Monday, November 28, 2011

Life Support...

Recently I had to write my first acknowledgment page. Seems silly, but it was a moment. It was something I’d dreamed about for so long, and something that might not have even happened had I not crawled out from under my safe little rock…

I’ll admit it. I used to be delusional. I had this idea in my head that writers were solitary creatures that only crawled out from under their rock once or twice a day to forage for food and scope things out. This worked for me as I’ve always been incredibly shy. I know, I know—but it’s true. Unless I know you, getting more than three words from me face to face is life trying to yank a pineapple through a pin hole. So the whole works in solitude thing? I was in love.

And I did it for a while. Holed up under my nifty little rock and wrote like there was no tomorrow. But I knew my stuff was lacking. It needed polishing and objective opinions and I wasn’t going to get that by letting my family and friends read it. If I heard one more, Oh it was great. I loved it, and it’s perfect just the way it is, I was going to yak. So I clawed my way out of the hole and joined my first writers group. I kept up with it for a little while, but that particular one just wasn’t a good fit. I never really meshed with any of the members—and trust me. It’s all about meshing.

Finally ready to take another stab at it, I joined RWA for the sole purpose of joining FF&P. That went better. It was less cliquey and had fewer time restrictions on posting to their critique forum, and because it was such a specific kind of group, there were more people that wrote and read what I did. Through FF&P I found my first CPs (who I will chase to the ends of the earth should they ever try to leave me) and then, finally, Savvy Authors.

These people—these communities—are my life support. Without them, I’d still be the person who didn’t know pitches from prologues. The right community will encourage you, give honest feedback (no matter how hard it might be to hear), and supply a shoulder to cry on when rejections and the occasional bad review hit—because they will hit. It’s a part of the process. You’ll learn with each other and from each other.

Your turn! Tell us about how you found your first writing community or critique partner. Do you have one, or are you part of a group? I’m interested to know what people think of online groups versus face to face ones!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

What the Heck Is This?

I don't know about you, but before I start a manuscript, before the first word, before the first letter flashes on the screen, I do NOT think about genre. I just write. For me, 'genre' is a foreign word, Greek, (actually it's French)that stifles rather than encourages my creativity.

I first discovered my difficulty with that foreign word when trying to market my second completed manuscript. (Yes, the first is serving duty as a dust collector - doing a great job!)What did she mean, "What genre?" I squirmed in front of the agent as I murmured, "Romance." What did she think? This was RWA's national conference. What else would it be?

Then came the flurry of questions: Contemporary or Historical? Category or Single Title? Mystery? Women's Fiction? Sweet? Spicy? I started sweating. Erotic? Paranormal?

I left that pitch session determined to educate myself. But what I found made me think it would be easier to pull all my hair out, one strand at a time, than to split the often razor thin differences between the romance genres and their sub-genres.

Then I started writing YA. Simple, right? YA is YA. Or so I thought as I wrote that new manuscript. But when I started hanging in YA circles and heard rumblings of MG vs. YA my eyes crossed. I held my newly completed baby and wondered yet again, "What have I written?"

Well, thanks to a great break-out session at SCBWI's MidSouth Regional Conference in September, led by editor Alexandra Cooper, I realize I've birthed a full-blooded YA. Ms. Cooper clearly defined MG vs. YA, and given her position, I'm inclined to believe she knows whereof she speaks.

According to Ms. Cooper, it's all about . . . number of pages.

Bet you thought I was going to say the protagonist's age. Yes, that's part of it. But, surprisingly, so is the number of pages. The average MG has 150-200 pages. YA has more.

The biggest difference, however, is plot trajectory. With a MG, the plot runs the course of Home - Away - Home. Here, Home represents the ordinary world of family/friends. Away represents the challenge or opportunity that spurs growth. (Think cliques vs. individualization.) The character grows up a little, but in MG he/she always winds up back at Home. Wiser? Yes. More sure of self? Absolutely. But still at home.

In YA, the plot trajectory is Home - Away. Period. The protagonist starts at Home, but his/her challenge/opportunity pushes them toward independence. He/she may, in the end, still live with Mom and Dad, but it's obvious that those days are numbered. The YA protagonist is clearly ready to stand on her/his own. There is no real going back.

I hope these distinctions help you recognize your baby's family. But either way, keep writing. There are always hybrids! :0

Saturday, November 19, 2011

ARTICLE 5 Winner!

We have a winner!

Angela A, you've won an advance copy of ARTICLE 5!
I have emailed you with more details.

Thanks to everyone for entering! If you didn't win, come see me here. I'm giving away 5 ARTICLE 5 ARC's over the next 5 weeks!

Have a great day, and a Happy Thanksgiving!