Friday, April 15, 2011

I'm Back

I'm back.

After graduating from Vermont College of Fine Arts last summer, I spent six months editing and revising the mg novel I'd written prior to beginning the MFA program. In January, I began sending out my agent queries. It's now April 15th, and I am still in that process.

As I write this, I have several full manuscripts out with agents as well as several queries. The name of the game is PATIENCE. You have to do a lot of waiting when looking for an agent.

And what do you do while you wait: Write the next book.
1. Because an author is only as good as his next book.
2. Because if you want to be known as an author, you need to keep putting stuff out there. 3. Because if you don't do something to take your mind off the waiting, you WILL. GO. CRAZY.

I'll be blogging about various things as I go through this publishing process. Tuesdays will be "How-To Tuesdays" where I will discuss the ins and outs of writing and getting published. Fridays will be "Read Like a Writer Fridays" where we can talk about books, new and older books, and analyze what works, what doesn't work, and why.

Welcome to my new blog. May the muse be friendly to you today.

Monday, May 24, 2010

In the final stretch1

Okay, I know it's been a looooong time since I've updated this blog. But I'm back, almost officially an MFA grad (only 2 months to go). I've learned so much about my writing and how to improve it. This semester was certainly the toughest; it was the one that made me face the fact that I still have so far to go. From what I hear, all writers are unsure of themselves, no matter how many books they've written and published. I think that's important for people who are just starting out to know: you never stop learning or improving. And practice doesn't make you perfect, but it does help you get better and better.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

I can't believe I let my blog go for so long!  I'm sorry if anyone was looking for more information on Vermont College or low-residency mfa in writing programs-I've let you down.  But I'm back now, and my new year's resolution is to be better about blogging-once a week at least.
Well, it's that time again.  Time to head back up to Vermont for ten days of learning, and writing, and socializing, and networking.  I'm probably more excited now than I was in July, because I'm not nervous about it anymore.  I can't wait to see my friends, and dive into my new semester.
From July to December, I completed 2 picture books, 1 non-fiction picture book, a complete novel revision, and I outlined and began 1 mg novel and 2 ya novels (20 pages of each).  I read over 80 books (a mix of mg/ya novels, pbs, and craft books), and wrote 10 critical essays on various writing topics.  So what have I learned?  I'm learning to better inhabit my characters, I'm learning to show not tell (and recognizing when I'm telling not showing), and I've learned to listen not only to the words, but the sound of those words as they roll off the tongue-the rhythm of the words is important, even in a novel.  This program is very self-directed; you get out what you put in.  I think it's important when starting a program like this to plan ahead and decide exactly what you want to learn and how you will go about learning it.
So what will I do for this semester?  I think I want to choose one of the beginnings from last semester and dig in.  My goal would be to complete a rough draft of one entire novel.  But I want to be more flexible this semester and less structured.  Do what excites me at a particular time.
Oh, and keep your fingers crossed for me...I submitted a couple of pieces to 2 contests, and for a scholarship at school (which I will find out about next week!)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Well I finally did it.  I'm on facebook.  My daughter was mortified when I told her.  So if you find me, ask to be my friend.  I promise to say yes!  

You might be asking, "Why join facebook now?"  Well, I chose not to go to my 20th HS reunion this past weekend, and wanted to  find out what I missed.  Now I'm regretting not going.  I was so shy in HS that I felt like I didn't really want to go through that again.  But now I'm a totally different person now, and I really should've gone.  Oh well, I think there's another one in 5 years!

As for school, I just sent out packet 4 and am ready to start on packet 5.  This packet will be all about creative non-fiction and historical fiction.  I think this will be the toughest packet yet, since I rarely read those genres.  It's a stretch, but that's what going to school is all about.  What do you write, and what would be your biggest stretch?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Has it really been almost 2 months?!

I'm still here!!!!  Buried under packets and books, but here.   

My third packet was on YA, with the beginning of a new YA novel.  I don't want to say too much about it since it's still so deeply under construction (I don't want to jinx it!).  My advisor's comments on it were mostly positive, with some criticisms of course.  I keep making the same mistake in all of my beginnings of novels:  stereotyping.  For example, I've made the mean girl in a MG novel blonde and beautiful.  I've made the teenager in my YA an angry girl who hates her parents.  I need to stop doing what's already been done and think of something new!

My completed MG novel is coming along quite well; revisions should be done very soon (maybe by the end of the semester!)  Then what?  I don't know.  I guess I begin the submissions process.  Uh-oh.

I'm now working on my 4th packet:  horror, sci-fi, and fantasy.  My new beginning for this packet is YA horror story with a ghost, but NO VAMPIRES!! Some days the work is easier than others.  Today was a good day and the scene flowed.  Yesterday, not so much.  And the essays for this packet are stumping me, so I just keep reading and hoping that something will come to me before the packet is due.

My residency is coming up soon:  Jan. 12-22.  I've already gotten my train tix, and now I'm deciding which beginning of a novel (3 to choose from) or  picture books I want to submit for the workshop.  Do I choose the one that I think is the best?  Or the one that needs the most help?  Or the one that's closest to submission-ready (which would be the picture books, I think)?

On the Vermont College MFA forum we are discussing our fantasy plans for the few weeks we have at the end of the semester, after our last packet is handed in and before the residency. Here's mine:
1.  Read FOR FUN (preferably an adult book).
2.  Catch up on the last 6 months of scrapbooking that I've fallen behind on (actually I was behind before I started school, so it's more like a year behind).
3.  Work on my needlepoint that's been collecting dust in a corner.
4.  Go to the movies!
5.  Go out to dinner without feeling like I should be at home working!
6.  Sleep late.
7.  Go to bed early.
8.  Watch TV with my husband.
9.  Play a game with my kids.
10.  Eat chocolate (ok, I've been doing this all along, but I love chocolate, and it's my fantasy!)

What would you do?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Hi, my name is Dawn, and I'm an anal-organizational freak. (Everyone: Hi Dawn.)

It's true, I admit it.  I am anal when it comes to organizing my life and plans.  My friends call me rainman.  But I didn't really see it for myself until earlier this week.  A writer friend asked me how I was doing my packets for school.  I proceeded to tell her exactly how I was handling this semester, and when I finished I realized how completely psycho it sounded!  

As you know, I have to send in a packet each month to my faculty advisor containing 20 pages of new writing, 20 pages of revision, 2 critical essays, and an annotated bibliography of at least 10 books.  Well, I wanted to try as many new things as possible this semester, so my plan is to do something different with each packet.  Packet 1 was all about picture books.  I read 23 (?) of them, my essays were on topics surrounding them, and I wrote 7 of them (some better than others!).  

Packet 2 was all about Middle Grade novels.  I read 20 of them, my essays involved them, I wrote 20 pages of a new MG novel, and revised my completed MG novel.  

For my third packet, I'll be working on a new YA and revising PBs.  

The 4th packet will be sci-fi/horror/fantasy.  

And the 5th will be creative non-fiction/historical fiction.  

So by the end of the semester, I'll have one completed and revised MG, 3 completed and revised PBs, and the beginnings of a YA, a MG, a Sci-fi or horror YA/MG novel, and a creative non-fiction or historical fiction YA/MG novel.  Then next semester I can focus in a little more on the things I enjoyed most.  I'd love to have all of those beginnings completed by graduation, at least in first drafts.

That's my plan.  I know-rainman.  
What are you rainman-ish about?  Do you ever get anal about your writing life?  Or are you free and spontaneous?

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Preparing packet #2

Packet 2 is due next week-the 11th-and I have one essay left.  My first essay was entitled:  I Hate This Character.  So Why Am I Still Reading?  I asked the question, does the reader have to like the protagonist?  So many times, we writers hear how we need to make the protagonist "likable", "identifiable", or "interesting".  I agree the main character needs to be interesting, especially if he's not easy to like or identify with.  Emotion is such an important part of every story, and we must feel something for the characters or we won't bother reading the story.  But can we hate that main character?  

I think it's ok to hate the character, as long as it's a believable character and we hate them the way we'd hate a person in real life.  If we hate them because they are too flat, or they say things that don't fit with their personality, then we will stop reading.  But if we hate them because we believe they are doing/saying horrible things, and we believe they really would say/do these things, then we, as readers, are eager to keep reading to see what they will say/do next.  Does that make sense?  

I used the example of Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen.  His main character, Cole, is despicable, but we believe he would be that way because of his home life.  The motivation makes sense with his personality.  Still, the reader Hates him until he changes about midway through the book.  The reader doesn't really sympathize with him until he begins to realize how awful he's been.

In my MG novel, the main character says and does horrible things because she is so angry and sad and guilty over the loss of her sister.  I think, I hope, I've painted her in a realistic fashion and that readers will stick around to see if she can get past all these emotions.  In fact, my advisor read a particular scene and said she wanted to slug my character.  I think that's good, because it means she believes in this character.  I think any time we can get the reader to feel a strong emotion about our characters because of who they are or what they've done in the story, we have accomplished our goal of capturing the reader's attention.

Do you have any unlikable characters in your stories?