Wednesday, June 29, 2005




I write nearly 26 chapters per book. If I assign a letter of the alphabet to each chapter, the first line above is a pretty good picture of what I know about the story thus far. (That is, it WOULD be if I could figure out how to make the gaps appear and if I weren't on my way out to dinner.)

Now, take a look at the second line.

Pretty daunting, huh?

And, when you figure each chapter contains roughly three scenes, EACH of which has to be CRITICAL to the story and FORWARD MOVING (not to mention scathingly brilliant)...well, all I have to say is, YIKES.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

A Blessed Event!!

After several weeks of excruciating labor, this morning around 6 a.m., Randy gave birth to a healthy chick-lit idea.

Yes, ladies and gents, forget yesterday’s post, she thinks she’s finally on to something. Still the original title, still the original heroine, still the original premise...and now she has a hero. Not only that, she’s got turning points!! Yes, turning points!! Hell, she’s even got a black moment and a happy ending!

The little mother is doing well and taking a long-deserved rest. Cyber flowers and chocolate may be left here at her blog.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Progress (cough) Report

So after two weeks of trying the new plotting method, let’s see how far I’ve gotten, shall we?

Premise: Check
Theme: Check
Title: Check
Heroine: Check
Heroine’s Goal: Check
Heroine’s Motivation: Check
Heroine’s Conflict: Check
Heroine’s Story Question: Check
Heroine’s error in thinking: Check
Setting: Check

Hmmm....what are we missing here?

Where’s the fricking hero?

Oh, I’ve got one. He just doesn’t figure into her story. Or the premise. Or anything.

Can you see the bald spots where I’ve been tearing my hair out?

Thus today’s epiphany: I think I’ve been forcing a chick-lit story into a romance mold. Ha! How’s that for insightful analysis?

Here I’ve been trying to construct a plot in which the hero and heroine are in direct conflict (if she gets what she wants, he doesn’t—or vice versa) and it just ain’t playing.


Not that I have anything against writing chick-lit—agents and editors are clamoring for it. And on the plus side, I happen to enjoy reading them. Oh, the genre has gotten a lot of flack because of the early stuff—the books about narcissistic youngsters obsessed with Manalos and Cosmos—but, like anything new, chick-lit has evolved. Hell, most of the ones I’ve read even end with a happy-ever-after marriage.

So the question is: after writing 2-1/2 (don’t ask) contemporary romantic comedies, do I switch gears and go chick-lit?

Well, since I discovered that’s what the editor I have an appointment with at the conference is buying (contrary to what was listed on the sign-up grid), maybe it’s worth a shot.

Yeah, right. Like I could write enough between now and late July to feel good about making decent pitch...or, could I?

Saturday, June 25, 2005

If The Shoe Fits...

God I hate being a stereotype.

You know...blondes are ditsy, blondes are stupid, blondes have more fun (oh yeah?). My brother claims stereotypes evolve because they hold a germ of truth.

Sigh. Last night I proved him right.

So, I’m at a nightclub with friends. We’re sipping cocktails and shootin' the shit on all the hot topics—the Tom Cruise Meltdown, the Runaway Bride Confessional—you know, the good stuff. After an hour, I excuse myself to the ladies’ room and while, er, sitting there, I happen to notice the silver buckle on my right sandal. Hm, I think. I didn’t mean to wear my low heels tonight. Then I look at the left.


I wish I could say I’ve never done this before, but I’d be lying.


A totally different shoe on the left. And a higher heel. I’m wearing a four-inch heel on one foot and a three-inch on the right. The one on the left has criss crossed straps, the one on the right has a single strap with a buckle. The one on the left feels like leather, the one on the right feels like suede. I’ve been wearing them for, um, about two hours, and this is the first time I’ve noticed.

In my defense, they were the same color.

Friday, June 24, 2005

It Must Be Magic

Can I get a hallelujah and a God bless for the inventor of the pencil? And maybe a huzzah for the guy who created its pal, the eraser? (Must have been a guy since well, you know...necessity being the mother of invention and all.)

Anyway, I normally use a pen. Sure, I make mistakes, but that’s what cross-outs are for, right? And all that blank paper. Besides, who wants to write longhand when you can peck away on the computer and delete, delete, delete?

So, it was with a bit of smug amusement that I perused the “plotting notebook” I purchased at a workshop several weeks ago. Carolyn Green (a.k.a. “The Plot Doctor) sells this for about 30 bucks and along with various tip sheets, diagrams, and tabbed dividers, she’s thoughtfully provided one of those little zippered compartments with the following: blank floppy (for backing up!), post-its (what writer can live without those?), index cards (for copying her scene template onto), and finally, a mechanical pencil and some super duper eraser I’ve forgotten the name of.

Now, I understand there’s no universal formula for crafting a book. (Believe me, I’ve tried a bunch.) Each author has to discover what works for him or her. But I’ve read tons of interviews with authors who seem a whole lot closer to finding the “magic” than I have. Besides, if I’m gonna use something new, I figure why not go the whole nine yards?

So, I sat down at my dining room table (no computer in sight), spread out some of the sheets, and fished the mechanical pencil from the zippered compartment.

Guess what? I LOVE writing in pencil! My cursive is readable (not to mention pretty—if I do say so myself) and, thanks to the handy dandy eraser, the pages aren’t all convoluted and messy. What’s really freeing about it is that no idea is outside the realm of possibilities. I write it all down because...I can always erase! How cool is that?

Along with my new (ahem) system, I’m walking every day (see earlier posts about putting balance back into my life). No iPod, no headphones, no nothing. Just me with my thoughts (well, and a little heavy breathing.) I start out going uphill at an incline that would knock the breath out of anyone (except the YOUNG ladies who passed me AT A TROT on Tuesday—I called them bitches to their faces...but in a friendly way). The only thing I bring along is a plot problem. And damned if, so far, each time I reach the point where I’ve about decided the plot isn’t going to work, the skies clear, the sun comes out, and bingo. Problem solved.

It’s almost like—dare I say, magic?

Thursday, June 23, 2005

I'm Hooked (and the link is fixed)

If you’re like me, you’ve been searching endlessly for something new to suck away more of your precious time. Well, look no further, I have the answer.


No, I didn’t sneeze. Sudoku is all the rage in Japan and the UK. Now, don’t get too excited. This new activity won’t make your penis bigger or your boobs bigger, and it won’t put you on anyone’s A-list for dinner parties. In fact, it won’t get you anything but frustrated. Sound good? I know. I feel the same. Can’t get enough of something designed to make my head explode.

In southern California, we get our daily dose of Sudoku straight out of the L.A. Times (as of last Monday). You may have to get yours from the Internet here and click on Daily Sudoku On-Line. Prepare to tear your hair out and go through a lot of number two pencils. That is, unless you’re a math and logic whiz. If that’s the case, then as far as I’m concerned, go screw yourself.

In a nutshell, you’re given a 9 x 9 grid of boxes further sectioned into 3 x 3’s. Some of the boxes have numbers filled in. The object is to fill in the blank boxes with numbers 1 through 9 in such a way that no number is used twice in the same column, row, or 3 x 3 grid. Got it?

Your brain will thank me for clearing away the cobwebs.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

It's The Execution, Stupid

No, no. I’m not talking about frying criminals. This blog is supposed to be about writing, remember?

So, you’ve done the homework. Learned about passive voice, 3-dimensional characters, ratcheting up the stakes, black moments, hooks, GMC, POV, themes, and all the rest.

But have you learned how to translate what you’ve learned? Has the knowledge made that arduous trip from your brain to the paper?

Fit For Love’s heroine is a slacker who finds herself trapped at a boot camp for fitness freaks. I deliberately avoided committing to whether she was thin, fat, or somewhere in between because my point was that the men in her life (starting with her father) had managed to negatively influence her self-image. By the end of the story, her emotional growth derives from accepting herself for who she is.

Does that come across in the book?? Hm. I hope so, but maybe, maybe not.

Knowing the essential ingredients for a good story is one thing. Knowing how much of and in what order to drop them in the pot, how long to cook them and at what temperature is another. Let’s not even discuss how to figure out what the whole thing’s supposed to look like when it’s done.

Ah, yes. Execution. Just one more rung on the ladder toward publication.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Living In Iraq

During the postwar aerospace boom, job seekers from far and wide settled in the sprawling suburb known as the San Fernando Valley. Just over the hill from Los Angeles, this community-of-the-future boasted wide-open spaces, newly-minted tract housing, good schools, and plenty of tree-shaded streets safe enough for baby boomers to play in.

Ah, but that was the 50’s.

Last night, a task force of 900 (NINE HUNDRED) police and federal agents, using nine helicopters and untold other vehicles, conducted a raid on the most prominent San Fernando Valley insurgents. Excuse me, gangs. Their dragnet swept through six cities and several counties, netting 23 of the 48 people targeted.

Is it me? Or does this sound more like an operation planned and executed by the Department of Defense in a land called Iraq?

Monday, June 20, 2005

Nightmare At Barnes & Noble

I know that as an avid reader and writer, a trip to B&N is supposed to be nirvana…but to me it’s more like torture.

Take the romance section, for example. First, you’ve got your shelf hogs, starring Nora Roberts as chief pig followed closely by Diana Gabaldon and several others. These prolific authors take up an amazingly huge chunk of space. Next you notice the books turned face out (there’s a marketing name for this which I’ve forgotten but when the time comes you can be sure I’ll know it) taking up valuable room in their own way in order to catch the consumer’s eye. Last, there are the yards and yards of spines, some with recognizable names, others you’ve never heard of.

And, guess what? Harlequin publishes a crapload of romance titles per month, and Barnes and Noble doesn’t even stock them.

All of which boils down to the following daunting news: a helluva lot of writers are out there already—all vying for the reader’s dollar.

And so, to go at this whole writing thing backwards, the lesson here is that getting published is only a part of the battle. Because if no one buys your books (let alone falls in love with them) you’ve blown your chance for that second or third one.

You must stand out from the crowd just to get noticed.

Hm. Sorta like having to stand out from the crowd to get noticed by an editor or agent.

Which brings me to the single most important thing I’ve learned about writing over the past year: Crafting a well-written story isn’t enough to get you published.

The proof is in the rejection letter I received via email while writing this.

Sigh. For those of you keeping score, Stealing Amy is now 0 for 2.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Father's Day

Although my dad still has the uncanny ability to instantly make me feel poorly dressed, coifed and made-up (“you’re not going to wear that, are you?”) here are some of the reasons I forgive him.

When I was 10, motherless and having problems with my feet, he’d drive 60 miles to pick me up from school, another 60 back to the city for the appointment, drive me back to school, then return to work. We had a live-in housekeeper for such a purpose...but you don’t send your daughter to the doctor with anyone but yourself. Same with dentist appointments.

When I didn’t win the prize (a whole dollar!) for putting in the most practice hours on the piano, he paid me himself.

Every Christmas, he’d disappear right around the time Santa was scheduled to arrive. I’d follow him around (even to the bathroom) begging him to stay where I could see him so he wouldn’t miss Santa’s visit. Finally, one year, (right after Santa had dropped off my Betsy Wetsy and announced he was on his way to visit Lindsay Larson in North Dakota—that’s my cousin, I’d scream) I looked up from Betsy to see Santa tip-toeing across the backyard. I thought he was making sure I liked my presents, but the rest of the adults blew my dad’s cover.

He never once said I should or had to go into the family business. Instead, I messed around in Hollywood for five years, then chose to go into the family business of my own volition,

He never once asked when I was getting married.

He never once asked when I was going to provide grandchildren.

He never once said or implied I couldn’t do something because I was a woman.

He always made me feel special.

He always made me feel loved.

And that’s why he’s also my best friend.

Happy Father’s Day, Daddy. I love you.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Parsing An Editor

I was reading Anna Genoese’s blog here (she’s an editor for Tor) and came across this comment about a panel she did recently: “…although some of the people attending didn't seem to quite understand the difference between character development and plot development, commercial success and a successful character, and why, when you are writing a character driven novel, you want a three-dimensional character, not a plot device disguised as a character.”

Not a plot device disguised as a character.


Am I guilty of such a heinous crime?

I clicked through to leave a comment asking her to elaborate but saw that others already had. Apparently, she wasn’t in the mood…referred to a rant she’d posted some months back. I made a half-hearted effort to locate it but gave up quickly.

I should mention she made this comment in the context of complaining about what she sees as a heavy reliance on Christopher Vogler’s Hero’s Journey. (For you nonwriters, Hero’s Journey presents a story-telling structure--reflected in everything from mythology to today’s commercial box office movies--that involves a step-by-step pattern populated by characters who fulfill certain roles like “mentor.”)

So is Anna harping on authors who create characters whose sole purpose is to satisfy a step in the Journey…? Gee, I’m not sure I could do that even if I tried.

I feel like I’m missing something important here.

Then again, maybe not.

Any guesses?

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Desperate Times Call For...

…you guessed it. Desperate Measures.

Yesterday, (sniff, sniff) my “go-to” outfit failed me. You know the one I mean—the dress or skirt or blouse that manages to disguise temporary extra pounds while still looking chic and sexy? Well, I threw it on and (gasp) a roll appeared just above my hips. Yes, a roll!

Calming my nerves, I sucked in my gut, stood as tall as my five foot four frame allowed, and inspected the result in the mirror. Ah. Much better. Certainly good enough for work…as long as I held myself just so.

Guess what? I caught myself not holding just so several times over the course of the day.

See, here’s what happened. All aspiring writers make sacrifices for their art, right? Some get less sleep, others stop watching TV. Well, I (she said self-righteously) gave up the gym. Yep, it’s true. I had the fortitude to just toss it aside.

Hm. Maybe I need to find a balance.

First up—I decided to inflate the exercise ball that’s been sitting in my living room looking like a mutant Serrano chili. Ha. Easier said than done. For those of you who’ve been following the bouncing ball (I know, I know, you have to be ancient to “get” that cultural pun) anyway, you’re no stranger to how lame I am around the house. But, hey—the instructions were short and sweet—the kind even a moron can follow.

Observation: Short and sweet instructions can be deceptively intricate.

Case in point: “Use the inflation nozzle to inflate and the deflation nozzle to deflate.” Okay, I give. Which one is which?

Finally, I get the proper nozzle in the proper slot while keeping it connected to the plastic pump that looks like the cheap toy you grab from the drugstore at the last minute before hitting your friend’s kid’s birthday party. I place it on the floor and begin to stomp it with my right foot. Thirty seconds later, already exhausted and aching, I switch to my left foot. (Turns out I’m not ambidextrous when it comes to my lower extremities.) I try my right hand. Try my left. Five minutes into this pattern, I wipe the sweat from my brow and applaud my work. The mutant chili now resembles a cucumber left in the 'fridge too long.

In the end, I successfully inflate the ball to its ultimate capacity and cap it off with the plug-thingy.

Only I’m too tired to try it out.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Question For The Ladies

Do you dress for other women? Or, do you dress for men?

The reason I ask is because I keep coming across fellow writers who seem to be in a frantic countdown to the RWA National conference in July. Crash diets to fit into chic little dresses, shopping sprees for conference wardrobes…all for 2,000 WOMEN? (Trust me, sightings of men at National are more rare than catching the Olsen twins ingesting a meal.)

So, I just don’t get it. Who cares?

Although I have to say, I’ve never forgotten Angie Dickinson’s response on the Tonight Show about an eon ago.

Johnny: Angie, who do you dress for, men or women?

Angie (coyly batting her lashes): “That’s easy. I dress for women and I undress for men.”

Go Angie!

Monday, June 13, 2005

A Single Romance Writer Laments

Okay, picture this:

I’m at a bar with some friends when I run into a guy I’ve met on a couple other occasions. Let’s say that on the male version of the Bo Derek scale for looks he rates about a 6.5. However, he’s bright, entertaining, stable and single—in other words, possesses the minimum qualifications for dating material. One of my friends even claims the guy has a “thing” for me.

So, he goes to say good night, leans over to give me a kiss and whispers: “I’d sure like to sweat all over you.”


I don’t even remember what kind of reply I sputtered.

Then he says, “What kind of lingerie do you have at home?”


How does a well-educated, successful man arrive at the conclusion that these are good come-on lines? Trust me, I’ve done nothing to make him think I’m the town slut.

Then, beginning to wonder, I think: Uh-oh. He knows I write romance novels.

In some people’s minds, this translates to: She writes about sex.

So is that what prompted the pathetic stab at a pick-up? Does he imagine he’s just lifted a piece of dialogue from one of my books?

All I can say is, eeuuuuwww.

On the other hand, if the guy were a “10,” I might have said, “you’re place or mine.”

(Okay, just kidding about that last part. Maybe.)

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Hitting Send

Doncha just have to pause, take a deep breath, and squeeze your eyes shut before hitting SEND?

I do. Particularly when it comes to emailing a query letter...which is what I just did.

Yep. Finally bit the bullet and sent off the first query for Stealing Amy. Was gonna give The Knight Agency a whirl, but learned they’re “temporarily” closed to submissions from unpubbed authors. Doesn’t that suck?

So I went with Plan B which was Avon Romance. Like the Knight Agency, they prefer emailed queries and I had good luck with them last time (good luck meaning they requested a partial). Thank God some publishing houses still accept unagented queries.

And that’s how I spent my Saturday night.

Now, it’s off to think about how stupid my letter probably was.

Friday, June 10, 2005


Glenn’s retirement party is over. The good-byes have been said, the presents given, the toasts made, and the tears shed.

I can start breathing again.

The good news is that several ex-employees showed up—people who worked for us during the Reagan era. The bad news is that only three guys from the factory made an appearance, which sort of broke my heart.

Lesson learned: Although I think of my employees as part of the family, they have their own lives. I guess saying good-bye to the guy who brought them donuts once a week didn’t mean as much as I’d thought. Oh, well. Live and learn.

As far as I’m concerned, the highlight of the party was the “debut” of the 8-minute video I made for the occasion. It began with Glenn’s employment application from 1981. (He’d actually worked for us off and on prior to that, but I didn’t have the records and he couldn’t remember the dates.) Anyway, the application dissolved into group photos circa 1981 then worked its way through to the present. I ended it with a montage of head shots I’d dug up on every single current employee. Oh—and I laid in a nice guitar instrumental underneath it all. If I do say so myself, I’m not sure there was one dry eye among the 25 people who saw it.

When I got home, I viewed the video again, reflecting on the names and faces that have come and gone. It struck me that in my 22 years at Bemco, I’ve seen two generations pass by. And at the party, it occurred to me that I’m already seeing the third (our production manager’s daughter just joined us full-time.)

Then I had the real epiphany.

In assembling the video, I was focusing on roughly the last 20 years. But there’s another 30 years that went before! That’s two more generations of names, faces and a whole other “culture” that preceded the one I’m familiar with!

It was comforting, really—to remember that Glenn wasn’t the first employee to end his career at Bemco—and, no doubt he won’t be the last.

Still, farewells are hard. And no matter how earnest his invitation, nor my fervent promise, chances are slim we’ll meet again at his new home in Oregon.

No, after 22 years of working side-by-side, day-by-day--of being intimately familiar with each other's triumphs and tragedies--we’ve probably seen the last of each other.

That's life, I guess.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

It's Called BICHOK

For you nonwriters out there, this is the acronym for Butt In Chair, Hands On Keyboard. It’s the battle cry for forcing yourself to write. Last night, I concluded we need a couple more letters.

I’m in the middle of a putting together a good-bye video for the sales manager who’s retiring from our company after 25 years. In fact, I BICHOKed from 9:30a.m. to 6:30p.m. on Saturday. In the end, after countless complications, I was pretty satisfied with the result, only to discover my software program was outdated and that, in fact, I couldn’t save my project as a DVD. (Okay, so I’m no whiz at this stuff.)

To make a long story short, it turns out that all the cool new movie making software seems to run on XP. Guess what my desktop uses? Right. ME. (Am I the only one who ended up with that?) Luckily, my laptop runs on XP so I figured, fine. I’ll download all the upgrades, including the moviemaker.

No problem, I thought.

I rerouted the phone connection (yes, I know I’m a dinosaur) to the laptop and started the process.

I blinked.

Approximate time to complete: 12 hours.

Were they kidding? Surely they must be.

I made the necessary clicks and the download began. Meanwhile, I BICHOKed at my desktop and revised Stealing Amy.

Guess what? I got more done in the next three hours than I had the past week. Could it be because I didn’t check email every five minutes? That I couldn’t IM for an hour? That I couldn’t blah-blah-blog?

I’d never thought of myself as one of those writers who spends more time surfing than writing, but now…I’m not so sure. I mean, I even started writing a synopsis for God’s sake. How desperate is that??

Hence, I nominate two additional letters, making it BICHOKID. Butt In Chair, Hands On Keyboard, Internet Disconnected.

By the way, the upgrade successfully downloaded sometime around 1 a.m.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Bad News

I don’t know how or why anyone ruins the start of a perfectly nice day by reading the newspaper. First, who has the time?

Me, I roll out of bed, shave, shower and shine (well, maybe not the shave part) and zoom out the door, all without even traipsing downstairs. No coffee, no breakfast and, most importantly, no newspaper.

Nah, I save catching up on the latest doom and gloom for lunchtime.

Now, I stopped going out for lunch a long time ago. Too many calories, too many dollars, too much hustle and bustle getting in and out of cars, fighting over where to go…give me the peace and quiet of my desk and the latest version of nukable diet food, and I’m happy.

Then I start reading.

I’m telling you, between the geopolitical hotspots, the natural disasters (not to mention the manmade ones), and the old fashioned murder and mayhem…is it any wonder that by twelve fifteen I start envisioning myself on a small tropical island? With no cable? No Internet access?

I’m not lying. The only good news in Part One of the L.A. Times today is a report of progress on a vaccine for the Marburg and Ebola viruses. Yippee.

Part Two is more of the same, only closer to home.

Finally, I get a reprieve with the Sports Section. Tonight is Shaq’s last chance to make the NBA finals. Now, that’s something to smile about.

No chance of good news in the Business Section, so I mostly skip it.

At last, I reach the Calendar Section, which is the L.A. Times version of life and entertainment. One would be hard pressed to come up with bad news for the front page of that section, right? Wrong. While I feel pretty neutral about Tom Cruise’s mercurial personality of late, I’m sure the article about Bob Geldof’s efforts to relieve suffering in Africa can be tossed in the bad news slot.

Meanwhile, the TV drones on in the background, updating all the bad news stories I’m digesting along with the South Beach Diet turkey wrap.

It’s enough to make it all come back up.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

From Landslides to Walmart

Any way you look at it, personal safety is a transient concept.

One summer, while I was in graduate school, my roommate came home with what appeared to be an incredible deal: house sitting for a professor who lived at Top Of The World in Laguna Beach.

Omigod, I thought. How lucky can you get? A whole summer spent lolling on the patio, high above Laguna Beach, sipping cocktails at sunset, taking in the panoramic ocean view. Sign me up, I told her.

Now, y’all have heard about the landslides in Laguna this week. Best as I can tell, the hill gave way about a mile or so from where I house sat that summer. Local radio talk jocks have been ranting about the rich people losing their multimillion dollar homes and asking for help.

Well, I don’t know about the homes that slid, but if they were anything like the one I stayed in that summer…

When I arrived, the first thing I noticed: no view. Well, let me correct that. There was a view, but it was in the opposite direction of the ocean…not that canyons of dried brush aren’t pretty, but you just don’t get the same inspiration you do from looking at the sea.

Second, I noticed the mold. Yes, mold. Growing along the walls of both bedrooms. Let’s make this perfectly clear. I’m talking the INTERIOR walls.

Third, I noticed the absence of a garbage disposal. Huh?? How does one survive without a garbage disposal? (And, did I mention the mold?)

I think I spent one entire night there…on the couch in the living room. The rest of the time I stayed with my boyfriend. The only reason I spent any time there at all was that we’d committed to keeping all the plants watered.

Oh, and how stupid is this? We each paid $50 a month to live there. (Yes, we hadn’t quite grasped the concept of house sitting.)

Anyway…that’s my connection to the landslides…

Next, the Walmart fiasco.

I arrive at work on Tuesday to sirens and hovering helicopters (both the news kind and the official kind). Soon, I learn that the guy who killed two people in a neighboring town the day before has randomly broken into another home, pistol whipped a woman and her two children, shot at a cop, and fled into the Walmart a mile from my office. Eventually, the helicopters flew off to other breaking stories, but according to the news, the guy was still holed up in the Walmart. Well, he was holed up, all right. But he was dead from a self-inflicted gunshot to the head. The woman he pistol whipped also died.

Thousand Oaks and Simi Valley. Each year they vie for “safest city in America with population 100,000.”

Something tells me neither will be at the top of the list for 2005.

Friday, June 03, 2005


…but no cigar.

My contest virgin, Stealing Amy, did okay in its maiden run. When the list of finalists came out (minus my name), I prepared myself for the worst. Mostly because if you’ve been around the writing game long enough, you hear horror stories about judges making comments like: “don’t ever write again.” Well, I knew it wouldn’t be that bad, but still…

Anyway, yesterday I received my entry back and discovered I’d placed in the top five. Whoopee!! I’ll take that!

In fact, both judges gave me 146 out of a possible 150. Not bad!

The way it works is, the judges are given a score sheet with categories like mechanics, characterization, set-up, etc. Within those categories there are usually five areas for which the judge is asked to give you a score between 1 and 5 (1 being "needs a ton of work", 5 being "ready-for-publishing").

It was so cool to see all those 5’s!! (And, if you do the math, you’ll realize that in only four places did I get a 4.)

One judge provided a great deal of thoughtful feedback and both mentioned they wished they could have warmed up to my heroine a little more. Valuable information, no?

Ack. So, of course, last month I totally rewrote the opening to the first chapter. Maybe I should have left it the way it was.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Beating a Dead Horse

Once upon a time, many years ago, a friend and I were driving down a rural road which was bordered on either side by rows of plants protected from the elements by plastic sheeting.

“Look,” my friend said, “they’re growing hats.”

I did a double take. What?

When I looked again, I saw the field through her eyes. Yep. Row upon row of pointy plastic hats sprouting from the ground like they’d been sown by some futuristic agronomist.

In that instant, I realized people visualize the world according to the way their brain is wired.

Same thing with plotting. After ranting and raving last week, I’ve come to admit that some writers ARE capable of envisioning their story without plotting it out. They have the innate talent to know just where the turning points go…how to arc their characters’ emotional growth…the precise moment in the action where the internal and external conflict intersect.

Sadly, not me.

Maybe I haven’t read enough. Maybe I haven’t written enough.

Or (and this is my latest epiphany) maybe my brain’s too linear. Or mathematical (which is a real hoot because, trust me, math was NOT my forte in school. Ever.) And yet, I love trying to translate the writing process into something I can throw into a spreadsheet.

Lots of writers do this. In fact, author Beverly Brandt does a whole workshop devoted to it.

Most use a spreadsheet to keep track of stuff like day of the week, setting, POV character, and so on. Beverly adds a column for “story step” which corresponds to Chris Vogler’s Hero’s Journey.

Here’s my contribution: Let’s say you wanna check the progress of the romance over the course of the novel. What I do is assign a value from one to ten (ten being declarations of love and one being—well, the opposite) then assign each chapter a value according to what level you see the romance at. Once you’re finished, let Excel whip the whole thing into a graph and voila! A nice pictorial of the ups and downs of the romance. For a real thrill, retrace the same steps with levels of conflict, then overlay the result. Be sure to use different colors!

You may not write a terrific romance novel. But you’ll become a whiz at Excel.