Thursday, July 28, 2011

Confidence

I blogged about critique last Thursday. Accepting critique is a funny thing; it's part humility and part confidence.

The humility is obvious. We all want to believe we will be the first author to cough up the perfect rough draft. Any time someone--no matter how much we trust them--points out flaws in our manuscript, it can be hard not to take it personally. However, we can't let our instinctive pride get in the way of our desire to have a better story.

That's where the confidence comes in. Looking over a long editorial letter can be disheartening. "You did well here, but maybe here you should try..." It's easy to overlook the positive comments and start to wonder if you really have what it takes to write a publishable novel.

When you receive critiques, you have to believe in yourself. You have to believe that no matter what suggestions they may make, you are capable of implementing them. You must have enough confidence in your vision for your novel to know how to do that without compromising the story you want to tell.

It's not an easy line to walk, this balance between humility and confidence, but it's something all writers have to learn at some point, or we go a little mad.

Now, to make you smile, here's a video... with a surprise ending.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

101 Things: July Update

When I posted my list of 101 things, I said I would blog once a month with results. That day is today.

July was a very busy month. Jessica Melendez and I launched IndieJane.org on the 11th. Indie Jane is a website by and for indie authors of Jane Austen fiction. We're creating a community of writers who are connected to the larger community of Jane Austen fans.

For Indie Jane, I checked #1 off my list: Join/start a writing group.

Despite my constant need for caffeine (if you've ever wondered why everyone doesn't start a website, it's because it's hard work), I also chose the month of July to go without soda. Even though there are still five days left in July, I'm calling this one a win right now. I've got all of you watching me--I'd feel guilty if I caved when I'd come so close.

Also, as I mentioned here, I am far, far closer to knowing what my move to England will look like. I've spent time since that blog post thinking about it, and my target date is February 2, 2014. I sat down last Sunday and created a month by month calendar, detailing what I need to do in my writing career so I can afford to quit my job by then. It's a scary list, but it's doable.

This is the first time in months that I've actually achieved anything on the list, and I know it was largely because I had my blog friends keeping me accountable. So what am I going to do in August? August is FiNancy month. I'll tackle two of the financial goals: not making extraneous purchases and no eating out.

A reminder regarding Indie Jane:

We've got two giveaways open right now, and another opening tomorrow. Enter by midnight to win a copy of Charlotte Collins by Jennifer Becton. The Kindle drawing will be open until August 11. Another giveaway featuring an Austenesque writer's prize pack will go live tomorrow. It's a big month for us; swing by and take a look!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Getting Critical

Critique is an important part of the writing and self-editing process. As authors, we are rarely the best judges of our own work. We know it too well to be able to look at it objectively.

I have two separate groups of friends reading HIS GOOD OPINION. The first is a group of three critique partners. After I finish three edits on my own, I send a section of the story to them. They look over it, pointing out things like transcription errors (I dictate my novels), poor grammar, and places that need more detail work.

By the time I receive chapters back from them, at least three weeks has usually passed. I've pushed on with the story, and both the distance of time and narrative allows me to look at their suggestions with a more objective eye.

I'll be honest: At this point, I accept pretty much every suggestion they make. Their job is to point out the things that would take my story from good to great. I chose them because I trust their judgment, and they have not disappointed me.

After I've gone over critiques, I let those chapters sit for a few weeks. Then I go back through yet again and add some polish. I check for things like -ing verbs and unnecessary adverbs. When the story is as good as I can get it, I send it to my beta readers. Their instruction is to point out anything that takes them out of the story.

Once again, I follow the bulk of their suggestions. To be blunt, I see no reason to send my story to people I don't trust. If they question something, they are probably right. My only true exception to this rule is when making the change would not fall in line with my writing style, or that of Jane Austen.

Bottom line: Remember these people want your story to be the very best it can be. Trust them, but don't lose sight of the story you want to tell.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Austenesque Extravaganza

Reminder: You can still enter to win a Kindle at Indie Jane. The giveaway is open until August 11.

This August, Meredith of Austenesque Reviews is hosting a month-long celebration of Austenesque novels and the authors who write them. Each day of the week has a theme: Sociable Sundays, My Recommendation Mondays, Traveling Tuesdays, etc. The themes are a balance between new content from Meredith and some fun and games for her readers.

Tuesday and Thursdays she's linking to posts on other blogs--including Austen Aspirations! Tuesday, August 2 is my official Traveling Tuesday shout-out, but I decided to go a bit beyond the call of duty and do a series of five posts, one for each consecutive Tuesday in August.

I'll be blogging on the building of an Austenesque sequel, starting with choosing a scenario, then the hero etc. This is an audience participation series, so come prepared to get involved.

I hope you'll check out the Austenesque Extravaganza, and come back here on August 2 for my first post on the Austenesque novel.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Book That Changed My Life

Five years ago, I started wondering if maybe I should move. Not just to a different neighborhood, or even to another city, but abroad. I didn't know why exactly (and I'm still not sure), but I felt restless--like I just wasn't where I belonged.

It didn't take much thought to choose England for my new home. I've been an Anglophile for a very, very long time. Books are probably at the root of the initial obsession as well, but frankly it's been so long I honestly can't remember.

I planned a trip, which I referred to as a recon mission. I wanted to know exactly what I was getting myself in for by moving there. After all, my only previous experience with England was two weeks in London over Christmas in 1997. I was pretty sure things had changed since then.

That trip got postponed at least twice due to finances, but finally I went in March. As you know if you've read my #DarcyHunt entries, I had an absolutely fabulous time. Everything went right. England opened its arms to me and said, "Welcome. You'll feel at home here." (Only this was said in a much more English-y/much less Midwestern kind of way.)

Well... a funny thing happened. Knowing how right it felt made me wonder if I was wrong. I second-guessed myself. Did I really want to move overseas? How would I like England as a permanent resident?

I have spent the last three months in limbo, not sure exactly what I wanted to do. Then on Saturday night, I picked up The Last Little Blue Envelope by Maureen Johnson and I read this:

Home. It was a nice thought. She had missed her parents, her friends... but the word didn't have quite the same meaning anymore. England was home too. So much of her was here.

[...]

She wanted this train to break down, for her flight to be canceled, for immigration to tell her that she wasn't allowed to go. She wanted London itself to rise up and refuse to let her pass out of its boundaries.


And just like that, I knew what I needed to do. I know there will be obstacles ahead, legal ones in particular. I know I have financial obligations I need to meet first. I know my cat is absolutely going to hate me for taking her across the ocean, and I know she'd hate me even more if I left her behind.

Despite all that, I know that if I don't do this, I will regret it for the rest of my life. (I swear, I did not intentionally paraphrase the proposal from Runaway Bride.)

England is home, too. Just like Ginny, so much of me is there. I can't wait until the actual me part of me is there as well.

A few giveaway reminders before you go:

1) I launched a website on Monday. IndieJane.org is giving away a free Kindle during our inaugural month, so slip on over and enter to win. While you're there, take a look around--it's a site for both indie authors and lovers of Jane Austen fiction. 

2) Remember Absolute Liability, the book I featured in last week's post on writing cross-genre? My friend (and Indie Jane co-owner) Jessica is giving away FIVE COPIES! Check out her blog to win.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Indie Jane is Here


Presenting Indie Jane:
The Premiere Independent Austen Community

Today is the official launch of IndieJane.org, a community of both indie authors and readers of Jane Austen fiction. Jessica Melendez and I have been hard at work to create a site that will offer something unique for all Janeites.

For Everyone:

We are offering one giveaway a week during our inaugural month, including a Wi-fi Kindle with special offers. Check out IndieJane.org for more information on how to enter. 

For Readers:

In our chat room and on our message boards, you will have a chance to meet some fabulous self-published Austen authors. You'll find reviews of their books on our blog, and weekly posts about Jane.

We'll also run special events, such as read-alongs and movie nights in the chat room. For the reader, Indie Jane is a place to meet other Janeites and make new friends. 

For Authors:

Indie Jane celebrates the self-published author of Austenesque literature. Like you, Jessica and I are hacking our way through the undergrowth of the publishing world, forging our own path. This is something that's always easier done when you have a trailblazer ahead of you. We'll share self-pub hints and general writing  tips we come across, leaving you with more time to work on your story.

We also know how hard it can be to market your book as an indie author. Indie Jane offers you a chance to meet your potential readers in a casual manner. We all love Jane, so right away we've got something in common--readers and authors alike.

And one more thing for authors: Indie Jane has ad space available. We are currently running a special promotion; one month free or two months for $15. Yes, that is one month free with no obligation to purchase the second month. The space is 128p by 250p, or you can send your art to contact@indiejane.org and we will size it appropriately.

There is so much more to Indie Jane than I could ever put in one blog post. It's a community, it's a resource, it's a marketing opportunity. Whether you are a reader or writer of Austenesque literature, or just someone who loves Jane, there is something for you--so come on over to IndieJane.org and check us out!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Writing Cross-Genre

Back in February, I featured Charlotte Collins in the first of my Austenesque Lessons. Last week, Jennifer Becton released her second book. It's not another Austen novel (though Caroline Bingley is coming soon).

Absolute Liability is a contemporary mystery/thriller. Julia Jackson, the heroine, is an insurance fraud investigator for Georgia's Department of Insurance. One day, she took a coffee break from the insurance company she was working out of and learned on her way back to the office that she'd been abducted.

Obviously, the victim wasn't her. Equally plain is the fact that she was the target, which generates a suspect list drawn from her current cases. The DOI sends her a hot ex-Navy partner to wrap up those investigations--and to keep her safe.

I loved this book. The plot was tight, with no holes that left me wondering at the end. Both Julia and her partner, Mark Vincent, were well-drawn, three dimensional characters. The southern flair added a unique spark and left me wishing for some sweet tea. If you like mysteries and need a summer read, this is my recommendation.

However, it is quite a departure from the world of Jane Austen. Classic wisdom states that an author should stick with one genre, at least for their first few novels. "You're building a brand," they say, "and if your books are too different, readers won't know what to expect." That seems to sell the readers short, but the advice is oft-repeated.

So how does Jennifer make this work? First and most importantly, she writes stellar books, no matter what genre they are. The same attention to character details that made Charlotte Collins stand above the crowd is here in Absolute Liability. She knows the characters, she knows the plot, and she knows how to write.

Secondly, she understands how both genres work. Every genre has its own rules and clich├ęs, and ignorance of that stops many writers from succeeding at breaking the genre barrier. When I first read Charlotte Collins, I was impressed with the research Jennifer had done into the Regency period. Her details were realistic, which made the novel an enjoyable read. In Absolute Liability, I saw the same attention to detail. Her pacing in particular was impeccable, and we all know that can make or break a mystery.

Finally, she developed a sense of community with her readers in between the two books. This is that elusive thing known as platform. She didn't disappear after releasing Charlotte Collins in September and only resurface last week to pimp her new novel. Her readers got to know her in those ten months and wanted to support her new venture.

So really, the path to writing in multiple genres isn't any different than the path to writing in one. Do good work, do your research, connect with readers. Hmmm... maybe those readers aren't so easily confused after all.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Is Darcy Too Sexy?

I've spent the last year working with Mr. Darcy in very close quarters. If anyone is qualified to judge his sex appeal, I am--and let me tell you, he has it in spades.

But too sexy? I think that's going too far, but perhaps I'm biased. Watch the video and tell me what you think.