Sunday, November 23, 2008

Counting Blessings

I have a house. While it might not be an ideal house, it’s still mine and I’m not in foreclosure thanks to someone reassuring me that “interest rates won’t go up that much.” There are a lot of people who are in the midst of losing their house or without a place to live, and I wish I were Warren Buffett rich to help as many as I could. Particularly the kids. No kid should go homeless or hungry. It just isn’t right.

I have a job. A lot of writers work two jobs. Making a living at writing is not easy, so a great many of us work day jobs (or nights) with our writing occurring whenever we can. Me, I can’t quit work because of debt, but at least I have a job that helps me keep my head above water. After a day at work, I come home and write from 8pm-12am most weekdays and my weekends are 12-16 hour writing blitzes. I hope to quit the day job in the near future, but the stars have to align properly for that (as in no debt). BUT, at least I do have a job. There are a lot of people who don’t these days, and my heart goes out to them. Without a job, you can’t keep a roof over your head, keep your kids clothed and fed or simply live.

I have a great family. While my kids and husband often find ways to annoy me (and yes, I annoy them too), I do have a wonderful family. For all their faults, my girls have big hearts and they just want to protect those who can’t fend for themselves. The DH, aka as Tim “Toolman” Taylor, is a good man. He puts up with a lot where I’m concerned, as do all Betas with their Alpha mates. Although there have been a couple of times of late where he’s displayed some Alpha tendencies. I wonder what fireworks will bring if this trend continues. Still he’s a great guy, and anyone who can put up with me for 22.5 years of marriage and 25 years total is either pretty tolerant or just head over heels in love. I prefer to hold to my illusions that he’s still in love with me. LOL

I have three wonderful blog mates.
This is a competitive business we’re in and yet our support for each other on the blog and behind the scenes speaks to the heart of what I love about romance writers. We are, for the most part, genuinely happy to see someone else succeed in this tough business. Not only that, but this blog has been a growth process for me, an experience in learning the art of refining my apology technique. But then as I understand it from Natalie, my blunders tend to drive our numbers up. (No Natalie, I’m not suggesting you think I should blunder more often! LOL) Cathy, Natalie and Mac are three of the bestest people in the world, and being included in this blog is like having a second home.

I have decent health.
No I’m not in as good of shape as I was when I first got married. In fact, even trying to get that healthy again is pretty much impossible. Age just doesn’t let you do what you used too. But, I’ve adjusted to my bionic status, although I would sure like a newer chassis so I could just look MAV-A-LOS. Besides with a newer chassis, I’d know what NOT to do to ensure the chassis lasted a lot longer.

I have a three-book deal with Berkley. I really didn’t expect to have a deal by the end of the year. I thought if I was going to land a deal it would come in 2009 as publishers started filling more of the 2010 slots. As it turns out, my first mass market is set for March 2010. I think my calculations were a bit off. I also expect better things to come in 2009 as I move my career up the next rung on the ladder.

So when I sit down to that nice Thanksgiving dinner I’ve got planned, I’ll give thanks for my good fortune and offer up a blessing for those who are not as fortunate as I am. It might be a Christmas line, but Tiny Tim’s words are valid at any time of the year. God Bless Us, Every One.

Friday, November 14, 2008

It's the Rules, Writer

There are advantages to going last in the blog rotation. That way if you haven’t had time to write a post, you’ve got a little extra time to post. So thus begins my current blog. I’ve nothing to write about…no wait, I remember a topic that popped into my head when Cathy posted about loops and people advising newbies.So here's my advice FWIW...

Memorize The Rules

First off, it’s important to clarify what are “rules” and what are guidelines. Everything is a guideline.

Rule 1 – ALWAYS know your grammar rules. You cannot succeed in your craft without the book being legible. Know the difference between effect and affect (don’t ask me, I have to look it up every time. *grin*) But even this is smoke and mirrors because I've had editors remove semi-colons and commas to keep readers from tripping over breaks. Remember guideline!

Rule 2 – Know who’s POV your in and then only switch that POV every chapter. Then forget this rule. It’s a guideline. If you do something well (head hop) then all is forgiven.

Rule 3 – Make sure your Chapter heading starts exactly 2.5 inches from the top of a page. Ummm, remember when I said there are rules and there are guidelines. This is a guideline, and submitting a book with a heading placement at 2.25 or 3 inches is not a deal breaker. Worry about the content. While this rule is still a guideline, it's pretty reasonable to expect that your manuscript should be delivered to an agent/editor in a general format of 1-in margins and a reasonable heading starting a few lines from the top of the paper. Want some help with this one? Check out the article I wrote for newbies (Here). I've never been rejected by an editor because of formatting, although I did have a judge measure from the top of the page to where my heading started. I was off by a quarter of an inch according to her comments. Give me a break! No--BREAK the damn rule!

Rule 4 – One inch margins are standard pretty much across the board. HOWEVER, if you’re entering a contest and you need to get that last two paragraphs of a chapter on page 55, use the margin of .85 or .9, it's really hard to tell that your margins are off that one inch mark if you use .85 or .9. And if a judge does measure the margins, and docks you, know this. They would have gone out of their way to find something else nitpicky anyway. So you’d be screwed no matter what.

Rule 5 – Contests are crapshoot. You can enter one and win first place with your manuscript in front of an editor. OTOT, you can enter a different contest and not even final. I’ve entered about 10-15 contests. I finaled in three. The books I finaled with did not sell to New York. Something entirely else did. Contests should never be used as a reasonable expectation of a critique. The feedback you get can run the gamut. Unless you get the same kind of feedback from three or more judges, toss the commentary aside because it’s rarely useful. Don’t forget this rule, just know that the aforementioned statements are guidelines.

Rule 6 – Never, never, under any circumstances, use any other font BUT Courier 12pt. Forget this rule, it’s a guideline. In fact, “most” publishers now prefer Times New Roman 12pt. Right, forget that rule too, instead, try reading the publisher guidelines. That’s the authoritative word, not another writer.

Rule 7 – The number of pages per chapter should be 20 pages and no more. Forget this rule, it’s a guideline. While you don’t want to let a chapter drag on for 40 pages, if you go over 20 it’s not a deal breaker. Nor is it a deal breaker to have short chapters of 3, 2 or 1 pages. A chapter is as long as it needs to be. Write it that way and forget the rules.

Rule 8 – Never, NEVER, write a prologue. Readers hate them and they’re just a way to put in back story. Forget this rule. It’s a guideline. It is possible to provide a prologue that reveals something crucial to the plot that can’t be shown in Chapter 1. But it’s a guideline.

Rule 9 – Always show versus tell. Narrative is bad, very, very bad. Umm, forget this rule. It’s a guideline. Sometimes you can’t do anything else BUT tell. Again, it’s a guideline. It’s far better to show something than tell, but there will be times when telling is pretty much the best way to go.

Rule 10 – NEVER, EVER follow Rules 1- 9. They’re guidelines, not rules. The sooner a writer recognizes that something isn’t a rule, but a guideline, the better off they are.

Forget The Damn Rules

Oh, wait, there is ONE great rule to follow.

Write the good book (thank you Claire Delacroix/Deb Cook for those four words of wisdom).

Now go forth and break rules