2. Show you read in the genre by naming a book that hasn't been made into a movie.
3. Use good punctuation.
4. Proofread your manuscript.
5. Don't ask the agent to read the new version a week after you've sent the first one.
6. Pitch one book at a time.
7. Have a killer setting.
8. Have good dialog.
9. Show, don't tell.
10. Do something uniquely well.
Today Janci and I spent four hours organizing the work spaces, sorting invoices, and generally cleaning up so that coin shipping could proceed. This flurry of activity was triggered by the UPS packing tracking stating that the coins were out for delivery. And they were. My garage is full of coins. I spent an hour sorting to pull out samples of all the types of coins. They had to be inspected. Later this evening I spent another 90 minutes making sure all the addresses were in order and everything is cleared for test shipping tomorrow. That will be the day when Janci and I start putting packages together and trying to figure out how everything works.
Total coin shipping work hours today: 10.5
The coins are gorgeous. Holding them makes me very happy. I would be more eloquent about that if I were not so very tired.
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One of the things I love about steampunk is the chance to explore the Steam Age from a variety of angles and cultural viewpoints. The author team of Pip Ballantine & Tee Morris is definitely pushing the envelope with their Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences series (PHOENIX RISING and THE JANUS AFFAIR), with missions from the Ministry taking place all around the world.
Ever since my last visit to Beijing in 2005, I’ve been fascinated by Yuanmingyuan, the Old Summer Palace. It was razed to the ground during the Anglo-French Invasion, and it’s still a very sore spot for Beijing natives. I have always wanted to write something about those ruins because they fascinated and hurt me with their ravished beauty, but I never knew what to write. When Pip & Tee invited me to write for the Ministry Initiative, the old wheels started turning and the destruction of Yuanmingyuan became the setting of my story. I’m very thankful Tee & Pip were on board with this!
Galileo Games and Imagine That! Studios have teamed up to bring you an ambitious steampunk project! The Ministry Initiative is a two-part creative endeavor that will not only premiere new fiction from the steampunk world of the Ministry but also present a brand new role playing game from the makers of Bulldogs! and the ENnie Award winning game Shelter in Place. Thrill to the tales in Ministry Protocol anthology, or join in as an Agent in The Ministry Initiative RPG.
To celebrate this endeavor, I'm offering up a free e-copy of my short story, "Chinoiserie," for your delectation when the anthology becomes available. To enter to win, all you have to do is comment on this post by midnight, May 29th. A winner will be chosen via random number generator. And of course I will happily e-ship internationally. Find out more about this endeavor and support the Kickstarter here: http://bit.ly/ministry-initiative
1. You are letting people tell you that you should be doing other things with your time.
2. You can’t live with the level of clean that your family accepts as normal.
3. You haven’t decided to treat your writing seriously and so no one around you treats it seriously, either.
4. You haven’t made yourself a writing space.
5. You haven’t realized that you need help.
6. You do what is urgent rather than what is necessary.
7. You don’t let your kids and other people solve their own problems.
8. You think that someday you will have more time for writing.
9. You are spending time doing things you actually don’t care about.
10. You are actually using distractions as an excuse not to write.
11. You are terrified of writing, of actually sitting down and putting yourself on the page.
12. You are too busy criticizing the best selling books that you are reading to write something better.
13. You don’t know what to do with a blank page.
14. You don’t know how to turn off your internal editor.
15. You talk a good game, but you don’t play it.
16. You need to do a little planning and research before you start.
17. You don’t actually like writing. You like having written. (Join the club.)
18. You need to write the first line of the next chapter before leaving for the day.
19. You need to spend time remembering what it is you love about writing.
20. You have convinced yourself that you need 2 hours to write and don’t know how to use the 20 minute chunks you actually have.
21. You don’t have notebooks scattered through the house, including in the bathroom, to jot down inspiration.
Timeline is one of the trickiest things for me as an author. This may be because I don’t outline or it may be a problem for all authors and all books. For me, there were two distinct tasks involved in this.
1. Condensing events
My first draft of The Rose Throne had Issa and Ailsbet begin as pre-teens, about age 11. They met each other briefly, became friends, and then spent another 6-7 years apart before meeting again at age 17. I think I did this in part because I was used to spending a lot of time building backstory for my main characters. In The Princess and the Hound, Prince George begins as a young child and ages up through about 70 pages of the book.
But The Rose Throne was a very different book than The Princess and the Hound, in part because there were two viewpoint characters who grew up in different kingdoms and had very different views of the magic system which they actually share. But in addition to that, I think The Rose Throne is for an older audience than The Princess and the Hound. And there were other reasons for me to condense the story, which included the fact that if Issa and Ailsbet had met and become friends as younger figures, a lot of the narrative tension around their relationship was taken away from the rest of the book.
I cannot say how often I have done critiques on manuscripts in which I tell the author that the timeline needs to be condensed. It’s a major change, but increasing the tension often makes other narrative problems disappear or at least become easier to fix. It improves pacing enormously and makes the structure of the novel really pop out and make itself obvious. If you are meandering through your plot slowly, more tension will help you find your climax and move toward it more easily.
2. Day by day
So the second timeline issue was a chapter-by-chapter day-by-day issue. This happened at a much later stage in the process, at nearly the final revision before copyediting. After I had condensed the book events into one year, I needed to make sure that the seasons were right for each chapter and scene, and that events happened in the right order. You would be surprised at how often I had to shift things backward or forward in time so that one event that caused another didn’t happen chronologically after it in my narrative.
What I did to fix this problem was make a chart for each chapter and then type in a date. Now, the kingdoms of Rurik and Weirland don’t have our Roman calendar and I purposely never referred to our months or days of the week. I always feel like fantasy loses its sense of other-worldliness if it relies on our conventions too much (unless it’s set in our world, in which case, it’s fine). So instead I used seasons and day numbers. Each event happened on a given day in a given season. When I put them all together with a short one-sentence explanation of each chapter, I could glance through and make sure there weren’t any long, unexplained absences (which, of course there were, but I had to fix). I also could see whether too much happened in one stretch. This visual was a useful way to make sure the scenes were organized properly and that the events happened in a measured fashion.
I still have trouble with timeline in most books that I am working on now. Maybe one day I will figure out a way to hold it all in my head and not make a mistake. Ha!
I'm back in beautiful Greenville, South Carolina for a series of school visits this week. In downtown Greenville, they have adorable little mouse statues around the downtown. When I was in Greenville in March, I bought a replica to bring home with me, and now he sits on my living room windowsill.
Here he is with the South Carolina Picture Book Award medal for Hot Rod Hamster.
- Current Mood: grateful
Last week I did a series of tweets talking about going through Body Politic and finding a hundred errors, fixing them, then finding thirty more, fixing those, and finding another dozen. It was an excellent example of iterative publishing. I ended the series by saying that even with all our attention beforehand, we always find mistakes in the finished books. How many? Well take a look at Tub of Happiness to the left. I’ve identified over a dozen things that I want to fix before it heads out for its second printing. That printing is imminent, so if there is a typo or other error in Tub of Happiness that has been driving you crazy, please email email@example.com with the error and page number. I may already know about it, but you just might be saving me from holding yet another printed book and finding a mistake in it.
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