Author101 update

imageThis is the agent & publisher panel. Later, we get to schmooze with them. As I thought, the presenters had good & useful tips, but wanted big bucks ($400 – $2400) to give you the whole package.

I am not going to cough up my hard-earned cash until I get The Story Store sold.

Author 101 University

imageI’m at a 3 day event, Author 101 University in LA at the Westin. I will post whatever might be of interest.

I admit to being cynical about these things. People usually just want to sell you stuff. Walking to the meeting room, I passed a dozen booths with people wanting to sell me stuff. But hope springs eternal (see Cub fans).

Rewriting, Part Two… Less ‘Aaargh’

Two months? Really?

Yes. I was on vacation. And when I wasn’t on vacation, I was goofing off. Poor excuses, but the best I’ve got.

I finished the 2nd draft in mid-July, and put it aside for a while and did some writing on my next book or books, “Tommy Collins: One Lad’s Adventures.” More on that later.


The thing I’m just now finding out about rewriting is that, with the characters firmly in my head, I can make changes more easily. I touched on that in my previous post, but what other authors say is really true: I can hear Alex, Sara, Mr. Crumley and others speaking when I write.

A small example: in the earliest chapters, I had Alex say things like, “I think she was trying to smile.” But Alex, as I now understand him, doesn’t know (or even much care) what other people are trying to do. He only sees what they actually do, and how it affects him. When Sara’s face turns red, he remembers what he’s learned: a red face might mean she is angry, or embarrassed, or even exerting herself.

Only when she punches him hard on the side of his head can he figure it out.

Another example: Alex is only comfortable in a narrow range of experiences, things he’s done before, or knows how to do. Things he calls normal. But everything in his world is turned upside down. Nothing is normal. How does he keep from curling up into a fetal ball?

On a ride to somewhere new, Alex takes the trip via computer, mapping out his route, finding familiar landmarks and calling up images of the streets on the way.

With the story pretty much set, fixing the early events (that needed the most work) to flow into the later ones becomes easier, too. More on this next time.

Rewriting…Arrrgh! – Part One

Well into my 2nd draft, and already making copious notes for the 3rd. I thought this was going to be easier. I keep coming across writing I thought was so clever the first time around, and discovering that it just doesn’t work.

The quotation I keep reciting is “in writing you must kill all your darlings.” Attributed to various authors since the early 20th century, including Faulkner, Oscar Wilde and Anton Chekov, my favorite version is from Stephen King, who wrote, “kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.”

With that and the comments of my writer friend, Sheryl (“reads like a TV writer”), in mind, I took a look at my early chapters. By George, Sheryl’s right! I give my main character, Alex, nice, neat, straightforward exposition, to get us into the story, forgetting that no one, even brilliant Asperger’s kids, thinks or talks like that.

I need to live in the skin of my characters, not just look at them from outside and pretend that’s what I’m doing. Alex will not ever make it easy for the reader to figure out what he’s doing. He often doesn’t know it himself, and isn’t likely to tell us when he does.

Speaking in your character’s voice

I write fast sometimes, and fall into the habit of short, clipped sentences or fragments. But the work for me is (since this is told in two first-person voices), to keep track of my character’s different personalities. Alex is thoughtful, analytic, even hesitant. Sara is quick-tempered, impatient and not willing to reveal much of herself. Rewriting means going back and matching style to character.

First Draft Feedback, & What I Learned

I finished my first draft in early March, and sent it to several friends and fellow writers for comments. I wanted some feedback before plunging into the rewrite.

I had some big picture questions—i.e., is this part explained enough? Do I need to show more of that?—and got some useful suggestions, and mostly positive appraisals.

I told people, “Don’t think about being kind. Kind is when everyone gets a medal just for showing up. If something sucks, tell me.”

Then I got a response from a good friend and writer. Her opening:

I’m going to be honest with you — it reads like a TV writer. It took me YEARS… to lose my obvious TV writing chops. Your writing is crisp, clean, factual. You lay it all out requiring as few words as possible. It’s apparent from the opening sentence. You are more focused on the setting, the plot and the tricks than you are on your character.

Ouch! The adage, ‘be careful what you wish for,’ came to mind. After feeling sorry for myself for a day or so, I began to take a good look at what I’d written. She was right. I was so eager to plunge into the events of my story, I’d forgotten about getting into the head of Alex, my main character.

She had recommended a couple of YA authors to look at, so I read their books (FYI, Rogue, by Lynn Miller-Lachman, & Everybody Sees the Ants, by A.S. King).

Ouch! More feeling sorry for myself. These were so good, I despaired of ever even approaching such excellent quality.

It took me another day or so to realize where I’d gone off the track: to familiarize myself with current Young Adult fiction, I’d been reading whatever was cheap or free online (I had a free trial subscription to a book club, and my Amazon Prime account provides 3 at a time).

The books & my friend’s comments were a wake-up call. I’d been lazy, falling back on stuff I already knew how to do well, and quickly. The Story Store is going to be better than that.

The moral is, if you want to write crap, read crap. if you want to write better, read better.

I’ll let you know how the 2nd draft is going.