Monday, April 25, 2011

Back to work, back to reality.

These holidays have been a bit unusual in that I haven't made the usual push forward that I would normally make on the wip. Still, I haven't been completely neglecting all things writerly, but I'll just tell you a little bit about the other things that have been occupying my time first.

We finally, officially, truly bought the apartment of our dreams just outside of Paris (but it's still got the metro, so I'm OK). We tootled off and watched our first sunset from our new front room with a glass of champagne and an over excited two year old. The next day saw us stripping wall paper, filling holes and cleaning walls down. By Wednesday when every decorating deadline we had was out the window, the floor people telephoned and told us they were coming a day early to put the floor down. You could hear the Frog's smile on the phone! So we then went home and started packing. We are now surrounded by 60 odd boxes and I've had to tie the Frog to the sofa today to stop him packing some more. We've enlisted some help for next weekend, as apparently the pink of our bedroom 'ne va pas du tout!' and if anyone fancies some babysitting, we've got at least a million coats to put on in the bubba's room before it's presentable. Oh and the floor should be finished.

So apart from that, I did make it to the whole crit group meeting this month rather than the last half of it. It was a good meeting as those of us who had been to the pitch session were keen to share. We brainstormed ways of sharing our work and set some deadlines (SEPTEMBER) for finishing revisions (aaah!).

So, in case you haven't heard of  it, my crit group has opted to use Dropbox. Dropbox is one of those cloud thingies like Googledocs or Picasa web album. It's a space to put documents that you want other people to have access to, or if you want to back up documents. It has a rather spiffy option where your documents are automatically synced each time you work on them, but this only works if you use the document from the Dropbox folder. For my wip I am working from the dropbox folder so that absolutely everything is backed up straight away, but I'm still a bit scared that my wip is out there, in a cloud, so I've got it on my computer as well! Another advantage of Dropbox is you can have 2GB for free. Having only stored photos on a cloud before, I didn't realise that in terms of documents, that's actually quite a lot of space. My wip took up 0.2% of the space, so now I've copied EVERYTHING on it. And there is a folder for my crit group where we can drop our files in for critique.

As well as that, I recently joined Litopia. It was mentioned on Elen Caldecott's post over at ABBA last month and I thought it sounded interesting. In my quest to gather crit partners, I thought this site might prove interesting. As well as asking people to be your crit partner you can also apply to become a full member and have your work critiqued by lots of other people (I'm not exactly sure how this works), but the ultimate goal is that one day you can PITCH directly to an agent. At the moment I'm dipping my toes in gently, but someone did ask to be my crit partner. Funnily enough she comes from a place I had never heard of two months ago and then I spent a half hour in the company of a teacher who explained to me how he was going to retire and farm bees there. I don't think I will ever look at honey in the same way. I thought it was only wine that was treated with such reverence, but then maybe I'm a little biased on that front. Oops, big digression there. Yes, crit partner, got one, so we'll see how that works out.

And then tomorrow it's back to work, so a little semblance of normality will return until the paint roller is forced into my hand again next weekend.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

While I'm away...

While I'm busy painting, packing and peeking quickly at blogs, twitter and Facebook, here is what I'm listening to.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

A moving apology

I have not forgot,
cyber pals, wise words, black type.
I'll be back soon.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

By George! I did it

I actually got to a SCBWI event. You see, at no point did I jinx things by saying that I would be going, I just mentioned it, kind of casually, and there we go, I actually got there.

So as I casually mentioned before, on Friday, SCBWI France organised a cocktail party/literary discussion and pitch session with literary agent at New York's Scott Triemel agency, John Cusick and debut author of the book Girl parts.

We started off discussing the difference between the hook and the heart of the story. And Mr Cusick's ideas about the heart of the story weren't a million miles away from mine. He described it as something that is important to YOU as the writer. It isn't conscious and is usually buried in the first draft, but as you revise and redraft, it's something that will come up again and again and will eventually, as you hone the words on the page, drive the novel.

Now for the hook... eh, my notes are a little vague here and I'm no longer sure if this refers to the hook, but this is what made sense to me. He explained it by using the picture book Caps for sale as an example. He says that the plot should be something surprising but inevitable so in this book, monkeys steal the hat seller's hats and try as he might to get the hats back all that happens is that the monkeys in the trees copy what he does time and time again. Eventually he gets so fed up he takes his own cap of his head and throws it on the floor and the monkeys ... see inevitable.

And lastly for the pitch. Well Mr. Cusick felt that while the heart drives the story, it's not generally included in the pitch. He says you can use the elevator style pitch, that script sellers use: x + z + that certain special je ne sais quoi, because literary agents do watch a wee bit of TV in between reading. Otherwise just sell the best bits.

So, I'm going to assess my own pitch. Well, (Ooks, I hope Mr. Cusick isn't reading this) I didn't practise all of it. The beginning bit was a bit of an adlib where I blurted through who I am and why I wrote the book I wrote and then did my pitch that was full of mystery and intrigue (I thought), introduced the key elements of the plot, without giving too much away and... The first thing Mr. Cusick retorted with was: "Spoil it for me. Tell me exactly what happens?" Luckily, my darling colleague, who had let me practise on her about an hour before had made me do the same thing, so I wasn't completely thrown.

Good things is that Mr. Cusick told me that my subject was currently 'hot', but he hasn't read mine, so I don't know if I'm really hot! I'll find out within 30 days.

Personally (and again I hope Mr. Cusick isn't reading), I wanted this to be a learning experience, I had no idea how to do this pitch thing. So now I have some ideas. Mr. Cusick told me to think about my MC and make sure that my readers knew why she was the MC and no one else and why this was her story and not Morgane's (he picked up on that in a 10 second pitch!). There needed to be a public reason, but also a private reason that drove her. I think in future if I ever get to pitch personally to an agent I will have a better idea. Then again I think it's WAY to nerve racking and I may just stick to boring old query letters. Also, I won't wear noisy necklaces that I fiddle with, or tops with dangly ties that can caught up EVERYWHERE!


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