Sunday, July 31, 2011

Love, friendship and support of a writing community

After too many years to count deeply involved in writing,  and mixing and associating with other writers has arguably been the most rewarding experience of my life.

I read once that a philosopher said...and I've long since forgotten who... claimed that for a person to know true happiness they needed to accomplish three things.... Plant a tree...Have a child...And write a book.

By that definition I must be the happiest person on the planet... I've planted literally thousands of trees written several books and had nine children....and buried five of them...three of them in infancy.
This has taken an enormous personal toll on my husband I...and our surviving  children.
It is so against natural law for a parent to bury their children.
And during the very trying time after our twins sons died it was friends and family who were our salvation... and our writing community.
Not long after we buried our second twin Daphne Clair contacted me and said she had a vacancy in an advanced class at Kara School of Writing.... Did I feel up to attending? Looking back now I realize this hand of friendship extended across the abyss of grief not only saved my marriage it saved my sanity.
And I will be eternally grateful to Daphne and Robyn and that weekend... I'm sure they never knew how close I came to tipping over the edge...and that long weekend of learning, focusing on writing, the camaraderie and their unspoken but gentle sympathy tipped the balance for me in the right direction.

It was normality in a world far from normal.

The most comforting words during those very dark days was penned by a very dear friend....a friend whose only brother was shot down in Korea an hour after peace was declared.
She penned me a note that in essence said... Be glad you have to get up in the morning.  Make a meal. Wash the dishes... these small steps towards normality lead you slowly back towards the path of living.
I still take comfort every day from that small letter worn thin with time and buried under the paper in my handkerchief drawer along with two other last two cards from my boys...

Writing and the many dear friends I've made on this journey is a reward in itself.

I've never met another group of people more willing to share their expertise, pass on hard earned knowledge and writing tips, applaud other writer's successes and commiserate with their disappointments.

In all the years belonging to Romance Writers of New Zealand  I've never heard or seen one nasty word or action or experienced any of the infighting and backstabbing so prevalent in other organisations.   Our writing community is a jewel to treasure...

Jean Drew created a gem when she had the courage and foresight to create a fledgling organisation that has grown into a beautiful and graceful swan.

It's strange this post turned out much differently than the one I intended to write ....but rest assured it flowed straight from my heart to the page.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Synopsis.... The Bane Of This Writer's Life and a Eureka Moment

Writing  a synopsis that wows an editor into wanting to read my manuscript is something  guaranteed to have me tearing out clumps of hair....and at times turning down right homicidal.

What do you put in and what do you leave out?

Five times I've sent a synopsis to my critique partner this week and five times it's come back underscored and crossed through with red ink. The last time she told me to cut anything that didn't affect the characters emotions.... oh and keep it under 700 words.

Like that's possible??

I almost reached for the arsenic bottle!!!! Luckily arsenic isn't readily available.  So bleary eyed I sat at my lap top and did what she suggested. I remembered an article on a ten sentence synopsis...... 

And had a Tui moment. Yeah Right! Then I thought what have I to lose? Nada. 
Hours later I had a synopsis

It was more than ten sentences but was under 700 words and in the present, no back story no character explanations just STORY that charted the characters emotional journey.
And this was my Eureka Moment.

I started with the initiating event that created conflict between the two main characters.... protagonist/antagonist just don't cut it for me. They sound like an unsavory disease. 

Next the event that set them against each other escalating the conflict.... And they reach the first turning point...where the conflict is more intense...the stakes higher.  

As the characters grow closer, the conflict is so much more desperate....and they reach the second turning point... where the characters have changed so much they've reached a point where they cannot turn back...yet not willing to take that next step forward....

 This leads to greater conflict with greater momentum because for each character the stakes are higher... until both characters reach a point of no return...where they've changed so much it projects them into even more conflict  that propels them to a crisis where all is lost... 

Both characters descended into a hell.... of their own making...the hero emerges victorious... heroine's lost everything....with nothing more to lose she makes one last desperate push which  brings her and hero together for the final showdown.... and of course the resolution. 

I began with on sentence for each point only fleshing it out where necessary for it to make sense.

The sense of achievement?  Huge! 

Now here's hoping the editor will like it.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Visiting Old Posts and even older history

I have just spent an hour reading through all my old posts.

What a fascinating glimpse of the past few years and yet it's sobering how much stays the same. How my absolute loves creep into most every post.  Birds, gardening and a bucket list of things to do. Gradually this bucket list is being dealt to.

Since we've retired my husband and I have decided to do something different every weekend...we really need the excuse to take our new car out of the garage.... Last weekend we walked around Gilmour Lake and then partway around the pit rim of the opencast Martha Mine. It's amazing how many interesting places there are in a town as small as Waihi.

Gilmour Lake, a lovely tranquil spot, was full of all the feverish activity of yacht racing. Miniature yacht enthusiasts were pitting their skills against each other with all the dedication of  yachties  in the Americas Cup.
Fun to watch and also fun to watch the ducks and geese reacting to these invaders...Hilarious at times.

Yesterday we walked around and through the ruins of the old goldmines in the Karagahake Gorge. Seeing the relics of those huge underground workings makes me appreciate the sheer hard work of our pioneer forefathers. The contrast between the opencast pit and the huge earth moving machines that have literally moved a mountain and the old workings of a century earlier is little short of mind boggling.

Whenever I think of the current use of open cast mines a quote from the Bible comes to mind.

"If I have faith I could remove mountains....."
In the twenty first century one doesn't need faith... just gelignite and an few big bulldozers.


Sunday, July 24, 2011

Pitching at Conference

To pitch ...or not to pitch...that is the paraphrase The Baird.
I have to confess that pitching scares me witless...I hyperventilate and I'm sure I don't make sense and no matter how much I tell myself that an editor or an agent are only people...just as I am a person it makes little odds.

Not that I've had much success with pitches made at conference. I've pitched and been asked for partials by two editors....and have I heard back?

Not one word.

I know editors are busy people but surely there is something called common courtesy... even an emailed line saying thanks but no thanks....would be better than being left in limbo.

The agents I've pitched to have all given a response...maybe not the response I was hoping for but a negative response is far better than no response at all.

And this has shaken my confidence a little bit more but I've decided to grit my teeth and persevere.

I have made a vow that this is the year that I am going to put my work out there.

A whole slew of computer files is testimony to a substantial body of work completed/ So it is more than time these files were put out there. But dragging one's feet is a very bad character trait of mine.

And one I'm working hard to overcome.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Countdown to Conference: Clendon results

Only four more weeks!

The Clendon results are out!

Although I didn't final in this year's contest I had one manuscript Highly Commended and a second one Commended. These last few months have been so full on with settling all the details involved with selling our business I had completely forgotten I'd entered two's that for a memory lapse?

Also known as "Finish The Damn Book" this contest had catapulted so many down under writers into publication. It has become one of the premier contests to enter. The Clendon is unique in that preliminary judging is done by readers not other writers.

Readers are a very savvy group. They know what they like.

Unlike other contests where the preliminary judging is done by writing peers, readers are not hung up on  technical details like Point Of View and all the other myriad details writers are trained to pick up on.

Readers are in it for the sheer joy of a darn good read.

Barbara Clendon made the comment that the standard is now very high. And to be a finalist the bar is high.

So in that context having two manuscripts commended is very rewarding.

I am so looking forward to the conference. Bob Mayer is our keynote speaker. This top selling author is giving an all day lecture on writing and constructing a novel. One thing I've learned in this sphere is you can never have enough opportunities to learn.

The one great advantage to belonging to a group as diverse as The Romance Writers of New Zealand is the opportunities it gives writers to hone their craft.

We may be at the end of the earth but New Zealand and Australian writers have truly made their presence felt on the world literary scene.

Nalini Singh a previous winner of the Clendon is now regularly on the New York  Times Bestseller list.

This is why writers strive so hard to capture this wonderful prize.  

Monday, July 11, 2011

Winter Writing Woes

Winter should be the time a writer hibernates and writes.... right?


For the first time in years I have no other calls on my time for work...we sold our antique shop in April...and I was determined to spend my entire time writing.

Well that was the plan....but who was it that said How oft the plans of mice and men are reduced to dust.

Very apt and sage that quotation turns out to be. I didn't take into consideration the amount of paperwork involved in winding up my business affairs. By the time I've consulted with the accountant, The Inland Revenue about tax owing, GST returns, employee PAYE not to mention the taxing exactness of stocktaking....and the list goes on....and on...and on.

More than three months have passed and there's hardly a word added to my Work In Progress.

At last the end is in sight. I've paid my accountant...put in my last GST return...filed our annual tax returns and in the meantime the urgency of all this extra book work has ensured I missed the deadlines for two writing contests I was keen to enter.

Ah well those are the breaks...and as Georgette Heyer said in one of her Regency novels...Crying over spilled milk is such a melancholy thing to do. 

At last all that tedious work is behind me and now have time to devote to writing.

Turning to my WIP I discovered I don't really like it and have lost the thread I started.

But rather than delete it all I've decided to put it on a back burner  and revisit an earlier script languishing in the bowels of my computer files. This manuscript has twice placed highly in The Clendon Award but rejected by New York editors. The time lapse has given me the ability to look at it with fresh eyes and see its flaws and its good points.

And having followed the superb series on layering your manuscript posted by Vicki English on her Camelot blogspot I've been able to give this old manuscript a fresh edge. For anyone interested in adding sparkle to their work this series is one I heartily recommend. I find myself going back to it often the advice is sound and very simple and with all simple things easy to do and follow.

But despite these setbacks I do have work out there.
A requested partial with Harlequin Desire after winning an on line pitch. And my Entry in The 2011 Clendon Award.  And next month is the Conference.

So writing hasn't completely stalled and spring is in the air.... the lilac is budding.... and plants seldom get things wrong... right.