Does Luck have a Place in Publishing?

Apr 24, 2012

So I've heard before that getting published is a mix of hard work and luck. You're not going to get anywhere without hard work, but many authors have spoken of hitting the market at just the right time, or running into an agent at just the right moment, and things like that. Unfortunately, luck isn't exactly something we can control.

I could go off for a while on luck/providence/God/ whatever you want to call it, and what it is, and if it's really that important. But I'll keep it short. I think for those who work hard, luck always comes-- I guess it's kind of a "fortune favors the brave (or hard working)" kinda thing for me. Or a preparation meets opportunity thing. It might come now, or later, or have a different form than someone else's, but it always comes.

I've been lucky enough to take classes from amazing writers I admire and find an incredible critique group. These things happened rather randomly, but they happened because I was working toward my goals, and that put me in the right place at the right time. And in a few weeks, I'm lucky enough to pitch to an agent in person. Eek! Wish me luck!

And on the note of luck, Jeff Hargett tagged me in the Lucky 7 meme. Rather than go to page 77 of my WIP, which is in the middle of a distinctly confusing conversation if you haven't read the rest of the book, here's 7 lines from page 7 of The Unhappening of Genesis Lee:

The pill jumped around the table, skittering in my vision like a tiny cockroach. Ew. “What is it?” I asked.

“A de-intoxicator.”

I wrinkled my nose, but grabbed the pill. Nope. Missed. I slapped a hand over it, trapping it, and slipped it in my mouth. My head began to throb as it melted on my tongue. The rhythm in my head didn’t match the pounding beat of the music, which didn’t match the buzz of Linked memories, which made me feel like a tumbleweed in a windstorm.

So, my friends, do you believe in luck in the publishing and writing world? How have you been lucky? And if you see me around sparingly for the next few weeks, it's because I'm working hard to finish revisions before my pitch so I can be prepared for luck to strike. :)


Using Family History for Novel Fodder

Apr 17, 2012

We talk a lot about using our own experiences in our writing. Sometimes that means literally, sometimes it means we take the basis for the experience and work in the emotions/background/etc. It's a great source of cool and realistic moments for writing.

I've also used another awesome source: family history.

I've recently become a bit of a family history nut. One of my side projects is collecting information and stories from my dad's side of the family, back four generations, and compiling it into a book. Not only is it totally fascinating, but it's given me some great story fodder. For example:

My grandmother hated my grandfather at first, and this was only made worse when he took her and another girl on a date at the same time (he attempted to hide this, but both girls of course found out). However, she came around, and when they were sixteen, they eloped on Christmas Eve. The next day, my grandfather-- who had lied about his age to get into the Navy-- shipped out to the Korean war for a year.

Um...WOW. It sounds like a full book in and of itself!

Other stories include great-grandparents whose graves lie empty because they crashed their car into a lake and their bodies were never found. The picture on the right is of another set of great-grandparents, William and Tinie Sarah Cutler-- she died quite young, and he was so distraught he never remarried. I've even used tiny family details in my books, like the hunting knife I inherited from my grandfather when he died.

What are the benefits of searching out these family history stories and using them in your writing? First, they bring a sense of reality. Because they're based on real life-- even if it's not your life, and even if the stories have changed through so many tellings-- they can bring a ring of authenticity and depth to a story. Second, they inspire further creativity. When I'm a bit stuck on a scene, thinking over my own experiences or family history stories can help bring out some great ideas. Even if I don't use the actual story in my scene, the story can give me a point to start from.

So, my friends, have you ever used stories from your family history in your books? What are some of your favorite family anecdotes? 

For Your Amusement: The Worst Line of Dialogue EVER

Apr 12, 2012

There are many, many posts out there about writing good dialogue. Getting natural, non-cheesy, useful, scintillating dialogue is very important to a good story.

But that's not what I'm going to talk about today. 

Instead, for your amusement, I give you a video that my anime-obsessed husband found recently, exposing one of the worst lines of dialogue ever written. We laugh our heads off every time we watch this short clip. 

So, my friends...don't do this. :) What are some of your favorite bad lines of dialogue-- or good lines of dialogue? 

Tips for Writing a Best-Selling Novel: Lessons from Star Wars

Apr 10, 2012

So my son is completely obsessed with Star Wars, and I've now seen it more times than I ever wanted. When I got sick of it, I turned on the DVD commentary from George Lucas. I was shocked how much I learned as a writer from him, especially on episode IV (the original Star Wars). Here are a few key points I wanted to share today.

Before Star Wars was made, almost no one believed in it. Even WHEN it was being made, almost no one believed in it. In fact, Star Wars opened in only about 40 theaters, because few theaters wanted to take such a crazy movie on. Within just a few weeks, it was a complete box-office smash. Several decades later, it's a cultural phenomenon.

Here's what I pull from that:

1. If you REALLY believe in something, stick with it, no matter who tells you otherwise.
Why did no one believe in Star Wars? Because the story was so far out there for its day. No one knew what to think of it, or of George Lucas. So it sometimes is with us. We're writers. Creators. If we don't believe in our own creations, no one else ever will. People can tell you your story idea is ridiculous, or just give you the "that's nice" look when you tell them you're a writer. But you ARE a writer. You CAN create incredible things. Don't let anyone stop you from believing that.

2. Just because things are hard doesn't mean they're not worth it.
When Lucas finally got a single person at Fox to say yes to Star Wars, everything that could go wrong did. Bad weather on sets, equipment malfunctioning, producers wanting to kill the movie because it was over-budget, you name it. Lucas fought tooth and nail for his movie the entire way, and it paid off. Good things rarely come without, at minimum, hard work and set backs.

3. Do big things.
Lucas didn't just settle for making his movie. He didn't want to stick with the limited tech of his time, so he created his own special effects studio. He didn't want to settle for stock sound effects, so he recorded his own. He didn't just want to make a good movie, he wanted to make the absolute best movie he could make. It was hard, it was expensive, and nobody believed in him. But he did big things, and he got big things out of it. Don't settle for less-- do big things.

Finally, my friends, here's George Lucas's advice to all the actors when they finished a scene: "faster, with more intensity." Go do your thing, and make sure it is fast and intense! And now I want to know: what's one thing you've learned about writing or being a writer this week?


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