iPod loaded with a brand new audio book to enjoy (Ally Carter's I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You!)? Check.
Super cute business cards? Yep.
Hello Kitty notebook so I can make tons of useful notes during workshops? You betcha.
I am so excited about heading out to the RWA National Conference in Orlando! I've been packing all weekend, making sure laundry is done (both mine and my husband's - not sure he would even know how to do his own laundry anymore. He's so spoiled :p), downloading a new audio book for the trip, working on my pitch, going over any last minute revisions. I feel totally ready to go, and I know that this year, I'm going to make the most of it.
Last year was my first time at RWA Nationals, and I have to admit, I was nervous. I barely knew anyone, I was sharing a room with two others and ended up sleeping on a rollaway (ugh), and I basically had no idea what I was doing. Things have changed for this year. I'm much more confident in my writing, I have an actual completed book to pitch that I love and truly believe in, and this year, I have my very own bed in the hotel room. Well, not MY bed exactly, but it's mine for five nights and I plan to enjoy it!
My plane leaves in the morning, so I'm not sure how often I'll get a chance to update the blog this week, but if anyone reading is heading to Orlando, feel free to email me if you want to get together! (It's times like this I really wish I had an iPhone or a Droid or some other email-enabled phone. /sigh.) And if you're going to Orlando, I hope you have an amazing time. I will write all about it when I get home!
Two completely unrelated topics, but hey, it's Friday and I can do what I want! First, I just had to share this crazy story about a zombie jellyfish who stung 150 people near a New Hampshire beach AFTER it was dead. It decomposed off shore and its still-active tentacles dispersed into the waters, stinging people. Some of those who were stung ended up at the hospital, so I realize this is no laughing matter. However, it's still crazy.
In other news, tonight is the Sarra Bonanza! My friends and critique partners are coming over tonight to talk about my completed novel now that they've read through it. We're also going to take a look at my outfits for conference, eat some pizza, and play around with makeup. Yes, it's wild and crazy! It's also super nice to have great friends who support me and want me to be successful. I feel so grateful and blessed right now.
Have a great weekend everyone!
No one ever said that being a writer would be easy. For the most part, it's a solitary task. It's just you, all alone, sitting at a keyboard somewhere, trying to come up with an original story and unique characters who will draw people in and make them care. Since joining RWA and my local chapter, HCRW, I have found that there are valuable resources out there that can change everything. Through RWA I met two amazing critique partners that read everything I write and encourage me every step of the way. Of course, they also tear my writing apart sometimes, but that's one of the reasons I've gotten better and better over the last couple of years. BUT (and this is a huge BUT), outside advice is not the be-all, end-all. It's not the final word or the definitive answer. I think this is something I'm learning bit by bit.
As a writer, I find that I am constantly searching for that positive feedback and validation. It's simply a hunger deep inside of me I can't control. So, when I put my pitch paragraph out there for my critique group, some people from an RWA loop or on an agent's forums, I hit "submit" and pray for that validation. Sometimes, the response is brutal. "Your story isn't unique." "Haven't we seen this before?" "This is unclear. What's really going on in your story?" "I don't like the wording here, this is too generic." And the list goes on.
Other times, you've got one person saying they hate it and another saying they think it's perfection (knuckle bump, girl! this rocks!) So how do you tell who is right and who is wrong? That's the truly infuriating part. No one can decide which pitch to put out there when the time comes except for you. Er, me, in this case. The writer, when it comes down to it, is still that solitary figure, making those decisions alone. It can sometimes be a very scary place to be. Not everyone is going to love what I write or the decisions I make, but at some point, I have to just believe in myself enough to make a choice and know that this is ME. My passion. My best. My voice.
Only six more days until I leave for fabulous Orlando and the RWA National Conference!!! I'm so excited! Of course, I've been working so hard on my pitch, my synopsis, and last-minute revisions on my novel that I sort of feel like my brain is fried. Hopefully, I will be able to UN-fry it by the time I leave so that I can actually get something useful out of the PRO retreat and all the amazing workshops throughout the week. Last year I learned so much, and I hope to make it to as many events this year as I can.
Last night, in order to relax and stop working on my own writing, I decided to finish a book I started a couple days ago called THE ENEMY by Charlie Higson. It's a YA zombie-apocalypse book set in London after a disease wipes out everyone over the age of sixteen. Well, almost everyone. The grown-ups that didn't die have become decomposing creatures who eat anything they can get their hands on - including kids. *shudder* The book focuses on a group of kids who have set up a life for themselves in an old supermarket. They are running out of food, though, and the grown-ups are getting smarter and more organized in their attacks. When a young man comes to the gates, claiming there is safety and food at Buckingham Palace, the kids decide to take a chance, leave everything behind, and follow him back to a new life. But their fight to stay alive is from from over - the threat from within the palace is as real as the one outside it. (The little blurb there is a combination of my own words and the back cover copy.)
This book was excellent! Told in multiple third-person POV (like mine), the reader gets to know a lot of different kids and teens in the book. The battle scenes are intense, the author isn't afraid to kill anyone off, and after the first few chapters, you'll find yourself turning pages faster and faster. I love it when books grip me so hard that I can't even force myself to turn off the light and go to sleep because I just have to know what's going to happen next. It's a rare kind of high, but it's so awesome when you find it. THE ENEMY certainly delivers, and I'm so glad I picked it up. If you like zombie stories and want to see it from the perspective of a group of kids trying to survive in a world where the adults are the enemy, it's a definitely recommended read from me.
Yippeee!!! My amazing husband and I have been working on my website for several weekends, trying to get it up and running before next week's RWA National Conference. Last night, we launched the site! Now, before you click over to check it out, just keep in mind that G and I designed and put together this website all by ourselves! I designed the images in Photoshop and made a little drawing of where I wanted everything to go, then G did the html and put everything in place. I am so excited I could pee my pants! I hope you like it. Please let me know what you think if you have a chance to check it out. Does it look homemade? Anything misspelled (god forbid) or wonky? Any hard-to-read areas? Comments and feedback appreciated either in the comments of the blog or through personal email. Heck, give me a call if you want, I probably haven't talked to you in a while because I've been glued to my computer screen working on this novel for months! :)
So, after much rambling, I give you:
Sarra Cannon's Amazing New Author Website!!
Last night I wrote the dreaded Synopsis, and survived! I really do hate writing a synopsis. I understand it as a necessary evil, but it's just so darn difficult! Honestly, how are we supposed to condense a 400 page novel down to just 4 pages? It's like cutting out a part of your own heart!
Most submissions to contests, agents, and editors all require a synopsis. I can definitely see why it's a valuable tool, but writing a synopsis feels like an entirely different skill from writing the actual novel. You have to stand back and see what your story's essence truly is. Where are the turning points? What is the strand of character development that becomes essential to the story? What are the climaxes?
With National Conference only about a week and a half away, I had no choice but to sit down and pound it out. It's definitely going to need some work, but at least I've gotten four solid pages down. Now, I'm headed out to Cafe Carolina to write with my critique partner Jennifer.
There's just something special about writing late at night. It could just be me, but once everyone in the house has gone to bed and it gets dark out and quiet, I slip into this zone. Like last night, for example. I've been struggling with getting this battle scene down, but last night I went over to one of my critique partner's apartments (emergency critique session at 11 PM... don't ask) and after we talked about her chapters, I set up my laptop and started writing. I only wrote for about an hour, but guess what? I wrote over 3,000 words! In one hour!
Usually, my average in an hour is about 1,000 words. That's a decent pace for me, and I'm happy with it. Well, I don't know if it was the night or just the right time and place or what, but I rocked that battle scene out last night. Of course, it could also be the momentum since the story is almost ready to start sending out. It could be the knowledge that I'm going to be pitching this to my dream agent in just two weeks. I don't know exactly, but for some reason, it worked. I'll take that kind of writing magic anytime.
If it hadn't already been 3:30 AM by the time I closed my laptop on the battle scene, I would have kept going. Unfortunately, my need-to-sleep internal alarm was going off, so I had to drive home and crawl into bed with my gorgeous hubby. It was a good night. Tonight when the sun goes down and everything gets quiet again, let's hope I can recreate that late-night magic and have one more super-writing-burst so I can finish the book and get back to the work of revisions!
There are all types of skills you have to learn in order to pursue being published. As if writing, say, A NOVEL, isn't difficult enough, you also must learn how to write both a brief (4 page'ish) synopsis and a longer synopses (10-15 pages). It sounds easy enough, right? What's 4 pages, really, compared to an entire novel? Yeah, you try slimming down your baby with all its plot twists and intricately carved out characterizations. It aint easy. And you know what's even worse? Writing a pitch/query letter.
Now that my novel is nearly complete and ready to start submitting to agents, the query letter and synopsis are the next big hurdles for me. Sure, I've been working on these things all throughout the novel writing process, but it's only now that I have a clear view of the novel and truly can see what it's become that I can sit down and get to work on my pitch. Ah, the pitch. I curse you!
Don't get me wrong, I'm excited to have the opportunity to pitch and query agents. I'm thrilled to have a novel I believe in that is so close to being ready to send out. On the other hand, I hate writing a pitch. Condensing the entire novel down to just a few sentences is one of the toughest things in the world. And even if you can get that done, you have to ask yourself: Is this interesting? Am I getting my hook across? Does the voice and tone of the novel come through? Would anyone in their right mind want to read this novel based on these five sentences?
Seriously. It can drive a writer crazy.
Over the next two weeks, I am going to be working on my pitch. First, I will pitch in person at the RWA National Conference in Orlando. Then, I will start sending out query letters to agents soon after. This pitch has to be dynamite. It's so incredibly important to get it right and to entice the agent/reader to keep reading. How do you do that? Well, what I think might be most important is to keep it simple. Too much plot information soon becomes a jumbled mess in a query letter. I am going to try to focus on the inciting incident - that thing that makes the story take wings. Then I'll briefly mention the central conflict of the book and make sure that my hook is clear. Five or six finely crafted sentences. It won't be easy, but I know I can do it.
Okay, so maybe it's just too hard to stay away! I was planning to start a new blog that was totally dedicated to writing, but I'm too attached to the sweetie chronicles. I need my morning blogging fix!
G and I just got back from a week in the Outer Banks with my family. It was fun, not completely drama free, but fun. And guess what? I finally got a tattoo! It's something I've been wanting to do for a very long time, but since it's kind of, well, permanent, I figured I should have a good design and an even better reason for it. This year, everything came together.
The design? All I knew for sure was that I wanted the word "Believe" on my inner right wrist. I wanted script letters. The tattoo artist took care of the specific design. As for the reason, it's two-fold. For one, it's been exactly 10 years this fall since I was sexually assaulted. Heavy topic for a blog I'm writing at only 9 am, I know, but unfortunately true. Because of him, I've spent 10 years of my life not believing in myself. It's time to take that power away from him and give it back to myself. For good. The second reason is simply that I don't have enough confidence in myself as a writer sometimes, and I know it holds me back. Some days, I spend more time telling myself I suck than I do actually writing! It's time for that to stop. My novel is almost totally finished, and it's time I got behind myself as a cheerleader for once. Believe!
Here is the final result:
Pretty sweet, huh? I love it. From now on, any time I start to allow negative thoughts into my head, I can look down at my wrist and think, "Stop hating and start believing." Cheesy? Perhaps. But I don't care! It's my time to start living up to my potential and to stop letting things from my past get in the way of my future success.
And, yes, I'll be blogging here every morning again :).