Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Useful Link With Info on Finding Agents and More

Check out this blog, that of a literary agent based in San Francisco: Nathan Bransford
On the panel on the right are many questions and answers on finding an agent, submitting a query letter to agents, and Nathan's Ten Commandments For the Happy Writer, which is refreshingly down to earth. Bear in mind though, that much of his advice is applicable to the U.S. market. And bear in mind, too/two, my golden rule about all things writerly: There Are No Golden Rules. So take it all with a pinch of salt and enjoy.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Finding Your Character's Voice -- Writing Exercise

When I was trying to get myself psyched up to get started on that first draft of my new novel, a sequel to THE TROUBLE WITH DILLY I could feel my character, Dilly, nudging and pushing wanting to be given voice. A great way to find the voice of your character is to write a journal account from her/his point of view. Dilly insisted on a blog. And so, here is what she said -- dated when she wrote it and with her original punctuation:

Feb 22.2010

Kierat said I should start a blog because that was better than complaining about her -- the her being Rachna Gilmore, who is supposed to be writing another book about me and she says she is but she hasn’t shown me anything yet even though I’ve given her about a million ideas and what does she expect me to do, write the book for her? Kierat says I should punctuate better, but he can just shut up because it’s my blog not his. But he says I should start by saying who I am, so here it is. I’m Dilly Ahuja and I’m eleven years old and I live with my mom, dad, brother Kierat and grandmother, Dadiji, whom I call the Great White Hen. I came up with that name because she’s big and bossy and always wears white which is what you do in India if you’re a widow and even though we’re not in India now – we’re in Canada – the Great White Hen still wears white because she’s a widow. Kierat says I should watch what I say in a blog because what if the Great White Hen reads it and I say, that’s not likely because my grandmother is really old fashioned and probably doesn’t even know how to turn on the computer let alone get into e-mail or blogs, and she’s always complaining about how I spend too much time on the computer playing games (I don’t) and stuff like that.

So I live with who I said, and we’re in *****. I’ve decided not to say where I live because Kierat says if I give it away we could be indund, no that’s inundated with lots of people coming up to take pictures of us and ask for autographs and I don’t think I’ll mind that and I’ve been practicing my signature, just a big D and then a scrawl like I’m famous and don’t have time to write it all out, but Kierat says it’ll be annoying for Mom and Dad although I think maybe if we had more people coming by the store would be busier, only Kierat says the store is busy enough and Mom has her hands full with the take out as it is and she would be really fed up if she had to talk to people who just wanted to know about the book.

So we live in a busy corner, and I’ll just use the fictional name that Rachna Gilmore, my writer, gave my neighbourhood, which is Tarrin Street, and my parents have a corner grocery store and mom also cooks for the take-out. She cooks Indian food, north Indian food, because my parents came from Punjab to Canada, and she’s a fantastic, amazing cook, which everyone says, even Mr. Perry, who loves her cooking and who used to live in England and eat in the best restaurants there, so he should know.

So the reason I’m famous is twofold. This is me being clear and organized because Kierat says I’m rambling only what does he know, because no one wrote a book about him because he’s nerdy and doesn’t do anything interesting only get great grades in school. Kierat is 15. But the reason I’m famous is twofold. First, I did something fantastic in the community (I’m not going to go into it here because Kierat says I should encourage everyone to read the book and if I give it all away what’s the point of anyone buying the book and reading about me?) and Mr. Paros, a local reporter wrote up about what I did with my best friends April and Olivia. And we all did this fantastic amazing benevolent thing for the community but it was my idea first, only I’m not just trying to get all the credit because I couldn’t have done it without April and Olivia and everyone who helped, but I’m just saying it was my idea first, only because it was. The other reason I’m famous is I’ve had a book written about me. It’s THE TROUBLE WITH DILLY and it was written by Rachna Gilmore. She’s a real writer. She’s really, really old. She says she isn’t but she’s over fifty, so she is really old. But she came to my school and back then I thought it would be cool to be a writer when I grew up and be famous and make a truck load of money and be stinking rich, only she said you didn’t usually make a ton of money writing so I decided I wouldn’t bother, but then she said I wrote really well, and then the school invited her back to do a writing workshop because all the teachers liked her and also the kids liked her, except for Brad who is lazy and didn’t want to write. So when she came back for the workshop she said I had tons of ideas, and I should write a journal but I couldn’t be bothered and I said I could give her my ideas and she could write about me and she got all snotty and said no thanks she’s got lots of ideas of her own, only when she read in the paper about me and April and Olivia and the fantastic benevolent thing we did in the community she soon changed her tune and said she’d write a book about me after all, so I told her all about it and she wrote it up, and okay she did a pretty good job, I’m not saying she didn’t, only I bet I could have done it better only I don’t have the time to do all the re-writing and editing she says you have to do if you want to get published so I guess it’s better all around that she wrote it because I’m busy enough with homework and helping at the store and playing hockey. That’s what I love. Playing hockey. I play with a house league so I don’t have time like she has to write it. The book, I mean. I’m not sure about the title, though because it sort of gives the impression that I’m trouble and she’s implied a few things in the book about me which are sort of not complimentary which is a bit of a cheek because I gave her the ideas in the first place.

Kierat’s reading this over my shoulder and he says I should be careful what I say about her, the writer, because if she sees this and gets pissed off she may not write the second book about me she’s promised to write. But I don’t think she’ll read it because I asked if she had a blog and she laughed and said no she can’t be bothered and what would she write about anyway, other than she parked her backside in a chair and wrote or went for a walk to hammer out her ideas. Only why she needs to hammer out ideas I don’t know, I can’t fathom (which means figure out) because I’ve given her all my ideas only she says she can’t just plunk them all down any old way higgeldy-piggeldy, there has to be a story arc. Whatever. I just don’t know why, if all she does is plunk her backside down on a chair and write that she hasn’t done my new book yet. It’s not like she has anything else to do, but she says she has, because she’s plarking with millions of other ideas and other stories. Whatever. Plarking is what she calls it – playing, working and larking. I think she’s just lazy, frankly, and no, I don’t think she’ll ever read this blog because I won’t tell her about it and anyway she says she can’t be bothered reading other people’s blogs because she has a life to which I say ha ha, if she has a life why doesn’t she blog about it and why doesn’t she get on with writing my other book?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Jumping Without a Net

March 10.10

A visualization I often do before starting a first draft, or any other time I feel I need to free myself to write, is to imagine that I am climbing up a tall tree, right to the very top. Then I look down and jump. Down, down, down. There is no net below, but I always land gently on my feet. Disclaimer -- to be visualized only, not tried in real life!

Shivering into that First Draft

March 4.10

Getting into your first draft, either starting or continuing it, is often like shivering into cold ocean water. You creep in, little by little, the tangy water brisk and chilling. But once you take a deep breath and at last plunge in -- for me, right up to my neck -- and thrash about to get warmed, it's absolute heaven. And you don't want to come out. One of my favourite places to swim -- the beaches of PEI, which are also wonderful to walk on for miles, and to dream stories.

The First Draft Procrastination -- Staining the Water Clear

March 1.2010

I'm procrastinating getting started on my next novel. It's a Junior Children's novel for Grades 3 and up, a sequel to THE TROUBLE WITH DILLY which was released in Fall 2009. I love my character and her world and I'm longing to be absorbed in the thick of it, of being caught up in the white heat of writing where everything else fades and I'm in the centre of time's spiral, that still spot where time is unmoving and eternal.

And yet I'm putting it off.

Okay, so in part I'm putting it off because of fear. It's the fear that all writers have -- the fear expressed so well by William Blake (Songs of Innocence) of staining the water clear.

We all have in our heads a version of the story, a feeling of it that seems pristine and perfect.

By starting to write, I'm afraid I won't be able to do justice to that vision in my head, that I'll stain the clear water of that perfect vision. When I teach creative writing to kids and adults, I warn them about this, how often writers feel this way and how the only way to overcome this self-doubt and fear is to just start.

And yet I can't seem to follow my own advice. It seems I must go through a dance of self-loathing, longing to start, fear and darting about, punctuated with deep periods of intense thought lost in the story, and being distracted by housework for godsakes, which I loathe, before the fear of not starting overcomes the fear of starting. It's a struggle between the hot scratchy desire for that first draft to be as close to perfect as possible, and the cool, peaceful acceptance that it hardly ever is. It's a fear that perhaps can only be overcome by remembering that there are few if any near perfect drafts; that the writing process is labyrinthine, full of surprises and dead ends, and that it's all part of the process, and part of the fun.

Except, when you've had about twenty or more books published and others on the way, you keep hoping that by now you really should be skilled enough to have a fabulous first draft and the fact that you don't means you're a terrible writer and perhaps you should go and get a real job, except that you love what you do -- apart from the self-loathing and vacillating -- and once you get into it you'll be able to draw in a deep breath and be ALL RIGHT.

I will start soon. I will. I'll relax and embrace the imperfection, enjoy the process. I'll settle into the joy of the writing and let the judging of the first draft await my judging mind when the euphoria of finishing that first draft subsides.