Archive for the ‘My Kitchen Table’ Category
Bulletproof Princess has sold in Australia, New Zealand and in the Philippines! I love the new cover for it.
Who says good news never comes over the weekend?
The Harlequin community is committed to reading 100,000 Books this year to benefit the National Center for Family Literacy.
This is an unprecedented opportunity for all of us to help fight illiteracy at the grass roots level.
If the Harlequin community achieves its goal of 100,000 books read, it will be donating the equivalent number of books to this charity–and this charity is working hard to find solutions to the literacy crisis, so we need to do our part to make sure this a success.
That Harlequin book donation is equivalent to $700,000. You know how much that kind of donation can benefit women and their families.
We all want to make a difference in the lives of others. Here’s a shot to do just that. Reading impacts lives; we know it does. So get involved. Be a part of making a difference.
register and participate. Blog about the books you read this year.
WHAT EXACTLY DO YOU HAVE TO DO?
Read a book and create a book review. Do that, and you’ve added one more book to the total–and the National Center for Family Literacy is one book closer to getting those books!
We love reading–so much so that sometimes we feel we need a license to do more of it. Well, consider this your license (you’re reading for a worthy cause, a critical purpose) and go for it!
Here is the link to the challenge rules and an introduction. Please, please, use it!
WARNING: this is a no-edit zone…
First and foremost, a very big thank you to Kass (Kassandra Bakke at Consulting Services, Inc.) for working her computer magic and getting my iMac in order. I organize creatively, and as a present to my iMac, Kass organized it logically. THANKS, Kass, from me and from my Mac.
Being off-line for a few days gave me tons of time to spend with the grans, which is my most favorite thing in the world to do. In the breaks, I spent a lot of time thinking, and one of the things I thought about was fresh starts. As in I wanted to make one on a series I’m writing. And so fresh starts is what’s on my mind this morning…
Most writers are happiest when they’re in create-mode. By that, I mean, working with a new idea or concept and developing it–making all those decisions on point of view, main and secondary characters, setting and tone–using the tools writers use to take a flicker or glimmer of an idea and mold and shape it into a story.
We typically love that part. And as we build and mold and shape our enthusiasm grows and grows until we just can’t stand to wait another second–we’ve got to write. And so we do. And we love what we write. It is the manifestation of our ideas and thoughts–our creation.
So on we go, writing and writing. And then we reach a point where we cross the proverbial line in the sand and the enthusiasm is invaded by our internal editor. So we read what we’ve written. And we realize that the images in our heads when we were writing are ill-reflected on the page. And so we rewrite.
Oh, we think. If I’d opened this story there rather than here, it would be so much better. Oh, if she had a history of this instead of that, she’d have so much more at risk. Oh….
And so we smile or grimace, depending on our attitude, and then we make a choice. We elect to start over and rewrite from the stronger perspective (which in truth might or might not be stronger) or we elect to keep going, see what happens and then make our adjustments.
I’m often asked which I do. I can honestly answer either or both. It pays (for scheduling purposes) as well as other reasons for a writer to understand his or her process. To notice patterns in the way s/he writes. My pattern is to blaze through a first draft, knowing the writing is raw and needs tons of polish. I’ve written other ways, but this is the most natural to me. And then after I blaze through that first draft, I start polishing.
Which means, it’s only after the entire first draft is written that I rewrite the first three chapters. The bones are there, but they need nourishment to be strong and healthy. They need enhancing with details I didn’t know then that were revealed in the actual writing.
This makes it challenging to sell on proposal to an editor who does not see or share your vision. One who hasn’t worked with you won’t know that about the way you work and that can give him or her a false impression of your finished product. The only way around this, in that case, is to write the entire first draft and then rewrite your first three chapters for submission.
That’s not typically something multi-published authors do. They explain their process and take their chances. Sometimes it works out. Sometimes it doesn’t. The perk is that when it does, the author knows s/he has hooked up with an editor who can see his/her vision. That’s priceless.
But this is about fresh starts. It’s about the author remembering that the goal is to create the best book possible, and that means starting over because it’s best for the book. No grumbling or groaning or whining. Just doing it because in the end the work is the one thing the author can control.
Fresh starts like fresh perspectives, give us an opportunity to build on something that exists. Something we created from nothing.
That’s a perk we don’t have when we first begin writing. We’re blazing a new trail, creating something from nothing. How many trials, do you think, Ben Franklin needed to get spectacles right? Or any other inventor? Do you think any one went from zero to finale in one shot?
Fresh starts are opportunities. Embrace them–and you’ll see far more of the vision in your mind appear on your pages.
©2008, Vicki Hinze
What follows is a handout from a workshop on CONFLICT (©2008, Vicki Hinze) from this past weekend at the Emerald Coast Writers Conference.
It’s lengthy so I’m linking to it. It’s in pdf format, so it shouldn’t be a problem for anyone, but if it is, then contact me, and I’ll get it to you in a format that works for you.
If you click on the photo above (on the www.vickihinze.com website blog), the entire article should open in your browser.
If you click on Conflict in the My Kitchen Table widget, you’ll get the article:
Or you can download it. The link for that is Conflict.pdf.
©2008, Vicki Hinze
What follows is a handout from a workshop on CHARACTER from this past weekend at the Emerald Coast Writers Conference.
Actually, I’m going to have to link to it. It’s 12 pages long, so there’s no way to post the entire thing here without difficulties.
It’s in pdf format, so it shouldn’t be a problem for anyone. If it is, contact me, and I’ll get it to you in a format that works for you. If you click on the photo above or click on the widget on the front page of the website, you’ll get the article. Or you can download it. The link for that is below.
Pitching your novel to an editor or agent causes many writers anxiety. Here are a few tips that will hopefully squelch that!
Remember: No matter how much an editor loves your book, s/he can’t buy what s/he can’t sell. So when you pitch…
1. Know what you’re selling and that it is a project that this editor/agent buys and markets.
2. Quickly relate the project type, status, word length. (i.e. TITLE is a complete 90,000 word thriller.) Now the editor knows where it fits on the publishing list and that it’s ready to market. (Think where would I find this book in bookstores?)
3.Create a short overview of the book, focusing on character and conflict incorporating the setting. (You’ve already set the tone by telling the type of book, but use mood words here that are consistent with novel tone. (Think very short back cover copy on a novel.)
4.Be flexible. The agent or publisher knows what sells for him/her. If revising ups your odds of selling, and you want to sell, revise.
5.Be confident, and certain you’re pitching your best!
6.Be professional. Being gracious is always an asset.
P.S. A note to my regular readers. I’m now writing three blogs. This one will focus on writing craft and life. Vicki Hinze on Writing will focus on the art of writing and creativity. Faith Zone focuses on my spiritual journey. You can find out more on this on the welcome (home), news pages and in the Reader’s Corner. Xtra Blessings to you all! Vicki
I received a note with the subject line: HELP! I’M BAFFLED. WHAT DOES HE MEAN?
Now who can resist stopping to read a note referenced like that? So I did–stop, that is–and read the note. It was from an author who had received a rejection from an agent. In the note, he said that the villain didn’t scare him. That’s an important factor considering this is a novel targeted at the thriller market.
The author was confused by it. The villain purportedly had all the makings of a convincing villain. So the agent’s comment baffled the author, leaving her confused and floundering, trying to determine what was wrong with the villain.
I couldn’t resist. From the character sketch, two things were apparent:
1. The villain was capable of villainous acts.
2. The villain was weak and I didn’t fear him, either.
Here was the problem. He was totally evil. No redeeming quality. That makes him weak–and it diminishes suspense because we know to expect his worse and about what his capabilities are going to be.
That’s a challenge. To fear a villain, we need to be uncertain how far he’ll go–or know how far he’ll go and fear he’ll go even further. In other words, he needs to be a little unpredictable.
He also needs to be motivated. Doing what is normal and right and good TO HIM. Even if that’s twisted and crazy and totally nuts. To him, he makes perfect sense and his reason for doing what he’s doing is one we understand even though we consider it twisted.
That means it typically ties to a universal emotion. Why? Because we identify with universal emotions. This gives the villain credibility as a villain.
Lacking those qualities, the villain is weak and because he’s weak, he also diminishes the heroism and admirability of the story’s hero. If the villain were smart and strong and sharp and clever and cunning and oh-so-good at being a villain, then the hero would have to be even better to win in an adversarial match against that villain. Because the villain isn’t those things, the hero can’t be heroic. So his character is weakened, too.
A hero is only as good as his villain makes him.
Regardless of the novel type, that’s an important point to remember in crafting characters.
I try to make the villain as dastardly as I can for some emotional reason. Then I think on him until I find a way to make him worse. After I’ve made him as awful and as strong as I can, then I give him some extra perk that makes him even more terrifying to me. And seat that perk in universal emotion.
Remember, a killer killing isn’t interesting. Why a killer is killing and if he is successful at killing in the face of someone fantastic trying to stop him from killing–now that’s interesting.
Writers have a tendency to eliminate obstacles when they run into situations like this. To eliminate the obstacle or conflict when they should be doing the exact opposite–making it harder still on everyone involved. Putting the outcome in greater doubt.
This brings to mind BODY DOUBLE. In chapter 1 a woman is sealed into a tomb alive. She awakens and digs her way out, makes her way to safety, and is retrieved by an operative. That’s a pretty formidable enemy who can do that. And some would say it’s enough. But…
The operative who retrieved her informed her she hadn’t been missing for three days–as she thought. She’d been missing for three months–and she has no idea where she’s been.
Now that further complicated the matter–and it intrigued the heck out of me. Only one thing worried me. I had no idea where she’d been, or what had happened to her, or why she didn’t remember it.
I had to write the story to find out. And, boy, did I have a blast doing it!
So that’s another perk to complicating matters up, even when you think you’ve complicated yourself right into a wall. You’re creative, you’ll find a window–or make a new one. And when you do, you’ll enjoy discovering these wrinkles and intrigues as much as the reader.
And you shouldn’t get notes such as the one above on future submissions.
P.S. There are two articles in the website library (www.vickihinze.com) that might be helpful on this: Villains and The Fictional Dream. You might review deepening conflict and the articles on character, too.
Birthdays are special days–and at times in our lives when we’ve thought we wouldn’t have any or many more of them, we learn a new appreciation for them. Actually, it’s a new appreciation for life itself, but the day is the perfect day to acknowledge and celebrate that.
Today is mine. And I’ve made special plans, but none more so than what I’m doing right now, and that is sharing my birthday wish and hopes with you.
My birthday wish.
Wishes are special things. They speak to the desires we hold close in our hearts. And to accomplish mine, I need your help. Someone very special to me is having surgery today, and my birthday wish is that she have a successful surgery and a speedy recovery. A full, speedy recovery.
So if you’ve a spare moment in your hectic day, please join me in wishing her well by whatever means feels right to you. Prayer, healing light, wishes for the surgeon’s skill and the medical staff’s expertise to be focused and sharp and on point. For her body to work in tandem with all that’s needed for healing quickly, painlessly.
This person is loved by many and needed by more. And I appreciate your adding your thoughts, prayers, and wishes to mine. I’m grateful, and I thank you one and all.
Hope is a fragile thing. We dare to hope, and when those hopes aren’t realized, we fret over whether or not we should dare to hope again. But we should dare. We should always dare. There is a reason that hope springs eternal. It’s because so long as life exists, there is potential and possibility. So I do dare to hope. And this morning, these are a few of the things for which I hope:
I hope that our troops remain safe and those who come home feel appreciated and their needs are met.
I hope that the desperation becoming evident in home invasions and crimes ceases so that home is the serene haven it should be.
I hope that those in need feel the care of those able to assist, that those in pain know relief, and those grieving are comforted.
I hope Oprah’s Big Give catches on and becomes the next big thing. No one can do everything, but everyone can do something to help someone else. Wouldn’t it be amazing if doing so became all the rage!
I hope that leaders get a grip on egos and greed and actually do what is good and right for people counting on them.
I hope we don’t spend the next year trapped in the negativity of dirty politics. We’re not Democrats or Republicans, we’re Americans. It’s time we remember it and remember what it means.
I hope we get our priorities straight: shelter our homeless, feed our hungry, care for our sick, and protect our children. More than anything we need to love one another and that means not looking the other way when someone is struggling.
These are my hopes. I carry them in my heart. I cast them into the world, too. Within and without. And maybe, just maybe, if they are embraced by enough of us, we’ll see them realized.
Wouldn’t that be something?
Oh, but it would. It truly would…
And one more. A personal, work hope: let lives be touched by the work I do, and let me be strong enough and wise enough and determined enough and lucky enough to continue to do it.
In my office hangs a sign. It’s been hanging here for many, many years. It reads: “When I grow up I want to be a Fairy Godmother.”
Today, I’m daring to hope that this too will come true… and one day, it just might!
When writing, we don’t often think specifically about a character’s contentment. There’s a reason for that: we’re in the conflict business. That, conflict, not contentment, is the spine of our novels. But contentment isn’t the same thing as a lack of conflict. It is peace in the face of conflict. And so as novelists, we definitely should be thinking about contentment and our characters positions on it and where they are in relation to it.
A person can be in the middle of turmoil and at peace. At war against an enemy, and at peace. Going through tough times on the job, with the family, in health or welfare issues–on any front, really, and still be content.
Contentment comes from knowing you’re doing or have done your best in a given situation. It’s accepting what can’t be changed. It’s acknowledging the facts of the matter and being at peace with those facts.
Contentment isn’t an idealistic view of all being perfect and beautiful and everything working seamlessly and without fail, trial, challenge or trouble. It’s peace in light of those failures, trials, challenges and troubles.
What is your character’s contentment level? Why? These are important insights into the individuals and why they behave as they do. The greater insight into why they are as they are and conduct their priorities on value and judgment systems that might one-eighty out from our own.
These are incredibly rich resources for the writer.
What’s your character’s contentment level? What would increase or decrease it? Why would those specific things impact that level?
And, of course, the same can be asked of you, the person. All this holds true for our imaginary people, but it holds true for real ones, too.
WARNING: This is a no-edit zone…
Now that income taxes are done (THANK YOU!!!!), two things are on my mind this morning. Well, actually, three things, but two apply to writing so I’ll chat about those.
The first thing came from a phone conversation I had with an editor friend this morning. She read me a bit from a work that was a gem. The first thing that went through my mind was that this story has serious potential. The second thing was wondering if it’d be realized. I hope that it will.
What spurred the first thought was a knowing from line one that something horrific and significant was about to happen. The second thought came from the mechanical challenge in the area of psychic distance.
I’ve done an article on psychic distance for anyone interested. It’s in my writer’s library on the writing website (www.vickihinze.com).
Why was it a challenge? What was happening was intense and yet we, the readers, were viewing it from a distant point versus up close and personal. This was definitely a scene for deep point of view. Intense situation, high stakes, incredible obstacles and horrendously important consequences. Being somewhat removed, the work was good. But if the author closed that psychic distance, the work would be great.
When the psychic distance is broad, immediacy suffers. And this was and required immediacy. What happened had all the elements required for elevated reader identity and it was darned captivating. But it suffered the handicap of that distance.
So double-checking psychic distance is on my mind. It matters. A lot. It makes the difference between good and great. It makes the difference in snagging the reader and giving them a license to set a book down.
Ask yourself, why is this happening now? Must it happen now? What impact will it happening have? Who suffers, gains or loses most?
If it doesn’t have to happen now, there’s not a significant impact if it doesn’t happen, and no one suffers the fallout, gains or loses, then you don’t need it. Doesn’t matter how well written it is, how exciting or thrilling or chilling. Immediacy is required or it’s out of there.
The second thing on my mind came from a phone conversation I had with another author last night. It was about author voice and established genres. Actually, she had read a story I’ve been writing called TENDING GRAVES and shared two observations with me:
1. There’s something in my first person voice that adds an extra element to the work. That’s a plus and something I’ll be remembering. I haven’t explored first person voice a great deal in my work, but I’m going to spend some time doing so. It’s natural, comfortable and adds immediacy–and it lends itself well to her second observation…
2. “You’re creating a new genre again,” she said. I seem prone to do that–and I find it extremely exciting, so I’m going for it.
Is this an easy way to build a career? Absolutely not.
It’d be wiser, I suppose, to write within the confines of an established genre. For marketing purposes, it’d be wise.
But writing to fit has never been my goal or my mission. Writing what I feel driven to write, writing with purpose and for purpose is what motivates me. The stories I can’t wait to get to the computer to write, the ones that awaken me in the middle of the night–or interrupt with thoughts in the middle of other conversations–stories that captivate me. That’s my path.
Many writers get story ideas that fit into established genres and traditional slots, if you will. Others don’t. I’m not sure who is lucky and who has the chore. Opinions on that will vary from writer to writer. What I can say is that it’s essential to be true to your nature to respect your gift. If your gift fits into a defined slot, that’s wonderful. You’re blessed.
But if it doesn’t, don’t despair, because you’re blessed, too. You might not get a lot perks that others do, but you’ll get ones they don’t. Yours.
Blazing trails gets you some scratches and dents and bruises and sometimes you get banged up a little. But you also get immense satisfaction. And when you watch those behind you get excited and join you, well, that’s a pretty special thing.
I can’t speak to it being easier or harder to sell. I will say that when I first blazed a trail, I had to explain what the book was before I could pitch what the story was actually about. And I can say that I got mixed reactions. Some were “Ewe, that’s weird.” Some had light dancing in their eyes, as excited by the prospect as I was excited. And I’ll never forget the editor who literally got so enthused she bounced in her seat.
You know, when it came to that sale, she didn’t offer the most money. She didn’t offer the best contract. But she offered her enthusiasm. She was invested. And I chose her for those books. It was a good choice.
Money’s nice, guys, and I like it as much as anyone else. But I’ll take a fair deal and enthusiasm–an editor with vision who trusts me over more money any day of the week. It’s by far the better bargain.
How do these things relate? Immediacy. One is in the work. One is in the author and the editor selected for the project.
See, I just seem to have scattered thoughts today. Actually, I’m very focused. Well, considering I just spent two days working on income tax… ☺