Revisions, Synopses, & Contests, Oh My!

The past couple weeks have been absolutely crazy around here. For the record, I have nine (count ’em, NINE) days of school left before summer vacation. Between last minute grading, CNYRW meetings, Book In A Week challenges, and two training workshops geared toward the new CCSS math modules put out by New York State, I feel like I haven’t had time to breathe.

Fortunately, the hubs and I officially booked our summer road trip lodging last night, and I’m looking forward to getting out of Dodge again for some quality time.

I’ve been focusing a lot on revisions to the HFMO Part 1 the past few weeks. My May BIAW goal was to revise and edit about 36 scenes for POV consistency, and look at some “scene and sequel” things. It went exceedingly well.  I only had a few scenes that needed a total overhaul, most just needed a bit of tweaking. Of course, I then decided it was time for a serious sit-down from page 1 to page however-many-pages-the-sucker-is-long to do line editing. Somehow, I managed to cut about 2000 words in the process (and I still have 4 chapters to go!)

Then I thought I should really take a careful look at my query and synopsis, and I did a bit of tweaking there. I think I’m getting better with the synopsis, and I’m close with my query blurb. I suppose someday I’ll be confident in that particular skill. Because it’s hard and I hate it with the fire of a thousand suns.

And then I hemmed and hawed for about a week over entering the HFMO Part 1 in the Unpublished Maggie Awards, held by the Georgia Romance Writers. This year, they added a “novel with romantic elements” category, which nicely fits the HFMO because it’s not a “true” romance, even though it has a couple love stories. I contemplated, I worried over the synopsis, I nit-picked my first few chapters to make sure they were as clean as possible. And then I took the plunge. Away my entry went this afternoon!

Now I just have to wait until August 15th to find out the results.

Well dang it.

So that contest I posted about on Monday?

Yeah, not selected.

Bummer.  *runs to cry in the corner for a while*

Okay, I’m done feeling sorry for myself.  Because, frankly, out of 350+ entries, most of which were YA entries, the odds of my little historical fiction story getting picked was pretty slim.  Plus, as I said previously, the first 500 words of a HF story can be tricky because, well, lots of times you might not start with a bang.

So what’s next?  Well, I’m going to keep tweaking my query, editing my manuscript, and continue compiling a spreadsheet (because I’m weird like that) of potential agents and small publishers.  My goal is to have sent out queries by the end of August to everyone on my list.  There is also a novel contest run by the Historical Novel Society, ending September 30th, which I will probably enter.

I’m also continuing work on my little chick lit JulNoWriMo project, and I’ve bookmarked a few literary magazines for potential short story submissions.

As… soon as I write some short stories to submit.

In the meantime, it’s projected to hit 90+ degrees Fahrenheit here today (woohoo!), and I have plans to park myself poolside for a while this afternoon.

I just took a leap of faith

See, there’s this contest going on today, co-hosted by YA author Ruth Lauren Steven, in which thirty exceedingly lucky people will get their queries and the first 500 words of their manuscripts placed before ten different literary agents.

I hemmed and hawed about entering this. Query writing, let me just say, may be harder than writing the actual book for which you are writing said query.  How do you turn 100+k words into a two-paragraph pitch?  And 500 words isn’t a lot.  It worked out to be about two pages, 12 point New Times Roman font, double spaced.  For certain genres, that’s plenty of room for a punchy opening.  Historical fiction (whether general HF or historical romance, which I’ve decided my MS technically falls into) usually needs a little more page space to ramp up.

I’ve rewritten my opening, oh, seven times now.  I think it’s way better than it was, but it definitely has a long way to go.  At least I think so. Somebody else might think otherwise. Still, had I been given the leeway of the first 800 words, for example, it would have been better.

Long short story short, I entered this contest. Mere minutes ago, I plopped my awful query and only slightly less awful opening 500 words into an email and fired it off.  And now I can only sit back, work on other projects, and try to avoid heart palpitations as I wait.

July National Novel Writing Month

Happy July!  I am currently thrilled for the following reasons:

  1. I am officially done with everything school related until August 16th (other than going in to check my mail and water my plants). 
  2. A friend of mine from high school has asked me to make pies and Italian cookies for her wedding in August, which is going to keep me rather busy (but I have a plan!).
  3. Last night I finished revising and editing the first half of my manuscript, thus completing a draft of what must be the first book (of two).  More on that another time.
  4. At the end of the month, the hubs and I will be heading to Gettysburg to do some serious feeding of my inner history geek.
  5. Did I mention I’m on summer vacation?
Well, turns out I have another reason to be excited, especially now that I’ve finished that huge chunk of R&E and can take a smallish break from my “darling”.
You’ve all heard of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), right?  You should have – I posted about it in November.  You know, it’s the month when you go crazy and try to hammer out a 50k novel in 30 days?  Yeah, that’s NaNoWriMo.
Well, did you know there’s a July version of it?  JulNoWriMo!
Yes, July Novel Writing Month is upon us.  The “contest” identifies itself as being “just like NaNoWriMo – only hotter.”  Because it’s July.  And in the northern hemisphere at least, that’s summer.  Which is usually hotter than November.
Unless you live in the tropics.
There are a few small differences.  First of all, you get 31 days to write instead of only 30.  Hey, that one day could make or break someone’s word count!  Second, the website is little more than its forums.  There are some resource pages, but overall, it’s a community website, and other than the spot in your profile to update your word count (and you’re on the honor system, by the way) and story summary, there isn’t a place to “share” anything about your book (at least not that I’ve seen yet).  For NaNo, you can give a lot more info about your book, including an excerpt, and the whole website is, well, more than its forums.
The biggest difference is that NaNoWriMo (the November WriMo) specifically states in its “rules” that you cannot write one word of narrative before November 1st.  You can outline, you can plot, you can draw pictures of your characters screaming in terror at the prospect of literary mayhem without your inner editor to hold the reins.  But for the July WriMo, the rules are a little relaxed on that score.  I quote from the “About” page:
Does [my novel] have to be a new novel, or can I continue my other novel? – As far as we’re concerned, this shouldn’t matter. If you want to finish a novel you’re already working on, great! Just write 50,000 more words.”
Now I personally think it would still be cheating if you pulled out a novel-in-progress that’s already at the 45k word mark and declare after a week, “I’m done!”  That defeats the purpose.  But if you have, say, only 2k words written, I guess you could theoretically start with that and not be breaking the rules.  Especially if you do some revising of that first two thousand words.
As with NaNo, JulNoWriMo has no prizes for completing your novel, other than the self-satisfaction of, well completing your novel.  But here’s why I’m particularly excited about this.
See, I’ve had this story idea brewing since, oh, 2005, and other than a hastily scribbled chapter in a notebook, done on vacation that summer, I’ve never done anything with it.  A couple weeks ago, I resurrected the chapter and played around a bit.  Since this little work in progress is still nascent, I could be persuaded that I am breaking no rules by using this story.
Here’s my plan, people.
I’m going to use JulNoWriMo to hammer out this new little darling.  Thanks to my handy-dandy writing software, which allows me to project a desired word count and then figures daily averages and whatnot, I need to write approximately 1500 words a day to finish by July 31st.  Then – watch out, novel contests and agents and small publishers!  I might just send that baby your way!
Can I do it?  No idea.  But it will give me a break from my “big baby” for a while.

Three Minute Fiction – Not My Cup of Tea

My husband and I were driving to Syracuse yesterday and, since he can’t stand the over-used techno-pop beat of most mainstream radio stations, he switched over to NPR.

It happened that they were discussing All Things Considered‘s current round of Three Minute Fiction, a bit of a contest for authors of all ages, backgrounds, and publishing credits (or lack thereof), to come up with a short story, 600 words or less, on a given theme or with specific plot parameters. For example, Round 7, which ends at 11:59pm on September 25th, requires the author to have one character leaving and another character arriving.

That’s basically it.

So….  I’m not good at short fiction, particularly this type of short fiction, which is often referred to as micro fiction. The idea behind the “three minute” thing is that you can read it aloud in three minutes or less.  Either way, I’m less than awesome at short fiction.

This isn’t necessarily due to a lack of effort or interest. My problem is that I’m verbose.  Really, really verbose.  I got a 730 on my SAT verbal for a reason.  I’d get so caught up in a description that I’d blow the word limit out of the water in no time flat.

The other big problem I run into is my love of character development.  I’m used to writing longer fiction, such as my novel, which requires a rather detailed and in depth run of character development.  With fiction limited to 600 words, you have to plunk characters down without any introduction or development of any sort.  Somehow they have to grow, change, capture and entice a reader in what amounts to a page and a half of double-spaced 12 point font.  It’s definitely a challenge to come up with a character so intriguing that he or she sucks the reader in from the first sentence.  Don’t you have to give something up in that process?  You have to work physical description in snippets of conversation and action.  Same with motivation.  Somehow all that goes into character development has to be woven into this tiny smattering of fiction.

It’s not my cup of tea, frankly.  There’s something inherently beautiful to me about weaving something of a saga around my characters, their trials, tribulations, and triumphs.  Maybe I’m short-changing myself, denying myself an opportunity to grow as a writer.  And I’m certainly the sort to dabble in other forms of fiction in order to stretch and strengthen my writing muscles.  But I doubt I’ve ever produced anything in the short fiction genre, particularly the micro fiction sub-genre, that warrants allowing anyone with a brain and a sense of self-preservation to read it.

Still, for those of you out there who love writing short fiction, the Three Minute Fiction contest is on.