Thursday, February 24, 2011

SNEs

Okay, I promise (as in cross-my-heart-hope-to-die promise) that this blog will not descend into the darkness of "my baby is *so* cute."
Having said that, I just needed to share (uh-oh, not another inappropriate sharing event), but my daughter has a new skill: disrobing. She's getting better at it. In fact, she does it well enough that we've coined a term for it: Spontaneous Naked Events or SNEs (bonus points to those of you who thought this post was going to be about the second generation console from Nintendo).
So the other day, while talking to my mother on the phone, my daughter ran into the room, buck naked, swinging her shirt over her head--I swear, I don't know where she get's this from--and laughing maniacally.
I said "Mom, I've gotta go. I've got an SNE."
"SNE?"
"Yeah, spontaneous naked event."
"Oh," then in a hushed whisper, "oh. Good luck, honey."

Yup, that's my life in a nut shell, just one step away from an SNE at any minute. Ah, to be two again.

(and of course I have an acronym for it. I get paid through grants from NASA, the acronym names are made of!)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

If you do it too much, do you go blind?

I was cruising around the Lucy Carson Blog when I came across this blog. It's all about casturbation. Never heard of it? Well, let me tell you, not only have you experienced it, you probably enjoyed it too. Casturbation is the act of dreaming up who will play which characters in the movie based off your book.
I used to play this game with a whole group of people; it was our favorite thing to do. (Is it Cax if you do it with more than one person? Is it a Corgy when you do it in a group?). Of course, I should explain and give some context. At the time I was fencing a lot, and no, I don't mean black market goods, I mean honest to goodness swordplay. Fencers tend to round out the field left of middle. Oh hell, they aren't even in the ball park, they're casing the cars in the parking lot for random D&D books (though they might break in for a nice bit of anime, or a tome on medieval French art). The point is, fencers are strangely educated and diverse. Despite that they are easily categorized, but they are notoriously difficult to pin down in any meaningful way when it comes to real characterization. I think the nicest term I've ever heard was elegant nerd. One of the less nice terms I heard bandied about was murderous. Both fit. It's hard to capture that in a character who, at best, gets a slice of 90 minutes in a screen play.
So we'd sit around and try to dream up how a movie about our escapades would go. Inevitably we'd get stuck in casturbation (corgy?).  Man I loved those games.  I think our favorite cast included the likes of Christian Bale, Lucy Lawless, Jeff Goldblum (yeah Ethan, that's at you), Charlize Theron, Brad Pitt, and of course Angelina Jolie. In short, the beautiful people.
But that was fun. We knew better. It was fun. But like all addictive things, you have to be careful. It's habit forming, and it's a bad habit for writers. It's even worse when query letters involve casturbation. If you read the link, you'll know I'm not even joking.
Yowsers, I thought everyone knew not to casturbate in public.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Good advice, But how?

I came across a great post today by Janet Reid. The basics are don't talk about being in the query process. As some of you might imagine, I'm of two minds on this advice.

One: Oh, yeah, I see where she's coming from. Crazy, delusional, writers complaining about waiting for the queries to be answered. Obsessive writers who analyze every word of their form rejection letter. Writers who are having dreams about the query process (did I mention I had another crazy query letter dream? Why do I have an overactive Crazy F**ing Dream Department?). I can see that we aren't putting our best foots forward when we complain about long waits and "what the hell does 'not right for me' mean?" (And for the record, I do have a clue--Thank you Miss Snark!--I don't like some books that I should love, so I'm betting its exactly the same for agents!).

Two: I can see that we writers are shooting ourselves in the foot by putting this stuff out there, but I have a confession. Every time I've held a secret close to my heart, letting it fester for years, the first person I tell it to says "Oh My God! I thought I was the only one who felt that way!" Strange, but it's happened to me a lot.

The query process feels like this one big question to the world for validation. I know it isn't, but it feels like it. It seems like writers need some form of acknowledgment from an agent before they can feel like a real writer. And for all of us amateurs (yeah, one master's thesis, a dissertation languishing in revision hell, three utterly unpublishable books, three manuscripts I'm still hopeful for, and I'm as amateur as they come), querying is a step towards this mythical validation. I know that querying isn't the biggest step, but it sure is the first step on the yellow brick road. It feels like the biggest step (oh, yeah, that's my amateur speaking, see how it doesn't even know the big steps from the little ones?). The funny thing is that we've been trained nearly from birth about the first step. How many times has Bugs warned Elmer about that first step. You know, the one that's the dosy?

Clearly, I've said too much. I've mentioned that I'm querying. I've even mentioned that I'm on hold pending a really real edit that should help me feel like my work is ready--whatever that means. Shoot, the whole reason I started this blog, you know using my real name and everything, was to talk about the process. So how can I maintain that and not talk about queries?

Why is life always full of these kinds of damned if you do, damned if you don't moments?

So, I guess, I'll just have to use a regular old paper journal for a while and I'll talk about the process after I've been through it.

Thanks again Shark!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Doing the write thing

For fun I often write out equations for common phenomena. Yes, yes, I'm nerdy. Really really nerdy. I've actually been praised for my construction of the Laziness Factor in graduate students. The third postulate of the graduate student Laziness Factor (I can't be bothered to look up the first two), is that given enough time, all deadlines converge. Much like perspective makes the incredible light display look like all those incredible sun rays converge just behind the clouds when in fact they are parallel, given enough time, deadlines that appear to be parallel will, in fact, converge. I know readers from my other blog will recall my detailed hypothesis and testing phases of this postulate, so I'll not go into them here.  But a classic example is when a student takes two classes. At some point, the two midterm papers appear to be due weeks apart, giving the student some measure of control of their life, but then the prof in one class gets ill. Material is missed, and, to be nice, the prof pushes back the due date. If you haven't experienced this, then it's likely you haven't been taking a lot of classes.
This happens in the real world too, and I don't know how or why, it just does (and really, why is the speed of light 3 x 10^8 m/s?).
So now, I know how to beat the system. I'm working on my dissertation. Yeah, I've been working on it forever (it is currently longer than a novel, and so are my adviser's comments), and it's really starting to look like it'll come to a head any week now. I'm also working on my novel. I had thought it was completely ready (oops). So this time, I'm going to do a double full edit plus a read through. That should get the manuscript into the realm of shiny. Then I'll be able to query, confident in the knowledge that an agent could ask for a full on the same day my adviser tells me that he wants my whole dissertation reformatted and the last chapter rewritten from start to finish, and I can manage both.
That would be the write thing to do... right?

Ah well, I can dream big, but even I know that something will happen before I've been through my book enough for me to think of it as done.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The conundrum (not to be confused with corundum)

I hate the query letter. I'm always working on the query letter. I don't know if I'll ever get it right. I have an impossible time walking the line of interesting versus "Come on down to Bob's used car lot." Yeah, I sound like a cheap cable commercial. I got one partial request based on a query letter, but subsequent queries with same said query haven't drummed up any love. So I'm thinking that I need to redo the query (and maybe make a sacrifice to the query shark).
My problem is that so many agents have an idea about what a query summary should be, and they're all conflicting. Some agents want every scrap of the 250 words, while others think that more than three sentences is a waste of their time. My only request came from a three sentence query, and that came back so fast it must have been sent priority email (it had an evil typo in it--Khaaaaaaaaan!--so I'm not surprised it got kicked back). But as I'm going through my edit, I know it's time to pull my query back out and start brushing it off. And since all advice from the agents in blog land is riddled with conflicting suggestions, I'm torn. It makes me want to jump off the gimmick bridge and query with a letter that reads something like,
Three tips for being a faerie godmother:
1. Take off your high heels when chasing wizards through the streets.
2. When looking for your wand, try to remember that you already put it away.
3. While fighting the evil wizard in your dragon form, be certain to chew carefully. Evil wizards will give you the worst gas.

Yeah, that's not going to make agents ask for a partial. It'll make them ask for a restraining order.
So, there it is, boring or gimmicky, the conundrum.   *uses forehead to test the tensile strength of desk*
I guess the real answer is something that's humorous (the tone of the book),  yet captures the essence of the book.
Too bad I can't make essence of book by boiling it down in a cauldron...

(oh, and for those of you who don't know Corundum is the mineral name for sapphires and rubies, which can sometimes be found in CAIs, which is what my dissertation is on)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Editing

I would have thought that after all these years I might have bought a clue along the way. So there's this word that agents use in their blogs when referring to a novel worthy of sending out on query: Polished. Now at first I thought that the word polished meant that my chapters shouldn't have any major issues or typos (I'm dyslexic, I thought the typos would be the hardest part. Ha! Wrong again). Then I thought polished meant a rewrite followed by a single edit. And then, because it's hard to be that stupid that long, I realized that maybe they meant polished like what you do to rocks and metals to make them shiny. Shiny? Huh, a shiny manuscript? Oh yeah, I've got some work to do. So, being the kind of proactive I like to be, I'm not sending out any new queries until I'm confident that my shiny manuscript will start knocking off some socks (because stealing all the socks in the world is one of the steps to ruling the world!).
And I'm glad I've done it. My beta readers are all pleased with the changes I've made. It makes me wonder if I didn't start editing while I was still in the honeymoon phase. Now that I've made changes, I have to go hunting for that ever elusive typoe (seen here in it's natural habitat).  So it's back to the wild lands of editing for me. Now all I have to do is go over it another 200 times and I should have a shiny manuscript.

And to think, I used to worry that I might edit something to death (only one of many illusions shattered by actually trying to get an agent).