Thursday, September 29, 2011

So Why Am I Waiting?

Good question.

Divine intervention?  The planets to align?  To win the lottery?  For Gerard Butler to knock on my door and swagger off with me? 

Hmmmm now that last one has its merits but.........

Alas none of these answers is the truth.  The truth is I am waiting to submit my chapter into the New Voices competition because I have a massive case of the 'not readies'.  Not just the oh-I'll-just-nip-to-the-loo-to-put-off-the-ineviatable-for-a-few-minutes type stalling.  Nope.  This is the serious stuff.  The hands-and-feet-gripping-the-doorframe-while-two-big-burly-bald-guys-try-and-pull-you-through type stalling.  This is the big time.

I suppose the next question is: why?

Bear with me here - when I heard that NV was running again I decided this time that I was going to make the most of the four weeks we had to enter, so I could read responses and guage reader's reactions to entries.  I could take advantage of the feedback that the other writers got and apply it to my work.  Imagine my delight when I found out that some of the mentors were commenting.  I was like that sneaky creepy kid in movies, lurking in the shadows, rubbing my hands together in glee at the thought of getting all those free hints and tips.  It was like getting being handed half the answers to a really important test.

But now I'm addicted.  I'm reading comments more than I am the entries (although I am trying to read lots of them too - especially after I read on the Fb site that someone had found a storyline similar to theirs and was now busy rewriting their chapter).  And then M&B unknowingly enabled my addiction further by publishing an ebook: Secrets Uncovered. Blogs, Hints and THE INSIDE SCOOP from M&B editors and authors (capitalisation is mine).  It was like hitting the mother load.

Now I had THE INSIDE SCOOP.  I felt like Charlie when he found that golden ticket in his chocolate bar.  I opened the document and you can't imagine my disappointment when I didn't read:

Dear Elissa,
Here is what you were looking for:
Chapter One: What To Write If You Want Us To Notice You (and maybe ask to see more of your work)
Chapter Two: What To Write If You Want To Make The Top Twenty
Chapter Three: What To Write If You Want To Win
Thank You
Sincerely Yours
The M&B Team

I promise I was just going to read the first chapter.  Instead there was just lots and lots of great information and hints and tips.  Actually now that I come to think of it - kinda exactly what the title suggested was in there.  Utterly fabulous but not what I had hoped for.

I have revised and rewritten and edited and proofed and scrutinised and deconstructed and I still can't say I'm satisfied with a FINAL version.  There's always one more tweak, one word added, one taken away, one substituted for a better one - it never ends.  And this is just the first chapter.

So I guess I'm going to have set a final deadline (confession: it was supposed to be the 27th but then I found out about the ebook but more importantly I began thinking that my chapter didn't have a drop dead gorgeous opening line that would mark it instantly as suitable for the Passion line so I started writing something else..............yes yes I know - forgive me Father for I have sinned *sigh*).  Well I've parked the new book and come back to the original and now I am giving myself one more day.

Tomorrow afternoon is D-Day.  Zero hour.  Da limit.

Maybe waiting for Gerard will be easier .....

Thursday, September 15, 2011

True To Your Heart

Hello.  My name is Elissa and I'm addicted to animated movies.

You know the ones that are meant for kids?  The ones that other adults look at you like you're some kind of perve because you turn up to watch it without any kids.  The ones that have the most catchy songs EVAH! and feature the voices of the Hollywood A-List celebs.  The ones you come out of with a huge grin on your face and feel like everything is not so bad in the world and like if you started singing, everyone in the cinema and the shopping mall would start singing and dancing right along with you (well okay that last one was just a thought - I have never actually done that).

So I was reading through Maisey Yates' latest blog about Timing and thinking about when to reveal the backgrounds of my Hero and Heroine and such stuff and one thing that Maisey said that was the aha moment for me.  Now please remember I'm paraphrasing here and you really should do yourself a favour and read ....well all of Maisey's posts actually because she's got a whole heap of solid gold insights for unpublished authors, BUT she said something like: when you reveal things is heavily dependent on the storyline and the characters.

And I started thinking (yes I know: dangerous but it has to be done every now and then) about just how important it is to really know your characters.  It's the difference between the heroine that the reader feels emotionally invested in, even if they don't agree with some of her decisions/actions and the cardboard cut out that personifies all the worst romance tropes. 

I never really understood it when writers would say things like "and then my characters took the story in a whole different direction".  But I think that's when the writer is trying to force a character to a certain point in the story because they have the "story" mapped out and to get the heroine from A to D the writer has planned for her to do X, Y,  Z.  Unfortunately it may not be in the heroine's nature to actually do X, Y, Z - she might be more of a J, K, L sorta gal.  You can't have a fiery, ballsy lady and then all of a sudden she's a simpering weakling unable to do more than sigh and giggle whenever the Hero is around.  I know when my writing starts to become stilted and it gets more difficult to write, it's my intuition telling me I'm forcing my characters in a direction that's not true to them.  True as in kosher - sincere - concordant - authentic.

And that got me thinking of the song True To Your Heart by 98 degrees.  And that got me thinking about the movie Mulan (ah now you see how all this ties into the admission about the Disney films *winks*). 

So I'm going to have another (in the long line of many) looks at my NV entry and make sure that especially as the story evolves into chapter two and the pivotal moment which (I think it was Shirley Jump suggested) should be at the end of chapter three, that my Hero and heroine are being true to their hearts.

And just to get you in the mood (because everyone's day can be made a little better with a bit of Stevie Wonder) take a listen:

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

New Voices 2011

It's finally here.  The day that the New Voices competition opens. 

 Cue hysterical screaming like a tween at a Justin Bieber concert.

Only problem is that I have to wait until about 7pm tonight because of the time difference and I just can't seem to concentrate on the micro edits my chapter needs.  I've done four major edits (aka rewriting the whole stinking mess from start to finish until it stopped making me want to give up writing and take up selling tupperware for a living instead).  Not that there is anything wrong with selling tupperware.  I'm sure there are loads of lovely people out there making a killing selling plastic storage containers - it's just that I can't see it giving me the same sort of satisfaction.

Or wait, do hugely successful tupperware sellers get to sign lids at storage shops and pose for photos with fans beside pyramids of synthetically manufactured bowls with brightly coloured lids?  If so then I may need to reconsider my career path.

Last year was the best writing experience I've ever had.  I got some fabulous feedback and I just wish I had been able to keep a record of the lovely comments people made about my chapter.  This year (if I get any) I would like to try and copy them onto the blog.  Not for vanity reasons or because I think I'm so hot that I want everyone to read how hot other people think I am - but because they are so motivational when you're feeling like....well - you should be selling tupperware instead of writing. 

I went back to the 2010 website months after the competition was over and Leah Ashton (that clever gal who won) had been named as the winner and found that people were still reading and still commenting.  It's a lovely feeling knowing that someone, who has no reason to, has said they liked your work.

It was like when I was young(er) and would fantasise that Tom Selleck would turn up out of the blue and well let's just say the older I got the more explicit the ending became - but reading those comments from complete strangers was like Tom did turn up and while the whole fantasy might not have come true, he at least told me that he thought I was kinda pretty (in a pasty-white-chick-whose-nose-is-always-in-a-book kind of way).

So when that website officially opens, I'm going to be all over it.  I'm gonna be the New Voices Flash.  Dashing from one entry to another, reading and commenting and enjoying the heck outta myself.

I'm going to bring a little bit of Tom to everyone (whether you want him or not - and honestly, who wouldn't?)

Photo courtesy of FanPix.Net

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Not Proper Writing

I've been reading through a lot of the posts on the New Voices Facebook (or if I'm really super trendy I should write Fb shouldn't I?) and one of them struck a real chord with me.  One woman posted that her 23 year old daughter suggested that her mother "try to be a proper writer".

Upon reflection two things occured to me:

1. The use of the word "proper".  Now there are several ways one can use the word proper.

a) established standards of behaviour or manners.  Eg Proper writers only write once they have clothed themselves in a floaty dress, applied copious amounts of baby blue eyeshadow, ensured they have an opened bottle of Moet & Chandon champagne on hand, donned their multi-strand pearl necklace, plonked a tiny yappy dog on a pillow beside them, teased ones hair up into a coif high enough to frighten small children and THEN they can begin to write.

b) applicable.  Eg After marrying seventeen times to multi-millionaires, magnates and playboys and being seduced in every manner imaginable, it was only proper that Venezuala become a writer.

c) fitting, right.  Eg Jaenypher had spent six long months writing, editing and polishing her manuscript.  She and her critique partners had worked hard to ensure the finshed product was as good as it possibly could be.  She had sent off her frist chapter and a synopsis to the publisher and today she had received "the call".  At long last she felt like a proper writer.

To me, anyone who slogs it out and goes through the emotional rollercoaster of writing is a "proper" writer.  Anyone with the guts and determination to see their work published and who works towards that goal every day (or at least tries to every day) is a "proper" writer.  Anyone brave enough to enter the NV competition and plonk their beloved first chapter up on a website where ANYONE IN THE WHOLE WORLD can read it (and let's not even get into the whole leaving comments thing) is a "proper" writer.

2. Some genres are much put-upon whereas others, that deserve an even greater amount of disparaging, remain unscathed.  No genre is trope free and how shocking you find them is largely determined by your own prejudices.  I for one, cannot for the life of me see the value in Westerns.  My father would blow a fufu valve if he knew I'd said that, being a Western addict for decades but I can't stand them.  Now I will preface this next statement with an admission: I have only read (and by that I mean scanned) one or two Westerns and they were fairly old ones so I am, by no means, a connoisseur of the genre.  BUT the men are bigger than life, they also seem to sweat, swear and swagger more than any real person possibly could and still keep breathing; despite reassurances from the author that the hero is actually a sharp witted, extremely clever and astoundingly cunning fellow he still manages to get himself into some really dumb situations; and when women are featured in these sad books the reader can only assume that they all come from the same family (where the genes run to buxom beauties who pant, pout but only put out for the hero) but can't do anything for themselves forcing the hero to constantly ride in and rescue them, bed them and then ride off again; oh and the whole my-gun-is-bigger-than-yours thing?  Ewwwwwwww.  Gives a whole new meaning to sharp shooter ;)

But fear not gentle reader, I'm not selective in my criticism.  Whilst contemplating genres I stumbled upon one I bet very few of you would think to impugn: the fairy tale.  But think about it - how "proper" are they?  Each and every one of them is a big FAT LIE!  And not only that they contain plots that, upon examination, would make a "proper" writer cringe.  Don't beleive me?  Here's a few examples:

1. Rapunzel:  Even before we get to the whole rope-made-out-of-hair-that's-still-attached-to-someone's-head part, let us examine the beginning of the story.  Pregnant woman has cravings for fresh vegetables.  Being poor, her doting husband risks stealing them from a witches garden but he's caught and to escape being punished himself, he promises to give the witch his baby when it's born.  WTH?  Now tell me how many women you know, when advised that their husband has just promised to give away their first born baby, would sit back and go "oh really?  Well that broccoli sure does look tasty so I suppose it's a fair swap"  I don't think so Tim.  She's going to all hormonal on her hubbies bee-hind and then she's going to pay a little visit to Old Witchipoo.  And once that baby is born - Lord help anyone trying to take that child away.  I once heard a Mummy-blogger describe a situation where she perceived her child to be in danger as it "bringing out the Mama Bear" in her.  Magic Wand vs Mama Bear?  I'm putting money on those post partum hormones every time.

2. Sleeping Beauty:  Girl sleeps for 100 years.  100 years.  That's 5200 weeks.  36400 days.  36400 days without brushing or flossing.  Let's be honest here folks.  When that girl woke up her morning breath could have melted solid rock.  What man in his right mind is going to pucker up to that?  And even if he downed a couple of six packs right before he hacked through the sea of thorns and the bruskies dimished his sense of ewwwww and he was still prepared to lay one on her what woman in her right mind is going to wake up and go: "Ta for the kiss possum.  Marry you?  Sure!"  I mean after 100 years of beauty sleep I'm thinking she could have gone to sleep Ugly Betty and woken up Megan Gale - y'know what I'm saying?  Any girl worth her Prada pumps is going to politely thank the guy and then spend a few months making up for lost time.

Photo courtesy of Disney

3. Snow White:  Hair as black as ebony.  Skin as white as snow.  Lips as red as blood........Brain the size of a peanut. 
Dwarves: We're off now, love.  Don't let anyone into the cottage 'k?
Snow White: What cottage?
Dwarves: This cottage.
Snow White: Oh!  Oh, okay! I'll just sweep and clean up and cook and sing with the wee little birdies and fluffy cute animals in the forest.
Dwarves: Er........yeah sure, that'd be great.
Witch: Hello my lovely.
Snow White: Hi creepy old witch looking lady.  Sure I'll eat your susicious looking apple but you can't come in.
Witch: Er.....whatever.

And hello?  Who in their right mind would marry a guy who fell in love with a girl everyone told him was DEAD?!  Imagine telling that story to your kids: 
Snow White: Yes and then I fell into a coma and everyone thought I was dead and one day your father rode by and saw me and fell in love with me.  Then he kissed me -
Kid: Wait a second Mum, are you saying Dad thought you were dead but he kissed you anyway?
Snow White: Yup.
Kid: That is like so many shades of ick!

Photo courtesy of Disney
So to sum up: Westerns = 0
                       Fairy Tales = 0
                       M&B = 1

I'd call that a right proper victory I would!