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Writer’s Budget

January 19, 2009 by in category Archives tagged as

Monica Stoner Member at Large

No, I don’t have an great ideas for making money as a writer, or for spending what we might make more judiciously. This is about a time budget though the initial idea came from listening to people talk about setting up a money budget.

One of the first ideas put forth is to “pay yourself first.” Put money in a savings account before you pay bills, if only a few dollars, instead of planning to put away what is left at the end of the month. In this same vein, my New Year thought was to stop planning my writing around other activities, thinking I could easily write late at night. Darkness comes and my body points out how important sleep is, and how much we enjoy it.

Write first, before club activities, before recreational baking (yum!), before all but the most necessary of life’s duties. During NaNo I found out I was writing instead of sampling cookie recipes and I actually managed to lose weight, something I never thought could happen when I was parked in front of the computer for so long.

If our writing means as much to us as we think it does, and if our lives are only complete when we struggle with plot and character development, why not schedule fulfillment of our souls and goals before everything else? Okay, we might want to allow for pesky day jobs, and if your life is anything like mine, meals prepared by the husband would consist of canned soup, maybe. Other than that, why not make a commitment to one hour, five pages, whatever the goal, before parties, before club activities. Think of writing as your second job, and give yourself the same respect you give your employer.

Now to follow my own advice. Happy writing.

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What is Romance

November 19, 2008 by in category Archives tagged as

Monica Stoner, Member at Large

How many of us have heard disparaging remarks concerning Romance? We defend our chosen genre as obviously the most popular and the money maker for many book stores, and point out we write to bring pleasure to a large reading audience. How often do we define our books instead of defending them?

To write Romantically is to show life as better than it is. Mildly attractive becomes stunningly gorgeous. Successful businessman becomes a leader of industry. Feature writer becomes an award winning journalist. Story telling, yarn spinning at its finest and also writing Romantically.

Some authors manage to write successfully about the less glamorous aspects of our daily lives. Disease, poverty, injury take center stage in their books. But no one is pluckier and more beloved than their heroine, no one falls harder or rises further, drawing the reader along for the journey. We hope we can be as tenacious, as graciously successful, as these heroines.

When it comes to the relationship aspect of these books, once again larger than life trumps the every day. One of my favorite romances was about a small town veterinarian and a visiting young woman who has to work through a personal trauma. Standard story, boy meets girl, the feel attraction, their relationship has its ups and downs, ending in marriage. What takes the story beyond the mundane is the character of the veterinarian and the extreme trauma the young woman has experienced, plus her own shy nature, plus a domineering mother. What a lot she has to overcome and she does it so in a fashion we could only hope to emulate all the while maintaining her near translucent skin without a drop of facial cream.

In the real world it=s not unusual for people to meet and fall in love, a high percentage experiencing some form of Happily Ever After. How many of even these exemplary men manage to remember birthdays without a reminder and think to move the couch when (or if) they sweep? Just find one who can replace the toilet paper roll. Now that would be writing about life better than any of us could ever imagine.

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October 19, 2008 by in category Archives tagged as

Monica Stoner, Member at Large
A story has been making the rounds recently about the profound influence the choices we make in our lives have on our future. The main character of the story is a man who makes the decision to be happy every day, no matter what. Even after a horrific accident, he decides to not only live, but to bring his positive attitude to everyone around him.

How can this apply to our lives as writers? We make a choice every time we put words on paper. We can choose to put off writing until later. We can choose to write to our lowest level since we think no one beyond our critique partners will ever read it. We can fret over every word, searching for perfection from the very beginning. Or we can find our personal special place in our minds, letting us get the words on the page.

We make that same choice when we critique or judge others writing. Do we hunt for every possible error, or do we look for the story under the writing? Do we toss the work aside because it starts in the most boring, banal fashion possible, or do we hunt for that perfect opening line? Most of all do we come away from these readings with a better sense of purpose in our own writing?

To think of always entering a room with a positive attitude takes us back to lessons from childhood. Turn that frown upside down and walk on the sunny side of the street. Banal then, boring now. Except how many grumpy gloomy people attract anyone not grumpier or gloomier than themselves? Not many. Try leaving the gloomy side in the car, at the gate, packed up in a box for a couple of days, and see how much easier life can be. Is writing any easier? Well, I got this blog done, which is more than I=ve managed on my down with everything days!

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Contests vs Submission

August 19, 2008 by in category Archives tagged as

Monica Stoner, Member at Large

Several years ago, someone told me if a work was ready for a contest it was ready for an editor. I didn’t agree then and agree even less now. Having judged contests, I’d have to say some of the entries aren’t ready for the contest and should never go to an editor. This is not meant harshly, everything I’ve judged had some good features, but they were often lost behind poor pacing, grammar, or just too many words in the wrong place.

The huge advantage to a contest over an editor is, the contest judge has to read your whole submission. The editor can skim a couple pages and tell you the submission is not right for their line. The contest judge can find the place in your story where you need to start the book; an editor could easily find the same place but generally won’t have the time to do so. Nor should an editor have to tell you where to start your book.

Since so many contests now allow for judge comment, you have the advantage of multiple edits to the same book for one contest fee. You can agree or disagree with any of them, but if every one finds the same problems, you’ll know where to head for your next rewrite.

Once you have some manuscripts and contests under your belt, and have finaled in one of the contests, or at least not received your entry back dripping read with editorial comments, you might think about offering to judge. Don’t make this offer lightly, since as you would well know by then, fragile egos could be behind the creation of the entry, same as when you entered. Who better to understand how a mean word can send you to Camp Hershey or Dove when you should be sitting still and writing?

One or two sessions of reading contest entries can be eye opening for your own writing. I’ve also found this to be a great remedy for the dreaded writer’s block. Many clubs offer contests throughout the year and most are in need of a both entries and judges. Give it a whirl, you never know how much fun it can be until you try.

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April 19, 2008 by in category Archives tagged as


Monica Stoner, Member at Large

As many OCC members know, I am involved in raising and showing dogs. This means putting the product of many years of thought and effort out there for someone else’s opinion. Sound familiar? After years of experience, you know as you watch the rest of the entry you have one of the better if not the best examples of the breed in the ring on that day. All things being equal, you should walk out with the purple Winner’s ribbon. Instead you end up placed behind one of the dogs you dismissed at first glance.

Sound familiar? Sound like all the times we’ve sent our manuscript “children” out for the opinion of someone else, in most cases someone we have never met, and might never meet. The major difference being we aren’t standing in front of the editor, best and brightest smile pasted on our faces, watching them try not to show any reaction as they go over our child. The editor doesn’t know us from Adam unless we’re multi-published.

In theory, dog shows are judged in an atmosphere of anonymity. In practice, judges have been around shows for decades and know many of the major exhibitors, who would be the dog world equivalent of multi-published. There are also professional dog handlers, who make a living showing dogs for other people. Depending on their level of success and recognition, they would be the writer’s equivalent of anything from already published to NYT best sellers.

With this amount of competition, how can a novice owner handler hope to compete successfully. Well, by competing. By training and grooming their dog to the best of their ability, choosing their outfits to best show off their dog, and by walking into the ring looking the absolute best they can. Wasn’t it Woody Allen who said 90% of success consists in showing up?

In the beginning you might lose, a lot. If you are able to stand back and take an objective look at your dog, or if you know someone who will be honest without being mean, you might find out your grooming could be a little better, or maybe you need to spend some more time practicing ring procedures at home before your next show. You might also find out there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with your dog, it’s just not in the judge’s style, or on that day they found a dog they liked better than yours.

By the same token, if you have taken that huge step to submit your book to an editor, only to have it come flying back with a “not for us at this time” photocopied rejection, rather than sink into ten year’s worth of gloom and swear off writing forever, maybe it’s time to take an objective viewpoint. Was this the absolute best manuscript you could have submitted? Are the characters truly fresh, and if so, do you give them enough challenges to make readers want to know them better? Is your submission groomed, polished and presented in the best possible light?

If so, and your book is still rejected, take a moment to think about the person at the other end of the transaction. Maybe yours is the umpteenth fresh new look at a Vulcan mind meld sex slave time travel futuristic vampire demon slayer they have seen this week and they read one yesterday they liked just a little bit better. Maybe the editor really, really can’t stand one more perky cheerleader type with porcelain skin, a double masters, perfect boobs and a minor in ancient Romanian mythology who spent summers working for Doctors Without Borders and winters perfecting her Olympic quality death spiral. Maybe the editor is human, is having a bad day, and your manuscript got in the way of her lying down with a cold rag over her eyes while dreaming of the words dancing rising up off the page to scratch her eyes out. Or maybe your book just isn’t what this particular publisher is looking for at this particular time.

You won’t win if you don’t enter, and you won’t sell if you don’t submit. More to the point, if you don’t enjoy the writing process, or at least feel success at having written, and your entire writing psyche is bound up with someone else’s approval, you’re going to set yourself up for major disappointment. Stop and smell the roses from time to time, have a chocolate chip cookie, call your best friend for a good whine fest, then fill out that entry form, send out that manuscript, and maybe this time you’ll have the zombie lovers on Pluto story they’ve been looking for all along.

Monica K. Stoner

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