Friday, August 25, 2006

Writers' Groups

Love my writers' groups. Love them.

It's funny to think back about 5 years when I first ventured online in search of one to join. I was terrified, really, to share any of my work. Now...well, they're really the reason I'm still writing and the reason my writing is any good at all.

But don't you hate when someone in your writing group comments on something...and you know she's right but STILL you worked so hard on that scene/character/dialogue/opening that it breaks your heart to admit that it still has problems?

Guess that makes the positive comments, the ones that say "Wow I loved this part..." even more valued, right?

Love my writers' groups. Love them.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Silver Screen Romance

I discovered, the other day, a list I had apparently cut out of our local paper a couple of years ago titled "10 Movies to Put You in the Mood for Love." Not sure who compiled it - probably the local news editor - but I found it interesting because I am a sucker for a great romantic movie. Most of these I've seen, and some I do adore. Others...not so much. I'd love to hear what anyone else thinks. Do you have a favorite romance from the big screen?

1. West Side Story - OK, I guess you can't really dispute this one.
2. Dirty Dancing - Loved it when it came out (but I was a teen, so Patrick Swayze was To Die For).
3. The Princess Bride - In the Top 10? I don't know...
4. When Harry Met Sally - This is actually my all-time favorite movie of any genre.
5. Say Anything - You have to admit that John Cusack-with-the-boom-box scene is a heart-wrencher...
6. Ghost - I cried at this one too. Maybe it's a Swayze thing.
7. Sleepless in Seattle - Do Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks ever make a bad movie?
8. The American President - Never saw it.
9. Jerry Maguire - Well, I'm not a Renee Zellweger fan, so I thought it was over-rated. Liked Cuba Gooding Jr in this one, though.
10. Titanic - This one didn't blow me away either.

Which movies would I add? Probably The Notebook, because it was better than I expected it to be; The Age of Innocence (did anyone else see this one? Daniel Day Lewis and Michelle Pfeiffer in a carriage scene that will make you melt); and this summer's release, The Lake House. That last one also surprised me with its intensity.

So...what do you think?

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Summer Reading

Since summer is my official time off, I always try to catch up on my reading. This summer, I've read quite a bit by Jodi Picoult (loved The Pact, really disliked My Sister's Keeper) along with some light stuff (Good Grief by Lolly Winston) and some not-so-light stuff, specifically Pride and Prejudice and The Count of Monte Cristo.

Why P&P? It seems like every other agent/editor that is interviewed in the Romance Writers Report mentions it as the best romance novel of all time. I thought I had read it in high school, but I coudn't remember. Anyway, turns out those agents and editors know what they're talking about! Though the Victorian language is tough to get through at times, the characters are beautifully drawn and the love story between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy is magical.

Why COMC? So many of my students had read it and loved it, I decided I had to pick it up so I could discuss it with them. And, though it isn't a romance novel per se, it is a TERRIFIC story with so much conflict and so many well-drawn characters that, though 600+ pages, it's nearly impossible to put down. There is one moment, near the end, when 2 lovers reunite after years apart and Oh My Gosh it brought tears to my eyes. Not bad for something that was written in 1844.

Guess they're called The Classics for a reason.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Turn Signals

You know, these days it seems like almost everyone I get stuck driving behind doesn't know how to use turn signals. Or doesn't want to. Or doesn't know where they're going. I mean, how hard is it to flip that little lever and blink left or right? Just let me know where you're going, so I can make a plan to navigate around you, or follow, or avoid, if I have to. But these drivers with no directionals make me wonder if maybe they don't know exactly where they're headed. Maybe they're making decisions at every intersection. Or maybe they just want to keep everyone guessing.


This is beginning to sound a lot like the characters in most of my stories. I have plans for them, naturally. At the start of the story, I know where they're headed. I know what turns they'll make at what critical junctions, and I make sure I give them turn signals ahead of time, so no one's surprised when they act the way they do.

Then they take matters into their own hands. They turn off their directionals and start taking turns, making choices, that I didn't plan out for them. How dare they? How dare they develop personality traits, decisions, quirks, that I didn't carefully arrange for them?

How wonderful that they do.

Maybe turn signals aren't a necessary thing in every facet of life, after all. It's kind of neat when you reach the end of a writing journey, whether a paragraph, chapter, or complete novel, and realize you've ended up somewhere you didn't plan to. Somewhere richer, more captivating, more interesting, less planned.

If only the drivers in my life could use their turn signals. I don't really mind if my characters turn theirs off once in a while.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

"Almost There"

A few years ago, I heard Madeline Hunter speak at a conference about the dangers of being "almost there." She warned that sometimes, authors find themselves on the brink of publication, so close and yet not quite there yet, those aspiring authors who place or win contests, who final in the Golden Heart, or have their full manuscripts repeatedly requested by agents or publishers only to eventually receive the final rejection letter. She even knew a woman who won the Golden Heart twice and then stopped writing altogether when she still had trouble publishing.

I thought, what a great problem to have! At least winning contests or having your ms. requested means you have talent and you're doing something right. Right?

Well, now I understand the frustration of being "almost there." I finally put together a website for myself, and one page I devoted to the 3 ms. I've finished since 2001 and the agents/houses who had requested full ms. In total, over 10. Great! But every one ended in a rejection. Hmm. Not so great, after all.

My yoga teacher tells our class we should be happy with where we are and not worry about where we're trying to get. That may be fine when you're talking about touching your knees while reaching for your toes, but what about capturing that elusive first sale? Impatient overachiever that I am, I want to reach my toes. I want to reach beyond them! I want to sell that first ms. I want an agent request to end with a phone call rather than a form letter.

Almost's a frustrating place to be. I guess I have to remind myself that the journey is part of the process too, and that the learning curve can sometimes be much, much longer that we expect it to be.