Well, folks. It was fun while it lasted.

As you can see, not much has been happening on this blog lately.

There are several reasons for this, but I will only hit on a couple:

First: It's amazing how much can change in a couple of months--both in our personal lives and on the writing front. A couple of us have signed publishing contracts, and so the need to write, edit, market, promote HAD to take preference over this blog and the services we were providing.

Second: Running this blog, critiquing submissions, providing feedback...well, that's a LOT of dang work. We weren't getting paid for this service. We had a concept and we went with it--for free--not realizing how much time it would involve with very little (nothing) in return for our effort.

Third: Probably the biggest factor that made us come to this decision, was the fact that a good portion of the submissions we received just weren't ready. They needed more revision. We were wanting to give out reviews on AMAZING, fully complete, well edited novels. 90% of what we received didn't come close.

So we've shut it down. We've moved on.

If you liked our comments and our posts, you can check us out on our individual blogs:

Angela Scott: www.whimsywritingandreading.weebly.com or @whimsywriting on twitter or http://www.facebook.com/AngelaScottWriter

D.S. Tracy:

Kacey Mark:

Thursday, June 30, 2011

I Got Nothing. . .

Posted by Ready, Aim, Hook Me at 10:29 PM 2 comments

Working has officially sucked away all my creative juices. I’ve been training for a new job for the past two weeks. It is intensive and boring. I don’t have the energy or time to write and I haven’t once thought about my w.i.p. In fact, I think it’s pretty much dead at this point. Too much time has passed since I fiddled with it, plus I had a dream about my character being a big ol’ pansy, so I’m thinking I need to start fresh. Finding the time to start fresh is going to be difficult, with two blogs and reading submissions. And kids . . . . yikes. 

When do you know whether or not to abandon your characters and hop on another train? We’ve all heard the saying that more people start novels than finish them, so does that mean we should always stick with it? Should we follow through until our imaginary peeps get their happily ever after?

I want to know what you guys think. Have you ever given up on a project because of time constraints or personal obligations? When is it appropriate to start fresh? And, if you have set a project aside to start a new one, do you plan to go back to it later? 

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Just Say NO to Adverbs

Posted by Ready, Aim, Hook Me at 11:28 PM 4 comments

Ode to Adverbs by Angela Scott, the Reluctant Hook'er

Erase it! Delete its lowly existence.
Eradicate the ghastly adverb!
Beg for writerly repentance!

One goes easily unnoticed, forgivable.
But more cripples the senses.
They stab me deeply in my critic’s eye
Like lowly white picket fences.

They unleash my critic’s fiery tongue,
And I abhor the writer of such prose.
I hate the use of adverbs, you twit!
I thumb at you my nose.

Erase them, I plead of you.
Nothing good can be drawn from their use.
To write with unnecessary adverbs
Only tightens your newbie noose.

I have used several here,
An example to make a visionary point.
Adverbs are purely unnecessary
They only sadly disappoint.

Should you continue to write them,
And ignore my witty, yet insightful, ode.
Then it’s off with your head
For you’ve broken the Stephen King code!

Oh, my goodness! I write this stupid little poem in response to a book I just picked up (and subsequently sat back down) this morning. The over use of adverbs just about KILLED me. I kid you not.

On page 3 of the novel that shall remain nameless, I counted twelve adverbs: gravely, absently, delicately, calmly, pensively, firmly, lightly, ominously, deadly, quickly, sightlessly, silently. 

Twelve! Twelve feakin' adverbs!

Ummmm . . . BOOM! (Head explodes).

That is pure insanity right there. The sad thing, this is a published book through a publishing house (albeit a small publisher, but still). What the heck? Where was the editor? Why didn’t someone say, “What the *bleep* are you doing here? Erase those you fool!” 

Adverbs are a nasty thing. Just nasty. I’m not the only one who thinks this way either.

David Weedmark had this to say about adverbs, “Basically, in my opinion, any book with more than one adverb per page should have every adverb cut out, and then stapled to the author’s fingers.”

Extreme? Yes. And though I’m not a violent kind of gal, I’m thinking this could be a useful tactic in eradicating adverbs, the majority of them anyway, from novel pages.  I mean, who doesn't know that adverbs suck and should be used at a minimum? Where had this writer been hiding? Jeez. Poor lady.

Stephen King, in his book On Writing, said the following, “ Adverbs are not your friends . . . Adverbs seem to have been created with the timid writer in mind . . . To put it another way, they’re like dandelions. If you have one in your yard, it looks pretty and unique. If you fail to root it out, however, you find five the next day . . . fifty the day after that . . . and then , my brothers and sisters, your lawn is totally, completely, and profligately covered with dandelions.

Adverbs only “try” to beef up weak verbs, but fail in almost every case. It’s that simple. There’s really no usefulness to them (feel free to debate me on this if you like). But, once adverbs are eliminated and replaced with strong action verbs, the response to your writing will be incredible. I promise you this. It will not jar the reader out of the story, AND it will allow the reader to invest more of themselves into your fictional world. Isn’t that what every writer wants? I would hope so.

As for this poor author, I feel for her. I tried to give her the benefit of the doubt and continued to read a little more of her novel, but the adverbs, even after page three, were thick and torturous. I just couldn't do it. I couldn't read any more. It hurts too much. She may have had a great story and concept, but the adverbs destroyed her novel. (To be fair, this was NOT a submission to our site for review. This was a book I won, myself, through a blogfest).

Don't let adverbs destroy your work. Just say no. 

Okay, I thought a writing exercise for you might be fun (no boo’s, it totally could be).

I’d love to see how many adverbs you can jam into a 100 word paragraph. Let’s take the adverbs we so desperately want to use in our novels, but know we won’t because it’s against the law—the Stephen King law—and cram them into a paragraph as a way of saying goodbye to weak verbs for forever and HELLO to strong verbs from now on.

Go ahead and give it a try. Be creative. Who knows, there might be a prize involved. *Nods head and raises brows* There totally could be.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Kacey's Cupcake Weakness

Posted by Ready, Aim, Hook Me at 6:20 AM 3 comments
I have a weakness. A cupcake weakness.  I have an enabler too.

My sister makes the best cupcakes in my whole little world, and since I’ve had the great privilege to spend more time with her, I get to spend more time feeding my addiction-and my waistline for that matter.

And the woman loves to experiment. From trendy to gourmet to classic,  no matter what she makes they always turn out to be single servings of heaven in liiiiiitle paper cups.

I’m not sure if it’s the sister factor that brings such comfort to my belly. Or if her technique stemmed from our childhood somehow, but her own technique—her own spin on things—always makes my mouth water.

Good stories are no different. I could just gobble them up! When I find that my favorite authors *ahem* Gena Showalter *ahem* has a new book out, I start to salivate. I might even forgo my tastealicious spiced chai just to afford it.

But how do cupcakes and good stories fit together?

Well, apart from the fact that I have finally managed to multitask both without getting crumbs in the binding, the creation process for cupcakes and stories are very similar.

I used to love watching Hell’s kitchen. It reminds me of the gauntlet we all face when seeking publication. Our Agents and editors are looking for a technique, a certain flavor if you will, and they simply will not take anything less than stunning. Looking at it from that angle, would we ever want them to?

 Would you as a reader want to forgo your spiced Chai for a mediocre novel? I wouldn't.

When I first heard someone say “there are no new stories”, I was so disappointed.
But my work HAD to be original. Right?

Then I thought of my sister’s cupcakes. Maybe my story isn’t entirely unique. It needs to be somewhat recognizable if you really want to entice.

Take for instance this lovely photo on the left. These weren't created by my sister. she might love to experiment but even SHE has limits.

What I'm trying to say is, if your creation is completely unrecognizable it becomes a hard sell. If the readers expect one thing but get another and it can turn their stomachs. 

But if you keep things familiar and alter the recipe juuust enough to make things your own, you get something fresh and new that just might translate into someone else’s weakness.

Like mine. These totally awesome strawberry cupcakes with strawberry butter cream frosting.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

So, Do You Like My Submission Or What?

Posted by Ready, Aim, Hook Me at 9:38 PM 6 comments
“Hey, hook’ers! What’s the deal-io? Where’s my review?”

I know, I know. It's like an agent or a publisher all over again. Except this time it's three women who willing accept the title of "hook'er" dangling the unknown over you. What's up with that? 

The three of us were surprised by how many submissions we’ve received. We’re plowing through the stack as fast as we can, I promise, but we are not even close to hitting the end. We’ve sent some rejections and a few requests for more, but we still have even more waiting for us.

Our plan is to have first round submissions dated through 6/7/11 looked at by next weekend (fingers crossed). After that, we are going to focus on getting our first review out, provided we stay hooked.

So what kind of things are we seeing?

*Here's the part where I wing it for the rest of the post because I have no idea what the heck to blog about. 

I’m actually surprised at the variety of genres we’ve received. I thought we’d get flooded with YA, but we have everything from Historical Fiction to Middle Grade with a bunch of Romance and Sci-fi in between.

There have been some submissions that I couldn’t get through the first page and others that I had me happily requesting more. There are some that are hastily published—sorry, but it’s true—and others that could be picked up now if someone would give a newbie a chance. Most could do with another round of edits and a read through from someone besides M-O-M.  

One of the biggest problems I see with several entries is starting the novel in the wrong place. A false start of sorts. Back story, unnecessary or boring prologues, aimless chatter, or scenes that don’t further the story are sitting center stage.

And the other biggie is the lack of sensory details. Sensory details not only plant pictures in our minds, but they help develop characters. We see what they see and how they react to it. One thing I've done to help me with this is to pay attention to the first five things I notice when I walk into a room. Those same five things will probably not be an exact match to everyone. Depending on gender, height, weight, perspective, age, whatever, what is important or catches our eye will be different. How we perceive them, describe them will also vary. It is our experiences, our personalities, our mood that day that shapes those details. Our characters aren't any different. 

So, here's an exercise.

 Look at the picture below. Without looking at anyone else's comments, tell me two things you notice right away. Are they the same things your MC would notice?  If you'd like to describe them using sensory details from either your viewpoint or MC, please share. If not, well, you'll have to wait and see (dot, dot, dot).

If you don't like the first one, try the second. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Need a critique partner? Let us help you find one.

Posted by Ready, Aim, Hook Me at 4:00 AM 24 comments
For the most part of my writing career (if you could call it that), I'd been on my own. I didn't know other writers. Not a one. I wrote in solitude. I mean, a few friends read what I wrote, but that was about the extent of sharing my work with others. I didn't even know where to find other writers. I was a stay-at-home mom with three little kids--not many writers spent their days at McDonald's or at park playgrounds.

Then one day, I received a community paper in the mail. It offered a variety of classes from yoga to learning Spanish to knitting sweaters. Right in the middle of this newsletter was a writing class--fiction writing with a followup class for critiquing our works in process. This would be a two hour class, once a week for six weeks. So I did a very brave thing and I signed up.

I learned a lot through this class. I learned various grammar rules (errors) I was making. I learned that some days the instructor was impressed with my work and other days he didn't like what I wrote at all. Some days I went home elated and other days I left completely crushed. But the biggest thing I learned was to share my work, to stand up in front of the class, and read my words to the other class members. My knees shook. My hands trembled. My voice cracked. But I did it. As cheesy as this class was, I found myself writing more than I had ever written before--we had weekly assignments along with working on my WIP to share with in the second hour. Slowly, I built my confidence, little by little. 

I also met other writers. Some were at a much higher level of writing than I was, and then there were those who just struggled to write anything at all. We also had an older lady who was there just to be a joker (that's all I could figure). She drove me crazy and demanded way too much attention. For a stay-at-home mom, I loved this class. I needed this class. It helped me to remember how much I loved writing. I loved it, and yet, I hadn't been writing very much at all up to that point (three little kids tend to take up a whole lot of time).

After the six weeks were over, several of us writers wrote down our emails to be able to continue getting together and helping one another. I was SO excited. I couldn't wait to be emailed (one girl wrote down the list and said she'd email everyone else). Well, I never received an email. Did the others get together without me? Did they not like my writing? Maybe they never met. All I know, was that once again I was alone and it sucked.

The following winter, I found out that in my state there was a league of writers who met monthly. There was a chapter in my local area and so once again I got brave and went to the January meeting. I didn't know anyone there and they all looked like they knew each other.The funny thing, this meeting was all about finding a critique group. Once again, I was super excited.

It was at this meeting I met D.S. Actually, we had been in the same fiction writing class the previous spring, but since D.S. was too chicken (just kidding) to take the critique class the second hour, I never really got to know her. Anyway, when this meeting was over, I approached her and another lady who were discussing forming a critique group and asked if I could join. There was a moment in which I wasn't going to do it. I was just going to leave and say nothing.

But I'm so glad I did. That move changed my writing life. D.S. and I have been writing buddies for over a year and a half now. The other lady in our group slowly pulled away because it wasn't working out for her (those things happen).

So how did I meet Kacey? D.S. has a knack for finding other writers, but this story is kind of fun. D.S.'s husband managed a Mexican restaurant where Kacey and her family would come to dine. D.S's husband is a hoot. He's personable and fun loving. He and Kacey started chatting and somehow one thing led to another and he found out Kacey was a writer. Well, his wife was a writer! What were the odds? Amazing. He then gave her D.S's information and she contacted D.S.

D.S then introduced her to me. WA-LA--a critique group.

I can't stress enough how much writers need other writers. We need them. We really do. I wouldn't be where I'm at without theses fantastic people in my life to push me forward. I need that push. I need someone cracking the whip and refusing to accept anything less than my best. These ladies do that.

But, it's hard to get a critique group going. Like me in the beginning, I had no idea where to even go looking. Some of us live in rural areas. Some of us just are a bit afraid to ask someone to start a group. Others think they can do it on their own.

I can tell you right now, you can't do it on your own. You can't. And GREAT critique partners can not be overlooked or undervalued. You need them.

So here's my suggestion, if you are in need a critique partner or need some extra eyes to go over your work, leave a comment to this post saying so. Now, we here at Ready, Aim, Hook Me are super busy. The submissions coming in are in great numbers and we are getting to them as quickly as we can. So we can't possibly add anyone to our critique group. But, depending on the number of comments left, I will put together a page with all the contact information and put people into groups. This could be fun. (If there aren't very many comments, then guess what? You're a group!)

So leave your name, your genre (which may or may not come into play--you can learn from everyone) and your contact info, probably your email. Just do it like this: suzy[at] gmail[dot]com (that way you can avoid spam). If you don't feel comfortable leaving your email, then simply leave a link so that people can get a hold of you.

How does that sound?  So leave your link and I'll contact you with your group info. I will also make a special page you can check at a later time as well (under the Pages tab). Hopefully, this works and you find it helpful.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Hopeless Romantic in Your Hook

Posted by Ready, Aim, Hook Me at 6:09 AM 5 comments
I've been a romance novel junkie for most of my life. It's a vice I suppose, a delicious method for escaping reality. But it's a healthy vice. Promise.
What do I love about these books? I love how they embrace the basic human need to connect with another person on a deep, emotional level. And the best part?
No, it isn't the musclebound hero of yumminess. He helps, he's fun, but he and the heroine offer something even better than smoldering glances and stolen kisses. They offer the potential for a happily ever after (HEA).

And what woman from age sixteen to sixty doesn't want that?

I'm here to tell you every good hook has a little hopeless romantic ready to experience it. Varying degrees of romanticism, I'll admit, but it's still there.
Don't believe me? Let me explain.

What is it buried in the hook that keeps your reader turning pages?
My opinion?
No matter how dire a character's situation gets, no matter how much the writer chooses to abuse him/her, the reader wants to hang in there, gunning for the character's ability to triumph over what his/her world has been busy shoveling at them. Why? Because in a good hook, the reader connects with the main character and wants to believe they will earn their HEA. Because they sympathize or form an emotional connection with the main character. They want them to succeed.

In the majority of romance novels, the HEA's are guaranteed, but this isn't the case with every story. Some are prone to mirror the tragedies of real life, but keep in mind that your reader is still hoping that in the end the character will win somehow. Learn something.

You can use that in your hook by:
Forming a connection with your reader
Heaping the characters full of conflict
And above all, give your reader hope that in the end they will find their HEAs. However small that shadow may be, make sure you get it in there.
Oh, and if you could throw in a few musclebound heroes of yumminess that's good too :-)

Friday, June 17, 2011

R.U.E. The Day! Your Baby's All Grow'd Up

Posted by Ready, Aim, Hook Me at 12:29 AM 4 comments
My daughter is quite the tender thing. She’s seven, and anytime we talk about her future marriage, career, or anything that involves a new address, her eyes instantly fill with tears. She’s terrified of leaving home—leaving me. I eat it all up too. I pat her on the back and wipe her tears, telling her she can live with me as long as she wants.

The truth is, I’m just as terrified of her leaving me as she is terrified of facing the world without her mom. One day, my baby will be all grow’d up and there’s nothing I can do about it. It’s part of creation. Something is born; it grows and thrives; then it moves on to something else.

The same is true of writing. I won’t suggest that having a finished novel is like having a child, although to many of us it feels like that. We’ve poured everything we have into it, hoping that our efforts will pay off, that readers will see our vision—they’ll get it. It’s hard to fully let go, to put it in the hands of people we’ve never met. Will they treat it poorly? Will they appreciate its potential?

I’m not sure where the need to explain comes from but I’m seeing it a lot in the novels I’m critiquing and in submissions for this blog. Starting the novel in the wrong spot is one of the big signs to me that the writer will over explain. Often it will start with backstory or an introduction to a bunch of characters, or an info dump about the setting. Meanwhile, I’m wondering where the story is. All the details are nice, but readers want to forget they are reading. They want to experience the words rather than simply pass them by with their tired eyes. Experiences not information.

So Hook’er what do you mean by this urge to explain?

I’m glad you asked.

One way is through emotions. Are you telling your readers how your character feels or are you showing us?

           Jane wiped away her tears, depressed that she couldn’t live with her mom forever.

The sentence started with action. We see that Jane is sad. Why is she sad? What’s up Jane? But before we can experience or reflect on Jane’s sadness, our question has been answered. Jane’s depressed because she doesn't want to leave her mom.

The writer stole the experience right out from under the reader. The writer provided information. Another term for this is “telling vs. showing”. If your reader feels cheated enough, he will stop reading. I do all the time.
I don’t have a lot of time to read. Besides my own writing, I have boogery kids with noses to wipe, a husband who likes to eat, and a house that should be cleaned. Those mundane things occupy my day, and when I pick up a book, I want to escape the ordinary. I want to jump into a world and experience something new—to feel something different.

So are you explaining too much? How do you know?

Do you have long passages of narrative summary with no action? Do you describe your characters feelings or are you telling us they are mad, sad, glad? Do you start your story with the MC’s past or do you jump right into the inciting incident? Do you spend the first part of your story worldbuilding or do you allow your reader to experience the world, see the world through the POV character?

I don’t want this blog to simply come off as another don’t break the show vs. tell rule. I completely understand the need to explain, to want your reader to leave with complete understanding. To see that your “baby” is all grow’d up and that you are so proud. But it’s time to let go, time to send your baby off and let others see just how much love you poured into it, to experience it firsthand.

Have you R.U.E’d today? 

Thanks for looking, 
The Skeptical Hook’er

Monday, June 13, 2011

Writing, just like standup comedy, is purely subjective

Posted by Ready, Aim, Hook Me at 10:38 PM 2 comments
For my 17th wedding anniversary (for some weird reason, I thought we’d been married longer), my husband and I decided to attend the comedy festival in our local area to celebrate having survived marriage this long. I love me some humor—good stuff. Better than a movie anytime. And what’s not to like about watching 24 stand-up comedians compete against one another ? Nothing. That’s what. Pure goodness.
As I watched this comedy show unfold, I realized something—it takes a lot of cajones to stand in front of a theater full of people, all alone on a stage.  It has to be nerve wracking to say the least.  I mean, a room full of people who will either laugh at your jokes or stare at you in silence. Tough. AND, not only that, some of those comedians were freaking hilarious! Brought down the roof. What if you had to follow a super funny guy with your mediocre act? Frightening.
There were a couple of comedians that had me in tears, eye water running down my face and stinging my eyes. I just about peed my pants they were THAT good. Seriously, they were awesome.
Then there were a few that didn’t even make me laugh once. Not once. Their acts were either so stupid or so vulgar I couldn’t find it funny. But here’s the thing, even though I didn’t laugh, there were audience members who did. Every single comedian who walked on stage got some type of laughs from the audience—some more laughs than others—but no one was booed or heckled.
Now, there was this one dude who’s act consisted of him coming on stage dressed head to toe in winter/ski wear. We had no idea what the guy looked like. He didn’t say a word, just held up various signs with his jokes on them. One said, “My act isn’t for everyone.” Then the next card said, “Especially the blind.”  That was sorta funny. But then everything went downhill from there.  His posters became messed up, out of order, and upside down. He tried frantically to fix it, but couldn’t. He ended up running off stage before his time was up. Poor guy.
Then, when all the comedians were through, the judges in the audience tallied up the scores and presented to us the top five comedians with the highest ratings. As I listened to the names read aloud and watched the comedians come on stage, NOT one of the comedians who about made me pee myself was in the top five. Not one. Some of the five were good but a couple of them I actually questioned, “Why? Why them? Why THAT guy?” I didn’t get it. I still don’t. The winner of the competition I wanted to throw a tomato at. Even my husband wondered about it.
So to relate this experience to writing and presenting your work either for critique or review, keep the following in mind: IT’S ALL SUBJECTIVE. Underline that. Print it out and tape it to your wall. It’ll make you feel good to do so. Believe you me.
Even though some of the comedians weren’t funny in my eyes, they went on to win. The comedians I loved never made it into the top. I don’t even know what their scores were. Again, it’s all subjective. What one person hates, another will love.
Just like the comedian with the sign that said, “My act isn’t for everyone,” your writing/story/novel is the EXACT same way.  You think everyone will love your work? Just try sending out a bunch of query letters and see how many agents pound down your door to represent you. Go ahead. Give it a go.
It’s all subjective. Even literary agents will say this in their rejection forms to you.
Here’s an example for you of subjectivity: I went to a writer workshop in which one of the presenters talked about a novel she had submitted to the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest two years ago. Her novel made it all the way to the top 50 final novels (out of 5,000 submitted). That’s pretty dang good. So, this last year she decided to submit the same novel again. This time, she made it past the first round of cuts but not the second and her reviews (everyone gets feedback)  wasn’t very nice at all. She was a farm girl. Grew up on a farm. Raised animals and all that jazz, and wrote a book based on a kid growing up on a farm. One reviewer went on to say something to the affect that the author had no business writing about farming since it was evident she had no experience in farming. Seriously?
So what changed? The novel was exactly the same. It was the people reviewing it that changed. Different people. Different ideas and opinions. The author took it with a grain of salt and actually laughed at the ridiculousness of it all.
It’s all subjective, people, every bit of the writing process, and every writer needs to keep that in mind.
Should that keep you from having your work reviewed and critiqued by others? Heck no. You have to put  yourself out there. How else would you know if what you do works or not?
Imagine a comedian who only practices his stand up routine in his bedroom in front of his mom. He may be hilarious, he may be a complete flop, but until he steps on stage and shares his works with others, he’ll never know for certain. How will he ever get better?
For those of you who have submitted your work to us for reviews, I say kudos to you. You have cajones. It takes guts and I commend you for it. I really do.
For those of you who haven't, why not? What do you have to lose in trying to win us Hook'ers over? We don't heckle here. That's not our style.
And remember, even if you didn't hook us, it's all subjective anyway.
What do you think? Have any examples of how writing is all a matter of subjectivity? Any words of encouragement you can give to new writers? Comments rock my world, so please feel free to leave one. 
Angela Scott—The Reluctant Hook’er

Writing Wrestle Mania

Posted by Ready, Aim, Hook Me at 6:27 AM 9 comments

Good Morning. Rabbit in a Hat Hook’er here, talking about the wrestle for creativity in the writing process.

We’ve all been there, right? Those days when you just don’t feel like writing. You’re sick, the family has problems, work is too stressful, your muse has turned up his/her nose, or maybe the voices in your head have laryngitis. Whatever the cause, the creative writing process doesn’t always run like water. Sometimes you have to work a little harder to pin down your story.

How easily do you give up your writing process when things in your life go wrong?

Consider this, if you do finish a manuscript and decide to publish will you stop at one book, two, or will you set your sights for New York?

Do you think those big time New York publishing houses will look kindly on slipping deadlines, inadequate writing, and overall lack of follow through?

I think not, my friends.

If you want to make it big you’ve got to act now like you will act then, and hit your writer's block before it can consume you. Push beyond pain, and emotion, and frustration.
--Excuse me for a moment while I pause for dramatic eye-of-the-tiger effect.--

Where was I?... Oh, yeah. You sit in the chair and write.

I listened to the great Nora Roberts speak about her writing process.
She says, you don’t just write when you feel like it.
and it's true. You can’t wait for the muse to come to you. Sometimes you have to bang on his/her door and tell them they’ve slept through the alarm.

But even if every sense-stimulating tactic fails to rouse your creative spirit, you have to do as JR Ward suggests and simply “advance the ball” until you find it again. And you WILL find it again.

There’s a reason why they say a good writer writes every day. Now, don't throw your pen at me yet. I’m not saying it’s a must, but the dedication is important. I'm not even saying it has to be good. There's nothing wrong with writing crap. Crap can be fixed. An empty page? Not so much.

Even if it’s only a sentence a day, you have. To keep. Going. If you want to pursue your dream you have to pursue it whatever the cost.
So here’s my challenge for the day:

Light a candle, chew some gum, put on a little music, whatever it takes, but sit in that chair and write!
That's right,
just sit in that chair and write.

Is that too much pep for a monday morning? Okay, how about this...
First person who completes a thousand words after reading this blog will get a virtual hug from a Hook’er!

Ready? Your match begins now!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Thankful Rejection

Posted by Ready, Aim, Hook Me at 1:26 AM 8 comments

After I finished my first novel, I ran straight to the query stage with a hungry obsession. I wrote a dozen or so different queries and after settling on one, I started pimping my novel. The rejections came quickly as did my disappointment. 

What the hell was happening? Everyone said they loved my book. I didn’t get it.

I tried sometime later with another equally bad query. More rejects. With the weight of rejection riding on my shoulders, I put my novel aside and did what I should’ve done in the first place: I started writing again. I poured everything into my next project and discovered how much I’d grown. I was better, and I couldn’t wait to try the query process again.

So I finished my second novel eager to test my luck, but rather than leaping as I did before, I let it sit, locked away in my computer for another day. While that one simmered, I returned to my first project and couldn’t believe how crappy it was—how amateurish. My face heated with embarrassment as I pictured the query shark and other agents muddling through what I thought a well-crafted, entertaining manuscript. Why didn’t I see how raw it was?

I had heard somewhere that it takes over a hundred thousand words to get to your better work (note how I said better not best). I knew this, yet I still thought mine was different. I was blinded by my own excitement. 

I started thinking about this as I read submissions this week. We’ve received a lot of good work. Some of it, not so good. The disheartening thing is the not so good have already been published. The ease of publishing nowadays is exciting and terrifying. The exciting part I don’t think I have to explain, having options is great for all of us. What scares me is seeing writers take a quick leap into publishing with a lackluster cover and a book that was only critiqued by family and friends. 

So what’s the rush? Why are writers pushing work that is not ready? Are we in such a hurry and blinded by possibilities that we can't see imperfections? 

Thanks for looking

The Skeptical Hook'er

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Rejections Sting, Just Like a Finger Poke to the Eye.

Posted by Ready, Aim, Hook Me at 11:14 PM 7 comments
 Rejections suck. No one wants them and yet, as writers we’re all bound to receive a few (in most cases, dozens and dozens and dozens). It’s all a part of the “road to publication” process, but nonetheless, they still sting just like a finger poke to the eye.

Rejections suck. Whoops. Did I already say that? Sorry. I hate them. But they do. They really, really do.

I have several rejections under my belt—from contest judges, from agents, from publishing house editors. Even the stupid form rejections hurt, though I shouldn’t take them personally but I do. With each rejection, I’m building a thicker and thicker skin and getting closer to finding the person who will say yes. At least that’s what I keep telling myself. 

Up until last week, when the other two Hook’ers and I started this blog, I’d only been on the receiving end of the rejection stick. Now, I’m in the process of actually delving them out to seasoned and aspiring writers alike.

And I don’t like it one bit.  Not one single bit.

Telling someone that his or her work “just didn’t hook me” isn’t fun at all. In fact, I’ve worried about it a great deal, worried how someone will accept our suggestions and opinions. Because really, that’s all it is—an opinion and you know what they say about opinions (if you don’t, just ask and I’ll tell you).

Here’s the problem: a lot of the submissions we’ve received are actually quite good. Of course, there are a few that are not—some are still in need of additional editing and revisions and read like first drafts. But even though most are good, we’re still rejecting them.

“Why are you Hook’ers rejecting good manuscripts? That’s not fair. That sucks!” you say.  

I agree. It does suck.

But we decided before we started this blog, that a good story just wouldn’t cut it. It couldn’t.


We wanted GREAT stories.

Let me explain why.

First, if we accepted every good story, we’d never write again ourselves. That’s a given. We’d simply be too busy reading and reading and reading and . . . you get the drift. Our own writing goals would be sacrificed and not one of the three of us is willing to do that. We’re writers first, readers second.

Secondly, we want our tag line “2 out of 3 Hook’ers Love My Book!” to really mean something (you probably just rolled your eyes at that, but I’m serious). I’m going to take a moment and be scary honest here. I may even get in trouble for saying this, but here goes . . . there are lots of published books out there on the market with five star reviews they didn’t deserve. (Gasp. I know. Someone is going to throw rotten eggs at me. I sense it coming). Authors trade reviews with other authors—kind of like an “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours” kind of deal. This is a well know practice.  It happens all the time. Is it illegal? Sometimes I wish (I’ve been led astray quite a bit), but no. It’s not. Is it wrong? That’s up to you to decide. Any book with our tagline on it, you will know went through quite a stringent process to receive it and will darn well deserve it.

Even though we’ve set our standard quite high, it doesn’t make sending out rejections any less difficult. We don’t find it fun or pleasurable by any means. All three of us have been on the receiving end of rejections and we know exactly what it is like, and we take this process quite seriously.

Every rejection we send out is done privately. We will NEVER post a bad review on our blog or any other website. Our purpose isn’t to destroy an author. That’s what makes us different from other reviewers—NO PUBLIC HUMILIATION.  And every submission will receive valuable feedback (at least we hope you find it valuable).

If you do receive a rejection from us, please take it with a grain of salt. Remember, we are not professionals and do not profess to be. We’re just three women with very strong opinions. Nothing more.

The greatest piece of advice I can give you is this—Never let anyone tell you that you can’t write. Never let anyone stand in the way of what you love to do. Always keep writing, because out there, somewhere, you have an audience waiting.

(Notice I didn’t say how big that audience was. It could only be one person. It could be millions. If you stop writing, though, you’ll never know).

Angela Scott

Monday, June 6, 2011

Catch and Release

Posted by Ready, Aim, Hook Me at 3:40 AM 7 comments
I’m sure I’m not the first person who has likened the creation of a story to fishing, but hey, why mess with a good analogy?
What could be better than Spending a morning sunrise at the edge of the lake, no cars or honking horns. Just you, a rod, and a whole lot of time to wait for that bite.  Okay, so maybe the writing process isn’t all that serene. We juggle schedules, deadlines, and our home life. But when you do find your place, the serenity comes and everything just clicks.

So let’s take a little trip to my pond o' readers and see if we can catch a bite.
Let’s see here . . . first we’re going to need:
The tools: This part is simple. A good story premise is key. Readers don’t need wordsmiths, they need story tellers.

Right. So we’re off and running with an idea. Let's get to it then.
The cast: Setting up that first scene should be quick and effective. It may take a little practice at first to find your finesse. You don’t want to shoot for the moon and end up on the other side of the lake, too far away from the story for it to make impact. You don’t want to throw in too hard either, you could loose your bait if your first hook is too harsh and overdone.

Wait for it…wait for it: Here comes the suspense. The tension. It builds over time and you have to filter in just enough to keep your reader going. I for one, am a patient fisherman, but a rather impatient reader. Keep the tension flowing, keep baiting that reader, then right when you least expect it, WAM!

The fight: This is the highest point in the book. You need to make sure you time your action, you can’t reel them in too soon, or the ending may come off as anticlimactic. AKA you could lose your line.

The release: This is when the all the secrets to the story are finally revealed and hopefully your reader will swim away somehow changed.

Though, I can speak from experience that this is not always the case with fish. I have actually caught the same fish twice. It was a 27-inch-long brown trout that I staked in the water. He managed to escape with the stake still attached. I caught him again an hour later.
 It’s true…really…
What? You don’t believe me?

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