Fear Unfounded

Finished my first read through of my most recently completed novel, ‘Prophecy of a Dangerous Love.’ The writing of which gave me more trouble than anything I’ve ever written (granted it’s only my third novel). I was terrified it would be horrible, but I’m very pleased to say that it’s not. Sure it needs some revising, but I’m now looking forward to it. Damn you creeping rot disease for causing me such stress. Weight gone, hope restored.

Happy writing everyone

Rose Connelly

 

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Writing Books and Ex-boyfriends

I can’t remember where, but I heard or read a comment comparing books that you’ve finished writing to ex-boyfriends. What is meant by that – for me anyway – is that once you’ve finished the writing and the revising and the editing you have moved on. Then, after some time has passed, you will think back on the book fondly, but won’t want to revisit it.

Recently I have discovered that this is absolutely true. Take for example my first novel “Running from Fate,” which I published on Amazon in August of last year. I spent some time trying the traditional publishing route – agent queries mainly – before I turned to publishing in ebook format. Prior to that I spent over a year writing and revising the manuscript. Even with revising I finished writing the book in September of 2010.

By the time it was published on Amazon it had been off my radar for two years and I was deeply into the writing of another book. In fact, I think I had finished one book and started on a third. But readers want to talk about the book they’ve just read; they comment on it, ask questions and, sometimes (and I love this part) rave about it.

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate all of my readers, even the ones who have something negative to say. I suppose the problem, like I’ve said, is that “Running from Fate” is now an ex-boyfriend. I remember it in a distant way – after all it was my creation, my blood, sweat and tears – but I don’t think of it often.

By all means, continue to comment and yes, absolutely yes, say nice things, rave about the parts you really like and I will thank you, but I might not completely recall the part you’re talking about.

Truthfully, once I’ve finished a book – and for you fellow writers you know it is hard work – I don’t really want to think about it again – well at least seriously think about it anyway (the kind of thinking that means reading it or, God forbid, working on it). I’ve spent months writing and just as long if not longer editing and revising. At least for a while anyway I’m sick of it. That’s not to say that I wouldn’t be willing to do another round of revising if say a publisher requested it, but I’d still grouch.

It’s a strange thing writing books, you always kind of live in your readers’ future. It’s a bit of a disconnect. I wonder if Neil Gaiman gets tired of people asking about “American Gods” or if J.K. Rowling will get sick of people talking about Harry Potter? Food for thought.

Anyway happy reading and inspired writing

Rose Connelly

National Novel Writing Month

ImageThis month is November so not only does it mean Thanksgiving for those who live in the United States and Bonfire Night (Guy Fawkes Night) for those of us who live in the United Kingdom, but it is also National Novel Writing Month.

From 1999, when National Novel Writing Month started with 21 people in the San Francisco Bay Area, it has grown into a worldwide phenomenon. I can’t say how many people are participating this year, but according to http://www.nanowrimo.org/en the current collective word count for 2012 is 613,259,092 and growing and it is only the 5th of the month.

The official website calls it ‘Thirty days and nights of literary abandon’ and they are right. For writers who choose to go onto the website and sign up for the challenge the goal is to write 50,000 words in 30 days. It seems like a huge tasks, but not when you really look at it. According to the breakdowns on the website, in order to reach this goal you must write an average of 1,667 words a day. The trick to this is that, when you sit down to write, don’t stop. Revising and editing can be done later; November is just about getting the story written.

Each day participants can update their word count on the website and stats will tell you how many words you still have to go, when you are expected to finish considering your current stats and how many words you would have to write per day to complete 50,000 words before the deadline. The best part of it, though, is not really the competition but the community. The website has everything from forums to badges to information on NaNo near you.

I have signed up for the challenge and it’s this last part that I’m enjoying the most. It turns out there there is a rather large group of writers in my area who have taken up the challenge. If I want to I can talk to them online and discuss my progress or even the kind of food I’ve bought for rewards (currently boxed chocolate – I get 1 and a glass of nice wine every day when I complete my daily writing goal). The group in my region also meets up twice a week at a local bookshop, to write, to gain and give encouragement, to take a break, or just to chat.

I don’t know if I’ll complete the challenge, but I’m writing, more and faster than I have in a very long time and, more importantly, I’m really enjoying myself.

So, if you’re a budding novelist just getting started, someone who just wants to write for fun, or an author with a novel or two finished who needs a push (me) or just wants a challenge then I would highly recommend signing up.

It’s still early in the month or there is always next year.

Go to http://www.nanowrimo.org/en/sign_up to sign up.

Happy writing everyone,

Rose Connelly

Published on Amazon Kindle

Well, I have gone ahead and done it; published an e-book on Amazon. It’s a romance with a good mix between contemporary and suspense. The tile is ‘Running from Fate.’ I’ll do what I can to market and increase my ratings and we’ll see what happens. I’ll keep everyone updated. View my book here: http://www.amazon.com/Kindle-eBooks/b/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=node%3D1286228011&field-keywords=Running+from+Fate&rh=n%3A133140011%2Cn%3A!133143011%2Cn%3A!251259011%2Cn%3A1286228011%2Ck%3ARunning+from+Fate And if you have any e-book stories of your own, I’d love to hear them.

Happy writing,

Rose Connelly (real name Cassandra Connolly-Brown )

Writing for a Genre – or Not

As every writer knows, it’s wonderful to let your imagination go, allow your characters room to breathe and speak, and just write. Then comes reality. You’ve finally finished your book. You’ve agonized over the words, edited it until you can barely handle looking at it then passed it on to a friend with an eagle eye. You’ve closed your eyes, taken a deep breath and sent your manuscript out to a group of friends, friends of friends, members of your writing group. You’ve told people to be honest with you and know that some of them have because you feel like the comments in the margins of your Word document should be in glaring red and some of them make you see that colour.

Then you get over your anger because, as a writer, you have to be able to handle criticism; chances are very good that it will only get worse.  So you suck it up, carefully consider what your focus group has said, make your final adjustments, and start the process of querying.  At this point I’m going to talk about my own experiences so far with my most recently completed manuscript, ‘A Blush of Magic.’ As I have previously mentioned in other blogs, the feedback from agents and publishers, in one case, has been quite mixed.

Sourcebooks, who will accept un-agented manuscripts, said it had a good, solid foundation and enchanting accents; they had nothing really negative to say about it, only that it didn’t fit in with what they published. All in all a good start. Then I had a partial manuscript request from an agent; she liked it but felt the romance didn’t move quickly enough. Another agent requested a full manuscript and felt I should clean it up, cut big parts of the story. I’m assuming that she wanted me to cut those parts that didn’t directly contribute to the romance, but doing that, I felt, would change do too much to of the story, what I wanted to say, what my characters had to say. ‘A Blush of Magic’ is definitely a romance, but that’s not all it is. It’s about a woman struggling to overcome a debilitating social anxiety disorder, finding out who she is, discovering a family, overcoming a difficult problem.

And that, it seems, is my problem.  According to Wikepedia, ” Novels in this (romance0 genre place their primary focus on the relationship and romantic love between two people…”  And if your book, as mine did, strays outside these constraints even a wee bit, you’ve gone into dangerous territory, territory that, in general, agents and publishers want to stay far away from (at least until you’ve published a few best sellers then I’d imagine that you have a bit more freedom).

This issue became even more apparent in a comment from a publisher on my first manuscript, ‘Running from Fate.’ It was apparently a solid plot, but the tone was uneven, mixing elements of both the contemporary and suspenseful categories of romance, which would apparently make it difficult to market. What’s wrong with that I say? What about comedic relief. When they’ve lost the bad guys for a bit, why can’t the characters take a little break from the stress, dance together, play together, just decompress.

I’ve been stressing over this issue, wondering how I change my already finished works to more closely fit the parameters, worrying that I’ll never get published, doubting my own abilities. And it has played havoc with my creativity, my confidence, my writing. It was something I didn’t even realize until a few weeks ago when I was sitting on the bus and had a flash that I haven’t had in good long while: the germ of a new story. And God how I’d missed that buzz, the excitement, the quick-fire thoughts that I had to get down immediately or lose them. I realized then that I had allowed all the reasons that I had started writing in the first place to become a distant speck, where they were barely even recognizable.

And then I picked up a book by Sherrilyn Kenyon and found something interesting in the author’s note. She says that, prior to this book, she had published six books in one year, but hadn’t sold one book in four years because the genre she was writing in (paranormal/futuristic) had become passée (my words). Then she wrote a book that specifically had everything a ‘marketable’ book of the time should have, but it received a scathing rejection and made her realize something: that she “…didn’t want to succeed by trying to play by other people’s ‘rules.'”  If she was going to fail it would be by writing books that she wanted to write. (Excerpt taken from “Born of Fire” by Sherrilyn Kenyon).

Why can’t I colour outside the lines?

Happy writing,

Rose Connelly

As a note: I will continue to look for an agent for “A Blush of Magic,” but I’m going to give publishing “Running from Fate” as a Kindle ebook a try. I still have to get a cover designed (thankfully I have friends and family members who are artists) and figure out how to market it (for free preferably), but it’s worth a shot.

Low Points

I know I haven’t posted in a while. Life has been busy and I’ve been struggling a bit with my current manuscript and not sure if I had anything enlightening, instructive, or even interesting to say. Not that what I’m about to write is any of those things, though it may give some consolation or at least empathy for those who have found themselves in my position.

I’m not sure if I previously posted anything about an agent asking to see a full manuscript of the second novel I’ve written. Well an agent did, a month or so ago. I got excited (though I wasn’t expecting a ‘yes’) since she had read my first few chapters, looked at a synopsis, and still wanted to see it. I sent it off and waited patiently.

Today I got a reply and I knew it was a ‘no’ simply because the response came by post and not in the form of a phone call.

I started seriously writing over two years ago and, since that time,  have sent out hundreds of queries, a few partials, and even e-mailed an entire manuscript to a publisher who accepted unsolicited submissions.  I should be used to rejections, the words should flow off my back like water off a turtle’s shell, and for years that has been the case.  This time, though, the words cut me and they cut deep to the heart of insecurities I thought I’d either gotten rid of or buried deep.

It wasn’t that I received a form letter rejection – I could handle that – it was the scribbled notes in the margins of that form letter. “The prose needs polishing,” the agent says, “the pace enhancing and the book lots of cutting – and focus and clarity.”  Ouch.  I didn’t think it was that bad; other people have read it, and not just friends, and liked it.  Sourcebooks said no, but found the story solid and the accents enchanting. I can’t enhance the pace. Yes, it’s a romance, but my heroine is struggling with a severe case of social anxiety. There is no way she’d fall into the hero’s arms. Their relationship had to be awkward, sporadic, jerky and incredibly tentative for much of the book. Perhaps the issue is that, though there’s a strong romance running through it, a fair amount of my plot revolves around the heroine learning to love herself, accept herself, and become strong enough to function in the world. If she hadn’t done that, she would never be able to accept love from someone else.

*Sigh* I guess I’m just remembering university and turning in a 20 page paper to my Chaucer professor only to have him come back and tell me it was good, but I might want to think about adjusting my thesis; two days before the due date.

I’m just not sure what to do. Do I take the comments to heart? Take time off from my current manuscript, go back through my last one, and try to figure out where it needs changing? Do I decide that perhaps I don’t have what it takes to be a writer and lay down my pencil? No, I can’t do that. I suppose I’ll just allow myself a few down days, have a nice glass or two of wine, go to see The Avengers in 3D, and get stuck back in.

Here’s to all those who keep writing despite the doubts and all those who tell us it’s not a valid career choice.

Good writing,

Rose Connelly

Grrrr… the synopsis

Writing the book is the easy part (comparatively); it’s the rest that’s frustrating. I’ve been sending out query after query, trying to get an agent interested in my second book, A Blush of Magic (some interest, no yes yet). I prepared properly prior to doing this. I gave it some time after I finished, read back over to see how it flowed and discover any major problems, spent a good deal of time editing and sent my manuscript off to a few friends and my writing group for critiques. I agonized over my query letter and discarded drafts till I was happy with it. Then came the dreaded synopsis, which took me days, hours, forever (yeah exaggeration).

A synopsis is meant to be a narrative summary. It is meant to highlight the book’s main characters, conflicts, key events and secondary characters and do this in such a way that the agent or publisher gets a good feel for the story, sees how it flows and how it ends, and can decide whether or not they think it works. The writer has to kind of strip the creativity, the expressive language away, and expose the bare bones of the story; see if it holds up. This is painful, but doable.

The problem, however, is that as time has gone by, length has become ridiculous. Guidelines have never really been strict for this sort of thing, but it used to be around one page for every 25 manuscript pages. If you had a 350 page book that would mean a 14 page synopsis. Not great when you’ve got a decently complex main plot, perhaps a minor plot, two main characters and several others who play important roles. Still, I could handle that.

Now you’re lucky if an agent will accept a 10 page synopsis and ‘the shorter the better’ seems to be the current phrase. How, I ask you can someone get an accurate picture of your 350 page story when it has been condensed and stripped to within an inch of it’s life? (all right, now I’m just being dramatic).

Now to my personal issue. I created a synopsis, worked hard at it, and managed to get it down to five pages. I’ve been submitting it whenever an agency requests one with a query. A few days ago I found a few more agents that I wanted to query – one seemed very promising – but I was brought up short when I discovered that they wanted a synopsis that was three to five paragraphs! This didn’t bring me to tears, but it made me growl.

I’ll find a way to do this, though I know I’ll have to miss out some things and I don’t know how clear of a picture I can give, but it irks me that I have to.

Thanks for listening to me rant. Good writing everyone.

Rose Connelly

 

Musings on the Creative Process

As anyone who’s read my blog (sparse as it may be) knows when it comes to my writing I tend to be a bit methodical, planning large parts of my story before I even start writing. I’m sure not all writers are like this, but it makes me feel comfortable to have a road map. You see, I’ve always had a love for words, from reading books way above my ‘level’ to coming up with silly stories when I was very young to helping on a family ‘newspaper’ during the summer (we’re all creative in our own way).  My choice of a university degree -English- was highly influenced by this passion. I wasn’t thinking of what I would do with the degree or how I’d make money after graduation – though considering my current employment situation I probably should have been.  You see, in the back of my head, I have always wanted to be a word smith, a teller of tales and given my introverted, self-conscious personality (which I’m sure I’ve talked about in another blog) I knew I would be telling tales through the medium of writing as opposed to using the oral tradition.  It was my hope that immersing myself in the study of writing and literature would improve my own efforts.

Ultimately, it did, but I had to sort of unlearn the rules laid down by my professors and discover how to write creatively again. After a lot of internal struggle, first pages written then discarded, and a final realization that if I didn’t seriously try I would never know, I finished a manuscript.

Which gets me back to my original point, which I don’t think I’ve actually stated yet.  Ah yes, my need for a road map when writing a book. I find this predilection kind of amusing as I tend to be rambling in my speech and, as you can see, in my blog writing. Of course, I will eventually get to the point, which is about the creative process.

You see, I need to feel some sort of direction in my writing because, due to my struggle to get this far, I have this niggling fear that my creativity will dry up and my dream with die (I’m knocking on wood). It seems like a silly worry as I’m working on my third novel and I’ve got ideas for at least ten more.

Be that as it may, it’s when the plot changes without my knowledge, something happens before I’ve planned it, changing the whole dynamic, that I find most intriguing and enjoyable. It happened to me yesterday. I write romance so it should come as no surprise that there is the occasional sex scene in my novels. Well, I had planned on having my main characters have their first intimate encounter in a later part of the story, when they knew each other a bit better, but I wrote the scene in a different way and at a different spot than I had planned, almost as if, for a brief time, I lost control of the story. The progress of my tale has shifted, even if just the slightest bit, and I have to re-adjust. I’m not angry, but intrigued. What sort of creative soup was simmering in my subconscious while I wasn’t paying attention (yes, I’m a bit peckish)?

The mind is a fascinating thing.

Happy writing.

Rose Connelly

 

Creating the Story: The Plot

Every writer plots in a different way. There are people who take a story idea,add characters, perhaps have a basic idea of the beginning, middle and end, and just sit in front of a computer and write.  Perhaps one day, when I have dozens of books under my belt, I’ll be able to do this, but for now I use a different, slightly more structured method.

I start by writing a very short summary about my story. Something perhaps like: Seraphina and Jake, a Scottish witch and a paranormal debunker who could be a strong medicine man, but refuses to believe ‘magic’ even exists, meet when he comes to her small village to interview her for a book.  They are incredibly attracted, perhaps even fated to be together but, because of what she is and what he believes, there is friction and mistrust, and anger between them.  Jake’s coming awakened a sleeping evil that wants to possess his soul, his body, and his magic in order to walk in the world again.  In order to protect the village and defeat the evil, Jake and Sera must come to respect and trust each other, she will have to learn to accept other’s help and he will have to believe that the paranormal exists and, ultimately, accept his own heritage and the magic he possesses.  (This is actually the basis of the novel I’m currently working on). This summary gives me a basic place to start and will help me when it comes time to write my query and my synopsis.

All right, now I go back to the information I’ve compiled about my main characters, my secondary characters, and my setting.  I take out a notebook and ask myself what the plot has to lead to and how can I get there. In the case of the preceding story I actually have two, simultaneous plots running.  As a romance, I obviously have to have my main characters fall in love (that is what everything has to lead to). I also have to incorporate the evil creature and the escalating path the danger take.

From my character outlines I already know the kinds of things they like, what their hangups are, what their hobbies are, etc… which means I know what they will want in a partner and what they will have to learn/overcome to make a relationship with the other main character work.  I can now do what really comprises the bulk of my early plotting: open a new pack of note cards and start creating scenes. You may already have several scenes that you know you want to use so create those scene cards first. Now, you don’t actually have to write out the entire scene (it probably wouldn’t fit on a 3 X 5 index card), just sketch in some basic details. Like: Sera and Jake have gone into the forest so she can collect plants, they get a bad feeling, chase something, and find an animal dead of no apparent cause.

Once you’ve created the scenes you already know, start on ones you don’t. Don’t panic because you should already have some idea of what you need to include. For instance: Jake is investigating Sera so he will likely interview her and talk to the villagers so you’ve got a few scenes there.  He’s also going to have to come to believe in magic so what events could happen for that to occur? When Sera and Jake first encounter each other I’ve already said there is anger and mistrust so there will obviously be a few scenes where they argue: where and what about? Keep doing this until you have as many note cards as you can make at this point. Lay them out on a flat surface and arrange them in sequential order. Obviously, there will be gaps, but that’s fine. Now ask yourself how you get from one scene to another? You already know that there are certain things you need to include (e.g. what does Sera come to like about Jake-the way he treats villagers, his humor, liking of sci-fi, the fact that he opens door for her, worries about her even when he’s angry at her, etc…) so you will need scenes that convey this.

You could probably keep making scene cards until you’ve got hundreds and feel free to do this if you want to. If nothing else it will help stave off writer’s block as you will always have an idea of what does or can come next.

Just a note: I make up a lot of scene cards, but I don’t consider them the absolute last word. As I write new things might pop up, I might feel like something needs to be done differently, a character could surprise me (which I love). I may end up not using a good quarter of my scene cards, but they are a great tool to start you off and lead to a cohesive, structured plot.

Check out this wonderful article that appeared in Writer’s digest for some common plot fixes: http://www.writersdigest.com/writing-articles/by-writing-goal/write-first-chapter-get-started/10-minute-fixes-to-10-common-plot-problems

Happy writing and I’d love to hear how you do your own plotting.

Rose Connelly

Creating the Story: Setting

I know, I’m a day late. Well, perhaps you’re not aware of it, but I’m trying to get my blog written on a Saturday. Not sure what happened yesterday, but time got away from me.

Anyway, I’m here today to talk about the story setting. There are tons of choices when it comes to a setting and, in some respects, it depends on the type of story you’re writing. For instance, if writing a sci-fi or fantasy the setting is more likely to be another planet, an Earth in the past or future, or a world that is slightly twisted or different in some way. What all these places have in common, though, is that they have to seem real to the reader.

In my first novel I chose to place my characters in a city that actually existed and at the present time, but you have to be careful with this because readers are watchful and they’ll catch you out. To do this it’s best if you have a familiarity with the place or, if you can afford it, take a trip and spend a few weeks there. Now, that’s not to say you want to necessarily use individually owned shops, restaurants, etc… that actually exist because this can get sticky and might even involve permissions. It is fine, however, to mention street names, perhaps churches, natural landmarks, business parks, etc..If a reader has been to the town and they recognize a street name the story becomes that much more real to them.

In some respects, I found it easier to invent my own village, which I did in my second novel. This leaves you having to come up with the layout of the place and street names. You also have to come up with shops, hotels, restaurants, pubs, churches, schools, or whatever else your town needs. Obviously, only the businesses your character becomes familiar with, places that enter the story, need to be described in some detail.

Now that that’s been said, you’ll need to stock those businesses with people. Technically, these are considered secondary characters, but their mannerisms, quirks, conversations, add to the feel of the place so, in some ways, I consider them part of the setting.

All right, so you have some ideas for street name and shops, but you can’t entirely pull them from your imagination. That is to say, if your story takes place in a small town in Scotland, for instance, your businesses have to mirror that. There probably wouldn’t be a Baptist church, there won’t be a Wall-mart, and there will be pubs and a take away or two. If the town is too small, there would probably be a primary school, but the older kids might have to be bussed to a bigger place for secondary school. Do a bit of research first and save yourself trouble later.

You’ll have to think about natural elements as well. To some extent this can be made up, but if the region you’re placing your story in doesn’t have a large river or grow any kind of evergreen tree, you don’t want to add these in. Again, do a bit of research to find out what the landscape is like and what type of wildlife resides in the area. It’s these little details that really bring  a place to life. Also, keep the climate in mind and the time of the year. You won’t want your characters wearing shorts and a t-shirt when the temperature should be in the  mid 40s.

Once you have a solid setting you can start working on the story plot itself, which I will be covering in my next couple of writing blogs.

Good writing.

Rose Connelly

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