Thursday, October 27, 2011


This is actually where I go to work everyday. We make injection molded plastics products, and I'm responsible for the safety, quality, productivity and profitability of the facility. I suppose you could call me the big cheese, the place where the buck stops. But I mostly think of myself as the enforcer, the voice of reason, the referee.

Now I want to draw your attention to that Southern Utah sky. How many places in this world can boast clear blue skies like that? Also, not in this picture are the beautiful red-rock mountains that surround the city. The setting makes this one of the best places to live on the planet.

Setting is so important to writing, it should actually be incorporated into your writing as a character. I participated in an excercise this summer where we took a setting and described it as if it were alive. It worked so well, I put the excerpt in my book. And since? I've been using that technique to bring out the beauty and uniqueness of scenes as I write...Definitely an excellent tool for the writers closet.
Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Contest Judging - Even Bad Critiques Can Be Put To Good Use!

Not long ago I received word that my entry was a finalist in a contest that will remain anonymous for the purpose of this post. The entry rules were to submit only 25 pages with no pitch or synopsis. My piece made it to the final round. They gave the finalists a week to incorporate the judge's suggestions, which will be judged by an impressive list of editors and agents.

Anyway, I received two critiques - the first judge said s/he wouldn't change a thing - s/he absolutely loved my submission...I got 156 points out of a total of 165 - Wow, I thought...until I looked at the second judge's remarks. First, s/he said that she would not read beyond the first page, then s/he made a comment that s/he couldn't tell the story was a romance, and proceeded to say that s/he would take out the sub-plot which is the reason the protagonist and hero meet. I just stared at her comments for about ten minutes.

Then, taking a deep breath, I reread the critique. I realized that my pages were not understood by that judge, nor would that person ever find enjoyment in my writing. Actually, some of his/her comments seemed just plain stupid to me, and the only high marks I received were on my mechanics.

So, I forced myself to look at every comment seriously and pulled out anything that I thought had merit, and I actually was able to make some improvements.

The moral of the story? Firstly, not everyone is going to like your work - EVER. Secondly, even if you get a critique where the judge clearly has no idea what you're trying to do with the story, it's still worth reviewing the comments. Even bad critiques will have something that you can pull out to make your story better.

Happy writing!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

I just finished reading The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. I don't read a lot of YA, unless my daughter suggests a book, but I went to the Heart of the West Romance Writers Conference where author, Dan Brown, gave a keynote talk about the book and how, through the course of the novel, it built the world and defined the characters. I downloaded it to my Kindle and couldn't put it down.

Normally, a post apocalyptic world does not attract my interest, but this world, though completely horrendous, kept me turning the pages from one awful, unthinkable scene to another.

Normally, I don't care to read a story in first person present. It's not the first person that bothers me, but I have difficulty with present tense. Collins pulled off the present tense so well that after the first few pages, I fell right into step with her style.

So - five of five stars to Suzanne Collins and The Hunger Games! It's gripping and well written, and a best-seller. You can order it at

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Juggling Work and Writing

Do you have a "day job" that pays the bills? I do - in fact I have a day career. My husband and I are putting four kids through college. I'm thrilled that KOICTO is coming out soon, but I'm not holding my breath for the first royalty check. Bottom line - I have to work to make ends meet, just like so many other authors out there.

So, if you have to work and ABSOLUTELY MUST WRITE (like me), how do you juggle  your time? I live by a strict schedule. I'm at my "day job" at 7 a.m. and I leave by 5 p.m. whenever possible. I go home, take care of the dogs, eat something simple - like a peanut-butter sandwich, and I'm writing by 6:30 p.m. and I hit it hard until about 9. I get up early on weekends and write before anyone wakes up. With this plan I get about 5k words in per week, and sometimes a blog post or two.

What is your writing routine like? How do you juggle family, work and play?

I never write on Friday nights, because that is time with my husband. Also, we plan things together on the weekends, so my writing is limited to early mornings. It's tough, but I believe with discipline, it works.

Happy writing, friends!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Story Endings

Writers talk a lot about the opening hook and the first five pages of a story. There isn't a lot of hype out there on endings, so I thought today's post could talk a little about that. Basically, there are four ways the story can end:

1.       Hero fails completely - generally, this is not satisfying for the reader, but may be a set up for a second book or a series.
2.       Hero succeeds – this can be hard to pull off, but your protagonist needs to end up in a better place than where she started. Usually this follows a pattern of three try/fail cycles where the hero fails in the first two, and has a huge win in the last cycle.
3.       The protagonist is struggling to gain something and discovers that she wants something else more – discovers something more important.
4.       The protagonist gets what she wants but has to give something else in return…she takes her beating – This gives the writer a lot of opportunity to develop conflict, and often works the best.

In romance novels there are a few rules, one of which is that there has to be a happy ending. This doesn't mean it can't have a lot of confilct and twists (on the contrary) but does mean that the protagonist has to get the guy in the end.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

I'd Rather Get a Rejection than Nothing

The trend I've noticed recently is that many agents are no longer sending out rejections. I'm a logical person so I can understand their point that rejections, even form letters, take time. However, I'm one of those authors who spends a lot of time researching agents. If I've sent an agent a query, I've spent a lot of time researching that person to determine if that agent might be a good match for my manuscript, and genre. I even have a subscription to Publisher's Marketplace at $20 per month to research agents in my genre.

As a result, I'd rather have a form rejection than a non response, or an automatic "if you don't receive a response in 4-8 weeks, consider it a pass." I received a rejection from an agent today whom I researched, looked up her clients on Amazon, Twitter stalked, and insured I had everything in the submission that her web site requested. The rejection was e-mailed and addressed to "Dear Author." Honestly, aside from a pang of disappointment, I thought, Thank you...Thank you for taking a few seconds and letting me know that I can cross you off my list, and therefore I will not need to bother sending a followup (ahem, by the way, here I am, little 'ole Amy, wondering if you got my query two months ago).

What would you prefer?