Thursday, October 22, 2009

An alternative approach to Nanowrimo

Well, its almost November, the month my family dread more than any other because it means lots of takeaways and a distracted mother who is strangely preoccupied with odd research for the entire month as she works away (8th time) on a new novel.
Many of my co-writers are put off by the idea of writing a 50,000 word novel in 30 days, and I know how that can be, so this morning I decided to post some alternative ideas about Nano, which I hope you'll find interesting.
The one thing to remember, is that different to contests, Nano is not about beautiful sentence structure, great characters and tight plotting, but instead about volume. Nobody except you gets to read your 50,000 words, so there is no criticism involved, and this, on its own, can be a powerful incentive to write, and unlock creativity. It struck me that there are as many different types of writers as there are cars, or chocolate for that matter. Perhaps you like to write short stories? In that case, perhaps your 'novel' could be a collection of short stories rather than a novel. The target is just over 1,600 words per day. If you decided to write a collection of 2,000 word short stories during November, you would have 25 by months end, or you could take the pick and mix approach, and still end up with a collection worth something at the end of the month.
Nano gives you the freedom to do this, not all chapters of your magnus opus need to be perfect, or even good, you can let your mind wander and see what comes out of it, and if you get stuck, as Chris Baty (Nano head) advises, why not have a spaceship land? Great if you write science fiction, and somewhat dubious if you write Regency romance, but it will get you out of a hole, and once you've written that bit, you may find that your earlier story re-emerges, in spades.
The first week is always easy, a new story, new characters, and lots of inspiration. Week two is more difficult, working on those threads and building the characters, and by the time you get to week three, you're pulling your hair out, wondering why you started, and wishing you were anywhere else but in the middle of a dog of a story. If you can get through week 3 everything changes, inspiration is back, and writing is pure joy again. I don't have a problem with having bizarre writing in week 3, worse case scenario is that you have 11,000 words of dodgy material in there which can be rewritten (or cut), but still almost 40,000 words completed that you can work with in 2010.
NaNoWriMo is a different way of writing, a way your brain adapts to. It's challenging, inspiring, and great fun, so for those who haven't considered it I'd say join the party - I bet you'll enjoy it.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Golden Rose Contest

Back in early July I entered Bound to Love in the Golden Rose Contest, which is run by Rose City Romance Writers, in Portland, Oregon. I heard about this contest through Trish Wylie's blog, and upon investigation decided it would be a great thing to enter, because all entrants are judged by 3 judges, and a score sheet and detailed summary is provided to everyone.

Yesterday, I received my scores back, and although not a winner or even a finalist, I must admit that the process has been a good one. Each judge provided a score sheet and a marked up version of my submission, which was the first 50 pages.

The first catagory scored was Characterization, with a total score possible of 20 points. To give you an idea, they rated each question 1-5, five being publication ready, 4 being extremely minor revisions, 3 being some revisions, 2 being many revisions, and 1 being major revisions required.
The questions under characterization were:
Are the character's physical descriptions vivid? Can you picture them?
Are main characters sympathetic despite flaws/faults? Would you root for them as the story progresses?
Are secondary characters necessary and non-intrusive? Do they add interest and issues to the story?
Are character's actions/reactions appropriate and consistent?

They have sections on Conflict/Motivation, Dialogue/Narrative, Pacing/Plotting, Description/Setting, Craft/Mechanics, Style/Voice, Romantic Tone and a Bonus question.

Now its always difficult to hold up your creation for analysis, but I really believe it can be worth it. Especially if you grit your teeth and take the comments not as criticism, but as the help that they actually are.  The total available points are 190, and if you receive 80% of the total (e.g.152) as your lowest grade, you are on to the next round. The top 10% of those are wittled away until they come out with a winner.

I did an editing course (previously mentioned on this blog) in August, a month after sending my first 50 pages, and after submitting an entire of it to a publisher. It was declined by the publisher, but they agreed to re-read an edited version, and with the knowledge I gained from the course I hope I did a good enough job, time will tell! (It's back out there, fighting for its life!). The Golden Rose results and detailed breakdown of the strengths and weaknesses of the book backed up the comments I got from the publisher, so I know that the areas that were weak have been addressed, and also know that all 3 judges said that they would like to read the rest of it, so that's consolation at least.

My weaknesses are my weaknesses, but something I should have seen coming and could have done a lot to mitigate against was what the judges took to be spelling mistakes. It's worth remembering that submitting to the USA we need to check the spelling for UK English and change to US English. I was docked points for this.

Finally, for those who are wondering, I scored 127, 147 and 163 from my judges, and would have needed lowest of 152 to get through.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A contract!

This week has been a good one, from an unexpected source. I currently have two fulls out for evaluation, a partial out to M&B as well as 2 competition entries and have been checking (rather obsessively, I admit it!) my email and having all sorts of "We love it" fantasies.
Imagine, then, my surprise to receive a contract via email for a short story that I sent off hopefully 14 months ago and had completely forgotten about. After a stunned silence (rare, those) for a couple of minutes, I signed on the dotted line and sent it back. Not what I was expecting, but publication nonetheless! So here's to me, I'm off to buy some chocolate to celebrate... and will post more when I get a publication date. So far its just enough to say I'll be featuring in New Love Stories Magazine (a New York Magazine) some time in 2010.