Archive for April, 2009

Beyond Happy!

“I loved your manuscript and want to offer representation.”

That single sentence has pretty much elated me and filled me with hope for my future as a writer.  It also made me happily blather on to my new agent like an airhead, so I hope she’ll be able to get past that.

At the end of March I finished reworking my query letter for THE THIRD FREAK, trying hard to streamline it and get it just right.  (It’s taken me a while to figure out how to make it stand out in the slush piles that fill up an agent’s email.)  I then sent out six queries to prospective agents and right away heard back from Jessica Regel at the Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency.  She asked for the first three chapters via email, and then a week later requested an exclusive read of the printed manuscript for one month.  It didn’t take her that long, though, and I heard back in about ten days from the time I’d mailed it off.

During our phone conversation Jessica said that though my manuscript is really tight, she has a couple of suggested changes.  After she explained her thoughts, I said I didn’t have a problem and would work it out.  Once this was all settled, she told me she would send me the agent/author agreement.  At the end of our conversation I again made it pretty clear I was delighted; no pretense of aloofness from me, that’s for sure.

It definitely took a lot of work to get my manuscript refined to this point, and then to figure out how to write that query letter, but it was worth it.  I also realize this is a lot like a writer’s version of American Idol, and I may have gotten the golden ticket to Hollywood but that doesn’t guarantee success or a publishing contract.  Still, I am beyond happy and can’t wait to see what comes next!


About Pacing

  • What is it?

There are a lot of definitions about PACING in writing.  Simply put, it is the ebb and flow of your storytelling.  Think of your book as a river.  Along its journey there will be wide, smooth spots that might be deceptive in their depth.  And, of course, there will be rapids, unexpected bends and boulders, high banks that block your view, and scary waterfalls tumbling from cliffs.  That’s all pacing.

You’ll recognize it in a good novel by those moments at the end of a chapter that force you to start reading the new chapter, even if it’s 11:30 at night and you can hardly keep your eyes open.  You’ll also get tired of too many cliffhangers if a calculated plot does that at the end of every chapter, because a river needs to have a few wide, calm spots to counter the thrills of going over a whitewater plunge.

  • How do you learn to do it well?

READ. It’s the only way I can think of to learn pacing, because it’s from years of reading other skilled authors that you get your own instinct.  It’s not something you can simply jot down in an outline and hope it will work.  Think of it as if you are in a kayak, paddling for your life, and you sense the swell of water rising ahead.  You know the river is changing.  In the same way, you will simply know how to handle the pacing in your writing.  At first your main character is merely going along, surviving the experiences of her rising action, when BAM, something dramatic happens.  It’s just there, making your heart hammer and your instinct will tell you: End the chapter NOW! Or: Slow the pace, take a breath, save your strength for the big drop-off just ahead. Or: This MUST happen right here, right now, even if you didn’t plan it and it was never on the horizon of your plot.

Not only that, but by the end of the ride you won’t be the one steering the kayak.  Your protagonist will, and that’s when it truly becomes the ride of a lifetime.


Spearing Shakespeare

Apologies…

My excuses for not blogging these past months:

  • The Holidays
  • Stuff going on at work
  • Church youth group activities
  • Family events galore
  • Agent hunting
  • My computer addiction
  • Shakespeare

About this last:  Once-upon-a-time I used to like Shakespeare.  After all, you can’t be literate and admit different, right?  And I loved watching “Romeo and Juliet” or “Taming of the Shrew”Watching is the key word, though.  For the last three years I’ve had the honor/stress/trauma of interpreting the annual Bard’s play for our high school’s single deaf student, which is brought to us by the Idaho Shakespeare Festival.  What this means is that I spend days/weeks/months prepping for an hour performance.  Two years ago it was “Much Ado About Nothing” acted out in western style, which was the hardest of the three.  Last year it was “Hamlet” in the style of upscale New York elite.  This year it’s an 80′s theme in an artist’s loft for “Midsummer Night’s Dream”.

In mid-February I received a copy of the modified play, thankfully pared down from the original 2 to 3 hour performance to 60+ minutes.  For the next few weeks I made massive script notations of sign language choices.  (Thanks much No Fear Shakespeare at: http://nfs.sparknotes.com)  Still, it wasn’t easy.  What those literary types love most about good old William, I find daunting when faced with interpreting.  Example:

OBERON: “Be thou here again ere the leviathan can swim a league.”

PUCK: “I’ll put a girdle round about the earth in forty minutes.”

(Real meaning: “Move your butt and get back here ASAP” and Puck’s reply: “I’ll zoom around the whole earth in 40 minutes”.  Why couldn’t W.S. just say that?  Of course, then he wouldn’t be Shakespeare, would he?)

Once the grueling notations are done, along with Internet research to make sure I know the plot inside and out, then the next phase starts.  I watch the movie once or twice.  I visit the dress rehearsal of ISF’s version of the play.  It’s here that I meet the actors, check out their setting, costumes and style, and just see what it will be like.  This year’s version of MSND is manic!  It’s hilarious but crazy.  Another person in the audience who had learned why I was there leaned over and said to me: “That’s going to be really hard to interpret, isn’t it?”  Uh-huh.

Now, with the remaining 3 weeks ahead of me, I am spending all my down-time during, before, and after school, going over the script and practicing the signs.  I began doing this April 1st, right after Spring Break, and the time is slipping away.

A few days before the play, I’ll go over the plot and characters in detail with the deaf student I interpret for so he knows what it’s all about.  I’ve even drawn up a funny schematic to explain characters and actor changes, since all actors play two or three characters and show this through costume changes.  Performance day this month is Tuesday the 28th at noon.  Today it’s only the 7th and I’m already sick of going over the play.  Still, far worse would be getting up there to interpret and being unprepared.  The time and energy is worth it in the long run, and the past two years have been a moment of unequaled accomplishment in my interpreting history, so I shouldn’t complain.  Of course there was that embarrassing but hilarious moment the first year when the actors doing “Much Ado” started dancing.  The guy playing Benedick grabbed me and we did the country swing.  I still have that on DVD.

Anyway, it’s time to try and shake my obsession with Shakespeare and get back to blogging about my first love: writing.  Maybe he would understand that, and maybe he’s not so bad after all.  At least I’ve learned one thing from him: when one of my characters needs to give an order about getting a task done fast, I’m going to toss the wordy stuff and just write: “Move your butt.”