Little “Aha” Moments…

Harlee
Woodpile Kitty

This week was full of small, unusual events. Ever have one of those? Not bowl-you-over exciting or anything, but just a steady stream of small things that help to keep us from drowning beneath the everyday stuff. 

It wasn’t without some stresses, as a press release I’d sent out pro bono in December for a local group created some unexpected waves. Then another pro bono task fell short of the organizer’s expectations so that had to be redone. Twice. (My husband may be right about no good deed going unpunished.) 

But on the upside, I got to spend time with a good friend who was back in the area on business; I was invited to write on a unique and exciting new book with a group of very talented writers, and thanks to the members of my super critique groups, the editing on “Merciful Blessings” is coming along at a steady pace.

My good friend Karen Bostrom was offered a contract by Wild Rose Press for her latest work, and although I have yet to hear back from any of the editors or agents who have requested my manuscript in the past 6 months, I have rescinded my decision to give up fiction writing all together.

The guest bloggers I’ve invited to visit here have accepted and I’m hoping for more to come. Published story writer Chelle Martin will be my first and we’re working on February dates when she’s recovered from her cold.

I had a LARGE “aha” moment this week when I was reading an article on the Author Marketing ezine. It’s a quote from Kurt Vonnegut that truly simplified my entire writing life: “Every character should want something even if it is a glass of water.”

When we’re planning our characters before writing that book, or editing the novel we’ve just finished, isn’t that a great question to keep in front of us?

“What does that character want?” Check and make sure that each character wants something, and that the reader knows what it is  – and why they can’t have it!

I’m still shaking my head over this. It is the complex concept of Goal, Motivation, and Conflict, distilled into a single sentence. Thanks, Mr. Vonnegut!!

I hope your week included moments of “aha”, too. Read a great book or write a good chapter? Good for you!!! Keep it up! And if you want to share with us, please do!

See you in a few days!

NQ

Happy New Year!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!
Winter Sunrise, Florida While New Year’s Day is a hugely popular, “I’ll start fresh…” milestone, I’ve discovered the power of starting fresh every day. There’s no reason not to set our goals, identify what it will take to reach them, schedule the time to do those things, and JUST GET IT DONE! Sure, we have to remember to focus on one step at a time! I’ve found it’s easy to sabotage myself by biting off more than I can do!

Penny Sansevieri, editor of The Book Marketing Expert Newsletter, and founder and President of Author Marketing Experts, Inc. is an outstanding person and marketing force.  I’ve had the privilege of moderating, and attending her workshops over the years and she’s an authentically dynamic, generous, and very successful marketing expert. So, since I subscribe to her free newsletter (and I hope you will too if you don’t already) and she has generously given us permission to share her articles with credit, I’m going to include one AME article the first of each month on this blog.

So, to start off the New Year right, here we go!

This is reprinted from “The Book Marketing Expert Newsletter,” a free ezine offering book promotion and publicity tips and techniques. http://www.amarketingexpert.com.

Six Steps to Finding a Literary Agent
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1) Almost all literary agents are listed in The Publishers Market Place or LMP, a huge, expensive, 1,229 page volume which you should be able to find in a public library. It contains their actual and email addresses, and a brief description of the kinds of book they represent as well as titles recently placed.
2) Approach an agent with both an email and letter that cogently describes your book – the description should not take more than a paragraph or two – followed by a brief bio that makes clear why you have the authority (called a platform) to write the book if it is nonfiction. Or a brief description of your novel in which the premise shouts, “Yes, I would like to read that manuscript.” Whatever you do, skip the hype. Big turnoff.
3) You need to be able to send the agent a proposal that includes an overview, a table of contents in which you include a paragraph or two describing the contents of each chapter and two sample chapters if the work is nonfiction, or at least one hundred or more pages if a work of fiction.
4) Conduct a thorough search and list and describe the competition for your book, especially nonfiction, and spell out how your book is different. For fiction, name works [that are] similar or genres that were and are successful.
5) A way to find a potential agent appropriate for your work: cruise a book store, select a volume similar to yours, and check out the acknowledgment page that often lists the name of the agent for that work. Then in your email and letter write that the recipient represented such and such work which you enjoyed reading and that your work is of the same genre and might be of particular interest to the agent.
6) Provide an estimate of the number of words of the work and length of time it would take to complete it. [non-fiction. Fiction work should be complete, polished and ready to go.]

See you in a few days – and remember. Keep writing!
Nancy Q.

The Power of “THE END”

     December 31, 2010 was our self-imposed deadline. We typed “THE END” tonight at 9:19 PM, simultaneously, even though we are almost 1000 miles apart.  “Merciful Blessings” is a 60,000 word Southern women’s fiction book that I and my good friend (and now-writing partner) JJ Dumont talked about writing for years. And now, we’ve completed our first draft, two days ahead of schedule.

We started the character building and plotting during the second week of July when JJ was sufficiently recovered from her 7am-6pm job as an elementary school teacher (August through June) in NJ, and I was coherent enough to put a full sentence together after shoulder surgery, here in Florida. August flew by as we crammed in chapters and minor edits, killed off characters, erased others, and battled family events like visits to and from relatives,  a funeral or two, and for me, the launch of a new business. September saw JJ back to the day job, October I toured the writing conference circuit, then came Thanksgiving and Christmas looming on the horizon.

After we got over our whooping and hollering about completing the first draft, we talked about what worked for us in this collaborative process. We agreed that the word count we accomplished during November, when we participated in NANOWRIMO (nanowrimo.com) put us over the top on making our deadline. Had we not forced ourselves into that framework of write, write, write, I doubt that we’d have gotten this completed.

We writers all have the best of intentions, don’t we? We’ll write when _____. Just fill in the blank. Thanks to magical and talented writers like Christine Bush and April Kihlstrom, I learned years ago to make every free moment count and not to rely on those lovely, long, uninterrupted hours that allow me to compose perfect prose. And JJ had the same teachers. We are prone to write scenes and notes on tiny, purse-sized note pads, our Alphasmart units, or a computer if handy.

JJ’s mom has had very serious and difficult heath challenges and JJ can spend up to 10 hours some weeks sitting in waiting rooms, but she puts that time to good use. If she’s not writing, she’s working on the characters for the next book in the series, or making a note about something we’ve messed up in the draft (and there’s no shortage of that stuff, believe me!)

So,  I know, completing the first draft isn’t the end at all, but merely the completion of stage one. We’re cool with that. But there is an exhilaration and sense of accomplishment that’s hard to beat when one can write “THE END” on a project.

Anyone care to share a story about a project you’ve completed or how you got there? Regardless of where you are in your writing, just keep going. You can’t fix what ain’t written and you can’t sell it, either!!

Happy New Year and keep writing!

Nancy

Merry Christmas To All

The stockings were hung...

Our 2 1/2 year-old grandson got up this morning at 530 and padded down the hallway. His mom, hearing little feet, listened for their return up the hallway and back to his bed, but not another sound was heard. So, she quietly went to look for him. Had he fallen asleep on the couch with the dog maybe?
No, he was standing in the living room staring at the tree.    “What are you doing, bud?” she asked quietly. “There’s no presents,” he answered. “No coal from Santa,” he said, big blue eyes filled with tears. My daughter laughed. “Christmas is tomorrow, kiddo. Today, we go back to sleep.”

I hope that on December 25, 2010, your day is filled with awe and wonder and joy. Gather your memories close and when the festivities are done, write a short story and tuck it away.

Or, include all those guests in writing a “round robin” just for the holiday. Start with “The night before Christmas…” and ask each person to add their own unique and different line. Will you end up with writing that rivals Dickens, or a witty and fun story that would suit Charlie Brown? Is there a kid’s table at your gathering? Give them their own prompt and put the oldest child in charge of capturing their tale. After dessert, share them with each other. Have a brand new video camera? Capture the fun. You could be the next winner of America’s Funniest Video!

Along with the food, family, friends, gifts, pictures, and chaos, be thankful. For the chance to spend time with those special to you; for the opportunities to celebrate your faith your way; for the grace, mercy, and hope that life is.

See you next week. Be safe – and keep writing!

N

The 95 Best Business “New Year’s Resolutions” for a Successful 2011

Hi!! Just a quick note until tomorrow!! My “two cents” posted on Carol Roth’s business blog, again! (I’m number 52, but read them all!)

Please visit her blog for a dose of fun ideas for success! http://www.carolroth.com/unsolicited-business-advice/?p=3863

Remember, writers are business people, too! We can all learn from each other, so share your knowledge and experience where you can!
Have a super Tuesday-Before-Christmas! Be safe and remember writing is a great stress-reducer!! Keep writing!

Nancy

Awe and Wonder

 Since I’ve probably always been a reader and writer, I’m not sure that what goes on in my head is “normal” for other people. Well, at least not people who aren’t writers, that is. We have a cute lapel button that says, “I write to quiet the voices in my head.”  And it’s true. Writers have ideas, and places, and people yaking in their minds all the time. Sort of like an elementary school Christmas concert. Remember those? Fun, and exciting, but usually not in tune or on beat.

 Well, add to this cacophony, a holiday as wondrous as Christmas and a writer’s mind is just about on overload, with wondrous stuff. Every year around this time, I renew my dose of “awe and wonder” in the lights that brighten long, dark winter days, or in the heartwarming stories of people who have little, reaching out to help people with nothing, or through the annual cards that wing their way to our door, catching us up on family and friends that we don’t get to see anymore.

I urge you to write a story this year about a distant or elderly family member. Capture the essence of reconnecting with people in your life, immortalize their story or their personality as only a writer can. Write a poem or short story and turn it into a place card for your holiday dinner guests or keep it in your file for next year when local newspapers and trade magazines are soliciting submissions for their holiday issues!

I’ve mentioned that I had the privilege of  ghostwriting a story with a young man named Isiah Grayer, Jr. He’s 19 years old now and his personal memoir is an astounding story that is inspiring and humbling at the same time. Getting to know Isiah and his family has been one of those awe and wonder events that I’ll cherish forever.  This week, his book was published and released for sale to the public.  I encourage you to buy it and learn what you can from this incredible young man. For more on MIRACLE BOY, visit www.miracleboybook.com. Orders can be placed through the link at the bottom of the page.(All the royalties go to Isiah and will help him pay for his college tuition.)

Catch you next week. In the meantime, I wish you warmth, friends around you, and lots of things to write about!

Keep on writing, Word Warriors!

Nancy

Miracle Boy
Avail 12/20/10

Writing is Fun!

I’m about twenty minutes from dashing out the door to attend a holiday ceremony at the local paper. They ran a short-short story contest for Christmas stories. Now, the local team is very supportive of our Florida Writers Association group here in St. Augustine. And because journalists and freelancers are kindred spirits, I do all I can to support what they’re up to, too. So, I entered the contest and ended up a finalist! Tonight we find out who won, but since I’m excited to have made the final round, I’m already feeling quite the winner. And I think there’s going to be refreshments, too!

But another super fun thing for today? The memoir I wrote for Isiah Grayer, Jr., named MIRACLE BOY, arrived in the mail from the publisher! It’s a feeling that I cannot describe when something you’ve worked on for more than a year is turned into something that will reside on your bookshelf for the rest of your life. I’m so pleased and excited that I’m not sure I’ll be able to sit still tonight at the ceremony.

I cannot recommend short story writing strongly enough to EVERY writer! In addition to honing strong writing skills, you get to finish a story in less than a year, and sometimes, you can even win a pat on the back for it!

Since pats on the back aren’t all that common any more, I recommend you look for every opportunity to give them, as well as receive them.

Remember Word Warriors, keep writing!

Nancy Q.

Miracle Boy
Avail 12/20/10

Life as a Kaleidoscope

I’ve had a busy couple of days – how about you? Last week, one of my spouse’s days off involved us shopping for, and installing two new florescent ceiling fixtures. I will NEVER write the How-To book for that task, I assure you. Without the four-letter expletives, I just couldn’t do it justice. Somehow, we are still speaking to each other…

A ghostwriting memoir project, titled MIRACLE BOY, has come full circle this weekend. In a few short weeks, Isiah will have paperback copies of his story to hold in his hand. We’ve had miracles occur while writing and editing and producing this book. Rik Feeney, who is a publisher and outstanding cover creator, took my poor attempts at a cover design and turned it into a masterpiece. (www.miracleboybook.com) I look forward to watching Isiah’s growth as a young man when his book sells and he gets to speak to people about it.

I was jostled from a sound sleep at 8 AM on Wednesday morning, by the editor who organized a local Christmas short story contest for the paper. What a wonderful way to wake up a writer! She was calling to tell me my entry was a finalist and to invite me to the cocktail reception next week. Another first in my writing career!  

Co-author JJ Dumont and I are only 2 chapters short of completing our first draft of “Merciful Blessings,” a southern women’s fiction novel. The first of a four book series, it’s been fun to explore the dynamics of a three-sibling story with roots as deep in the South as a Magnolia tree. Our writing time has been wrestled away from family travel, family illness, career chalenges, and other things, but we refused to slow down for too long. It should be an interesting first draft, though.

And therein lies the tie-in to the title of tonight’s blog. The trials, the interruptions, the struggles, the laughs, the tears–all of it becomes particles in the kaleidoscope that we should be looking through when we write our stories and create our characters. Plots heavily flavored with Essenced of Disappointment, or Oil of Angst, make strong, interesting plots! And characters, made up of colorful bits and pieces of the characters from our own lives, make for powerful, riveting characters who will grasp our readers by their lapels and hold them in our stories until the end! Don’t write around the challenges, incorporate them!

Embrace the calamities as well as the quieter times! You’ll find you are a better writer for it. The trick is just not to slow down too long…

Light and love,

Nancy

Today is a Great Day to Start…

The “first” of anything, seems to have mystical powers, so I decided, on this 1st day of December, that I am done procrastinating and would get my blog started, even if I’m not entirely sure about the nuances of this medium. I have faith that I’ll learn what I need to learn.  

My intention is to provide an oasis of sorts; a place where writers can come for a dose of faith, hope and grace, then continue on to do battle with life’s challenges to attain our most powerful dreams.

Make no mistake, writers are powerful dreamers. The kind that make amazing worlds come to life, allow us to travel to astonishing places, and grant us either information, inspiration, or imagination to carry on. You, mighty wordsmith, are a true mystical magician! 

So regardless of your obstacles, and I’m aware of how hard some can be, I beg you to carry on. Write 1 page a day, every day. Believe, and learn, and share yourself, and life will burst into technicolor for you!  I hope you’ll come back and share some of your hopes, fears, and dreams with us here! Until you return, may the muse be with  you. 

Nancy

www.NLQuatrano.com

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