j. leigh bailey

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Windy City RWA Retreat, Featuring Donald Maass!

Posted by J. Leigh Bailey on November 7, 2014 at 9:50 AM Comments comments (0)

 

 

  

Windy City RWA is proud to present author and literary agent Donald Maass who will be presenting WRITING 21ST CENTURY FICTION, taking place at the Sheraton Lisle Hotel on March 13-14, 2015.

 

WRITING 21ST CENTURY FICTION is an intensive 8-hour master class that teaches techniques that give multi-year bestselling novels their high impact, resulting in both strong story and beautiful writing regardless of category.

 

Registration is $125.00 (Early bird through December 31, 2014) and $150.00 (January 1, 2015-February 28, 2015).

 

Registration includes workshop, Friday Dinner, Saturday continental breakfast and lunch, and a copy of Donald Maass’s WRITING 21ST CENTURY FICTION.

 

For complete details visit our website: http://www.windycityrwa.org/retreat-2015/

   

Hotel rooms available Friday evening at a special Windy City RWA rate of $104.00 per night (until Feb 11, 2015).

 

To register: http://www.windycityrwa.org/windy-city-retreat-registration/

 

My Fellow Delegates--How Model UN Made Me a Better Writer

Posted by J. Leigh Bailey on May 31, 2014 at 12:10 AM Comments comments (0)

  

In college, while attending the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, I was a member of one of our campus’s most prestigious organizations—the Model United Nations team. It may not sound prestigious, but at the time we had the longest consecutive “Best Delegation” streak for the National Model United Nations Conference. I’m pretty sure the team still does, more than 15 years later.

 

For those of you who don’t know, Model United Nations (MUN) is a competition in which students represent the different countries that are members of the United Nations and try and solve the world’s problems through negotiation, resolution writing and speaking.

 

I owe a lot of who I am now to that organization.

 

My social skills (limited though they are).

 

My critical thinking skills.

 

My research skills.

 

My public speaking skills (rusty though they are).

 

My teamwork and leadership skills.

 

And even my writing skills.

 

Granted, I had some talent with writing long before I went to college. And the writing I did in college was a lot different than fiction writing, but I was able to hone some of those skills. Model UN taught me:

 

  1. The importance of word choice—different words, though synonymous, have different connotations. Which word you use in a given scenario changes the whole feel and purpose of a document.
  2. The importance of word placement—when listing ideas or goal, for example, people tend to list their first priority first and work back. It’s a subtle cue in conversation—or writing—that the first idea broached is the most important to that person.
  3. Point of View (Characterization/Voice)—In MUN you represent a country, and it’s not usually the United States. You must compete as that country, representing their interests—not your own. It’s the same for fiction writing—you write from your characters’ point of views, not necessarily your own.

 

I find the correlation between Model UN and writing, especially as regards point of view and characterization, fascinating. Now, when I say point of view, I guess you could say it lends itself more to voice and character than actual perspective. I mean, I’m not breaking MUN resolutions into first or third person. But each nation’s history, politics, economic factors, etc. play a role in how they view the world and the words and ideas they present.

 

There are almost 200 independent countries in the world and none of them have exactly the same history. There are common themes, sure. Colonization, civil war, poverty, industrialization, democracy, theocracy, etc. Each country is unique—just like people.

 

 

In MUN, your speeches, resolutions and negotiations all must be done based on your country’s world view and priorities. You know that phrase, one person’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter? That’s character development and voice in one catchy phrase.

 

A character (country) is defined by their past (history), present situation (current politics, economics, issues, etc.), has goals (objectives) they need to reach. They run into conflict (current politics, economics, issues, etc.) that get in the way of their goals (policies, ideals). If these goals (objectives) are not met, there are consequences (war, protests, debt).

 

The analogy can go further, too. Just like in fiction, there are secondary characters (allies, opposition) with whom our main characters build a relationship (support, conflict) that influence the outcome of a character’s (country’s) goals (objectives).

 

There are even antagonists—those characters (country’s) whose goals (objectives) are in complete opposition of our characters (countries) and get in the way.

 

There are romances—when one character (country) develops a relationship (alliance, business interests, trade agreements) with other characters (countries) and both characters’ (countries’) lives are made better.

 

Seriously, I could go on... think of the different genres of fiction...there is an international, state-level parallel. I told you, fascinating!

 

But I’m digressing... sorry.

 

So, yeah, my MUN days were some of the best of my life. And the reason I’m suddenly waxing poetic about my college activities?

 

Saturday is the 30 year anniversary of the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh Model United Nations Team. No, I wasn’t a member 30 years ago. I fell somewhere in the middle. So, anyway, I’ll be driving up to good ol’ Oshkosh, WI tomorrow. There are a couple of pretty impressive people who will be there...a State Congresswoman, a former CIA operative, a soldier or two ...

 

What groups or experiences had a big influence on your life? 

 

 

Writing Multicultural Characters

Posted by J. Leigh Bailey on December 5, 2013 at 12:45 AM Comments comments (0)

Dear Author had a great post today by Sunita, asking some discussion-starting questions regarding reading romances about People of Color (POC), and whether it makes a difference if the book is written by a person of color or a non-person of color—specifically about authenticity and authority. For readers, in the end, does matter if the author herself is a member of the cultural group she’s writing about?

 

It’s a great post and the comments continue to grow, so I totally recommend that you check out the discussion.

 

This is a very interesting—and pertinent—question for me.

 

I’m going to expand the topic a bit to include culture in general, including regional, and social cultures as well.

 

There are readers who prefer that their multi-cultural and POC novels are written by those that are part of the cultural, POC group that they write about. They want the authors to have some authority in the subject. There are some readers who do not believe that a non-member of the particular group/culture cannot authentically convey or translate that group/culture. Just as there are gay men who do not like to read gay fiction/gay romance written by women.

 

But I write LGBT (m/m) romance. Young Adult gay romance, at that.

 

  • I am not a teenage boy.
  • I am not a gay teenage boy.
  • I’m not a gay woman, so I don’t even fall under the bigger LGBT umbrella.
  • I am not Person of Color.
  • I am not a member of a traditionally marginalized group (okay, yeah, I’m a woman and arguments can be made that women continue to be a marginalized group, but I’m not going there with this post as it, ultimately, doesn’t relate to the meat of the discussion).
  • I’m not poor.
  • I’m not rich.
  • I’m not a member of any religion/faith group.

 

But some of my characters are.

 

More important, in my mind, than whether the author has the authority or life experiences to back up writing about POC, is does the author portray the culture/group authentically, without prejudice or misrepresentation?

 

I believe that a non-POC author can create relatable, authentic POC/multi-cultural characters by:

 

1. RESEARCH

 Without researching the culture and the history of the culture, you end up relying on television stereotypes. Google isn’t enough. In involves reading literature from the group, personal interviews and connections.

 

2. AVOID STEREOTYPES (but not completely).

Are there people who embody the stereotype of a particular cultural group? Absolutely. Are there swishy, sing-songy gay men who enjoy fashion and musical theatre? Sure. Not every gay boy is Kurt from Glee, though. Relying on stereotypes is lazy and harmful—it gives us non-POC authors of POC characters a bad reputation. (See #4 for why you shouldn't avoid stereotypes altogether.)

 

3. AVOID TOKENISM.

This goes hand-in-hand with #2. It also includes things like the gay best friend, or Asian science geek. Kind of like stereotypes, these are characters that are dropped into the story so that the there is a token amount of multiculturalism, but don’t add anything real to the story.

 

4. AVOID WHITE-WASHING.

Stripping the character of all cultural traits--This is the opposite of avoiding the stereotypes. Sometimes an author will be so afraid of being perceived as prejudiced, that they strip their POC characters of any traits that are associated with stereotypes of a particular culture/group. A highly educated, upper-class black man’s life experiences may not be the same as the poor black man in the ghetto, but those experiences are also not going to be the same as a highly educated, upper-class white man’s. Culture and background shape a character. If you can change skin tone or religion or sexual orientation and not have it change the character and how he might act in different situations, the character lacks depth. Good characterization takes into account cultural values and life experiences.

 

5. KNOW YOUR LIMITS.

If there is a culture or group that you aren't familiar with and research isn’t enough for you to create a well rounded, complex, non-stereotypical character, don’t do it. Someday I would love to write a romance about a transgendered person, but the experiences and internal conflict of a transgendered person is so far beyond my current understanding, I couldn’t do that story justice. Not yet, at any rate. Someday, when I’ve developed my writerly chops, I might go there. It’s a fascinating topic, and there are stories that deserve to be told, but until I’m confident I do the story justice, and without misrepresentation, it won’t be told by me.

 

Authors explore the human experience. Even when the characters are paranormal or fantastical, ultimately it is the human experiences that make the characters relatable. Not their religion. Not their ethnicity. Do these cultural parts of the characters’ lives matter. ABSOLUTELY. That’s part of creating a realistic, dynamic character.

 

Ultimately, in my opinion, it comes down to whether the author can portray the authentic experiences of POC/multicultural characters. Whether that authenticity is created through life experience or through research and interaction matters little.

 

 

   

Traveling Thru Africa... from Home

Posted by J. Leigh Bailey on September 25, 2013 at 1:15 PM Comments comments (0)

One of my favorite parts of starting a new project is the research.

 

In my first novel I didn’t have too much to research. I got to look up some information on baseball and soccer, parts of the uniforms, seats at Wrigley Field. Nothing too in-depth or out of the realm of the normal.

In my second novel I got to learn a lot about power tools, the location of a state park, the rivalry between two colleges in the same town, and the name of the truck stop near Northfield, MN. Again, nothing too in-depth or out of the ordinary.

 

My third book, well, that one is going to be fun. It takes place in Cameroon, Africa. I’ve never been to Cameroon (or anywhere in Africa, really). Researching it—everything from the major airports and transportation infrastructure to the local flora and fauna—is So. Much. Fun. Using Google Maps, I was able to zoom in on a satellite image and trace the route my characters will take while crossing the country. I was able to tell when the roads went from being paved to dirt. I found the absolute *best* place for them to be kidnapped by mercenary rebels from the neighboring Central African Republic. I could see the actual stone wall that separated the countries and the highway that was *right there*!

 

I could not have written this story fifteen years ago, at least not with the same level of authenticity.

 

Because I went to college for International Relations with an emphasis on Africa and the Middle East, I knew that there was more to Africa than the stereotypes we westerners normally see. It’s not all safaris through the savanna or starvation in the Sahara. It’s not all primitive tribal structures and tiny villages. Do those things exist? Of course, but there are also big cities with shopping malls and McDonald’s restaurants.

 

 

Instead of relying on the stereotypes, thanks to the amazing tools of the technological age, I almost have too much information. I want to include it all! But I have to be judicious in what I incorporate where. My main character is not a zoologist or botanist, so he wouldn’t know a mahogany tree from a mangrove.

 

The great part, though, is that because of the route they are taking to get from Yaounde to the fictional refugee camp that is their destination, they get to experience several different geological areas. Cameroon is considered the “little Africa” within the continent, because every geographical terrain found in the continent is also found in the country. Also, more than half of the animal species in Africa can be found in Cameroon.

 

Thanks to the internet and the huge resources it can link me to, I know exactly how long it will take for my character to fly from Chicago to Yaounde and where he will have to layover. I also have turn by turn directions from Yaounde to the camp. I’ve also learned the intricacies of the insulin pump, how to refill it, how to wear it and the effects of certain stressors on people with diabetes. I love that I don’t have to plan a big research trip (though I do enjoy those) or do a lot of up-front research. I can write my story and when I need to know something, Google comes to the rescue.

 

And, since my research has taken me to very shudder-inducing territory, I’m sharing a snippet of my new WIP that relates to some of the “wildlife” in Cameroon. Enjoy!

 

 

 

          A flash of red caught my eye. My backpack sat under the cot by my feet. I lifted the bag and—“Holy shit!” I tossed the bag across the small enclosure and swung my legs up onto the cot. There, where it had apparently nestled in for the night under my bag, was the biggest fucking spider I had ever seen. Nightmarishly big. Huge. As big as my hand at full-spread. As big as a fricking pie. A furry fricking pie. Rust-colored fur encased its freakishly large body. “What the fuck is that?”

          I didn’t appreciate the gales of laughter coming from the other cot. I’m a guy and, on the whole, spiders and bugs didn’t bother me. But when the spider was big enough to crush my skull, I got a little squeamish.

          Henry stood up and reached for the mutant arachnid.

          “Don’t touch it!” I may have squealed like a girl. Maybe.

          “It won’t hurt you. Unless you’re allergic to spider bites, a bite from this guy wouldn’t do more than irritate your skin for a couple of days.”

          “Fuck that. If that thing bit me, it could take a finger. Or maybe an arm.” I scooted back on the cot until I hit the plywood board of the wall. I was pretty sure, if it came down to it, I could break through the cheap particle board to get out. I thought it might have become necessary when Henry actually picked it up. Its legs, and I wasn’t exaggerating, were as long and thick as my fingers and wriggled madly as Henry turned it so that I could see its face.

         “It’s a giant baboon spider. Its mouth isn’t big enough to do more than take a nip.”

          A shudder wracked my body. “Get that thing away from me. Or get me a shotgun.”

  

  

This is a giant baboon spider... as you can see, from the right angle, it kind of looks lilke a monkey with a creepy smile.

 

Back to School--Voice Lessons

Posted by J. Leigh Bailey on August 18, 2013 at 6:35 PM Comments comments (0)


Schools across the country are starting up again, and though I graduated years ago, my education is far from complete.

   

In my goal of improving my writing, I, like many others, take the occasional class. Recently I took a course at the Graham School at the University of Chicago on creating vivid voices. I was particularly interested in this one because one of the first rejections I ever received said, “love the story, love the characters, didn’t love the voice.” That’s stuck with me. Also, I struggle sometimes making sure my seventeen-year-old boy characters don’t sound like thirty-something women.

  

Voice has always been that thing that I could never quite define. Like good art, I knew it when I saw it, but I’d be darned if I could explain it to someone. With this class, though, everything suddenly made sense. It was like the microeconomics class I took in college. After failing it two semesters in a row, suddenly the third time it became crystal clear.

And it all started with a song. Literally.

   

One of the most frequently covered songs of all time is Eleanor Rigby by the Beatles.

  

We listened to three different versions of the song (none was the Beatles’ version). We analyzed the different songs, making note of vocal technique, use of silence, instrumentals and background, phraseology, rhythm, and how these different aspects created a specific mood and style. The lyrics were the same in each version, but every performance created a hugely different experience.

  

The first version of Eleanor Rigby we listened to was by Joan Baez. What we noticed in her interpretation of the song was that she maintained the same tone and pace, a very slow, mournful piece. It was almost dirge-like. She was one of the lonely people and it was hopeless.

   

   

   YouTube link to Joan Baez--Eleanor Rigby

   

The second version of Eleanor Rigby was by Aretha Franklin. Despite the identical lyrics, it was a vastly different song from Baez’s version. Franklin’s song was triumphant, celebratory. She uses erratic pacing—rapid-fire diction paired with unusual pauses—to create the exciting tone. In her version she was Eleanor Rigby and she couldn’t figure out why all those people were lonely. If they wanted fun and companionship, they just had to come over and hang out with her and her pals.

  


  

  YouTube Link to Aretha Franklin--Eleanor Rigby

  

The third version of Eleanor Rigby was by David Cook during his American Idol competition. His version was different still. His vocal technique was edgier, angrier than the others. The regular, strong beat created a militant, rebellious tone. He was on a mission, a mission to save the lonely people.

   


   

  YouTube link to David Cook--Eleanor Rigby

  

Using the different songs to illustrate voice was brilliant! Everything just sort of settled into place for me. I finally got it!

   

Now, because I am one who loves lists, here’s a more specific breakdown of what is included in voice:

  

VOICE is made up of:

 

1. Style—

a. Diction—word choices, formal, middle or informal, colloquial
b. Syntax—sentence structure and phrasing
  c. The use and extent of figurative language

2. Tone—
a. Funny (dry, deadpan, slap-stick, absurdist, sarcastic)
b. Ernest, ironic
c. Optimistic, pessimistic
d. Forthcoming, withheld

3. Personal Concerns—
a. Terminology and jargon
b. Interests/passions
c. Political correctness
d. Mainstream media/pop culture references

 

   

There it is, voice in the nutshell.

 

So, what does the new school year bring for the rest of you? 


 

  

 

  


 

Who's to Blame for a Bad Book?

Posted by J. Leigh Bailey on June 11, 2013 at 12:20 AM Comments comments (2)

Okay... Blame is maybe too harsh a word.

 

And Bad might be an over-statement.

 

 

Here's the background that  prompted me to ask such a question.

 

There's this author (who I shall refer to a The Author, rather than naming names) who I've been reading for a while. For a long time, I considered her one of my favorites in the M/M Romance genre. Her books often had characters with depth and real conflict. She addressed issues like alcoholism, drug dependency, PTSD. Intimacy between the characters drove the plot forward and meant something. One the whole, they were darned good books.

 

Then there was a brief period of time when she didn't have any new releases. When she did start releasing new books, they were under a new publisher. But they weren't... good.

 

The new characters were flat and boring. There was almost no plot and the barest (hardly worth mentioning) conflict, either internal or external. There were ever a couple of books that I Did Not Finish.  And I amost never DNF. Once I start a book, no matter how bad it is, I'm compelled to keep going, just in case it gets better. And, well, I need to know how it ends, right?  Not these. One was a random string of loosely connected sex scenes with no plot, and despite what my family may think, I don't generally read sex scenes for the sake of sex scenes, no matter how hot they might be.

 

So, seeing that, I have to wonder:

 

1.  Was the author always sort of mediocre and kick-ass editing at the previous publisher made her books that much better?

 

2.  Did the author put more time and effort in previous works and just stopped trying and that's why she had to find a new publishing company--one with different quality standards?

 

Do I blame the author? Sure. After all, they wrote whatever it was that got published that dissapponted me. Don't get me wrong, I give HUGE props to anyone who can finish a manuscript, submit it and get a contract for it. That in and of itself, a very big deal. I'm a member of several RWA groups, and I see how many REALLY GOOD authors can't get a contract. So, yeah, the author has obviously put in time and effort to creating the story. But ultimately, they are responsible for giving the reader characters and plots, and if those characters and plots are boring or non-existent, that's on them.

 

Do I blame the editor? Sure. Someone had to actually acquire the mediocre novel and agree to publish it. Did that person read it and think it was great? Or were they just trying to make sure they had more product to sell (even if it wasn't the best product it could be) in an attempt to try and compete in the ever-expanding, increasingly immediate publishing world? Has expediency replaced quality?

 

Maybe that's the question I should be asking instead of who is to blame for a bad book.  Has expediency replaced quality in publishing?

 

Not in all ways, of course. If that were the case, someone would have snapped up my novel and opened it up for digital distribution by now. (It's either that, or my novel is really, really bad... not the train of thought I want to jump on.)

 

It's only in recent years that I've really started to be concerned about which publishing company publishes what books.  Ever since I got my Kindle and the number of e-book, self- and traditional publishers has grown so much, I've noticed that differnet publishing companies have vastly different quality output.  It's gotten to the point, and I know it's unfair, that I'll verify the publisher of a prospective book purchase before I buy it. I shy away from self-publishing (and I'm probably missing great works) and from publishers I've never heard of. There are some publishers that I avoid altogether, no matter how good the book sounds, because I've been burned too many times by bad editing (both content and line-edits) and bad writing (on the other hand, there are a couple of really great authors, who I want to tell to try a different publisher, because they might be getting judged unfairly by being associated with a publisher that isn't as consisent with the quality of their books).   

 

I can forgive a lot in a book. Random typos, shallow character arcs, cliche'd plot points. If it's entertaining and diverting, it's fine. It doesn't have to follow all of the "rules" of writing to the letter. I'll overlook an adverb or twelve. I enjoy a little variety in dialogue tags once in a while. What bothers, me, though, is a character's name that changes half-way through the book, or a glaring typo in the back-cover blurb (if it's in the blurb, how many mistakes will I find in the novel itself? Enough to be drawn out of the story?). Or plot in which nothing happens to chacracters who are completely cardboard. If I'm going to pay good money for a book, I want to at least have the assurance that someone cared enough to do at the very least, some basic editing (content and line edits). If the author and the publisher don't care enough to make the product the best it can be, why should I care enough to buy it? Just because something can be published, doesn't mean it should be published.

 

So, do I sound like a complete book snob? Who do you think is to "blame" for a "bad" book?

 

 

 

 

 

Voice Lessons

Posted by J. Leigh Bailey on May 27, 2013 at 10:40 AM Comments comments (0)

To me, VOICE is one of those intangible writing things that you know it when you see it, but can't really explain it. It's a combination of what is said (both in dialogue and in exposition) and how it's said. It's not just attitude or snark (though that kind of voice is easier to spot), it's also the rhythm and sentence structure, the vocabulary. It's important to keep voice consistent and authentic.

 

I struggle with voice. I have a fairly distinct (albeit a little boring) voice of my own, which can be seen in my posts and e-mails, even in person. It's also in my writing. The problem is that my voice is very ME and I'm a 30-something adult woman. My characters, on the other hand, are 17-19 year old boys. We don't think or talk the same. I try to reconcile the two. I don't want to pander.  A young adult can spot a fake a mile away. If it's not authentic, they'll know it.

 

I'm combing through my manuscript Guyliner in an attempt to keep the young-ish voice consistent. It's been pointed out that the first half is pretty good, but that it maybe gets a bit muddled in the second half.  And since I'm tweaking other things, I figured it was a good time to go through and see if I can tweak any of the aspects that make my 17-year-old boys sound like 34-year-old women.

 

In my combing, I have run across some fun words or phrasing that definitely had to be adjusted. Not because 17-year-olds don't have advanced vocabularies or use old-fashioned phrases (hey, some might!), but these are words and phrases that Graham and/or Connor probably would not use.

 

1.  Euphoria--a great word. Connor's well-read and educated enough that he knows the word, but it's not likely to be used in his everyday thoughts.

 

2.  Perilously--another great word, but kind of old-fashioned. Makes me think of Sherlock Holmes or Agatha Christie, not soccer players. "Poirot's Perilous Parade..."

   

3. "Politely shunning the advance." Apparently my guys are in a Regency ballroom, not a dance club.

 

4. "Incited Connor to violence." A little too police-report. Does nothing to add to the sexual tension of the scene.

 

5. Prolong the return to reality = put off reality

 

6. "No matter how elegantly situated or roomy the accomodations..." Really, Graham? Like you're not actually thinking "No matter how fancy the big room was..."

 

7. "I'm sorry I'm being such a crabby ass." Um... I could see a woman, especially a family member, telling Connor he was being crabby, but I have some trouble imagining him calling himself crabby. He'd probably stick to "an ass" or, if he was really sorry, "such an ass."

 

8. Looking for "advice or insight into the situation." That might be the goal, but he's probably going to mom so she can tell him what he should do.

 

9.  The uncensored movement = dumb-ass move.

 

10. Harrumph. I love this word, but decided it was defintely too old fashioned. Especially since it was a teenage girl doing the harrumphing.

 

Now, just to be clear, it's not that I think young adults would not know or understand these words or phrases. But, in an effort to keep things authentic, most teens would be unlikely to use these words in either their every day conversations or their internal thoughts. And, with some of them, they don't quite fit the mood I'm trying to create in the scenes.

 

Also, this in no way encompasses all that is "voice." But I'm not qualified to expound upon that topic. Like great art, I know it when I see it, but can't explain it for crap. :)

 

Some examples of authors/books with great voice:

  • Will Grayson, Will Grayson by David Levithan and John Green--both Will Graysons and both authors=AMAZING! 
  • Charlie Davidson Series by Darynda Jones
  • Black Dagger Brotherhood by J. R. Ward
  • Paranormalcy by Kiersten White
  • Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
  • Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

 

What are some of your favorite examples of great "voice"?

GOALS! I haz 'em

Posted by J. Leigh Bailey on April 24, 2013 at 5:00 AM Comments comments (0)

At the recent Dreamspinner Press conference I attended, the awesome Andrew Grey--one of the most prolific authors I've ever met--gave a presentation on the business of writing and creating and achieving goals. I figure he knows what he's talking about. His 2012 goal was to write over 1 million words. And he did it!  Seriously! He dedicates himself to writing 3,000 words a day, rain or shine, with a day job and a life, and that doesn't count the editing required during the editorial process of getting his books published. Crazy. But, obviously, effective.

 

 

  This is the crazily productive Andrew Grey and the equally awesome Shira Anthony at the Dreamspinner Press 2013 Conference. 

 

So, since I'm still riding high with the great info I got over the weekend--and the focus that comes with it, I have outlined a very specific plan of action to achieve my writing goals for the year. And I'm publishing them out to the world in hold myself accountable.

 

Here's the plan:

 

Complete Nobody’s Hero by September 1, 2013

    Step 1—Complete Full Synopsis by May 15

        • Summarize/synopsize 15 chapters a week (3 a day for 5 days) for 2 weeks

   Step 2—Write –80,000 Words (or until finished with the draft) by July 1

        • 10,000 words per week (~1,500 words per day) for 8 weeks

   Step 3—Edit—Round 1—“Noting” for inconsistencies, plot holes, etc. Complete by July 15

        • “Note” 4 chapters a day ~7 days

        • Revised based on “notes” ~7 days

   Step 4—Edit—Round 2—Edit for Voice by July 22

        • Complete Brad’s POV ~3 days

        • Complete Danny’s POV ~2 days

        • Revise based on edits ~2 days

   Step 5—Send to Beta readers , returned by August 15

   Step 6—Proof read (Grammar, spelling, passive voice, technicalities, etc.) by August 15

        • Proof 2 chapters a day, 5 days a week, for 3 weeks

  Step 7—Revise based on Beta reader feedback, complete by September 1.

  Step 8—Send to Saritza on September 1.

 

So, what do you think? Do you find goal-setting to be helpful? How do you stay organized and stay on task?

 

Some Truly Horrible Similes and Metaphors

Posted by J. Leigh Bailey on January 3, 2013 at 3:25 PM Comments comments (0)

_____________________________________

 

Metaphors and similes. They are just two tools in the writer’s toolbox, and can be great for your story. But they can also drag your story down and kick the reader out of the rhythm. Lay them on too thick, work to hard to find comparisons, or get to “fancy” and your masterful metaphor is just going to sound … well, silly.

 

Don’t believe me? Check these out!

 

1. Worn down at the edges like a Times Square hooker, the caretaker’s last tooth lay on the floor like a yellow Chiclet.

 

2. He spoke with the wisdom that can only come from experience, the like a guy who went blind because he looked at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it and now goes around the country speaking at high schools about the dangers of looking at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it.

 

3. When she stepped out of her dress, she had the body of a 90-year-old nun, if the nun looked as young, attractive, and sexy as the dame standing in front of me.

 

4. He was as tall as a six-foot-three-inch tree.

 

5. As I watched through the slatted shades, her bosom bounced like her suspicious husband’s first check.

 

6. The revelation that his marriage of 30 years had disintegrated because of his wife’s infidelity came as a rude shock, like a surcharge at a formerly surcharge-free ATM.

 

7. The killer was a misplaced comma in the jaunty, happy sentence that made up the party crowd.

 

8. Long separated by cruel fate, the star-crossed lovers raced across the grassy field toward each other like two freight trains, one having left Cleveland at 6:36 p.m. traveling at 55 mph, the other from Topeka at 4:19 p.m. at a speed of 35 mph.

 

9. His face looked like an ice sculpture. Not one of those pretty ones in the middle of a cruise ship buffet, but the kind they do in a contest with a chainsaw—and it had been out in the heat too long.

 

10. He fell for her like his heart was a mob informant and she was the East River.

 

11. There was something funny about the kidnapping crime scene that Special Agent Frievald couldn’t quite place, and the thought stuck with him throughout the rest of the day, like those tiny little bits of the circumferent skin from the bologna slices on a foot-long Subway Cold Cut Trio that get stuck in between the last two molars on the upper left, on the tongue side where you can’t possibly reach them with a toothpick, your fingernails or even a systematically straightened paper clip, they just sit there and make everything you eat at your next meal taste vaguely like vinegar and mayonnaise, and then somehow—quietly but miraculously—they disappear by themselves in the middle of the night while you’re asleep, just like the visiting Countess appeared to have done.

 

12. Even in his last years, Grandpappy had a mind like a steel trap, only one that had been left out so long, it had rusted shut.

 

13. Her parting words lingered heavily inside me like last night’s Taco Bell.

 

14. The young fighter had a hungry look, the kind you get from not eating for a while.

 

15. She had a voice so husky it could have pulled a dogsled, and the gun she was holding gave me a bad case of barrel envy.

 

16. He was deeply in love. When she spoke, he thought he heard bells, as if she were a garbage truck backing up.

 

17. The neon sign reflected off his gun, like the moonlight reflects off my brother-in-law’s bald head after a night of beer drinking and cow tipping.

 

18. It hurts the way your tongue hurts after you accidentally staple it to the wall.

 

19. A single drop of sweat slowly inched down Chad’s brow—a tiny, glistening Times Square New Year’s Eve Ball of desperation.

 

20. Unable to contain his rage, he burst like a pimple of emotion, the pus of his fury streaking the mirror of calm in the bathroom of his life.

 

You know that these are so bad because some very talented people tried to make them bad.

 

 

 

So, just for kicks, write a really bad metaphor or simile and post in the comments. It’s fun and we could all use a laugh!

Platform--Why It's Not Just For Shoes Anymore

Posted by J. Leigh Bailey on November 28, 2012 at 12:20 AM Comments comments (0)

I swear, there's something in the air. Every time I turn around lately I hear something about building a platform. As an author, especially in the current industry climate, there is a large push to design and build a marketing platform.

 

But what is a marketing platform? For a long time, when I heard the term, it was a kind of fuzzy, vague buzz word like synergy. I kinda, sorta got it--enough that, with enough context, I wasn't lost--but not enough that I could define it or explain it with any accuracy to someone else.

 

Recently my agent (I still get giddy at the thought that I can say that!) made the book Get Known Before the Book Deal--Use Your Personal Strengths to Grow an Author Platform by Christina Katz required reading for all of her authors. (More about this in a bit.)

 

Lat night at my local RWA chapter meeting, we had a presentation on indie publishing with a long discussion on, you guessed it, building a platform.

 

Then this morning while I was skimming my Google+ feed, there was a great post on the dos and don'ts of using social media to build your author platform.

 

Needless to say, it's a big deal.

 

"Some people think that when you're a book author, all you need to do is write a book, but there's so much competition that you've got to find a way to make yourself stand ou." ~ Sharlene Martin

  

For someone like me, though, who's a bit introverted and a bit insecure, this is a pretty scary concept.  To make it a little less fearsome, let's break it into definitions. (All of the definitions I'm using come straight from the book Get Known Before the Book Deal--Use Your Personal Strengths to Grow an Author Platform by Christina Katz.)

 

"The word platform simply describes all the ways you are visible and appealing to your future, potential, or actual readership" (Katz, 9).

 

"Your platform includes your Web presence, any publisc speaking you do, the classes you teach, the media contacts you've established, the articles you've published, and any other means you currently have for making your name and your future books known to a viable readership.... Your platform communicates your expertise to others, so you don't have to" (Katz, 9).

 

Basically, your platform is what you currently do, in addition to writing, to connect with your readership. Easy-peasy, right?

 

So why is this so important? I'm an author. I signed up to write a book, not become a marketing professional.

 

Well, the long and the short of it is that agents and editors want authors to have a strong platform because authors with platforms sell books.  Today, authors produce 200,000-400,000 new, traditionally published books in the US every year. That doesn't include indie and digital books. If you want to stand out in this overwhelming crowd and actually sell your book (and lets be honest, artistic vision aside, we all want to sell our books), you need a platform.

 

Now that I know what a platform is, and I have Katz's Get Known Before the Book Deal--Use Your Personal Strengths to Grow an Author Platform as a guide, I have to implement some of these tools and actually build my platform. And hint--it's not just about Twitter and Facebook.

 

"Publishers aren't looking to start a wave of publicity for you; they're looking to ride a wave that you've already started." ~Cindy Hudson for Writers on the Rise

 

Get Known Before The Book Deal: Use Your Personal Strengths To Grow An Author Platform