Friday, September 15, 2006

Good News in a Funny Package

A couple of weeks ago, I was needing a break from my current WIP, so I sifted through some old stuff and found the very first novel I attempted. After cringing a bit at the plot - or lack of - I remembered how much I liked the characters, so I decided to give them a different life.

Around the same time, I found this website that publishes serial online works, Virtual Tales. You can order so many issues or chapters of a story and download as you read. They're looking for romance, among other genres, so I sent in a query.

Today I heard back from them - they want to see more. (One nice thing is that you don't have to have a finished manuscript. They'll read what you have and ask when they can expect the next series of chapters, etc.)

So hooray! Sort of. The way the email was phrased was so odd:
Our editors have evaluated your story and believe it is worthy of a more serious look.

So the first look was not a serious one? It was a hey, let's have some laughs one? I suppose that's what editors and agents have to do to wade through all the queries they receive. I can imagine them sitting back with their cup of coffee (or bourbon), skimming the letters and partials, laughing, crumpling up the bad ones and chucking them in the direction of the garbage can, calling their friends to read out loud the worst ones of all.

Don't get me wrong - I don't really care how they phrase it, if they want to see more. I just thought it was a funny, if rather honest, way of doing it. And this time, with our serious faces on, we'll take more than sixty seconds to read it over...

Guess I'd better get back to work.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Loving the Conflict

So I am at the point in my WIP, about 3/4 of the way through, where the conflict is taking off and the Big Black Moment is just around the corner. And I'm loving it. Not that I love watching my characters suffer, poor things, but I know what's in store for them a few chapters down the line, and I can't wait for them to get there.

In some of my earlier works, readers would always say, I love the characters, great voice, but not enough conflict. I got so frustrated. Not enough conflict?? Why does everything have to be so difficult? Can't two people just fall in love and spend the rest of their lives together?

Of course not. Not in fiction, anyway, where conflict is everything. This is what I've discovered: external conflict is key to any story. But that finicky, difficult-to-develop inner conflict makes my stories that much richer. I still struggle with it but I think I'm making progress. I looked back at an earlier version of my current WIP and realized how much was lacking.

OK, enough rambling. Back to my WIP. I left my hero at the scene of an accident in which he is about to realize that the woman he loves may not make it through the night...

Monday, September 11, 2006

5 Years

There have been a lot of television programs and even big-screen productions of the 9/11 events in the last six months. And today, of course, it's been 5 years. It is difficult for me to think back to life before, to, as our local paper calls it "the last normal days we ever knew" - perhaps this is because I live 60 miles outside of NYC, perhaps because more than half the people I know and live and work with lost someone that day, perhaps because I too lost a friend on Flight 93, whose daughter is entering kindergarten this fall. 5 years.

This I do know: 5 years ago, I decided to start writing in earnest. I had been playing around with it for a long time, since I was a child really, but in the weeks after the terrorist attacks, I began to put together an essay on how it affected me and the students I teach.

It was the first thing I ever published.

Since then, I've become a lot more serious in pursuing publication as a novelist. I know that I've grown tremendously, polishing the craft in ways I never thought possible or necessary before.

I've often wondered why I found my niche in romance. I don't particularly favor the genre, not above any other, really. I guess maybe it's because there is (almost) always a happy ending. I've always been drawn to the power of human connection, to the mysteries of what can happen between two people against all odds. Maybe that's why 9/11 inspired me to write. Maybe I needed to make sense of things. Maybe I needed to convince myself that happiness could still be possible, even after so much agony and loss.

Today I may go to a memorial service. Or I may not. I may pay respects and remember in a different way. I may say a prayer or two. I may weep. But I do know this much: today I will write. I will sit down at my keyboard and compose. I will revisit the characters I have come to know and love. I will give them life and love and happy endings.