Monday, October 17, 2011

NaNo Seconds

Participant2_180_180_whiteI took part in NaNo last year. For those of you unfamiliar, that’s National Novel Writing Month. It’s an event that encourages people to write an entire novel in a month. November, specifically. As I said, I participated last year. Didn’t finish, sadly. I had been looking forward to it this year, the plan being to get every bit of preliminary out of the way around summer and let the story gestate through early fall, so when November came around, my novel would hit the ground running.

Not only did none of that happen, but I’ve been wondering if a writing career is still the path I want to follow. Despite that, I’ve decided I’m still going to take part this year. I love the process, especially the early stages of creation. Of creating characters so bold and vivid that eventually they tell you what to do.

I think it would be good for me: a specific goal, and a deadline so tight I have to focus most of my attention on it. Also, I’ll know going in that failure is an option, at least by NaNo’s measure of success. The process is what’s important; victory is not a word count, but a reawakening of my passion for putting the world that exists only inside my head into those strange, jagged patterns called words.

So I’m jumping in, and if the water’s too cold, I’ll jump back out. Most of all, though, there’s no pressure. What I get done, I get done. And as we all know, it’s never about quantity; it’s about quality.

So wish me luck, and...um…got any ideas?

Saturday, October 15, 2011

In Which the Author Attempts to Turn a Football Rant into a Post about Writing

peyton-manning-super-bowlIf you follow football, or for that matter, if you’ve ever seen any commercial, ever, you know who Peyton Manning is. For those that don’t, he’s the quarterback of the Indianapolis Colts, which also happens to be my favorite sports team. Manning is one of those rare athletes who came out of college with high expectations and managed to not only meet them, but completely blow them away. He’s won the league MVP award four times. No one else has ever won it more than twice. He belongs in conversations with the likes of Johnny Unitas, Dan Marino, and Joe Montana. Or to put it another way: they belong in conversations with him. In short, he’s arguably the best quarterback to ever play the game.

And he’s hurt.

Manning, who in thirteen previous seasons had never missed a start and had only missed one snap due to injury,* is out probably for the season due to complications following neck surgery in the off-season. No problem, right? He’s just one guy, right? How important can he be?

Um…

The Colts are currently 0-5 and last week blew a seventeen-point lead at home. They haven’t shown any signs of improvement, either. In fact, sadly, they’re probably already playing the best football they can.

So what happened, and what does this have to do with writing?

Well, Manning is clearly the protagonist of this team, and he’s also not only their most valuable player, but his worth has never been more evident. His very presence turns mediocre players into Pro-Bowlers, and Pro-Bowlers into future Hall of Famers, even on defense. He compensates for shortcomings and hides weaknesses. His will and force of character pervades the entire team and turns a 6-10 ball club into perennial Super Bowl contenders.

And that’s what your Main Character has to do.

Your MC is your novel’s MVP. It doesn’t matter how strong your prose is or how fantastic your plot is, or even the originality of the concept, if your MC is dull, generic, or clich├ęd, he’ll drag your whole MS down with him. On the other hand, a strong MC can turn a pedestrian tale into an enduring classic. Think about your favorite books, the ones you truly adore. What made you fall in love with them? The plot? The sentence construction? Or were they peopled with lively, original, three-dimensional characters so real you could almost have a conversation with them?

Stories are the life blood of humanity; they truly separate us from the rest of the animal kingdom. Yet without a Don Quixote, a Holden Caulfield, or an Odysseus, without a living, breathing person to root for (or against), the plot is just a bunch of things that happen.

Who is the MVP of your novel? If it’s not the MC, who is it and why?

*a broken jaw(!)

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Sanguine Musings: Year One, or How to Succeed in Blogging without Really Trying

images (4)Today is my one year Blogiversary (yeah, knew that squiggly red line was coming). October 1, 2010 saw my very first post. Of course, no one else saw it; I had no followers save my family members who I made follow me to prime the pump, so to speak. I’ve written several posts about how I’ve been a lone wolf or solitary witch. Without any formal schooling or apprenticeship, my only real knowledge of the industry came from writing books and websites. But that by itself did little good. So I hit blogosphere. I started with agent blogs, and then went after their followers: fellow writers, aspiring or otherwise. Soon I had a blogroll chock full of helpful hints, peeks into the publishing world, and just plain moral support.

So here it is: twelve months, 86 posts, and 678 comments* later. I’m up to 258 followers now – an astronomical number to me back then - and I appreciate and admire every last one of you, even though I don’t comment or reply nearly as much as I should. In fact, I haven’t done much of anything with this blog lately. There’s been speculation among my board of directors (consisting mostly of my cats and a partially eaten Boba Fett) that maybe Sanguine Musings won’t see a second birthday. I hope that’s not the case, but really, my heart’s not been in it lately. But S. M. is my baby; I want it to succeed. My biggest fear, though, is that if it does disappear, no one will notice.

Anyway, now that I’m done peeing all over my own birthday cake, here it is: my very first post as was. Hopefully, you’ll think it sucks, which of course means I’m getting better, not worse.

Or, I just still suck. Smile

* and 72 footnotes

FIRST CONTACT

Yesterday, after six months revising and nearly three years writing my novel and over a decade before that of failed attempts, aborted story ideas, and general foot-dragging, I finally took my first baby steps into the business end of the book world. No I’m not published yet not by a mile, but for the first time, I interacted (sort of) with an honest-to-goodness literary agent and a tiny piece of the literary world. It may not seem like anything to those actively immersed in the world. To me, however, Publication* is now no longer a mythical city on a hill, but an obtainable, albeit challenging, reality.

I’ve spent the last ten years working on an ambulance. Wonderful people, but not exactly the literati. It’s been difficult just finding people to read my manuscript, finding like-minded souls to muse about the peculiar life of a writer, particularly an unpublished one. I work a crazy amount of hours, and of course there are no writing groups in my immediate area. My friends are all paramedics, EMTs, and firefighters; it would be tough starting a reading group, much less one for writers. Therefore, like the solitary witch, I write without a coven; I edit with only an inkling of feedback. And as I put the finishing touches on my manuscript and prepare with trembling hand to send that first query letter into the world, I do it alone.

Which was why this seminar was so important. To hear from an agent in her own words exactly what she’s looking for, to have her address my questions and even look at my pitch proposal gave everything weight; it made it all real. I can get Published; it’s hard work and could take years, but I know it’s possible. There are people like me, no experience, no background in publishing, that every day are selling their manuscript, or finding that perfect agent who’s passionate about their work. I’m in the game now. It’s the fourth quarter, I’m down by three touchdowns, and my offensive line has snuck off to Applebee’s, but I’m in the game.

As I get older, so much about life seems to involve endings. This, however, is a beginning, and a big one. And beginnings are so much better.