Sunday, July 26, 2015

Is It Better In Person?

Those of you who follow this blog know how disappointed I was when I had to cancel my plans to attend the RWA conference. I was set to meet up with my fellow Crimson authors at a dinner. I was going to pitch to Courtney Miller. I was going to make new friends and learn new things. I was going to wear new clothes in honor of the event.

None of that happened.

I could be bitter and sad. I was, for a time. Envious? Most definitely. But then, I realized I could pitch to any agent I wanted to via email, not just the one who had a time slot open. And the beauty of it is I can rework the email query as much as is needed. You don't get a second chance to impress during an 8-minute pitch. I could touch base with the Crimson authors via our special loop, any time I wanted. As a result of making new friends this past year, I'm going to take part in a Facebook party this coming week with my new friend, E. E. Burke. I've learned new things about craft by taking a Margie Lawson online workshop a few months ago. As for the new clothes–it's time to start purging my closet anyway, so the new duds will come in handy.

So, now I bet you're asking, if I can do all the above from the comfort of my computer, why would I even bother to attend the RWA Conference?

For the buzz. For the chance to rub shoulders with the likes of Nora Roberts, Jayne Anne Krentz, Christie Craig, Lisa Klepas, and Jill Shalvis. For the opportunity to meet a publisher, not at a pitch session, but over a glass of wine. For the chance to network with other authors, who are also avid readers. For the workshops, where I can learn how this industry is changing and how to be flexible enough to keep up.

For the camaraderie of being in a place with 2,000 other like-minded souls who don't mind if your head's in the clouds, and the floor isn't swept.

Yes, I got a lot of work done last week. And I got to sleep in my own bed. I didn't have to be shoehorned into an airline seat for hours, or sit on a tarmac waiting for a gate to open at LaGuardia. I got to watch the awards ceremony in my nightgown instead of a fancy dress.

But I would have traded it all for a chance to be at Nationals. Next year.

Look out, San Diego.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Getting Ready For Nationals

There's been a lot of chatter on various blog sites and loops about getting ready for Nationals–what to pack, what swag to take, how to pace yourself, what workshops to attend, what events to not miss. It's all very exciting and overwhelming, even if it's not your first rodeo.

But what about those of us who can't attend? Up until a month ago, I was an attendee. I had put together my wardrobe, ordered my swag, confirmed my airline reservations. Then, an ambulance ride and emergency surgery made all those plans evaporate, like morning dew. Now, as I watch the excitement build for those who will attend, I'm trying to temper my envy with a game plan of my own.

I think I'll call it Becky's Version Of Nationals. It goes something like this:

Tuesday–Instead of spending the day in transit, I'll write 1,000 words in my final book in the Cotillion Ball Series, which currently stands at 3700 words. It's going to feature the youngest girl in the family, Saffron, who was seven when the series started. This book begins during the height of the Civil War conflict and Saffron is fifteen, missing out on her Cotillion ball and resenting how the war has impacted her life. She's still young, and spunky, and she'll be fun to write. I'm looking forward to it.

Wednesday–Add another 1,000 words to the manuscript. Review my notes from the Margie Lawson workshop I recently took.

Thursday–Keeping my head down, I'll add another 1,000 words, and will begin to solicit for reviews for Book 8, A Widow's Salvation. I saw a sneak peek of the cover last week, and think it's my best yet. Can't wait to show everyone. And the book is a departure of sorts for me, since Pepper Brown is a thirty-one year-old war widow with three sons to contend with. Instead of showing her strength by being a vocal advocate of social causes, she has an inner strength that equals or exceeds that of her sisters. The book will be out in September.

Friday–It's my day on the History Imagined blog, and I'm talking about an often overlooked museum in Ohio–The National First Ladies' Library in Canton, OH, and their featured exhibit on Forgotten First Ladies. I'll drum up some traffic for this great blog site, and respond to comments throughout the day. Oh, and I'll add another 1,000 words to the WIP.

Saturday–Okay, I'll give in to the jitters today. Two of my chapter mates–AE Jones and Jane Lynne Daniels–are up for RITA awards, both in the Paranormal category. Who knew Cleveland could be so scary? And, AE's also up for Best First Book. My sister and I will settle in at the computer at 8 with a big bowl of popcorn, and watch the proceedings with our fingers crossed. No writing today, but hopefully, rejoicing, before it's all over.

Sunday–I'll finish out the Nationals experience by adding another 1,000 words to the manuscript, which will get me close to 10,000 words by the end of the week. Instead of spending my days in workshops and networking with fellow authors, I've kept my nose to the grindstone and my WIP on track, making my deadline a workable one.

But I'm still envious. And counting the days till the San Diego conference.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Paring Down

Every author has his or her own writing habits that they fall into. Repetition, overuse of the same body language, tired, worn out cliches, that type of thing. These habits are okay for a first draft, but when you're in editing mode, as I've been these last few weeks, it's time to take the scissors to the manuscript, and cut all these bad habits from your work. Word count goes out the window in favor of producing an end product that's lean, where every scene advances the story line, where every word and every paragraph is essential to the story.

The same scenario is playing out in my life as well as in my manuscripts. My home was placed on the market last week, with the end goal of downsizing to a single story home that's more easily navigable for those of us with joint problems, and easier to take care of. So, I've started paring down my possessions and decluttering the house. I've almost got a handle on the clutter, but the paring down of what's accumulated over the years will take awhile. My rule of thumb is if I haven't looked at the box or item, or worn the article of clothing in the six years I've lived here, it's time to toss it. I'm cutting out all the repetition, all the worn out cliches, all the paperwork from years ago, etc. It's time to get mean and lean, since I'm hoping to decrease my floor space by about half. I will brutally edit all extraneous material from my life, just as I do with my manuscripts.

Big changes are coming in my life. My edits went back yesterday to the publisher. Book 8 in my series–A Widow's Salvation–was the most difficult book for me to write in the series, but I think the end product is one of my best.

Now I can only hope the move to a smaller house, which will be the most difficult move of my life,
will end up being one of my best decisions ever.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

The Big Jigsaw Puzzle

I'm eyebrow-deep in editing the eighth book in my Cotillion Ball Series. You'd think, with each successive book I write, that the edits would become fewer, and, to some degree, that is true. Punctuation, typos, proper use of words has become easier, and this manuscript is relatively clean from that standpoint. But content? That's a different kettle of fish.

My editor suggested that I take a pivotal scene from the back of the book and move it forward. Easy-peasy, I thought to begin with. Then I read what happened before and after the scene as it's currently written, and it's not easy at all to move it. Every scene in a novel is part of a big jigsaw puzzle, with each piece fitting seamlessly, if you're lucky, into the next so the story will flow. By pulling a piece out of the middle and repositioning it, you must also reposition all the surrounding pieces so they still fit together.

I've been thinking about how to accomplish this for several days now, since I think the editor is right, and the scene would be better if it were moved forward. I've been looking at the picture on the outside of the puzzle box for awhile, and think I've got it figured out. Now I just need to implement it.  I'll go back to the beginning of the manuscript starting on Monday, add in a few paragraphs to set up the pivotal scene, move it up, shore up my timeline and make sure Charlotte and George's opinions on the matter remain consistent, since they are Pepper's sounding boards during her process from war widow to satisfied bride.

After I finish tinkering, I'll go back and read the manuscript through one more time–the ad nauseum phase of any edit–and, once I'm sure it's polished to a spit shine, I'll send it back to the publisher. And I must accomplish this by July 13.

No pressure.