Thursday, December 30, 2010

WHY WON'T THE WORDS STOP TAUNTING ME?

Christmas 2010 is now in the past and I am becoming restless once more. Why? Well as you know I have taken on the mighty task of de-bulking my manuscript. I had told myself that I wish to complete all editing of my first novel before 2011 but I fear I will not be making that a reality.

I need to get rid of 40 000 words to make it a reasonable 100 000 words. I was told this is the maximum word count for first time authors. Anything more and agents don't want to touch it, out of fear that it is over written and too much editing needs to be done.

I finished editing my printed out pages and of course I wouldn't know the final word count until I made the actual changes in my Microsoft word program. I am more than halfway on the Microsoft word program and I have only reduced the mighty 144 224 word count by 4773 words. Bringing me to 139 451.

I still have half a manuscript to go but I doubt I have eliminated enough scenes and chapters.

What was my approach? Well I printed out the actual manuscript. Read through it with my red pen and orange highlighter in hand and started crossing out scenes, words and even chapters I felt could be parted with. I thought I got rid of quite a lot of things but now I fear it was still not enough.

Will I make my personal deadline of finishing my editing before 1 January 2011? I doubt it but maybe I will pull an all nighter and surprise myself.

Monday, December 20, 2010

I SURVIVED!

I attended a workshop today that was hosted by the wonderful Literary Agent Louise Fury of the Laura Perkins Literary Agency. She was absolutely brilliant. She was friendly and she answered every ones questions even though at times she was bombarded by multiple questions at the same time. One thing is clear, there is a lot of aspiring writers in South Africa.

OK, so let me tell you more. There were about 30 attendees and we each got an opportunity to introduce ourselves. My brother and I sat at the back of the room, which meant we would be last to speak. Big Mistake! I had to listen to all the achievements and published authors histories and after a while I felt like a complete fake between all these experts. So finally when they got to me I was so overwhelmed and nervous that I started rambling and I started talking so fast that I still can't remember what I said. I just remember my brother turning all the shades of red possible. All he said is that ''you just embarrassed yourself''. But I don't worry about it. I know no one there will remember me because I was the least qualified to be a writer and the most inexperienced as well. I had nothing to offer a fellow writer in terms of help with their career.

Nobody was rude or anything but I just felt out of my league. Nobody said anything to me that was discouraging but I couldn't relate to anybody. They seemed so far ahead of me in this crazy world of writing that to this moment I am still struggling to decipher exactly what I was doing there or what happened. Don't worry I remembered enough that I can share what I learned with all of you.

So here goes:

Query letters should be professional and should not contain too much personal information.

In you first paragraph: mention why you are querying the agent, give the title and genre of your novel as well as the word count.

In the second paragraph: say what your book is about.

Third paragraph: a little information as to why you are the writer to write this book.


Manuscript formatting:

Always double space your work.

Use a header that contains your name and that of your book as well as some form of contact detail. Also remember to add page numbers to each page.

Use a Times New Roman font 12 Or Ariel 11.

One inch margins should be used on every page.

Maximum word count for first time writers is 100 000 words.


About writing in general:

If you want to be published in America you definitely need a agent.

Do your research about your genre. Educate yourself about the form of publishing you are seeking and the agent and publishers who deal with your genre.

Always share your knowledge with fellow writers because that is how the writing world works. You help someone today and tomorrow perhaps someone can help you. Louise called this networking and said that it is essential for any writers success.

You should have a critique partner that knows what they are talking about and participate in writing groups and public readings if you can. You need to get your work out there. Be part of an online community.

E-book publishing is very big at the moment.

Oh and another writer can steal your idea but they won't write it the same way you would. So he/she might steal your idea about vampires but only you will write it the way you would because every writers voice and style and even interpretation is different. (I am still paranoid though).

So that is all I remember for the moment, sorry. Most of our sessions turned into Question and answer sessions. Everybody was so hungry for information. You can't really blame us. A opportunity like today happens very rarely in South Africa.

Here is what I learned today: Know who you are as a writer. Know exactly what you are writing in the sense of genre. Be comfortable with who you are as a writer and your style of writing. Most importantly, know why you are doing what you are doing. Is it because you love it or is it because you just want to be rich or do you just want to be published? If you want to be rich choose another profession because becoming a published writer will take many years. And even if you are published it doesn't mean you will ever be rich or make enough money to survive on your earnings.

I learned a lot today and at least now I know how far I still have to go. I am barely just beginning. I am in fact an amateur and I am not ashamed of it because I have already grown a lot since starting this blog and who knows what my writing will be like in a few more months or even years?

So today all my fellow writers, lets believe in ourselves and our dreams, no matter how unrealistic they are. Because we first have to believe in ourselves before others can.

PS. Keep an eye out for my first chapter. I am strongly considering sharing it on my blog.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

THANK YOU FOR KEEPING ME GOING

Christmas is drawing near as well as the end of the year. And because of this little fact I wanted to take this time to thank the wonderful people who kept me going and that helped me keep my dream of becoming a published author alive.

Thank you to Jody Hedlund (http://jodyhedlund.blogspot.com/) for her inspiring and informative blog. Your blog has helped me through some very tough and trying times as a writer.

Thank you to Nancy (http://introverted-writer.blogspot.com/) for teaching me that if writing is what I want to do then I should do it no matter what my age or personal turmoils.

On to two very cool and brilliant ladies that allowed me to be part of their own personal journeys towards becoming published authors. Both of you helped me through some very tough and tense times as well.

Firstly, a very big thank you to Heather Gardner (http://hmgardner.blogspot.com/) because if I didn't get that wonderful piece of advice from you about self-editing my first manuscript would still have been lying on my desk un-edited. And I am so grateful that I discovered your wonderful blog because without it I would never have made it through this year. I would probably just have given up. Thank you for all the wonderful advice and encouragement through the year. You helped me so much and I am truly grateful that I could have been part of your personal journey. Your posts are realistic and inspirational and without them I wouldn't have understood what it means to be an aspiring writer.

Secondly, thank you to Renee Silvana (http://reneesilvana.blogspot.com/) A.K.A Leah ( http://leahonveggies.blogspot.com/) for all the wonderful advice and powerful words of encouragement. I appreciated it a lot. Your posts too were very inspirational and you taught me that one is never too busy to write, to experience life, to never force ideas to happen and that being vegan can be sexy and cool. Thank you for allowing me into your world and letting me see what it takes to be an actual paranormal writer. Your dreams alone prove that I still have a long way to go yet, with regards to originality and imagination. Also thank you for always being honest and helping me right, even when I didn't know what the hell I was talking about. Big Thank you.

Thank you to my family for their support. It took a while, but I am glad that all of you are finally ok with me being an aspiring writer. I will try my best not to embarrass you with my writing.

Finally, thank you to everybody that read my blog this year. I hope some of it was entertaining and that I wasn't too much of a bore and if I was...nothing I can do about that now. I can just promise to do better next time.

All of the best for the festive season and a very big (heartfelt) THANK YOU!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

ATTENDING A WORKSHOP

I forgot to mention that I will be attending a workshop on Monday hosted by Louise Fury of the Laura Perkins Literary Agency. She is visiting South Africa and would like to give some guidance to local aspiring writers. I am actually looking forward to it.

My brother will be attending the workshop along with me. He is a Microbiologist who sometimes writes scientific articles based upon the research he does. But he becomes upset when I point out that he too is a writer. A non-fiction writer. He writes at least 3 articles a year and all of whom get published in a local magazine. But he is attending only to give me some much needed support.

I am a little scared to attend a workshop with fellow writers. What if I am a complete amateur in the presence of great writers? What if the agent asks me questions to which I have no answers?

But that is why I am there right? To learn.

PSYCHO ALERT!

Lately I have been getting a lot of pressure from all sources regarding my direction in life. Most of the pressure is actually coming from my new boss of all people. For some reason he feels I am wasting away my life on the quest to become a writer. Apparently I have so much potential.

At first I thought he just wanted to help me but Wednesday I noticed he has this White Oleander (as in Michelle Pheiffer's character) mind trick shit going for him. Now a little secret about me...I know a lot about mental warfare. My family specializes in this kind of stuff and this guy has no idea I realized what he is trying to do. Mostly I am upset that I didn't realize what he was trying to do from the beginning.

Anyway, the fact that he was trying to force me to stop pursuing writing was like waving a red flag in front of a bull. Yes, he mentioned a lot of similar things that my family has previously pointed out but the fact that he told me that it was an unrealistic dream made me want to pursue it even more and prove to him that it was an obtainable goal after all. I hate it when other people tell me that I can't do something. If ever there is anyone to tell me that it will be myself. The more people tell me I can't or shouldn't do something the more I will push on, just to prove them wrong. I haven't always been like this but lately I found a new sense of strength in myself. I am the most clueless about life and the unknown then I have ever been, yet I have never been stronger or happier. I always had plans for everything in life and now I don't, but I am not worried about it.

When I go back to work on Tuesday I will be professional and if I get anymore shit for being an aspiring writer I will put him straight and if he wishes to fire me then I will start my holiday sooner and I will be happier for it.

I actually am going to use his personality type as that of the villain in my historical romance. He apparently used to be a poet and philosopher. I use to write poetry too but I wasn't anywhere near as psychotic as this guy. Poet's are passionate people but this guy is on some other mental plane and that is just scary. Sure he is intelligent but not in a good way.

I know my posts have been a little depressing of late and for that I apologize. I will try to make it a bit more interesting. I guess my posts are a reflection of my moods but I am cheering up as we speak or should I say write?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

DIRECTION IN LIFE

Today I feel like jumping out of my own skin. I feel as if the person inside me is suffocating.

A few days ago my new boss came into my office and said something out of the blue that has been bothering me quite a bit. ''I think you are hiding from life. What are your plans for the future? Why not do something bold with your life? If you want to be a writer why not do it? Why don't you go do a academic program that can help you become a writer?''

I sat and stared at him in confusion. How could he sum me up so quickly? How could he possibly know these things? This man hasn't known me before this week. Do I have some invisible sign on my forehead that says ''Hey, I am struggle with the direction of my life!'' I didn't mind what he said, I just wish it wasn't true.

I don't want to face the reality of the situation. I have to decide what I want to do with the rest of my life. I have a degree in Agriculture. Most specifically Animal production and Management. But I only recently realized that I don't want to do that anymore. I can't stand it when the animals aren't treated properly and it sends me into a crazy spin of emotions. My heart is just not in it anymore. I don't know if it ever was. So basically I spent 4 years obtaining a degree I don't (and also can't) use.

I want to write, just like millions of other people. But writing at the moment is like my brother says '' a hobby''. I need a job in the real world and I am rather tired of doing low paying jobs with maximum amounts of stress. So how the hell am I supposed to make a choice? I don't want to depend on my family anymore.

I desperately need to make a choice that will impact the rest of my life. But I don't know how to go about it. I am lost today.

Monday, December 13, 2010

OVERLOAD

My brother is renovating his room and seeing that my room is the closest to his, his storing most of his stuff in my room. I don't mind at all. But the past week has been a mentally draining and physically tiring week. I just feel like my senses are suffering a overload.

Yesterday I had another one of my migraines. None of my medication helped but the good news is that I don't have a migraine right now. Because of the past week and yesterday's headache I haven't resumed my normal writing routine. My ''wanna be'' historical romance is just lying there unfinished, taunting me as if saying ''yep, knew you couldn't stick it out, sucker''. It is smiling an evil smile and laughing it's evil laugh.

I am still capturing data for my previous company. I have a lot of stuff just floating around in my head and it is not the kind of stuff I want to be thinking of. I think it is somehow blocking my creativity. I haven't thought of a single scene in a week. Maybe it is because the couple finally had sex and now all the mystery and previous built up tension is gone (sounds like real life) and now I can't seem to get them to work together.

I will resume the de-bulking of my first manuscript on Thursday. I am forcing myself to get into the editing mode. Must edit...must sleep...must...goodnight.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

FAMILY REUNION UPDATE

The family reunion is finally over and the last guests had left 30 minutes ago. I met some nice members of the family (who didn't know me at all) but I also met a few that I wouldn't mind not ever seeing again. The kind of people that make you wish that alcohol was never discovered.

It was a good idea my mom had, to reaquint us with more relatives from her side. Honestly, we (I really mean me) don't really know most of my moms relatives, I don't know why that is but we just never met before or at least I never met them before. Everybody seemed to know my other siblings and in all fairness my siblings are a bit older than me. I am what we call '' 'n laat lammetjie'' which basically means there is a big age gap between me and the sibling born before me. So I suppose it makes sense that the others are known and I am the one everybody keeps inquiring about a bit too loudly, for example ''Who is this girl?''

The age old saying has been truly tried and proven today, '' You can choose your friends but you can't choose your family''.

Today I found out how big of a leap I am truly taking with trying to become a published writer. My goals really seem like unrealistic dreams at this point. I am writing novels that probably nobody will ever read and sending away query letter to agents overseas when people like my moms family are trying to just make ends meet or are trying their dire best to avoid the evils of the world but losing the battle each time. At some point I considered that we might truly be from two different worlds. It was scary to see how much our priorities differ. And now I can see that I truly live in a dream world.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

OH BOY

Christmas carols are blasting at full volume, cookies baking in the oven and my sister dancing with a smile on her face, probably for the first time this whole year.

Yep, you might have guessed it. My family is preparing for Christmas. My one sister is a bit of a sour puss and she only comes alive for one month of the year and that is December. She loves Christmas. Me, I respect the holiday and it's traditions. But I don't get that overwhelming feeling of joy and happiness the way I did when I was a child. I wish I had my sisters enthusiasm about the whole concept of the festive season but I don't know...It just feels as if though something is missing. As if something perhaps died in me or is broken.

We have a family reunion coming up this weekend. My moms idea. We get to meet the other side of my moms family who we never see or know anything about. It should be interesting. I will let you know how it went.

Operation house cleaning is on the way. I am missing most of it because of the new temporary data capturing job I have. Yeah! But I am sure my mom will find something for me to do.

I have not done any writing since this weekend. No editing either. I am falling behind. Oh well. Life goes on.

So back to real life and my sister singing along to her favorite Christmas Carols at the top of her mighty lungs. Might I add, she has a strong voice for such a skinny person.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

WHO WOULD HAVE THOUGHT?

Who would have thought that I would be making an attempt to write a historical romance novel. Yes people, I am putting it out there, I have begun doing my research and even wrote (as in pen and paper) a few scenes.

I am not romantic myself, which is probably why everybody laughs to my face when I tell them that my writing has a strong romantic theme intertwined with action and drama. I love the guts and gore but I also like the idea of having a guy through me over his shoulder for misbehaving. My sister thinks that idea is just barbaric, but there is just something about a strong man putting me in my place that I like. I guess because I am such a tomboy I find it hard to find guys who can handle me.

So yes, it will focus on the more romantic side of things and believe it or not, it makes me nervous. I am not comfortable writing love scenes. I am working on not blushing as I write it, but hell I just can't help it. The way I was raised it was not appropriate to talk about sex openly (at least not in my family). So here I am, trying to figure out when my characters will be having sex and how exactly I want their first encounter to be. Damn it! I am blushing already. (Big smile).

I am leaning towards the more erotic side. Just for the hell of it. I am breaking out of my own comfort zone so I might as well do it properly and take things as far as I can. I am still such a chicken shit that I won't tell my family about the details of this project. I don't want them praying for my soul just yet. Luckily for me they don't read my blog.  (Wink-Wink).

Sunday, December 5, 2010

NOT SO FAST

I have prepared myself for a series of chores and re-editing of my first manuscript, seeing that I am once again unemployed. But all is not as it seems, at least not anymore. I got a phone call on Friday from the company I used to work for, asking me if I wouldn't mind capturing some data for them, which of course I agreed to do.

It will only be for a week (maximum). So I had to put away the first manuscript for later, or at least till I have more time to get rid of some scenes to make it a more reasonable size. My first thought was that ''hey, how hard can it be to scale down my manuscript? This is going to be easy''. How wrong I was. I can't just end it at an earlier chapter, I have to end it as originally planned. The flow is just not right if I end it earlier. But what I have to do is take out unnecessary sentences and narrative. Even scenes and characters that don't make a significant contribution toward the quality of my manuscript.

I have to come up with another plan on how I am going to edit the first manuscript, while still doing research for the third novel and fitting in traditional house cleaning chores in preparation for Christmas. I will figure everything out. If I have to wait till next year to send out more queries, so be it.

Friday, December 3, 2010

PERFECT PAIR OF JEANS

My day started off good. I got about 2 hours of writing done before me, my mom and sister had to go do our weekly grocery shopping. Then my mom reminded me that I still have to do my yearly jeans shopping. I didn't forget, I intentionally put it off till a later date. Every year I go buy myself a few pairs of jeans. Because I am a jeans and t-shirt girl my jeans take a lot of abuse the whole year long. Hence the yearly jeans buying tradition.

So there I was, on the prowl for a pair of flattering jeans in my size. I found a few and when I went to fit them on...Let me tell you, nothing ruins a woman's day like a failed shopping attempt. The first few didn't fit at all, the others were not flattering and then the last pair were just wrong on so many levels. 

I walked away feeling dejected. So I went to the plus size woman store. I avoid shopping here because the size might be right but the cut of the jeans aren't. So I went into two different plus size stores and found three pairs of jeans that fit perfectly and who were flattering. So I cheered up soon after.

So today I realized that  finding balance in life as well as happiness is like finding a perfect pair of jeans. The end goal might seem impossible when things don't go my way, but if I really know what I want and I keep at it, I might just find what I am looking for. Or even achieve the end goal I was striving for.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

APOLOGY TO LYNETTE BENTON

I would like to apologize to Lynette Benton for the confusion regarding a post of mine being posted to twitter. She has left a comment on her website saying that she had tried to contact me in the past but was unsuccessful. Her only intention was to help me, an aspiring writer out and send more aspiring writers to my blog.

I was a little hasty with expecting the worst and I am a big enough person to apologize for my lack of judgement.

I have done some research and I noticed that she gives very good advice for aspiring writers, so if you are interested you can check her website out here http://lynettebentonwriting.com/

But for the future people, please note that I do not handle surprises well at all. So please let me know before posting any of my material anywhere.

MULTITASKING

I have suddenly become really good at multitasking. I did the washing today and in between washing cycles, which are about 30 minutes, I managed to write a few pages. I did about 4 loads, each having a washing cycle of 30 minutes, so I have gotten 2 hours of writing time, while still completing an important chore. It is very windy today so I could wait for all the loads to finish before hanging it on the close line. So I am pretty chuffed with myself.

I have not been reading any blogs lately so I apologize if I haven't stopped by to give any encouragement or any motivation. But I am sure you are all doing very well and that the ideas are flowing.

I am once again haunted by thoughts and images of my new lead character. She is about to discover her own inner strength and that just makes me happy. Every second I work on her story I am smiling. My family wants to know what it is with me and the stupid grin I have have plastered all over my face.

Well, I am off to clean the house. The sooner I get that done, the sooner I will have more time to write. In the meanwhile I will allow my leading lady to whisper into my ear what she would like to say or do next.