Agent Monday: Building Great Expectations

As queries with initial chapters spill into my agent inbox, I look closely for something to grab me and take hold of my imagination, and it needs to happen in those first few pages or chances are good I’m not going to ask to see more. As an agent I’m looking for true story telling technique. It’s all about building great expectations.

Great Expectations. Talk of Charles Dickens is swirling in the air, with the celebration of his 200th birthday… I can almost imagine Dickens writing of such a thing.  Of a man celebrating his 200th, like a Miss Havisham lost in cobwebs, but with a birthday cake instead of a wedding cake… But I digress. Digression.  A very Victorian thing to do.

The classic writers would never make it in today’s query/submission market, right? Today agents, editors, readers have such short attention spans that everything must be much faster, much more high concept, true?

Well, why don’t we put this to the test with a two-page pitch slam with some of our past greats.  First person who walks up to me to pitch? Dickens himself.  He sets his first two pages of Great Expectations in front of me, and we begin to read…

Now we must be fair to Mr. Dickens. Remember this novel was written between 1860-1861, a time long before television, and Internet, and sound bytes. A time when people surely had leisure time to dive into a novel and stay there, allowing the writer to spin a tale for at least 50 pages before we fully get to the heart of the story.

So does he open with pages and pages of back story and then slowly zoom into the main character and action?  Actually, he sets you right beside a boy as he sits in the grave yard where the stones of his family and five brothers stand. The boy imagines what his family must have looked like based on the shape of “the little stone lozenges.” And Dickens sets a gloomy forlorn scene where we find that, “the small bundle of shivers growing afraid of it all and beginning to cry, was Pip.”

So far, we’ve got a little boy alone in the world, a touching glimpse at a childlike mind. Atmosphere. Sorrow.  My friends, that is page one!  What’s next?  The moment we see Pip cry, we get this: “Hold your noise!” cried a terrible voice, as a man started up from among the graves at the side of the church porch. “Keep still, you little devil, or I’ll cut your throat!”

Okay, I’m hooked.  I’ve just given Mr. Dickens my card and requested the full manuscript. I can’t wait to find out what happens to poor Pip. This reads more like a modern day thriller than some oldy moldy tale from long ago.  Dickens transcends time because he knows great writing is about creating a character that we will care intensely about, and putting that dear person in terrible peril so that we the reader simply must see the story through to the end. Plus Dickens exhibits amazing voice.  Graves are lozenges. A threatening man minces no words. And the writer promises a tale filled with heart and danger.

But of course, I tell myself, Dickens wrote his novel in serial form, giving the reader tantalizing bits in each issue, so perhaps he was more conscious than most about hooking readers than most writers “back in the day”?  Maybe the next writer won’t be as impressive.

Next up? The lovely Jane Austen. She sets the first two pages of Pride and Prejudice on the pitch table and begins to read: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” Then in the next paragraph: “…this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered as the rightful property of some one or other of their daughters.”

Austen writes with a wink and a tart tongue, and I know I’m in for a great ride. She launches immediately into dialogue between Mr. and Mrs. Bennet about this new wealthy man, and the dialogue is filled with sarcasm and exasperation and a keen ear for witty language.  It’s hilarious and a perfect set up.

“Please send me the full immediately!” I say.

Too often I see writers throwing in a flashy high-concept “hook,” but that’s not the answer. Really I’m not impressed by an explosion on page one if I don’t care about the character, or a prologue showing a life-threatening scene if I’m not otherwise drawn in by the voice and feel pulled into this world.

There’s much to learn from the story telling masters of the past.  It’s worth flipping open the classics to discover what makes them so compelling that we have vivid memories of these stories and characters even hundreds of years later.

Heart. Characters we must know more about. A fascinating point of view. Peril that we feel invested in. Strong story telling.  Build those great expectations, and agents along with editors and readers, will burn to read more.

*Agent Monday is a weekly post. To catch all of these, subscribe to this blog by clicking on the “Subscribe to Marie’s Site Here” in the upper left column.

Agent Monday: What’s Love Got to do with It?

From time to time, I’ve heard discussions among writers who have received rejections from other agents that basically said, “Sorry, but I didn’t fall in love with this.” One reaction writers then say is, “I don’t care if you love it or not. Just represent it and sell it!”  This often leads into writers saying that this whole need to “fall in love” with a project is a ridiculous notion. It’s just a form letter. It’s because they don’t know what else to say. So in today’s Agent Monday post I’d like to share my view of  “What’s love got to do with it?”

Now I’m speaking about FICTION here, since at the Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency I don’t personally represent non-fiction. So bear that in mind…  But with a fiction manuscript, yeah, I’ve got to fall in love with it.  Why? Because if I don’t finish that manuscript and feel my heart completely ripped out, or my world rocked in some way, I don’t want to invest myself in that book.  I need something I truly believe in.

I want to be able to convey my passion to an editor.  And I want that editor to feel, at the end of her read, that her heart is completely ripped out or her world is rocked in some way.  That’s kinda the point.

But what about the “meh” book that I know will sell because it hits all the marketing points? It’s steampunk, which is supposedly hot. Or talks about bullying, which is a book people will “gobble up?”  Well, if I’m not in love with it, I don’t personally believe an editor be in love either…and an editor must turn around and “sell” the book to the marketing committee and they must sell it to the world, and reviewers must feel the love, too.

What I’m looking for is a book that will sell because it’s exceptional. If it hits all those marketing points, groovy.  If it doesn’t, but it’s exceptional, it’ll find its audience and that’s groovy too.

From my agenting point of view, I have to live with this manuscript and this author.  If I’m not in love with their book, but I sniff dollar signs in the air for some reason, am I respecting that author? Am I excited enough to read through the manuscript over and over again and edit it? To create a passion-filled pitch and offer it up to top editors?  And if I think of it as “meh” but an easy sale for some reason, what if it doesn’t sell easily? Will I have the drive to continue to market it with passion? Will I feel like just giving up and cutting you loose? You see where I’m going with this?

I invest a ton of time in my clients, and I choose them carefully. I go with my gut, and believe that their talent will take them far over the course of their careers. They are more than one book, one quick sale to me.  I’ve passed over books that may have sold, but that I just didn’t care about. Why would I take that writer on, when I can invest my heart and soul and countless hours in someone whose writing I do care about?  I’ll also definitely take on books that may not be the easy sell, but that feel important and strong and that I believe HAVE TO BE READ. And I’ll work my tail off making sure that happens.

It’s important that I believe in your work and in you.  You deserve that and should demand it.  If I don’t “fall in love” with your novel, then I’m not the agent for you, and you should find an agent who will.  Because that is the person who will best represent your work. Who will champion you and all your efforts with energy and drive. Who will believe in you even when the world doesn’t seem to, and continue to submit your work with conviction until the world finally sees the light.

And who will eagerly await your next book, and your next.

*Agent Monday is a weekly post. To catch all of these, subscribe to this blog by clicking on the “Subscribe to Marie’s Site Here” in the upper left column.

Agent Monday: Haven’t I Seen this Before?

So sometimes, well, many times actually, I open up a query in my inbox and think to myself, “Self? Haven’t I seen this before?”

And sometimes I literally have seen it before. Folks think they can send the same exact query every few months because, hey, the agent reads hundreds and hundreds of these and won’t remember. Perhaps the writer has heard stories of writers doing this very thing, and one time getting a rejection, but the other time, getting a request and then getting representation. Wahoo!

Writers, please don’t do this.  I for one actually remember my queries.  And if I’m not sure? There’s a function in my email that enables me to search you out by your email, or your book title, or your name…even by key words in your query.  And when I find a writer, who I’ve already taken my time with by reading their query and responding to it, now trying to scam me, I’m not going to be pleased at all. I even had one writer use a different email address and change her book title. Not cool, guys.

But believe it or not, this is not what this Agent Monday column is actually about. Today I want to talk about the overused ideas that I see. Stuff that everyone seems to be writing about. I’m seeing a ton of YA’s where for some bizarre reason a teen is dropped off for the summer or the year at a grandparent’s house, and there they discover secrets and of course a cute guy, etc.

I’m seeing a slew of women’s novels where the woman’s left her husband or he’s left her, or he’s died, etc. and she picks up, to the shock of her family, and moves to some remote rugged coastal home and buys some run-down hovel…and the rugged handyman, who is crusty but hot, well, “fixes” her.

I’m seeing spin offs of The Hunger Games. I’m seeing vampires and zombies. I’m seeing teens who suddenly discover they have special powers or are part of a curse, and must harness these powers, etc., to save the world.

I’m seeing a bunch of novels about orphans in the 1920s who must go across the US (always heading West) to find the only family they have left (or something like that), and along the way they ride the rails and they meet other ornery kids, some of who become friends and travel along, and of course, there’s a ratty but lovable mutt trotting by their side.

These are just but a few examples of the “types” of stories I see over and over again. How does this happen? Okay, the vampire stuff I understand, but the rest? Writers are creative people. They work alone. They are not exactly looking over each other’s shoulders copying from another writer’s manuscript.

I think part of the problem is that we are all human, and as humans we share common experiences and archetypes that resonate with us all. You can argue that there are only so many stories to be told, but I say phooey to that. You each have an original voice and point of view to share.

If you write something, even if it is perfectly polished, and I’ve seen something like it before, I’m not going to represent it. It’s that simple.

So how does a writer know if they are being original or not? Well, reading plenty definitely helps. It helps you know the genre you are targeting and prevents you from reinventing the wheel. But it doesn’t open your eyes to what’s sitting in every agent’s inbox right now (stuff that you won’t find on the bookshelf because it’s just too obvious in some ways).

I think the answer may rest with you as a writer, not taking the first idea the grabs you, or even the third, but forcing yourself to dig deeper. In Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook by Donald Maass, he has an exercise that addresses this. Maass has you make a list of things that can happen in your book’s scene.  Then he makes you list even more.  And he tells you to take the very last thing on that list and run with it.

Think about that.  There are a slew of obvious things that bubble up in our minds when we write…things that the reader can quickly think of as well. But some of our favorite works have taken twists we didn’t see, or were set in unexpected original worlds or circumstances, or have characters so memorable they stand out in our minds even now. These factors, combined with your own original voice and point of view, result in something fresh.

Something red hot I’ll want to read.

Something that definitely won’t make me say to myself, “Haven’t I seen this before?”

In this week’s Writer Wednesday post, I’ll continue this conversation about originality, talking about what we can learn from the movie Easy A.

“The Bucket List! The Bucket List!” (If you don’t know this line, then go rent Easy A NOW.)

*Agent Monday is a weekly post. To catch all of these, subscribe to this blog by clicking on the “Subscribe to Marie’s Site Here” in the upper left column.

Writer Wednesday: I Can’t Seem to Start My Novel!

I can’t seem to start my novel! Yeah, that about says it all. I don’t believe in writer’s block, so let’s not call it that. But let’s just say the writing isn’t flowing the way I’d planned.

Okay, to backtrack just a bit: I have started the novel.  If by started you mean that I’ve got a full outline. Yup. Got that (though I admit I’m not much of an outliner). And I have sat down and written a number of starting scenes…which I’ve promptly discarded.  I’ve done the whole sit-in-a-coffeehouse-and-just-do-it sessions, which didn’t do it for me.

Part of the problem is a question of where to start. I’ve written funny material with my character arriving at the train station, but no, too early in the story. So CUT. Then poignant material the moment my character arrives on scene, but no, this feel like introducing back story. So CUT. Then a crazy night out loaded with humiliation, but there’s no real reason for the reader to be there either, so CUT CUT CUT!

And that, dear readers, is how it has been going all this past month. The month of August. My Write the Novel Month. Blah. I know I should do what I tell my writing students to do: just write. DON’T REVISE. DON’T SELF-EDIT.  The thing is, I don’t feel like I’m self-editing. I feel like I’m just not latching onto the characters and voices in a way that makes me feel like the words are real and I’m in the moment.  That’s how I write. That’s my own style.  I hear the character’s voice, and know that dramatic opening scene, and I just go for it.

Not this time…

If I think of this past month in terms of words on the page, I can surely panic. But no. Because I’m not on a deadline (I’ve written a novel on deadline before…that was an experience!), I can think of this as a process.  Doesn’t that sound better than, say, a mess, or a failure? A process. And I do think this is accurate. As I’ve rejected scene after scene, I have been thinking about where I would start things. How. Why.

And If I did panic, would I be daydreaming of the scenes I needed to write? Would I let myself do other stuff and put this aside without feeling like I was failing? You know the answer to that one, right?

So, as I watch August disappear, I have to take a deep breath, and trust my writing process. As I’ve NOT written, what I HAVE done is think about the characters more, and their voices. I’ve started to hear in my head dialogue, and witness scenes that definitely should be written. I’ve picked out better names, more interesting story threads.

So sometimes, not writing is a vital part of writing.

I’ve tried to relax, even as these notions have all piled up in my brain but I’ve become too busy with traveling around and settling one child at Law School, which means the words are bubbling, but I’m still NOT WRITING. But life is a process, too. We go through phases in our lives. There was the time my kids were babies and I had to accept that there were months and even years when I wasn’t going to get the intense writing time I so needed.

Right now I’m seeing that maybe September is a better writing month for me after all. My husband has started back teaching at the University. My other daughter will soon be back at school. And my poodle is pretty quiet when she isn’t yapping at the mailman. The house, which was all summer filled with people and “what’s to eat” inquiries and piles of laundry and stacks of dirty dishes, will be under control and calm. A writing space, dare I say?

So sometimes, not writing is about waiting for your life and your head to get into a better place.

And sometimes not starting your novel is the best way to start it after all. Hm. We’ll see about that one. Stay tuned…

Agent Monday: Why Guidelines are Your Friend

“It’s more of a guideline, actually…”

Dare I commit to doing a post from my agent’s point of view every Monday? Aw heck, why not? So today’s “Agent Monday” post is devoted to agent guidelines, and why guidelines are your friend in the query process.

Following an agent’s submission guidelines can only help you to get the positive attention of an agent.  I know, thank you Captain Obvious, right?  But I get SO MANY QUERIES from writers who obviously have not bothered to read my submission guidelines.

Honestly, why waste your time sending a query to any agent if you don’t know the first thing about their interests or about how they like to receive stuff from you? Before you submit anything to any agent please do yourself a favor and run a simple Google search on that agent and their agency, adding in “submission guidelines” into the search field. Odds are you will find their interests and requirements right smack dab there on their agency’s page. Search “Marie Lamba,” and within seconds you’ll spot many interviews with me on various sites. You’ll also find me listed as Associate Agent at The Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency site. And there you’ll see my very specific submission guidelines, which you can also access if you click right here.

By following my guidelines you will quickly know not to waste your time subbing your gory horror novel to me. Or your high fantasy novel. Or your category romance.  But you will put me on your list if you have a YA novel, or a middle reader, or a funny women’s fiction. That sort of thing.  And please, dear writers, don’t think that your gory horror novel is so amazing that it will change my mind about how I feel about this genre. Please. The guidelines do apply. Even to you. Even if you are brilliant. (Sorry.)

And here’s the truth: With a quick look at my inbox, I can easily spot the writers who didn’t even bother to look me up before subbing to me. First of all, the message line of the email does not start with QUERY. Next step? I notice when someone is sending me stuff I have no interest in whatsoever.  Lastly, and most importantly, the “didn’t even bother to look up my guidelines” writer is missing out on the one huge advantage my guidelines spell out: I let you send me the first 20 pages of your manuscript pasted into the bottom of your query!

So you can see how folks who don’t follow guidelines are shooting themselves in the foot.  Sending info that is clearly not of interest to me equals instant rejection.  And say you send me a query for something I DO represent, but you didn’t find out about the 20 page thing? Well, then I’m faced with the extra step of asking to see those first 20 pages from you.  Sometimes (rarely), if the query is intriguing, I might send back a quick note for the writer to resub following my guidelines.  But mostly I just sigh and send the rejection.

If you do follow all of my guidelines and still get that rejection, at least you know you’ve gotten a fair shake, and that I’ve been given enough info to assess if your manuscript was right for me.  And if, after subbing the 20 pages in the initial query, I DO ask to see your full manuscript, you know that I’m basing this request on more than a one paragraph pitch. I’m interested!

So, fellow writers, do yourself a huge favor and take a few moments to do your homework about the agent you are subbing your precious book to.  You’ll better target your queries, and put your work on a better path to acceptance. And that, my friends, is all good.

*Agent Monday is a weekly post. To catch all of these, subscribe to this blog by clicking on the “Subscribe to Marie’s Site Here” in the upper left column.

On Personal Stuff, Sunglasses and Submissions

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving and didn’t eat TOO much.  Judging by the crowd at the local Y lately, I think I know the answer to that one… Why the Santa pooch picture here? Because AWWWWW!

Anyways, over the past two days, while I’ve been continuing to eat turkey in all its incarnations, three different fabulous blogs have posted different interviews with me.  One post probes into how my life experiences affect my writing, the other delves into the romantic and fun details of my works, and the last has me wearing my literary agent hat (which, I imagine, is large and has some feathers) to give out some manuscript submission tips. Check ’em out. They might make you forget about all those holiday gifts you still haven’t bought!

Mindbending Memoir Questions

Jerry Waxler in his Memory Writers Network blog is great at asking me those “I never thought of that one before” questions. Risky stuff like: Do I write about lying teens so much because I was such a huge liar as a teen? And: When I create my novels, what sorts of real life experiences do I pull into them? Yikes! Is Jerry looking at fiction with a memoir-writer’s angle, or is he just really nosy?  To find out, click the following to read Part I of this interview and Part II. And you might also want to check out his post on coming of age in YA fiction, which highlights my novel OVER MY HEAD by clicking here.

Revelations from the Land of Chicklit

Author Heidi Hall approached our interview with questions posed from her point of view as a romance and chick-lit author… Questions like: Did you ever wish you lived your character’s life? (Um, YES!)  And: Sunglasses: designer or drugstore?  Check out this fun interview at her WriterGurl1 blog by clicking here, and if you’re looking for some great reads for the holidays, definitely check out Heidi’s books such as A Dose of Reality!

Why Some Pretty Decent Manuscripts get Rejected

Writer Kerry Gans posted a piece featuring Five Reasons for Agent Rejections of Manuscripts over at her group site The Author Chronicles. This is a great craft-oriented blog, and this post highlights five common reasons why manuscripts I read are rejected, even if they have merit. Literary agents WANT to find great work, and it’s kind of heartbreaking to get excited by a piece only to have to turn it down because it didn’t live up to its promise.  I’ve been an assistant literary agent for the Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency for a few months now, and it’s amazing how many times I see these mistakes EVERY DAY.  So if you’re in the process of trying to get an agent, definitely check out Kerry’s post by clicking here.

Thanks to all these great bloggers for including me on their sites!

Marie

Novelists Chasing Fads?

It’s trendy. It’s a hot topic. But should it be the subject of your next novel?

We authors want to connect with our readers.  But the question is: Should we follow trends and fads to do this? Is writing to fit into a trend a formula for success?

When you are writing magazine articles, the turnaround from conception to publication happens in a snap. Then you have to cater to fads and trends, or you may miss out.  But how do you pay attention to trends when you write novels?

Say you get a trendy idea for a novel. It can take you anywhere from 3 months (if you are extremely quick) to 2 years to complete it and send it out to an agent.  Then there is a lag between when your agent receives it (if you have an agent), and when it’ll get sent to publishers. (If you don’t have an agent, add another 6 months or more and a ton of luck into the mix, simmer and stew.) Then, once your agent finds a publisher who accepts it (and that can take time, too), it’s still not published.  Some publishers are working on books that won’t appear for 2-3 more years.  So, if you are talking about approximately 4-5 years before a book idea that you have goes into print, then why are we talking about fads and trends again?

Castle drawing by Marie Lamba...click on this image for an excerpt of her newest novel DRAWN

Hm. The funny thing is that even though publishers are working so far ahead, you will hear that, say, paranormal romance is hot now, or that houses are suddenly hot for thrillers in an urban setting.  I think the message is that if you have already written one of these, the stars have aligned and you will suddenly have people looking at this work with greater interest.  Will this mean that a few years from when the trend took hold that there will be a glut of said trendy lit coming out way past its freshness date?  Cough cough, vampires, cough cough.

So, then, you would expect me to say that my writing IS ABSOLUTELY NOT AT ALL AFFECTED BY FADS. But that’s a lie. I don’t write to meet a fad, but if there is something about that fad that speaks to me, then what the hell? I’ll be more motivated to write on that subject, even if, by the time I’m done writing the book, it’s waned on the trendometer of hip. Crazy, right?

But that’s exactly how my newest novel Drawn came to life.  I’ve had the idea simmering in my mind for years: A girl channels a hot medieval ghost through her drawings…then she meets up with him and their lives intertwine.  So when paranormal romance started to emerge I thought, yeah, it’s a sign (a paranormal sign?), and time to put this novel onto paper. So the story lives, and books are timeless. A fad helped bring it to life, and, since readers and editors are still loving paranormal, this will hopefully help bring my novel into readers’ hands very soon!

On the flip side, if I’m in the beginning stages of a novel and I hear that it’s absolutely dead because editors are sick of looking at stuff about that subject, well, if I’m not unbelievably married to that book, I’ll shelf it and work on something else. You should see my shelves.  Stacks and stacks of half-written manuscripts. Doesn’t mean I won’t finish those books some day, but just not today.

Fact is, writing is a business, and we do have to cater to our consumers.  It’s not perfect. It usually doesn’t make sense.

Hey, welcome to the wonderful world of publishing!

*This post also appears on The Liars Club blog

So, who are you? No, really.

Cross-posted over at the Liars Club site.

One day I was talking with my editor over at Random House about the sorts of manuscripts that come flooding into her slush pile. I asked what was one of the biggest problems a manuscript can have. Her immediate response: the writer’s voice.  She knew she could use her editorial skills to adjust problems with things like pacing, structure, dialogue, plotting. But if there was something wrong with the writer’s voice, there wasn’t anything she could do about it.

Just one day later I found myself in a similar conversation with my agent.  And her answer was the same.  If the writer’s voice is off, that’s something no one can fix.

So the writer’s voice is obviously terribly important.  If the reader hates the personality behind the written words, a personality that surely comes through in the way an author expresses herself, then they are not going to want to hang out with that author throughout an entire novel.

But you gotta be who you are, don’t you?  If your style is sarcastic or playful or intense or passionate or ironic, then so be it.  The good news is that writing is a very subjective business, and surely someone will identify with you and embrace your voice in a work.  The bad news is that writing is a very subjective business, and surely someone will be turned off by your voice…and that person may be an editor or an agent.

Aside from being a voice that turns a reader off, how can a voice have “something wrong” with it?  It can be inconsistent, so that it feels like you have multiple personalities.  Or it can be so over-the-top that it overwhelms a work and gets in the way of the story – like if your voice is unduly pompous, or obnoxiously funny in that you-are-so-not-funny way. Another problem is if the voice is obviously not your own.

I started out like most young writers imitating the voices of writers I loved. T.H. White. John Steinbeck. Ann Tyler.  I couldn’t help it. I was surrounded with their works, their words filled my head, and I didn’t really get that it was more important to be me.  Truthfully, I didn’t fully know who I was yet.

I became most successful when I started seeing things through my own eyes, and when I started using my own language and my own quirky tone. I think this is tied into confidence. At least it was for me.

When an author believes they have something worth saying, and a point of view worth sharing, it comes through.  Readers join in for the ride and feel the authority behind the writer’s voice.  It makes them think, even when reading the most bizarre of tales, that there is something real about it all.

And it makes agents and editors believe they have something in their hands worth championing.

Can you write a book in a week? – Day 5

Okay, folks, we made it. Day 5, and I stuck it out all week long.  Now I realize that book in a week implies 7 days, but I have tix to a show tomorrow (which I’d purchased long before I knew about this challenge), and I NEED A BREAK.

Not whining. I promise. I’ve loved this experience, and as my wonderful stable of blog comment-folk has pointed out, I’ve learned a ton about myself, my writing and, of course, my new novel.

I learned that I can be ridiculously more productive if I make my writing a priority.  That means not cutting into my writing time with time-wasters like the Internet or solitaire (and in the future I plan to schedule my Internet checks for morning, lunch time, and a final check at the end of the day). It also means scheduling chores around my writing week.  Sure, it may feel casual and relaxed to do stuff all week long, but if writing is my full-time job (which it is), then what the heck am I doing paying bills and cleaning and other dreadful crap like that during my weekday work time?

Shifting things around takes a bit of planning and commitment. I learned that people will cooperate with you if they know you have an important goal.  Take note, fellow scribes: if you tell people in your life you aren’t available for 2 weeks for coffee or lunch or that meeting, they will deal with it and LIFE WILL GO ON.  Gotta respect the writing.

I also learned that by giving over a huge chunk of my mental space to my novel, that I became more creative with it. I was able to get into the world I’d written much faster, because I never really left it. Working to keep the worries of the real world at bay is a challenge, but definitely worthwhile.  No sense obsessing about something when you could be writing…and obsessing about it later.

I learned the glories of the dry erase board…flexible and spontaneous plotting!  I learned the true value of fresh air and brisk walks…great for blurry eye re-focusing, great for the joints, great for getting the creative juices rolling.

I also realized that the excitement of this does wear off after a while.  Each day I found I was getting to work just a little bit later. That the plotting problems were getting a little stickier.  That my internal critic was trying to rear her ugly head just a little bit more.  But that’s the beauty of this challenge. I kept telling myself: suck it up – it’s only a few days.  And so I did.

So, can you write a book in a week?  Maybe if you have sold your soul to the devil. Or if you don’t eat or sleep. Or if Redbull is in the mix.  But here’s what I think, at least from my point of view: You can write half a book in a week, and that includes the complete bones of the novel.  I started out with zero words. While I didn’t write every scene leading up to it, I did finish by drafting the book’s final page, which will be important later when I fill in the rest.  My plan is to take just a little bit of a break, and then go to it once again. Another five days on just this project.  By the end of that, I should have a completed first draft. In two weeks? I can definitely live with that.  Then the editing will begin.  But let’s not go there mentally just yet, okay?

In addition to telling my family and friends that I was doing this challenge, I made a point of telling the world! Through this blog, in my email away message, on my facebook, and in various group sites I belong to. I even told my agent.  Why? So I would be accountable.  I couldn’t go quietly into the night without shame…and believe me, there was a point I thought of trying just that.

Today’s word count: 3,459 words
Today’s page count: 14 pages
Overall word count: 25,329 words
Overall page count: 109 pages

So, gentle reader, it’s time for this writer to pack this experiment in. A successful experiment. One that will now, I hope, become part of my regular regimen when I want to devote time to just a novel and to nothing and no one else.  See? I put that thought out there.  I’m accountable to it, right? (Okay, I did slip in the word ‘hope,’ but still.)

Why don’t you try this with your own writing? You can do it. You should do it.

Happy. Satisfied. Book in a Week, baby! (Or, Nearly Half a Book in a Week, baby!)  Woot!

Over and out.

Can you write a book in a week? – Day 4

Frazzled today!  But chugging forward.  Forcing myself at times to chug forward, but doing so nonetheless. Thanks so much to everyone who has been cheering me on.  Much appreciated, and very helpful, too.

People who have been following this may be relieved to know that I did in fact do most of my laundry today.  I should have done it yesterday, which made for an interesting outfit today.  I looked a bit like the village idiot, so I opted not to go and write at a coffee shop or a library today as I’d originally planned.  Maybe tomorrow.  I need to get out!

Today I felt that I hit some more major plot points, but that I was also rambling on, idly going here and there.  I liked the scenes a lot, but where the heck am I going now?  I think tomorrow I’ll have to spend some time with a quick outline of plot so I’m at least back on track.

The problem is that my story is changing as I’m cruising along.  This one guy who was NOT going to be a major part of the story, keeps stealing the scenes.  And that’s pretty confusing structure-wise.  I also started to include a different plot thread that, as I wrote it, seemed to lose power.  Maybe I’m just starting to fade.  Maybe it’s this village idiot outfit affecting my brain.  Maybe it’ll all look better in the morning.  Anyways, I’m not deleting or editing, right folks?

One of my fellow authors, Donna Birdsell, who is also doing this challenge this week, had mentioned using a dry erase board.  So at the outset of this challenge, I swiped ours from my daughter’s room, and I’m hooked.  I use it to list known scene ideas: scenarios I’ve cooked up in my mind that I’m pretty sure I can slap onto paper. And as I complete the scene, I erase it from the board.  I also jot some brainstorm-like thoughts along the margins.

Because it’s easy to read and easy to erase, the board is perfect for this charge-ahead style of writing. Thanks, Donna!

Today I again faced the huge obstacle of outside distractions.  I knew that an important phone call was going to happen at 3 pm, and that a certain agent would be calling me to report the results, and you can bet it made it hard to focus at times. Then, after the phone call, which was the usual mix of good news bad news we writers must endure on a daily basis, I felt completely derailed for a while.

Yes, I hit rock bottom and played a few rounds of spider solitaire and even checked the Internet.  If I were an ex-smoker, well…

Isn’t this the type of stuff life hands us, though?  You get this ‘oh what’s the point?’ feeling, and have to work through it.

But it’s still book in a week, baby!  So I refused to stop at a low point, and wrote a bunch more. It might be crap. Or it might not. I’m still writing. No stopping this train now. Woot!

Today’s word count: 6,009 words
Today’s page count: 26 pages
Total word count so far: 22,870
Total page count so far: 95 pages

P.S.: My carpal tunnel is acting up… Book in a week?  Yes!!!!