I can't imagine. Some of the post-it notes are written hastily in a code I have since forgotten. ("He is temperamentally sweet, but dangerous, like Jake." That would be very helpful, if I had the slightest idea to whom "he" refers, or if I knew anyone named Jake.)
    (6) Worst of all, whenever I take a step back and try to examine objectively this unstructured mess that is half created and half still living in my head and heart and hope (and on a gazillion post-it notes)... I get this horrible, sinking feeling that my novel isn't actually about anything.

    Does any of that sound familiar to you?

    Listen. Learning to write 50,000 words means learning a whole pile of skills, but they're learnable skills, and you learn them by writing. One of those skills is finding your own technique for dealing with all the voices that are constantly telling you, in one way or another, what a bonehead you are and how bad you are at this and how doomed your project is. I'm not saying don't listen to the voices. Go ahead and listen to them— if you try to ignore them, sometimes they only scream louder. I'm only saying, don't believe them— and, most importantly, don't let them decide how you spend your day. Maybe laugh and give them a hug and say to them, "Yes, you're sad and lonely and desperate for my attention, aren't you? Well, thank you for visiting; stay as long as you need to; but, by the way, I think we're going to have to agree to disagree. Because I know I can do this, and, as it happens, you can't stop me. Want to sit with me at my desk while I show you what I mean?"

    Self-doubt and fear are just part of the process. Those voices are never going to go away. Write anyway. Take a breath; go for a walk; look at the stars; listen to OutKast and shake it like a Polaroid picture; and then, sit down and write anyway. Incidentally, I think the fastest I've ever written 50,000 words was in about eight months. I don't actually keep track of word count, I just keep track of whether or not I'm making progress, and I think that's what NaNoWriMo is about: getting into the habit of making progress. And progress is something every writer needs to define for him- or herself. Throwing out the last twenty pages you just wrote can involve just as much progress as writing three new ones. So try not to beat yourself up if your novel makes it clear to you that you're going to have to shift your goals.

    Breathe. Be kind to yourself. Don't panic. Take risks. Make messes. Decide every day that in your writing toolbox, next to the fear and self-doubt, you are also going to keep at least one tiny little seed of faith. That's all you need to keep going—one mustard seed. Keep tight hold on that faith, and keep writing.

    -Kristin Cashore
    You can learn more about Kristin Cashore's work here.
    Today I am going to another write-in where I will be getting my word count to 45,000k - maybe higher. I've been printing out my manuscript for my WIP "Snowed in With a Millionaire" as I go and it's getting huge (156 pages right now).

    Wish me luck, and good luck to you too!
    Yours Truly,
    Shoshanna Evers

    Saturday, November 21, 2009

    What if... (plot ideas!)

    Hello Fellow Writer!

    On Thursday I wrote 2,500 words, and then yesterday I wrote another 1000 words. Now I have 41,000 words, which means I am thisclose to finishing my current WIP, "Snowed in with a Millionaire", by the end of the month. This will be my first year as a NaNoWriMo participant, and it has been so much fun I'm sad to see the month drawing to a close already.

    While meandering through some of the NaNoWriMo forums, I came across a great thread that offers complimentary "What if?" scenarios that you can feel free to take and run with!

    Here's an excerpt, check out the whole thread here:

    from Arwen Islanzadi:
    Well, everyone knows about what-if questions, so I'll be reposting last year's topic in hopes of inspiring some NaNoers in their work... or an incredibly random subplot... The main idea is to inspire people... So, here goes.
    What if...
    -You realized that you only had ten days to live and, to save yourself, you had to make an eleven day journey?
    -The only way to save the world was for a large amount of the population to comit suicide?
    -You suddenly found a gateway into a fantasy realm and wandered through it with no way of returning to the real world?
    -Everything you wrote for NaNo suddenly came to life and all of your characters turned against you in a fit of anger at the lack of plot-development?
    -NaNoWriMo didn't exist and you had to write a novel on your own, with none of the awesomeness that is NaNo?
    ...That's all for now, but be sure to post your hypothetical questions for others to adopt!

    From EelKat:
    What if you open the door to what you thought was a closet, but turned out to be a time machine?
    What if your MC was shot in a drive by shooting?
    What if a scientist created a micro chip that recorded your dreams while you slept, and you could play them back the next day?
    What if the sun went into super nova and wiped out 90% of Earth's populations?
    Today I am going to a write-in with my fellow WriMos, and then DH and I are dropping the baby off at Grandma and Grandpa's so we can go see "The Twilight Saga: New Moon". I am very excited to see this since I loved the book by Stephanie Meyer!

    I'm so glad that I'm able to attend the write-ins this weekend instead of having to go and buy a car, which was the original plan. DH and I are saving money by repairing the old car instead. I hope to wrack up a minimum of 2,000 more words today.

    Wish me luck, and good luck to you too!
    Yours Truly,
    Shoshanna Evers

    Thursday, November 19, 2009

    Getting an Agent

    Hello Fellow Writers!

    Yesterday I didn't sit down until 9:30pm to write. That's probably because when the baby fell asleep, instead of using the time to write, I took a nap as well! When DH came home I was still out at my writing group at the Barnes and Noble, but when I came home I stayed up late to write my 2000 words, bring my word count up to 37,500.

    I spent some time perusing fantasy author Tamora Pierce's website yesterday, and she has so much to share that I wanted to put an excerpt on here about getting a literary agent.

    How can a new writer get an agent?

    Agents are great, but they are also hard to come by. The most important thing to keep in mind is that agents generally don't want to talk to non-famous writers until that writer has a complete book manuscript in hand. This makes sense: many people start books; it takes something special to finish one. Short stories when published look great on a writer's record, but few agents will represent someone whose only work is in short stories and articles, because there isn't all that much money involved. Don't forget, agents have expenses of their own that have to be covered by their commissions: it's hard to pay a secretary when all you get is forty or sixty or a hundred dollars per short story sales!

    If you think an agent is the way to go, the best way to find one is to track down THE WRITER'S MARKET (for the current year; these books come out with updated information every year in November) FOR AUTHORS' AND ARTISTS' AGENTS. Try the library first--these books cost about $25 each. If you can't find a copy in the library, try any good-sized bookstore in the Reference Section. It's important to get the book for the current year, because there are always changes in the industry: an agent may decide (like mine) not to take on new clients, or an agency may close, or agents may decide to concentrate on different books and authors than they did the year before. The annual issue of the MARKET will tell you what agencies are looking for new clients, what kinds of books and writers they represent, whether or not they charge a fee to read manuscripts (if they do, I wouldn't send anything to them--I don't trust agents who charge writers to read books), their address, and how they want you to send material to them. (Some want the whole manuscript--ms. for short--some want a query letter, a one-page description of what the book's about, in letter form.)
    What does an agent do?

    An agent's services depend on the agency. First, an agent reads and comments on your manuscript and advises about the need for rewrites, depending on whether the agent thinks s/he can sell the ms. as is or if it needs more work. The agent then sends the ms. to editors/publishers s/he believes are right for this particular book; often these are people the agent knows professionally through meetings at lunches, conferences, and professional parties. When a publisher makes a contract offer, the agent is the one who negotiates the terms: not only how much money should be paid and how it should be paid out (on signature of the contract, on delivery of the finish book, on publication), but also who controls foreign rights (some publishers have their own divisions in other countries where they feel the books will sell; others will leave such rights in the agent's hands), movie rights, book club rights, and most recently, electronic book rights. The agent also negotiates how much of each sale the writer gets, and the terms for when books go out of print (it's sometimes possible to get out-of-print books back from publishers, and re-sell them to new publishers). The money from the publisher goes to the agent, who checks how many books were sold and to whom and if you got the right amount of money for the number of books sold (some publishers aren't honest--it's the agent's job to keep an eye on them, though you should learn to read your own contracts and statements in case your agent misses something or neglects to pay you all that you are owed). The agent takes out her/his percentage of the money (you didn't think they did all this for free, did you?).

    Agents' commissions run from 10 percent to 25 percent of all the money that comes in for you, depending on what services the agent provides.
    Most agents will also do all this for any magazine pieces--stories and articles--you may write--once they have taken you on as a book client. If someone wants to quote from your work, an agent is the one who handles the legal agreement and sets a fee on the use of your work. Many agents have relationships with literary agencies overseas; if your publisher doesn't control foreign rights to your books and you do, your agent will send copies of your books to their foreign agencies in countries they think would like your work. Agents will take in and send on your fan mail, and explain the mysteries of the publishing industry.

    Today I will be upping my word count to 40,000 words. That's right - I'm getting really close to hitting my goal of writing an entire 50,000 word category romance in one month for NaNoWriMo!
    Wish me luck, and good luck to you too!
    Yours Truly,
    Shoshanna Evers

    Wednesday, November 18, 2009

    Young Adult Fantasy Author Tamora Pierce

    Hello Fellow Writers!

    Yesterday I didn't get to sit down to write until after 9pm. DH and I had gone to look for a new (used) car since the old one crapped out on us. This took all night and was fruitless. Now we have to go again on Saturday, when all I really wanted to do on Saturday was go see "New Moon" from the Twilight series! I was so tempted to just go to sleep, but I decided to sit down and just "check in" with my WIP, figuring I'd just write for fifteen minutes and then call it a day. I surprised myself by getting a renewed burst of energy and writing 2,000 words, bringing my word count up to 35,500.

    The moral of the story is to write every day.

    This is the third week of NaNoWriMo, and this morning my inbox contained a pep talk from YA fantasy author Tamora Pierce. She has so much good advice on her website, including this tidbit about rejection that I actually found even more inspiring than the pep talk.

    If an agent or publishing person turns you down, it may have nothing to do with your writing, and everything to do with what that person likes and doesn't like. If they comment on your work, read it carefully and think about it, sifting out what's useful and what isn't.

    Don't let a turn-down discourage you. If you think a re-write is needed, then re-write, but be sane about it. I rewrite twice, then send things out, and I keep sending them out while I work on something new. Many times the thing that makes the difference between someone with talent who gets published and someone with talent who doesn't is the fact that the one who got published kept sending her/his work out, while the other gave up after one turn-down, or two, or three. Tom Clancy, I believe, went to more than 15 publishers before the Naval Institute Press agreed to publish his first book, Hunt for the Red October, which then became a best-seller. Jerzy Kozinski, a prize-winning writer, took his first big book, that won him many awards, changed the writer's name on it, and sent it to 19 publishers before someone thought it was worth publishing. J.K. Rowling was turned down by quite a few British publishers before Bloomsbury, a relatively small house (well, it was then) took a chance on her.

    That said, here's her pep talk for NaNoWriMo:

    Okay, NaNoWriMo folks, let me guess.

    Right now a lot of you are doing the same thing I'm doing, staring at this piece of screen in order to put off actually writing, because at this moment in time the writing is decidedly starting to suck. You are stuck; worse, you're bored. You're thinking you were bounced repeatedly on your head when you were small and easy to bounce. You're thinking you have no talent.

    So am I. The chief difference between us, probably, is that I've been at this for a long time and I know where to go for help. I know I can throw in a new character and get more content from the way the old ones react to the new one. Who becomes friends; who becomes rivals? Who's lousy with babies when the newcomer is a baby? Who can't deal with people who live a non-standard lifestyle?

    Have something happen: the power goes out; there's a car accident; there's a flood; there's a war; there's an epidemic. All kinds of new problems and new heroes arise, often the last people you expected to be heroic. Set characters in motion, even if it's just to higher ground. You learn something, you can tell us something, by how people deal with with something that requires them to assemble themselves and move from their comfort zone.

    Talk it out with someone you trust, someone who shares your tastes. You may not like their ideas, but something they say may spark the idea that will work for you.

    Go for a walk. Watch a TV show. Have a nice cup of something soothing. Then throw any old thing at the page. Don't worry if it's any good or not. Don't back up and cut. Don't rewrite. Just throw whatever comes to mind at the page. The idea is to finish, remember? You have a whole different month for that. ;-)

    These times are a colossal pain, there is no denying it. In desperation, I will time my breaks. Twenty minutes to read, and I'm back to the desk, to turn out a page, or two. Another twenty minutes break, then back for that page or two. Sooner or later my characters will get out of the wagon or off the ship, and they'll start doing things again.

    Just keep after it. Think of how proud of yourselves you'll be once you have that novel-length manuscript in your hand! There is nothing like it, nothing like knowing you have finished something of that length.

    Go for it!


    You can learn more about Tamora Pierce's writing here.

    The funny thing is, and please don't shoot me for saying this - I'm not exactly having a hard time writing my novel for NaNoWriMo. Maybe it's because I exercise my writing muscles daily meeting my "Writer's Challenge" of writing 1000 words a day - so writing the 2000 words a day that I need to finish my category romance in a month hasn't been at all crazy. It's a first draft to be sure, but I'm enjoying writing it.

    Today I will bring my word count up to 37,500 (or maybe even 38,000). I'm also meeting two of the women from my writing class at the Barnes and Noble to talk shop.

    Wish me luck, and good luck to you too!
    Yours Truly,
    Shana Brodsky

    Tuesday, November 17, 2009

    Julia Justiss: Advice for Writers

    Hello Fellow Writers!

    Yesterday I upped my word count for my WIP, "Snowed in with a Millionaire", to 33,400 words and counting.

    I've been enjoying reading a Regency from Harlequin Historical by Julia Justiss, so here is her advice for writers, from her website at JuliaJustiss.com. She's written numerous Regency romance novels for Harlequin.
    On Writing and Reading…
    What do you love most about being a writer?
    Creating characters that will entertain and involve readers; setting them in a world that can for a few hours transport people (including me) to another time and place.
    What do you like least about being a writer?
    Worrying that my next book might not be as good as my last or won’t sell well enough for me to keep writing!
    Do you have a favorite locale or setting for your novels? What is it and why is it your favorite?
    All my books thus far have been set in the English Regency. It’s a glamorous era full of contrasts: elegant ladies and gentlemen, rough sailors and highwaymen and smugglers, enormous conflicts both domestic and international, all wonderful backdrops against which to set that most fundamental of stories: the search by one man and one woman for true, everlasting love.
    Which of the books you have written is your favorite?
    That’s like asking a mom which of her children is her favorite! I suppose my favorite characters have been Hal Waterman, from Wedding Gamble and A Most Unconventional Match, and Tony Nelthorpe from Wicked Wager and the on-line read By Honor Bound.
    What is your favorite recent Mills & Boon or Silhouette or MIRA title by another author?
    That’s as difficult as picking a favorite from my own books! Since I love all the authors from the historical line, I’ll just mention two authors I have followed for some years now, who have recent releases: Carla Kelly (Marrying the Captain) and Amanda McCabe (High Seas Stowaway). For MIRA, I loved Deana Raybourne’s two historical mysteries, Silent in the Grave and Silent in the Sanctuary.
    What are your five all-time favorite books (with authors)?
    Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
    One Good Turn by Carla Kelly
    Rogue’s Wager by Loretta Chase
    The Far Pavilions by M.M Kaye
    Flowers from the Storm by Laura Kinsale
    What one specific piece of advice would you give a would-be writer trying to kick-start a career?
    Believe in your gift and be persistent. The path to becoming and staying published is difficult, but if writing is all you really want to do, what makes you feel most fulfilled and happy, then keep at it, regardless of rejections and setbacks.
    Check out her website for the rest of the interview. Today I'll be increasing my word count to 35,500. I'll also be buying a new (used) car tonight, since our car is acting up for the last time. That might affect my ability to make my word goal, but I'll do my darndest to not let it!

    Wish me luck, and good luck to you too!
    Yours Truly,
    Shoshanna Evers

    Monday, November 16, 2009

    Questions to ask your Characters

    Hello Fellow Writers!

    I wrote 3,000 words yesterday, bringing me up to 31,000 words. I'm actually ahead of schedule for completing my 50,000 word category romance novel by November 30th.

    I'm starting to get to know my characters better. I have a feeling that when I finish my novel and go back to the beginning to reread it, I will have a new understanding of whether or not my hero and heroine are behaving in accordance with their character. I can't go back now, though. The only way for me to finish this first draft is to plow ahead. If I go back, I'll start revising, and that's not productive right now.

    See, I love revising. I could revise a novel forever and be a happy camper. That's why I need to lock up my internal editor in order to get a first draft finished.

    From WritingClasses.com, here is a list of questions that you can ask about your character in order to gain a better understanding of what your character is like. Check out the website for a second character questionnaire.

    Character Questionnaire 1
    This questionnaire is found in Gotham Writers’ Workshop’s Writing Fiction.
    You might start with questions that address the basics about a character:
    • What is your character’s name? Does the character have a nickname?
    • What is your character’s hair color? Eye color?
    • What kind of distinguishing facial features does your character have?
    • Does your character have a birthmark? Where is it? What about scars? How did he get them?
    • Who are your character’s friends and family? Who does she surround herself with? Who are the people your character is closest to? Who does he wish he were closest to?
    • Where was your character born? Where has she lived since then? Where does she call home?
    • Where does your character go when he’s angry?
    • What is her biggest fear? Who has she told this to? Who would she never tell this to? Why?
    • Does she have a secret?
    • What makes your character laugh out loud?
    • When has your character been in love? Had a broken heart?
    Then dig deeper by asking more unconventional questions:
    • What is in your character’s refrigerator right now? On her bedroom floor? On her nightstand? In her garbage can?
    • Look at your character’s feet. Describe what you see there. Does he wear dress shoes, gym shoes, or none at all? Is he in socks that are ratty and full of holes? Or is he wearing a pair of blue and gold slippers knitted by his grandmother?
    • When your character thinks of her childhood kitchen, what smell does she associate with it? Sauerkraut? Oatmeal cookies? Paint? Why is that smell so resonant for her?
    • Your character is doing intense spring cleaning. What is easy for her to throw out? What is difficult for her to part with? Why?
    • It’s Saturday at noon. What is your character doing? Give details. If he’s eating breakfast, what exactly does he eat? If she’s stretching out in her backyard to sun, what kind of blanket or towel does she lie on?
    • What is one strong memory that has stuck with your character from childhood? Why is it so powerful and lasting?
    • Your character is getting ready for a night out. Where is she going? What does she wear? Who will she be with?
    Today my goal is to get to 33,000 words. I'm also enjoying reading a Harlequin Historical novel. It's called "From Waif to Gentleman's Wife" by Julia Justiss. Reading a Regency always has me itching to try and write a historical novel, but the few times I've started writing one I found myself caught up in research and neglecting the actual writing. I intend to remedy that at some point, perhaps after NaNoWriMo is over.

    Wish me luck and good luck to you too!
    Yours Truly,
    Shoshanna Evers

    Sunday, November 15, 2009

    Harlequin Historical Undone Guidelines

    Hello Fellow Writers!

    Yesterday I spent five hours drinking coffee and racking up my word count at the Panera in Fishkill NY. It was a blast! I'm having so much fun hanging out with fellow NaNoWriMo participants that I will be very sad to see November end. Usually writing is a very solitary sport. It feels motivating to make it a group venture.

    I wrote two thousand words on Friday and four thousand words yesterday, so now I have a total of 28,000 words. That's 100 manuscript pages. And here's the scary part - I recently ran out of plot! That's right. I spent three weeks writing a 40 page plot outline that took me almost to the end of my story, and now I am forced to throw the darn thing out and write by the seat of my pants.

    It all started when I had planned for a love scene and realized that my hero and heroine weren't ready for that. So the plot is gone. Now the characters are running the show!

    I think after November is over I will take a break from "Snowed in With a Millionaire" and let it percolate a bit. During that time I'll try my hand at a shorter piece, perhaps something for Harlequin Historical Undone....

    Here are the guidelines, from eHarlequin.com:

    Writing Guideline
    Harlequin Historical Undone
    Word Length: 10–15,000 words
    Format: eBooks
    Senior Editor: Linda Fildew
    Editor: Sally Williamson
    Editorial Assistant: Mimi Berchie
    Editorial Office: London, U.K.
    If you've always wanted to write for Harlequin Historical, but were daunted by the length, now is your chance to submit something shorter!
    The response to Harlequin Historical's more sensual story lines have been so positive that we are creating a new eBook sexy short story program—Historical Undone.
    In Historical Undone we are looking for a high level of sensuality that flows naturally out of the plotline. There should be a strong emotional basis to the heightened attraction—it's vital the reader can believe in the intense emotion driving the characters as their relationship develops. These stories should be hot, sexy and subtly explicit without the lovemaking being vulgar or gratuitous.
    Whether you choose a dark and devilishly sexy Regency rake caught in a compromising situation with a headstrong miss, or a courageous Saxon lady held captive by a powerful Norman warrior, your characters should be fully fleshed out and should be the main focus of the story.
    The history should be well researched in order to give an authentic sense of period without taking over from the romance. We are happy to consider stories set in ancient civilizations up to and including the First and Second World Wars. What remains ever popular are the Regency tales, which could see your characters scandalizing high society or being drawn into a salacious underworld inhabited by pickpockets and courtesans!
    We are also open to slightly different elements from those normally found in Harlequin Historical books. Please feel that you can explore aspects of the paranormal and time travel.
    You do not need to be agented to send material to us. We are actively looking for talented new authors and wish you every success with your submissions.
    Only complete manuscripts submitted electronically will be considered—no partials or queries, please. Submissions should be sent as a Word-compatible attachment. Submissions should also follow standard formatting guidelines and should be double-spaced and typed in a clear, legible font on numbered pages. Author name and title should appear as a header or footer on each page.
    Historical Undone e-mail address: undone@harlequin.ca
    Today I plan on bringing my word count up to 30,000 words. I'll be attending another write-in at Panera today as well. In fact, I'm running late so off I go!
    Wish me luck, and good luck to you too!
    Yours Truly,
    Shoshanna Evers

    Friday, November 13, 2009

    Working Through the Middle

    Hello Fellow Writers!

    Yesterday I got my word count up to 22,000 words. I was feeling pretty good about it until I went onto the NaNoWriMo forums and realized that some people had already crossed the 50,000 word mark. In the past 12 days. WTF? I wish I could harness their natural verbosity. I find that I am more likely to leave things out than to put them in.

    Today I found a pep talk from author Maureen Johnson in my inbox regarding writing The Middle of your novel. Maureen Johnston is the author of "Suite Scarlet" and "Let it Snow" among others.

    Dear writer,
    I have a very good friend who is Australian. I've never been to Australia, so she is constantly selling me on the merits of her homeland and setting me straight on things. For example, I have always wanted hold a koala. She informs me that koalas smell and spread disease. What I want instead, she informs me, are flying foxes, sugar bananas, rainbow lorikeets, mangosteens, and Sydney sunrises.

    One thing that always impresses me in her descriptions is just how large Australia is—and how empty in the middle. Australia is comparable in size to the continental United States, but almost everyone lives on the coast. So it would be like having Los Angles, and then New York, with almost nothing in between. Nothing except for monsters, that is. Because almost everything that lives out there in the middle of nowhere can kill you. 97% of the snakes in Australia are poisonous. The spiders are the size of washing machines, but it's the tiny ones you have to watch for. It's all teeth and venom out there. So just put a huge "here be dragons" in the middle of your mental map and you'll have a pretty good picture of Australia. The cities are said to be wonderful—paradises of culture and wine and song. It's just that middle 2,000 miles that you have to watch out for.

    Perhaps this rings a bell right about now, smack in the middle of NaNoWriMo?

    Those first few days with your idea... oh, how wonderful they are! How sweetly it goes! And you wander on, past the city limits, into the bush. The signposts disappear, and the creatures come out. You have wandered into The Middle. Thing is, writers spend something like 97% of their time in The Middle. Once you leave those first pages, those first days... you wander into strange land and you stay there for a long, long time.

    It took me a little while, probably a few years of full-time writing, to fully accept that that middle bit was where I was going to be spending pretty much all of my time. This is the thing they don't tell you. When you see portrayals of writers on television or in movies, what are they normally doing? They're sipping coffee or cocktails, or jetting around to signings, or solving murders for fun. Lies! I mean, these things do happen*, but those are the coastal bits.

    Most of the time we are deep inland—sitting at home, or at the office, or some shed or underground bunker. We eat what we find and slurp coffee from anything that is sturdier than coffee. Often, we are inappropriately dressed for any human interaction. This is because we are in the middle. And in the middle, things are rough. You make bargains with yourself like, "If I finish this chapter, I can have a shower!" Or, "If I just get this paragraph right, I can eat those stale Oreos!"

    Now, I realize in saying this that perhaps I am not selling you on the writing experience. I'm supposed to be cheering you on! You already know that the middle is a hard place to be. Perhaps right about now you are asking yourself, "What, precisely, is wrong with me? Why did I decide that the best way to spend the month of November would be indoors, strapped to a chair, writing thousands of words a day, alone, friendless, and insane? Why didn't I just agree to come to my desk every day, bang my head on it for a solid ten minutes, and be done with it? That would have been so much faster."**

    Here’s the thing, though...if you're doing NaNoWriMo, you are a reader, because all writers are readers. Which means that you must admire many authors. Your shelves are lined with the works of your heroes and sheroes. Every single one of them has crossed the wild country where you are now. Every single one of them has been a resident of The Middle. The ground you're treading is full of the remains of their old campsites. And somewhere around you, just out of sight, current authors you admire are making their own way across The Middle. What's nice about NaNoWriMo is that you are traveling with a posse of thousands, all of you making your way over the mountains, through the valleys, across the creeks. You are fighting off the beasties.

    And once you've crossed The Middle once or twice and you're lounging on the other side, you'll find you miss it. You'll realize you long to be out there again, under the sky and the stars. The weather changes a lot in the middle. Some days, the skies are dark and it's hard to find your way forward. Those days are long and little progress is made. Some days, it's strangely bright and clear, and suddenly you can see the horizon ahead, and dozens of possible paths present themselves to you. But every day is different, and every day there is a new way to go and a new thing to see.

    You will be hooked.

    And you will still want to hold a koala, even if you have been told sixteen times that they carry chlamydia.

    -Maureen Johnson

    * Well, usually not the solving murders part, though I would like to have a crack at that. If you have had any quirky unsolved murders in your town, preferably ones that involve Egyptian artifacts or unusual poisons, please get in touch with me at once.

    ** Unless you are one of those people who just sail along, cranking out 2,000, 2,500, maybe even 3,000 words every day without even breaking a sweat! If so... congratulations! But don't tell the others. They won't be happy with you. I fear bad things might start turning up on your doorstep.
    You can learn more about Maureen Johnson's work here.

    Today I will be working through my own Middle of the novel. Last night I detoured from my plot outline that I have been faithfully following, because my characters made me! I need to get up to 24,000 words today.

    Wish me luck, and good luck to you too!
    Yours Truly,
    Shoshanna Evers

    Thursday, November 12, 2009

    Sandra Brown - How She Does It

    Hello Fellow Writers!

    Yesterday I increased my word count 20,282. I've written 72 manuscript pages since November 1st, all thanks to several new behaviors that I have implemented.
    1. I don't go back and re-read what I previously wrote
    2. I keep writing even if I'm not sure what's supposed to happen next
    3. I don't revise as I write
    4. I write 2000 words a day even if I don't feel like it when I first sit down.

    I just finished reading "Envy" by the New York Times bestselling author Sandra Brown. This woman has written so many novels under both her own name and pen names, that I'm amazed I never read her before. I will definitely be buying her books in the future! I laid in bed before going to sleep with her book, planning on reading for a few minutes, and ended up finishing the whole novel. I just bought the darn thing two days ago!

    Here are Sandra Brown's tips for writers, from her website.

    1. Where do you get your ideas?
      For each book there's a background story of how the idea first occurred to me and how I developed it into a plot. There isn't a pattern. Sometimes the story begins with a character, sometimes with an issue or subject that interests me. At other times, I simply see a scene or hear dialogue in my head and the story begins with that.

    2. Do you accept story ideas from other people?
      Never. Each story must be my very own.

    3. Do you read and critique unpublished manuscripts?
      For legal reasons, and on the advice of my agent, no.

    4. Are your characters based either on people you know or celebrities?
      No. I like creating characters that are unique unto themselves. I know some lovely and interesting people, but I doubt you'd want to read 600 pages about them. They're not that interesting! As for celebrities, I never "cast" my book as though it's a movie. It's even difficult for me to cast the book after it's written. The characters become so real to me, I can't imagine them looking any differently than how I see them.

    5. Are your stories/characters based on your own experiences?
      Are you kidding? If I had lived everything that I've put into the 60 plus books, when would I have written the books? It's all make-believe.

    6. How did you get started?
      When I got fired from my television job. Suddenly I had time on my hands and, on a dare from my husband, began doing what I'd been saying for years that I wanted to do - write. It was scary then and it's no less scary today. Unfortunately there is no magic formula or shortcut - none I know of anyway - for putting words on paper that hopefully someone will find compelling enough to read.

    7. How do I get an agent?
      Check your local library for resource books that list representatives, what kind of material they handle, and other pertinent information. The Internet is another valuable resource. Be prepared for this to take a lot of time and effort. For more information on getting started go here.

    8. How do I go about selling the manuscript I've written?
      You either submit it to the publisher directly, or you retain an agent, which is what I recommend. In either case, before you send the manuscript, begin with a query letter asking if they would consider reviewing your work. Most publishers don't take unagented submissions. For more information on getting started go here.

    9. What advice would you give an aspiring writer?

      Practice, practice, practice! Write, write, write and read, read, read!

    Today I am going to continue working on "Snowed in With a Millionaire". I'd like to up my word count to 22,000. Also, I need to hit the bookstore and buy the new Silhouette Desire books that are out for November! I may also get some books from the other lines, such as Harlequin Historical. We'll see. I can easily spend hours in Barnes and Noble, it's like my own personal playground!

    Wish me luck, and good luck to you too!
    Yours Truly,
    Shoshanna Evers

    Wednesday, November 11, 2009

    Paranormal Romance author Linda Wisdom

    Hello Fellow Writers!

    Yesterday I brought my word count up to 18,000 words. The story is moving along smoothly. I'm finding that I really like just plowing forward. Normally I spend lots of time re-reading what I had already written, but this way works much better for me! It's funny, when I read in Stephen King's book "On Writing" that he just pushes forward without re-reading and revising until he finishes the whole book, I thought "that would never work for me!" But lo and behold, it does. I highly recommend it.

    I just finished reading "50 Ways to Hex Your Lover" by Linda Wisdom. It was really fun and had lots of good love scenes too! I found myself wishing I could just wave a wand and have my house be perfectly cleaned. Alas, I do not have any witchy powers like her heroine does!

    Here is an excerpt from an interview with Linda Wisdom about how she writes. Check out the whole interview here at fallenangelreviews.com.
    Can I ask where you come up with the characters’ names in your books?
    I sometimes think they name themselves. When they pop into my head they have their name and background ready. I also do research to come up with what would be their original name and it’s always very different from what they presently use.

    When is your favorite time to compose?
    Afternoons. Mornings I catch up with email, etc. and after lunch I can settle in more. And I’m also creative during the evening.
    Growing up, did you ever keep a journal and write notes about the stories you would love to write?
    Always! Just ask my friends who loved to read whatever stories I came up with. Funny thing is, I’ve heard from friends in high school that I haven’t talked to in years and they remember my writing from back then.
    What’s on the agenda for Linda in the upcoming months?
    I have two more witch books to write. Thea, the diva romance novelist, you met in Hex Appeal and Maggie, who’s a bounty hunter witch you’ll briefly meet in Hex in High Heels.
    Do you 'lose' your track of thought, story thread or whatever emotional pitch you happen to be at when you do leave your story for a bit? If so, what do you do to get that leave of emotion back?
    Oh yes, that’s happened more than once. When it does, I go to the beginning of the book and read and by the time I get to the empty space I’m ready to go again.

    In what order do you write? For example starting beginning to end, combining parts, in random order or in development cycle?
    While I pretty much write beginning to end, I know what will happen more in the end than in the middle. If I hit a writer’s wall, I will skip a scene and move on then go back to that scene.
    Do you listen to music or watch TV when you write or do you need it to be completely quiet?
    Quiet drives me nuts. The TV is always on with favorite DVDs or a program.
    When you're really tired, do you keep pushing on with story or give it a rest?
    I give it a rest. I don’t think anyone is their best when they’re tired and always best to be as fresh as possible.

    Today I plan on bringing my word count up to 20,000 words for "Snowed in With a Millionaire." I've been making good use of the plot outline that I created last month to help me through NaNoWriMo, but I'm wondering if I could become a "pantser" aka writing by the seat of your pants. I wonder if it would save me time in the long run, or if I would just end up with huge plot holes. Only one way to find out, I suppose.

    While I've started many novels that I never finished because I didn't know what came next, I imagine if I refused to let myself give up I might just end up with a whole book written sans outline. We'll see. Maybe next month while I'm letting "Snowed in with a Millionaire" age.

    I'm supposed to meet the other women in my writing group today but we may cancel because Maureen is sick. We'll see. I'm not showing anyone my current WIP because it's still too fresh.

    Wish me luck, and good luck to you too!
    Yours Truly,
    Shoshanna Evers

    Tuesday, November 10, 2009

    Pep Talk from Founder of NaNoWriMo

    Hello Fellow Writers!

    I love those comics. Yesterday I got my word count up to 16,000. I'm discovering that the stuff I write when I'm feeling inspired is impossible to differentiate from the stuff I write when I'm feeling as if my muse went on vacation. This means that there should be no excuses such as "I'm not in the mood to write." Doesn't matter! Stephen King writes 2000 words a day, every day.

    And I've noticed that once I get into my groove, even if I had to force myself to get started, I start getting into it. You know, that place where the world around you disappears and your story becomes reality. So much fun!

    I'd like to share the NaNoWriMo pep talk from Chris Baty, the founder of NaNoWriMo and the author of "No Plot, No Problem!"

    Dear Author,
    Hey there! It's Chris Baty again, and hoo, boy, have I been watching some television. Do you know this show Battlestar Galactica? I've just started in on the first season, and I am shocked by how much stuff the show's writers borrowed from NaNoWriMo.

    For instance, Battlestar Galactica centers on a group of humans stranded in space after their worlds have been destroyed by their enemies. NaNoWriMo takes place in the space of November. In Battlestar Galactica, people are hunted by shape-shifting robots who sometimes wear red dresses. In NaNoWriMo, participants sometimes hunt for the, uh, red address bar, where…um.

    Shoot. Okay, so the similarities break down a little bit at the granular level. But there is one irrefutable nod to NaNoWriMo in the show that many veteran NaNo participants likely noticed right away. The crew on BG use mysterious technology to "jump" from one galaxy to the next, folding time and space to cross vast distances in the blink of an eye.

    This was obviously inspired by NaNoWriMo's two famous wormholes, which fling writers forward (in a good way) when they hit 25,000 and 35,000 words. At these magical tipping points, normal rules of NaNoWriMo physics no longer apply. Forward writerly motion becomes easier, fitful stories take off, and word-counts begin accelerating towards warp speeds.
    Our mission this week is to heave ourselves up to the precipice of the 25,000-word wormhole. From where I am now, that feels woefully far away. In reading through the forums, I see I'm not alone. Our non-noveling lives have turned hectic, we're facing tough decisions about what to do with our characters, and we're grumpy from lack of sleep. I am also—for the third year running—facing the very real possibility that my protagonists might literally bore me to death.
    To help get us through Week Two and on to the exciting worlds beyond, I have a few tips I'd like to share.
    1) Write every day. Even if you just knock out 75 words before collapsing into bed, those 75 words will keep you connected you to your story in essential ways, and make diving back into your book much easier.

    2) For now, stop thinking about 50K. Just sprint thousands. Visualize each writing session as a tall staircase made up of 1000 steps. You are part ninja, part monkey, and part stairmaster cyborg. You were born to fly up those steps. Bash out 250 words, and you've made it halfway to 500. Keep going for another ten minutes, and you're past 500 and within striking distance of 750. Once you hit 750, you could sneeze out enough words to get to the top! After each thousand, be sure to take a quick break and celebrate. Then fire up that monkey spirit and go run another thousand.

    3) Remember that your book is important. I didn't say this in the Week One pep talk because we'd only just met and there's really only so much cornball sentiment from a random guy on the internet that anyone should have to tolerate in one month. But here's the truth: You have a book in you that only you can write. Your story matters. Your voice matters. The world will be richer for you seeing this crazy creative escapade through to 50,000 words.

    This may be hard to believe given the craptastic state that many of our manuscripts are in. But there are great, unexpected things ahead for you in Weeks Three and Four. And there is someone out there who has been waiting their whole life to read the book you're writing now.

    So don't slow down. Don't give up. We'll be at the first tipping point soon!


    Today I'd like to get my word count for "Snowed in With a Millionaire" up to a minimum of 18,000 words, but it would be great if I could go past that to 19,000 or even 20,000.
    Wish me luck, and good luck to you too!
    Yours Truly,
    Shoshanna Evers

    Monday, November 9, 2009

    Ray Bradbury on Writing Persistently

    Hello Fellow Writers!

    Yesterday I went to a write-in for NaNoWriMo, which was a lot of fun. I also got my word count up to 14,096 words.

    I'm finding that writing so copiously everyday has been really helpful to me. It's keeping me from having the crippling writer's block that usually overtakes me about 50 pages into a book.

    Ray Bradbury, the famous author who has written more than 500 short stories and novels, always wrote a lot and wrote often. He kept submitting his work even when it got rejected. In this video he says how he was writing so much and submitting so much that he barely even noticed the rejection letters. If a magazine rejected a story, it didn't matter because he was already working on another one.

    Today I will be bringing my word count up to 16,000 for "Snowed in With a Millionaire". Wish me luck, and good luck to you too!

    Yours Truly,
    Shoshanna Evers

    Sunday, November 8, 2009

    "Ella Enchanted" Author Tips for Writing

    Hello Fellow Writers!

    This weekend my sister-in-law came to visit, which was very fun, although not very conducive to novel writing. I upped my word count to 10,084 on Thursday, and then 12,022 on Friday. My plan for yesterday was to get up to 14,000, but I ended up only writing 700 words and going to bed, since it took me an hour to write those 700 words (way to slow!) and I was seriously exhausted. Then I lay in bed, wide awake, for another hour and a half. Grrr.

    Today I am going to a write-in with some other NaNoWriMo participants. Last time I went it was great fun but most people didn't even actually write! I need to get some serious writing done when I'm there, so I'm bringing earplugs. I'd probably get a lot more written if I just stayed home, but the whole point of NaNoWriMo is to have fun (and um, write a novel) so that's why I'm going.

    This is the start of the second week of NaNoWriMo, so I got another pep talk in my inbox, this time from author Gail Carson Levine. Her first book for children, Ella Enchanted, was a 1998 Newbery Honor book.

    Dear NaNoWriMo-ers,

    I'm not even the tortoise of writing. I'm the slug. And you are more than hares, you're cheetahs — writing at seventy miles an hour. I have to fictionalize even to talk to you.
    So it's October 31st. I’m back from trick or treating in a robot costume, worn to honor Isaac Asimov, who wrote or edited more than 500 books in his lifetime. After removing my tin head mask and my metallic gloves, I pig out on candy corn and think about today's accomplishments.
    I dug a shallow grave in the backyard and buried my print thesaurus (starting tomorrow, the first word I think of is good enough, even if I use it seven times on every page), dictionary (who cares how ophthalmologist is spelled anyway?), usage books (I can figure out the difference between lie and lay later), encyclopedia, atlas, and my beloved books about writing. I taped blackout curtains over my windows. My techy friend spent hours tinkering with my computer. She's assured me that it will combust if I try to reestablish connections to the internet and email. The single thing I'm keeping is my cell phone in case I start to go into cardiac arrest, but the keys are smeared with battery acid, except the 9, the 1, and send. My family and friends and Meals-on-Wheels have sworn to deliver food to my door, which will be kept closed to protect the world from my intensifying body odor.
    Now I tape my list of rules and advice (culled from friends, my mom, the buried writing books, and, mostly, my own hyped-up imagination) to the wall next to my desk.
    Now I tape my list of rules and advice (culled from friends, my mom, the buried writing books, and, mostly, my own hyped-up imagination) to the wall next to my desk.
    -Sleep at least once a week.
    -Eat at least once a day, but not constantly. Don't forget the essential fatty acids (Mom).
    -If my fingers freeze from carpal tunnel syndrome, I have ten perfectly good toes, a nose, and quite a few teeth.
    -When I'm not happy with how things are going, turn off the screen and keep typing. Don't turn it back on until the crisis is over.
    -Don't check my word count more often than every fifteen minutes.
    -Dream sequences can eat up a lot of pages, and they shouldn't be logical.
    -Short words count just as much as long ones.
    -The perfect is the enemy of the fast. The good is the enemy of the fast. The halfway decent is the enemy of the fast.
    -When I run out of plot ideas, write about setting and what each character is wearing, in exquisite wordy detail. When I run out of setting and apparel, write about the voice quality of each speaker, speech mannerisms, facial ticks, body language.
    -Keep my music loud enough to drown out my thoughts. Thinking is the enemy of speed.
    -Remember the infinite-monkey theory: Endless keystrokes will eventually produce Shakespeare or at least words and maybe a story.
    -Never edit.

    -Never ever go back.
    It's time for bed. I must get a good night's sleep, my last for a month. So of course I toss and turn until 3:00 am, when I realize the month has begun. I get up, stagger to the computer, and type, "It was a dark and stormy night." I’m on my way!
    Now, seriously, not fictionalized, with all the earnestness I can command, here is the only important piece of advice, which is crucial for any speed of writing, any kind of writing: Do not beat up on yourself. Do not criticize your writing as lousy, inadequate, stupid, or any of the evil epithets that you are used to heaping on yourself. Such self-bashing is never useful. If you indulge in it, your writing doesn’t stand a chance. So when your mind turns on you, turn it back, stamp it down, shut it up, and keep writing.
    Good luck!
    Gail Carson Levine
    Gail Carson Levine's first book for children, Ella Enchanted, was a 1998 Newbery Honor book. You can learn more about her writing at http://gailcarsonlevine.blogspot.com/
    Today I am going to my parent's house to celebrate my father's birthday, but I will catch up on my word count if it kills me! I am at 12,700 now I need to get to 16,000.

    Wish me luck, and good luck to you too!
    Yours Truly,
    Shoshanna Evers