Waiting Around

Right now I’m hanging out at my mother’s, waiting for a guy to measure the floor. I know, thrill a minute right? Briefly I thought that I should bring something to work on, like the round story chapter that I will, will, will (!) finish by this weekend. I’ve already got a pretty good handle on where I’m going (chaos) but now have to work out the willy-nilly details of getting there.

And yes, I realize that I’m on a computer right now, but I’ve already started writing the round story chapter and I did not bring my file. As fun as this story is, I’m not starting from scratch. Uh-uh.

But, my question to pose right now is: If you know you’re going to be somewhere where the only entertainment for a while is mindless television, do you bring something ‘productive’ with you? My obvious answer is no, though my thoughts are good (I wouldn’t quite call them intentions…).

I mean, I suppose I could work on the Minesweeper score thing, but various parties have informed me that it ‘doesn’t seem like a ‘real’ goal, now does it?’ After my ambitious post for September I tend to agree and will stay my hand at the mouse. Eventually I will make it home this afternoon and set to work. Or nap.

Okay, maybe not nap. But it sounds good.

Things I Learned from Icon

First off, here is how the contest worked: There were 19 contestants who read either excerpts from book-length pieces or short stories. In as few words as possible they stated who they were, what they were writing and give a log line (what’s your story about?). They had two minutes to read from their work and if they did not finish within that time frame an obnoxious sound could be heard.

After that, the three judges would give their critiques. And these guys were great, really on target for being put on the spot all night. The judges were Carol Berg, award winning fantasy author, Charles Kaine, head of Last Knight Publishing, and Barbara Samuel, award winning romance author (she has a great blog called A Writer Afoot).

I’m the seventeenth person to read. After sitting in the front row and listening to 18 of my peers read aloud, this is what I have learned:

1. Practice what you are going to read. Out loud. With a watch. Cut your scene if you need to so that you can get the pertinent information across. A lot of people just read until the buzzer went off. The ones that did better in the competition as a whole stopped before that buzzer hit, and took charge of the note that their piece ended on–and it was never a screechy one.

One woman in particular comes to mind, and I don’t remember her name, but there was a scene with a car wreck. The main character reaches out a hand to grab her son and discovers that he is not there. Ending on that image, the image with the hand reaching for the lost son would have been sooooo powerful. But she continued reading for maybe one more paragraph and was interrupted mid-sentence by the buzzer. I think her odds were hurt by that, honestly.

2. Know where the scene is. In about half the cases there was a great deal of exposition. In a couple cases the exposition went back to the dawn of man. An audience, like an editor, wants to be pulled in immediately. And, while my log line sucked, I could tell exactly when the audience started listening to me. It was only a sentence or two in. I was pretty proud of that. For others, I don’t know if they ever caught the audience’s attention.

3. Speaking of log lines–I’m not a big fan of them. The agents and editors I’ve heard from don’t want the vague notions that even the best log lines give. They want the meat of the story. If that takes a paragraph or so, they’re willing to read it, if it’s well written. But, if you’re going to go through the trouble of participating in a contest, follow the guides and write a damn log line. It’ll save the judges something to critique you on. I wrote mine in about thirty seconds, right before I went up there. Don’t do that.

So, Jenny, how’d you do?

Well, I did not win the overall contest. I believe I was a top contender. But, in the spirit of the competition and out of deference to my karma, I voted for someone other than myself. The good news is, he won. Because had I voted for him and he hadn’t won…and neither had I…well, then I’d be a tad bit upset.

Congratulations to Kirk Farber, who took the critic’s prize and the Audience Favorite for his Postcards from a Dead Girl (see, even the title’s pretty cool).

I got an award for Best Tension. And I was granted a reading from agent Kristin Nelson, who also has a fabulous blog.

Barbara Samuel
http://awriterafoot.typepad.com/

Kristin Nelson
http://pubrants.blogspot.com/

September Goals

No, I don’t like them. Yes, they’re good for me. Like broccoli. So I’ll eat them anyway.

1. Finish 2 chapters of FJR.
2. Finish 1 chapter of TR.
3. Finish round story chapter…and, John, you have some explaining to do.
4. Get as many of the submissions done for this month as I can.

Yes, I realize that these are loftier than the August goals I missed. But, come hell or high water (and maybe both), I shall prevail.

August Goal Results

The results:
I still hate goals.

I finished one chapter of FJR, not two.
I did not complete my fantasy chapter.
The critiques for the Sunday group will be done by Sunday. Chalk one up there.
I did not read The Namesake, which I am greatly saddened about.

But, Jenny, you ask, why did you not finish everything? I answer: A combination of factors. Mainly I blame the lure of competition. I spent a lot of my time refining my submission/reading for the contest that’s going on tomorrow. That cut a lot of hours out of the week (read: I made Deb sit for two hours while I practiced. Then I did the same thing to Shane).

Another reason/excuse? My plan did not execute as well as I’d hoped. Ah well. We’ll chalk that up to experience. It’s hard to work two pieces at once. Though I think I’m a slow learner and will try it all again next month.

But I’m waiting to see if I actually have to do the round story for next month. That’ll cut into something, I’m sure. But maybe John will have mercy and point the finger at some other schlub?

Minesweeper Scores

Okay, I’ll never beat J.K. Rowling’s sales. But, by golly, I shall defeat her Minesweeper score.

Her fastest score for the expert level, if I remember correctly from her website, is a 99. So far, my fastest time is 125. Only 26 seconds to go and I can take her.

If only my wrist wasn’t killing me.

Dreaming a Scene

The only time I’ve ever used dreams in my writing (that I’m aware of) has been for poems, and those were assigned. The basic idea was to transcribe the dream, not interpret or manipulate, and see what happens. Results varied.

Last night was weird though.

So I’m exhausted, right? (I blame being pregnant.) I go to bed and it’s all snug and warm. Then the dream starts coming and it’s odd because it’s the scene that I want to write for the American Icon competition. And I’m in two places: at my desk with a legal pad and a pen, physically writing the scene and in the bar where the scene takes place. Like I’m watching it through the paper and pen.

The thought keeps running through my head that I’ve procrastinated too long, everything is going to suck…but the scene is good. And it’s come to me whole…with only one question of continuity because there’s something I want to happen that I may have to let go. I only have two minutes after all–that’s about two-three pages depending on how dense I make the prose.

When I woke up I felt ready and raring to go. Has anyone else had an experience like this? Where you realized the dream was your work and you knew what happened next? It’s pretty trippy. Goodness knows if it’ll work, but I think I’m gonna try to do what I remember.

4 Days and a Wake Up

…until the Sunday meeting.

You would think I’d be more concerned about the upcoming reading in front of a bunch of strangers, in which three of those strangers will comment in public about the novel I am so diligently working on. Nope, not so much.

I still have not finished the critiques for Sunday–but I’m sure they’re brilliant. However, that’s nothing new, I’m notoriously slow about getting to them. However to my however, at least I remember what I want to say about them.

My biggest fear: I have not finished the chapter I promised the Ali-demon. *Shuddering*