resort at Cozumel, Mexico
Books, Travel, Writing

Writing My Way to the Island of Cozumel

resort at Cozumel, Mexico
Dolphinaris Cozumel Island Mexico, photo by Susanne Davidson, flickr.com

 

I’m feeling optimistic for a better month on this first day of August. Maybe by day 31 it will be a different story, but for today I’ll take optimism.

July was a rough month for a lot of people and for the nation. Some people unplugged, some dug in, some lamented and others did all three. I’m somewhere in between, with a sprinkling of ‘counting my blessings’.  

During the last two weeks, I’ve read numerous blogs and I’m surprised how some writers can put out daily posts. Most of my writing has been confined to revising a work in progress, completing a short story for submission to an anthology, and reworking my query for Brenda Drake’s next #PitchWars2016.* And in between that, organizing our writer’s group retreat for October. I’m exhausted.

My work in progress is about a young woman who works at a botanica, or herb remedy shop, and concocts a ‘love potion’ that goes awry. Parts of the novel take place in Oaxaca, Mexico. I haven’t been there but I’m seriously considering taking a trip, especially after researching the pyramids and the city itself. I’ve added several pins to my Pinterest storyboard.

I’m working feverishly to get through another round of revisions so I can relax on a trip to Cozumel, an island off the Yucatan peninsula in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo. I love that name, Quintana Roo. I understand that Joan Didion gave her daughter that name.

The sea beckons, although I can’t swim. Maybe they have adult floaties so I can pretend to snorkel at the reefs and see the giant turtles. Or I can sit on the beach with a fish taco and a drink.

I plan to climb the pyramids of Tulum and explore the San Gervasio Mayan Archaeological site, although this particular pyramid looks eerie.

Tulum Pyramid, photo by K. Bauscardt on flickr.com
Tulum Pyramid, photo by K. Bauscardt on flickr.com

For sure, I’ll take the two books I’m reading, “Pierced By The Sun,” by Laura Esquivel. It’s very different than “Like Water For Chocolate.” The other novel is by Helena Maria Viramontes, “Moths and Other Stories.” I’ve read two of the author’s other books and find her writing visceral and engaging. Not anything I’d expect from a Cornell University professor. 

And in the evening, I’ll put on my dressy sandals and dance to the light of the moon (or the overhead lights, whichever comes first).

So after this short post, I’m back to re-writing so that in a couple of weeks I can enjoy this view:

Cozumel sunset, photo by Cristopher Gonzalez
Cozumel sunset, photo by Cristopher Gonzalez

 

*If you’re a writer of Middle Grade to Adult fiction, this pitch opportunity may be for you.

See you at the end of the month. Be well. 

 

 

Writing, writing conferences, writing tips

Lessons Learned at the WD Conference

 

Two words for the Writer’s Digest Novel Conference in L.A: Worth It!

A couple of weeks of craft workshops jammed into two and a half days may be overwhelming, but there was lots of value for $249.

Twenty plus pages of facts, thoughts, post-its to self, and business cards fill my note book so this will be a two parter.

I’ll start at the beginning and give some highlights. All of the speakers have websites and resources you can find through the links I’ve listed.

Keynote quote speaker Jonathan Maberry spoke on importance of being a good literary citizen,

“don’t be a jackass,”

“any completed first draft is a win even if it’s bad because you completed it.” 

1. An Intro to Structure That Empowers Plotters and Pantsers Alike and Your Story on Steroids- Larry Brooks, Storyfix.com gave us slam dunk specifics. There are too many notes to give here, but go to his site for the free downloads. A gem for me was:

“Know the difference between concept and premise. Develop these before writing the story.”

Believe me, I’m a pantser, now in recovery, and this tip helps tremendously:

“Concept: the dramatic landscape of story that is conceptual; the stage, or arena. No character names needed. Write this in two or three sentences.

Premise: the protagonist has to have a conflict to surmount, a quest. Define your story core.”

2-Your First 50 Pages – Jeff Gerke. This author/editor is the Jim Carrey of the writing world who talked about how neuroscience relates to storytelling.

“In publishing everything is decided on your first 50 pages-if even that.”

Writing has to cause the reader to identify with someone/something in the story. Make the protagonist vulnerable or have some kind of need. Engage the readers mind with action, intrigue, curiosity. The brain is looking for danger, surprise, something new, so start with that in the beginning.

Martha Alderson, Plot Whisperer with her graph
Martha Alderson, Plot Whisperer with her graph

3. Martha Alderson, the Plot Whisper. She uses a plot graph to show you how to correspond your novel with the beginning, middle, and end of a plot.

There are four types of scenes: suspense, dialogue, crisis, and twister.

Catch her detailed mini-workshops on YouTube where she shows you how to plot a novel or screenplay.

Every scene should have a setting…goal…sensory details…forward movement…opposition.. and emotion.

There is a difference between the crisis and the climax of a novel:

Crisis-the antagonist wins, protagonist loses. Climax-protagonist wins and learns everything in the middle.

4. Ask the Agent Panel. A list of pet peeves and suggestions:

Misspelled names…using the words ‘fiction novel,’ bad grammar, writers who don’t read the submission rules,…pitching at inappropriate times. 

As if on cue, when the Q & A period began, a woman pitched her book, “Anyone interested in….” Ugh, it wasn’t pretty.

Search for agents by using Query Tracker, Twitters #MSWL (manuscript wish list), or go to the bookstore, look for books in your genre and on the last page under acknowledgements, the agents name is usually listed. I use Poet and Writers agent listing.

One of the agents said she was looking for a YA set in prison. It was like the heavens opened up when I heard this statement. I had to make myself stop wiggling in my seat and wait for a time when I could tell her I had such a novel. During Q & A I said I had the novel she wanted,  she said send it to me.

Then  I asked a question: whether more emphasis was placed  on the query or the first 10 pages. Two out of three agents said the first pages.

I need 50 pages to know if a book is good, but only 1 to know it’s not.”

 

I hope you found something useful for your writing life. Investigate the presenters sites. Plan to attend a conference on writing craft. Invest in your writing.

If you have a specific question that I may provide information for, please ask me in the comment section.