Thursday, May 31, 2012

Gathering to Write

Three fellow authors and I are converging on Old Orchard Beach tomorrow to do some writing. We all share the same agent and three of us share the same publisher. We all have looming deadlines. It's safe to say that none of us is quite finished.

Jessie Crockett volunteered her family's beach house for a weekend of authorial immersion. Liz Mugavero is heading away from Connecticut at lunchtime. I'm working until three PM, a full day for me, and puttering north from Burlington.  Barb Ross drives up from Somerville.

We plan to sit heads down at our laptops or notebooks at four different stations and write independently in the company of others. But we'll also gather for meals - cooked by Jessie at her suggestion - and for mutual critiques and fun, with wine a highly possible companion.

We envisioned walks on the beach, too. The weather is forecast for cool and rainy, so maybe staying inside and tapping out scenes will be just the ticket, instead.

Thanks, Jessie! See you tomorrow.

Have you had small-group writing retreats? What worked best? A few hours, a few days, or a few weeks?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Did You Know?

I finished the first draft of A Tine to Live, a Tine to Die! That's a big milestone. The deadline for turning the manuscript in is September 1. Sounds like I'm way ahead, right?

Wrong. Those little words "first draft" are significant. That means, in the words of writer Anne Lamott, from her book Bird by Bird, that I was able to finish the "shitty" first draft. Now the real work begins.

When I write the first draft, I occasionally type [CHECK THIS] or [CAN A GUN SHOOT OFF A LOCK?]. It's so I don't pause in the creative flow to go exploring the internets or books in search of an answer. I might not be back for an hour if I start that kind of process.

Now's the time to catch up with all those. I spent Saturday morning making a note of all those comments in square brackets on a piece of paper. No, on two pieces of paper. I have more than 40 items to check out. Groan. I started by ticking off the easy ones: Make the chief of police more suspicious at the farmers' market. Does Lucinda know about the sabotage? Make Kryzanski have a slight accent. Give Cam a chipped left incisor. What do you call a wooden plank lock on a barn door?

The hard ones remain. I made some progress on one of them, and now need to rewrite one of the most important scenes in the book. Did you know that gasoline is no good as an accelerent for arson? Did you know you can't shoot a lock off with a handgun? Yep, nope. Things are not as they appear in the movies. Mix that gas with motor oil or diesel and, sure, you can drizzle it around an old barn and light it on fire. Get a hunting rifle and a deer slug and, sure, you can break a padlock or shoot out a bolt lock. 

And then there's the advice we got from Donald Maass at the workshop in mid-April. One of the big takeaways I got was, "What's the one thing your protagonist has always feared would happen? Make it happen. Then make it worse. Then make it worse again." So I'm working on that. Once you keep that mantra in the back of your mind, you start to write differently. Even that scene I need to rewrite based on the advice I got from a long-time firefighter and arson specialist -- I wrote that after the workshop and had already worked in some of that "make it worse" approach.

After all those changes are in, I'll let the book sit fallow for a few weeks. Then it's time to jump in and look at pacing, at the timing of suspense scenes, at the logic (for example, "No! She can't suspect the chef BEFORE he drops that clue..."). Solicit a read from a few sharp-eyed fellow writer-editors. Revise some more. Print it out and read it aloud. Do my own edit. Hone the first sentence and the last sentence.

Because I want to deliver the very best book I can to the actual editor at the publishing company. I want to give this book, the first in the series, my best effort. 

If you hear me running around screaming toward the end of August, not to worry!

Writers, what's your post-first-draft process? Readers, can you tell when a book hasn't gone through the whole process?

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Professional Photos

I had a professional Author photo taken a couple of years ago. I found a local studio, liked what I saw of the photographer's portfolio, and scheduled an appointment. I had my hair and makeup done directly beforehand. But the guy never set me at ease and I was not completely pleased with the photo.  

With my books finally hitting the market this year and next, as Tace Baker and as Edith Maxwell, I wanted to try again. A bunch of my Sisters in Crime had visited a studio in Portland, Maine, last year and came away with fantastic attractive head shots, but I had been out with my back surgery, and that was a little far to travel.

So I asked my friend Jeanne, who is in PR and marketing, if she knew anyone good, and she said, "Yes! My friend Meg Manion Silliker!" So last week Meg came over at five PM. She only uses natural light and said it was best then. Jeanne came along for the fun, and to help me relax. Boy, did that ever work (that's me with Jeanne). We wandered around the back yard, ventured out into the street, and finally ended up down the block at the Ipwsich River, which had fabulous light.

I am so delighted with the photos! I was thinking I'd use different ones for my two identities, but now I think I'm just going for the same look. She gave me my choice of several dozen and I selected a handful I liked the best. It was well worth the money, and the three of us had a glass of wine afterwards. I think I just made a new friend, and hope I can steer some business her way.

I am normally one of the most unphotogenic people I know - when I smile it comes out looking like I felt sick that day - so this is an extra treat.

What do you think? Have you had a professional photo taken lately?

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Dangers of a Brain Too Full

I'm pointing you to a post I wrote over at the Sisters in Crime New England blog. Stop by and read about a big mistake I made because of overload.