Cat’s Eyes: Full Manuscript Requested

I used an email address for the submission of Cat’s Eyes that I rarely receive or send anything from. Moments ago, I realised I hadn’t checked it for several days. Imagine my surprise when I heard the tell-tale “ding” that announces new mail has been received. Immediately recognising the publisher’s email address, I held my breath and prepared myself for a rejection.

So it was an even bigger surprise when I read the email and discovered the publisher liked the synopsis of my story and liked the sample of my writing, and was requesting the full manuscript.

I realise this isn’t an acceptance and the manuscript could still be rejected, but this request has lifted my spirits. I now have a purpose! I now have a reason to sit at the computer and work diligently. I’ve been given hope and that is something I needed.

My plans for the weekend have suddenly changed. I won’t be working on Mirror Image as previously stated, I’ll be ensuring Cat’s Eyes is perfect before I send it off next week.

If there was a mood reader on this blog, it would be saying “happy and excited” right now.

Finding a Way Forward

I actually started writing this post on Sunday 23 November 2008, but never got around to finishing it…or posting it. This is how the post started:

Today, when I complained about the difficulty I’m having with the edit of Mirror Image, someone close to me asked what I was trying to achieve. At first, I was a little taken aback and my defences went up. I thought I was going to have to defend my decision to write to another person who believed everyone wants to be a writer so you’re wasting your time. But then the person elaborated on the question and I realised I had misunderstood what was being asked.

“Don’t writers do many edits?” the person asked. “What are you trying to achieve with this one?”

What was I trying to achieve? In fact, when I thought about it, this was a good question. I realised that whilst I’ve been acting as if I’m trying to turn the first draft into a perfect polished draft (which, at the rate I’m going, will only happen by some miracle), I should be concentrating on something less ambitious and then maybe, I’ll actually get somewhere. As soon as I had this thought, the edit didn’t seem so scary…and hard.

This edit should be all about getting the plot straightened out. If I can fix those large holes in the climax where all the storylines come together all at once; and if I can write the “missing” scene from the secondary character’s point of view; then…and only then…would I be able to say that I have satisfactorily completed the first edit. Only when the things listed above are done should I turn my attention to a second, more intense edit of the actual characters and their reasons for being in the story.

You see, if you think about it, you will agree that the manuscript is actually incomplete in its present state. And that is why I’m having so much trouble with the edit. How can I edit something that hasn’t been written? It also explains why I keep going back to the arc I’ve been working on, instead of editing the minor character’s storylines.

With this in mind, I have decided to change tactics. I will continue to work on the arc for the climax. My progress on that is going well – slow, but well – I have already completed three quarters of the work. Once that is finished, I will start another arc for the secondary character’s storyline. Something went horribly wrong in the first draft and I can’t allow it to remain like it is as the character must provide a very strong message to the reader. In fact, this character is one that I have a lot in common with and I still find it strange that this is the one I had the most trouble with. Anyway, now I need to pull it back into line.

I feel as if I’ve discovered a secret path which will take me through a maze I admit I was lost in. This makes me feel excited and eager to get back to work, which I think I’ll do right now. 🙂

And that’s where I had stopped writing last Sunday. Having read over it again, I can see that I did finish the post, but never got around to adding it to my blog (or doing the writing I said I was going to do). Now, however, what has been said isn’t actually true as I haven’t done any of the things I said above. On Monday, I received some news that has made me think about other things for most of the week – private things that I will not go into here. I’ve spent every moment of every day focused on this other thing. I could even say I’ve been thinking about while I sleep because I’ve dreamed about it too. My writing hasn’t been given a thought in this time, but I found my thoughts straying to Mirror Image yesterday so I opened a character’s storyline and read it right through.

It was the other secondary character; the son of the secondary character I’m having trouble with. He is a character I enjoyed writing and it really does show in my words. Everything about him is so different to me and I felt as if I was on an adventure when I wrote his story. I admit that it needs some work, but overall I’m pleased with the way it turned out. I even found tears welling in my eyes in one spot. His message is strong and clear.

Anyway, in reality, this means that I’ve edited four of the six viewpoints. The only two left are the main character and her mother. I’ve decided to go back to my original plan and fix up the secondary character’s (the mother’s) viewpoint.

I’m a woman. I’m allowed to change my mind. 🙂

The Birthday Month Personality Meme

I’ve been tagged to do this Birthday Month Personality Meme by Sherry. I’ve always found birthday (or zodiac) traits to be amusing and weirdly close to the mark, so let’s see how this one measures up (or should I be saying how close I measure up to it?).

The instructions:

1. Mention the person who tagged you and create a link back to them.
2. Copy-paste the traits for all the twelve months (see below).
3. Pick your month of birth (see bottom of list).
4. Highlight/bold the traits that apply to you.
5. Tag 12 people and let them know by visiting their blogs and leaving a comment for them.
6. Let the person who tagged you know when you’ve done it.

JANUARY: Stubborn and hard-hearted. Ambitious and serious. Loves to teach and be taught. Always looking at people’s flaws and weaknesses. Likes to criticize. Hardworking and productive. Smart, neat and organized. Sensitive and has deep thoughts. Knows how to make others happy. Quiet unless excited or tensed. Rather reserved. Highly attentive. Resistant to illnesses but prone to colds. Romantic but has difficulties expressing love. Loves children. Loyal. Has great social abilities yet easily jealous. Very stubborn and money cautious.

FEBRUARY: Abstract thoughts. Loves reality and abstract. Intelligent and clever. Changing personality. Attractive. Sexy. Temperamental. Quiet, shy and humble. Honest and loyal. Determined to reach goals. Loves freedom. Rebellious when restricted. Loves aggressiveness. Too sensitive and easily hurt. Gets angry really easily but does not show it. Dislikes unnecessary things. Loves making friends but rarely shows it. Daring and stubborn. Ambitious. Realizes dreams and hopes. Sharp. Loves entertainment and leisure. Romantic on the inside not outside. Superstitious and ludicrous. Spendthrift. Tries to learn to show emotions.

MARCH: Attractive personality. Sexy. Affectionate. Shy and reserved. Secretive. Naturally honest, generous and sympathetic. Loves peace and serenity. Sensitive to others. Loves to serve others. Easily angered. Trustworthy. Appreciative and returns kindness. Observant and assesses others. Revengeful. Loves to dream and fantasize. Loves traveling. Loves attention. Hasty decisions in choosing partners. Loves home decors. Musically talented. Loves special things. Moody.

APRIL: Active and dynamic. Decisive and hasty but tends to regret. Attractive and affectionate to oneself. Strong mentality. Loves attention. Diplomatic. Consoling, friendly and solves people’s problems. Brave and fearless. Adventurous. Loving and caring. Suave and generous. Emotional. Aggressive. Hasty. Good memory. Moving. Motivates oneself and others. Sickness usually of the head and chest. Sexy in a way that only their lover can see.

MAY: Stubborn and hard-hearted. Strong-willed and highly motivated. Sharp thoughts. Easily angered. Attracts others and loves attention. Deep feelings. Beautiful physically and mentally. Firm Standpoint. Needs no motivation. Easily consoled. Systematic (left brain). Loves to dream. Strong clairvoyance. Understanding. Sickness usually in the ear and neck. Good imagination. Good physical. Weak breathing. Loves literature and the arts. Loves traveling. Dislike being at home. Restless. Not having many children. Hardworking. High spirited. Spendthrift.

JUNE: Thinks far with vision. Easily influenced by kindness. Polite and soft-spoken. Having ideas. Sensitive. Active mind. Hesitating, tends to delay. Choosy and always wants the best. Temperamental. Funny and humorous. Loves to joke. Good debating skills. Talkative. Daydreamer. Friendly. Knows how to make friends. Able to show character. Easily hurt. Prone to getting colds. Loves to dress up. Easily bored. Fussy. Seldom shows emotions. Takes time to recover when hurt. Brand conscious. Executive. Stubborn.

JULY: Fun to be with. Secretive. Difficult to fathom and to be understood. Quiet unless excited or tensed. Takes pride in oneself. Has reputation. Easily consoled. Honest. Concerned about people’s feelings. Tactful. Friendly. Approachable. Emotional temperamental and unpredictable. Moody and easily hurt. Witty and sparkly. Not revengeful. Forgiving but never forgets. Dislikes nonsensical and unnecessary things. Guides others physically and mentally. Sensitive and forms impressions carefully. Caring and loving. Treats others equally. Strong sense of sympathy. Wary and sharp. Judges people through observations. Hardworking. No difficulties in studying. Loves to be alone. Always broods about the past and the old friends. Likes to be quiet. Homely person. Waits for friends. Never looks for friends. Not aggressive unless provoked. Prone to having stomach and dieting problems. Loves to be loved. Easily hurt but takes long to recover.

AUGUST: Loves to joke. Attractive. Suave and caring. Brave and fearless. Firm and has leadership qualities. Knows how to console others. Too generous and egoistic. Takes high pride in oneself. Thirsty for praises. Extraordinary spirit. Easily angered. Angry when provoked. Easily jealous. Observant. Careful and cautious. Thinks quickly. Independent thoughts. Loves to lead and to be led. Loves to dream. Talented in the arts, music and defense. Sensitive but not petty. Poor resistance against illnesses. Learns to relax. Hasty and trusty. Romantic. Loving and caring. Loves to make friends.

SEPTEMBER: Suave and compromising. Careful, cautious and organized. Likes to point out people’s mistakes. Likes to criticize. Stubborn. Quiet but able to talk well. Calm and cool. Kind and sympathetic. Concerned and detailed. Loyal but not always honest. Does work well. Very confident. Sensitive. Good memory. Clever and knowledgeable. Loves to look for information. Must control oneself when criticizing. Able to motivate oneself. Understanding. Fun to be around. Secretive. Loves leisure and traveling. Hardly shows emotions. Tends to bottle up feelings. Very choosy, especially in relationships. Systematic.

OCTOBER: Loves to chat. Loves those who loves them. Loves to take things at the center. Inner and physical beauty. Lies but doesn’t pretend. Gets angry often. Treats friends importantly. Always making friends. Easily hurt but recovers easily. Daydreamer. Opinionated. Does not care of what others think. Emotional. Decisive. Strong clairvoyance. Loves to travel, the arts and literature. Touchy and easily jealous. Concerned. Loves outdoors. Just and fair. Spendthrift. Easily influenced. Easily loses confidence. Loves children.

NOVEMBER: Has a lot of ideas. Difficult to fathom. Thinks forward. Unique and brilliant. Extraordinary ideas. Sharp thinking. Fine and strong clairvoyance. Can become good doctors. Dynamic in personality. Secretive. Inquisitive. Knows how to dig secrets. Always thinking. Less talkative but amiable. Brave and generous. Patient. Stubborn and hard-hearted. If there is a will, there is a way. Determined. Never give up. Hardly becomes angry unless provoked. Loves to be alone. Thinks differently from others. Sharp-minded. Motivates oneself. Does not appreciate praises. High-spirited. Well-built and tough. Deep love and emotions. Romantic. Uncertain in relationships. Homely. Hardworking. High abilities. Trustworthy. Honest and keeps secrets. Not able to control emotions. Unpredictable.

DECEMBER: Loyal and generous. Sexy. Patriotic. Active in games and interactions. Impatient and hasty. Ambitious. Influential in organizations. Fun to be with. Loves to socialize. Loves praises. Loves attention. Loves to be loved. Honest and trustworthy. Not pretending. Short tempered. Changing personality. Not egotistic. Take high pride in oneself. Hates restrictions. Loves to joke. Good sense of humor. Logical.

______________________________

My birthday month is September:

SEPTEMBER: Suave and compromising. Careful, cautious and organized. Likes to point out people’s mistakes. Couldn’t be further from the truth. Likes to criticize. Stubborn. Quiet but able to talk well. This might be true when I with my family, but not at other times. Calm and cool. Some people think this is true, but I know it’s not! Kind and sympathetic. Concerned and detailed. Loyal but not always honest. Does work well. Very confident. Definitely not true. Sensitive. Good memory. I used to, but not anymore. Clever and knowledgeable. Loves to look for information. Must control oneself when criticizing. Able to motivate oneself. Understanding. Fun to be around. I could pretend this is true, but I know it’s not. Secretive. Loves leisure and traveling. Hardly shows emotions. Tends to bottle up feelings. Very choosy, especially in relationships. Systematic.

I’m not going to tag anyone, but please feel free to tag yourself if you feel like it. I’d like to read your reply to this meme to see if I agree. 🙂

The Perfect Manuscript in One Draft

Imagine if we could write the perfect manuscript in one draft. How brilliant would that be? Of course, I’m dreaming here as very few writers would be able to do this with any amount of success. I feel it would be impossible to write 100,000 words and not make one single error of any kind. In fact, I think it would be impossible to write any manuscript of any length without a typo or some kind of grammar problem or a sentence that isn’t all it should be.

In reality, in order to get a manuscript anywhere near perfect a writer must not only write the manuscript but they must also subject themselves to rewriting and editing that work numerous times. Some people can get away with only a few edits, but most will have to plough through the same words over and over and over and …

I’m not keen on edits. I find them hard and frustrating because it means I have to iron out all those problem areas I was never quite confident about in the first place. Come to think of it, I don’t like ironing either. No wonder I’m finding the edit of Mirror Image so hard…and draining.

The first draft has huge holes in it. I suppose I should be thankful that I’m aware of this. There are a few problems:

Firstly, the main character’s storyline falls flat right at the most critical time – the climax, of all places. At the moment, the scene could be compared to a plateau when it should be a steep mountain. I’m still working on the arc I mentioned a week or so ago, so when I get around to rewriting this scene it will be much improved.

Secondly, another primary character’s storyline falls to pieces in the middle. Each storyline was planned, but this one kept going off in other directions until eventually even I became confused. In the end I stopped writing and moved to a spot in the storyline that got the character back on track and continued from there. This means, I have an enormous section of mess to fix…once I work out what went wrong!

Thirdly, the three minor character’s resolutions have to be played out in the climax, which is from the main character’s point of view. Once I reach the climax I cannot go back to these other character’s points of view. It would ruin the suspense and flow. However, these resolutions are important as they round the characters out and they are also important to the overall message of the book. The real problem is that the main character is in such a state by this stage, that in reality she wouldn’t be taking in what’s happening around her. So I have to provide quick snippets of information that provide the information needed to complete the minor character’s storylines without interrupting the flow of the climax, which should be quite intense and emotional.

The above is three major problems, which I’m finding hard to deal with. I haven’t come to a complete stand still, but I’m hovering close to it and that worries me. I’m tempted to put the manuscript aside and work on something else for a short time – give myself a break – but I know that if I do this I’ll never return to Mirror Image. I don’t want that to happen, so I’ll continue to struggle forward…even if it means I’m taking the smallest steps you could ever imagine.

Please excuse me while I day dream about how brilliant it would be to write the perfect manuscript in one draft.

Anthology Woes: Amazon Try to Rule the World!

When I started out on the Anthology Project (back in early 2007) I did so with enthusiasm and excitement. For several years, I had been trying to help writers become published and finally, I believed, I had found the way to do just that.

Whilst receiving and reading submissions for the project, I was also spending hours and hours combing the internet to find the right printer for the job. There are so many printers out there, but when I read the small print I was surprised by the charges involved and the odd terms that didn’t sit right with me. I continued my search, widening it to include reading what other people’s experiences were and this narrowed the market for me considerably.

From memory I ended up with three possibilities. None of them were perfect, but these three sounded better than all the rest and the reviews were more positive too. For reasons I can’t remember, I settled on Lulu. I set about creating an account and started a “fake” project so that I knew the process well before doing the real thing. In all honesty, the process was mostly painless even if it was time consuming.

The anthology was published on 25 July 2008. And that’s when my excitement truly started to wane.

Suddenly, everyone at Lulu was complaining that the distribution service had changed; it had gone downhill…and quickly. It is clearly stated on the Lulu website that books published by them will appear on Amazon and other online bookstores within 6 to 8 weeks. The anthology appeared within three weeks so it wasn’t an outright lie. However, it showed an “out of print” status and no one, no matter how eager, could purchase the book. Although I was aware a problem existed I didn’t know (or understand) the depth of it…or the ramifications. I am, after all, a writer, not a publisher. But that is no excuse and I realise now that I should have made it my business to know what the problem meant. Anyway, the anthology has now been published for 16 weeks and the status remains unchanged even though I have been in contact with Lulu repeatedly in this time.

No wonder the service had suddenly become “free”. If they (meaning Lulu) had charged for the service then they would have been faced with a lot of unhappy people demanding their money back – me alone with them. I feel they knew the problem was bigger than they were letting on and that’s why they dropped the charge and this knowledge angers me more.

Having said all this, I understand that Lulu is between a rock and a hard place. I don’t think they wanted or intended for this to happen to the people who use their service – not at the beginning. I also believe that there is nothing much they can do about it, which presents a problem for the anthology (but I’ll get back to this later).

Amazon is the real problem. They have become greedy and are trying to squash print on demand books being published by anyone but themselves. If a POD book isn’t printed by their subsidiary then they will not list it on the website (or they will, but the “buy” button will be deactivated so they may as well not list it, in my opinion). From what I’ve learned, this only applies to the books distributed from about six to eight months ago. Those already in the system are not affected.

If the people at Amazon want to be jerks, fine. I’d be happy to ignore Amazon from this day onwards and buy my books from other online bookstores instead…and I would encourage everyone else to do the same thing because, quite frankly, Amazon isn’t the “be all and end all” of the publishing (or reading) world.

But…the other bookstores are listing the book as unavailable too! Why? What reason do they have? Are they sheep? I’ve contacted a couple of them and their response is that they want copies of the book sent to them so that they have them in stock. Why? POD means the book is printed as needed. It never runs out of stock. They don’t need a stock pile. Honestly, I have no idea what the hassle is and I’m finding the whole mess frustrating and pointless.

At this point, I would like to clearly state that I do not recommend Lulu in any way, shape or form. I would never use them again. Ever! If you had any brains you wouldn’t either. It’s not worth the stress.

What does all this mean to the anthology?

In hindsight, if I could redo this project from scratch there are certain things I would change. Of course, experience is talking now. I didn’t have any experience when I started this project back in January 2007, but now I’m older and wiser.

The main change I would make would be that I wouldn’t pay for the stories and artwork in royalties. That is the biggest mistake I made. I would have been better off paying outright for the stories and artwork and having a contract for world wide exclusive rights for the first year and then the right to continue publishing the book, but allowing the authors to submit the stories elsewhere. If I had done this I wouldn’t be bound by a contract that has literally killed the project. You see, it’s because of that contract that I can’t pack my bags, walk away from Lulu and start afresh with a POD company that doesn’t have the hassles Lulu has. In order to do this, it would mean I would have to apply for a new ISBN (because Lulu owns the current one). With the new ISBN I could apply a new cover, fix anything that might be wrong with the current book and then publish a second edition. The contract doesn’t allow any of this to happen because it’s for the first edition only. The second edition would require a new contract and, to be honest, I’m not keen to go there.

Right now, that means two years of planning, reading and publishing (and I don’t mean just me here either) has been…for what? To me, it feels like a waste of time. Maybe the others don’t feel that way, but when I was bubbling over with excitement two years ago I wasn’t imagining the frustration I’m experiencing now. I was imagining speechless joy and wonder. Believe me, this experience doesn’t come close to that.

Cat’s Eyes: Submitted!

Some weeks ago I mentioned that I want to submit Cat’s Eyes for consideration. The manuscript has been completed for some time, but I haven’t done anything with it since entering it into a competition last year. Anyway, once the decision was made to submit it I set about, and spent over a week, writing a one page query letter. As I wasn’t entirely happy with what I had I did some research to ensure I was including all the right things for such an important letter (which I was). Finally…I pushed the letter aside as I still felt something wasn’t quite right.

Yesterday I mentioned in an email to a friend that I needed to get onto this submission. I questioned my reasons for not sending it out already. No reason really came to mind, except self doubt and that’s not a good reason to hold back a submission. Actually, the thought angered me so last night I opened that query letter and looked at it again. It has all the elements of a good query letter. I know that for sure, however, I still had to do some more research. In the end, I had to concede that I’ve done the best I can with it and now I have to take a chance.

Once this decision was made, I turned my research to publishers instead. Who do I want to submit to? My first choices are the big names – Scholastic, HarperCollins, Random House, Penguin and Allen & Unwin. I visited each website and found their submission guidelines. Two are not taking submissions of any kind at this time. Two would accept full manuscripts for children’s manuscripts, but only queries for adult manuscripts (luckily, my manuscript is for children). One would only accept an email query from unpublished writers, promising a response within two week. This is the one I targeted.

The guidelines were clear, so I adjusted my letter accordingly. They also only wanted the first 250 words of the manuscript, as a sample of my writing. This once again reiterates the need for strong openings, which I’m a believer in, so that shouldn’t be a worry. I read through that one and a half pages … oh, three dozen times, at least. Still not confident enough to send the email, I sent it to myself first as I wanted to see how it would be received. Seeing the email made me feel better. It looked professional and there were no errors, but there was a problem. There was an attachment! I didn’t include an attachment and the guidelines clearly stated that emails with attachments would not be read. I fiddled with settings, which made no difference. Then I copied and pasted the contents of the letter into a fresh page and emailed it to myself again. No attachment. Yay. I emailed it again to be sure. OK, we’re in business and now it’s time to send the real email.

Have you ever noticed how hard it is to press “send” when the email is this important? My cursor hovered over the button for several minutes; I kept wanting to read the entire thing one more time (just to be sure). Finally, I had to force myself to click on the button and trust in myself. The email – the submission – has been sent. I have done the best I can, with the manuscript and the letter. Now I must wait and see if that is enough.

Planning a Scene

I was recently at Jim Butcher’s blog – author of the Dresden Files. There is a lot to read there, but I was especially interested in the article about using an arc to plan a story. His suggestion is to simply draw an arc on a piece of paper. Naturally, the beginning of the arc is the beginning of the story and the end of the arc is the end of the story. Then you place “markers” across the arc which coincides with crucial events in your story. Finally you add in more markers for other important scenes and anything else that moves your story forward. This is a good idea.

Anyway, I don’t need an arc for my current manuscript – Mirror Image. It’s well and truly passed the arc stage. Not being one to pass up a good idea, I figured that the most important scene in my manuscript – the climax, which is long and complicated – needs a lot of work and I could adapt the arc for improving that scene.

Over the last couple of days, I’ve been drawing arcs everywhere. But something good came from all that physical labour. I realised that the scene has to be cut down into four crucial sections and each section needs an arc of its own. This will enable me to focus on the emotions of the MC and therefore build the tension accordingly, which is something that didn’t quite happen in the first draft.

What I did was, in blue, put in essential “events” from the character’s viewpoint including what the character was feeling at the time. These were added to the top of the arc. Then, in red, I added events that other characters contributed to the scene, which affected the MC and in turn affected the overall scene. I added these to the underside of the arc. I’ve done this for Section 1 of the scene and will do the same for the other three sections over the next few days. Then I’ll have a comprehensive plan for the climax. However, I will not be tackling the edit of this scene for some time yet. I am currently working through each character’s storyline and I need to finish doing that because I might find other things that must be added to the arcs. However, it was because of this that I discovered missing elements for the characters I have done. The storylines feel unfinished yet once the climax has been reached I cannot go back to these other characters and give them their required resolution. In other words, this information must be added to the climax. I have no choice. I did say the scene was complicated, but hopefully using the arcs will help me get it right eventually.

Bet You Didn’t Even Notice

I just spent an hour logging in to a number of websites I’m subscribed to or a member of and have cancelled my memberships. You will no longer find me at places like MySpace, Twitter, Issuu, Bebo and quite a few others. The reason I deleted my accounts is because I rarely visit any of the websites and when I do I find nothing much of interest to keep me there or make me return in a hurry. Besides that, I’m sick of all the email I receive because of those memberships.

The only membership I kept was Facebook. I like the interaction with other people through this site and it’s a quick and easy way of finding out what my friends are doing. And…I’ve managed to find long lost relatives (and friends) through the site…so that’s a definite plus.