My Ivory Tower

My name is Karin Huxman and I write romance for New Concepts Publishing. You can find my author page at http://newconceptspublishing.com/karinhuxmanbooks.html. I write a mix of time travel, contemporary, paranormal, and sf/fantasy and love every minute of it.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Revisiting a First Draft

A couple of years ago during the creative frenzy of NaNoWriMo I wrote a novel. No big deal, right? That's what a lot of people do in that month. Then I put it away. I let it sit, simmer, let the words and ideas and characters all kind of comingle in a strange dance in my desk drawer. This is nothing new for me. I got into the habit of letting first drafts sit for a week, or a month, years ago when I first started writing and publishing. It lets the work settle and when I come back to it, I can look at it with a fresh eye.

But a couple of years seems a little extreme, even to me. What happened? Well, I was lucky enough to get contracted for several non fiction projects, you know, writing work that pays. I set my novel on the back burner, but I always had it in the back of my mind to work on again when the time was right.

The time came. So I pulled it out of the drawer and started reading it. There's a lot wrong with it. Sure, the length is kind of iffy and the plot could be a bit tighter, but as I read it I relived the energy and excitement I experienced while writing the first draft. My characters are real, or they feel that way to me. I've created a unique settings. It's a romance, so - zing! I love the zest for life that my characters bring to the story.

Sounds like a lot of "I'm great" doesn't it? Well, I also know how much work it will take to bring it up to publishable quality. But I'm hopeful, really hopeful. Many writers despair of the revising and editing process. There just isn't the creative fire burning when you get to the nit-picky stuff. But I've learned how important it is and yes, how fulfilling it can be to dig even deeper into character, make the story really sing, find an edge to the plot that was missing before. Someone said all great writing is rewriting. I know some writers get it perfect first time out of the printer, but they are few and far between. I'm going to be rewriting this story I have fallen in love with all over again so I can show it to someone else who might fall in love with it too. I'll let you know how it goes.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Judging Writing Contests

It has been "score writing contest entries" at my house. This is an annual or semi-annual event that I often lend my expertise to for several reasons. One is that I also entered writing contests for unpublished writers once upon a time and have since gone on to publish several of those books that entered and did well. So, I'm paying it forward, or back, whichever works for you. The second reason is that I can only say "No, but thank you for asking" just so many times before you've worn me down. The third reason is that somehow I might just make a difference in some new writer's perspective on their work.

So in this latest round I have to tell you three things that occurred regularly that drove me to distraction and did not garner high scores.

1. Story matters. It doesn't matter how nicely formatted your manuscript is or how grammatically correct each sentence is - well those things do matter, but -. First and foremost if you have not crafted a story with a clear beginning, middle, and end you lose points. Every time. A well polished first three chapters only tells...well three chapters worth of the story. This is why many contests for the unpublished include a synopsis portion. That's so the judges can tell if you can actually write past the first three chapters, or whatever the contest requires. Learn to tell your story.

2. Grammar matters. Sorry, I know you all think that someone else will fix your passive sentence structure, poor noun/verb relationships, and correct the spelling errors that slid by your spell-check. No so much. Make your story easy to read by following the rules of writing in whatever language you are writing. Okay, English isn't the easiest to master, but if you graduated high school in most locations in the United States, you had to pass basic grammar. The importance of good grammar is in clarity. It helps to clarify what you are portraying through your word usage, sentence structure and punctuation. If you can't be clear enough to get your idea down on paper, you lose readers, and in the case of writing contests, you lose points.

3. Characters matter. Who is your protagonist and why should we root for him/her? What motivates your protagonist, and equally important, your villain? In a romance novel, what attracts the hero/heroine to each other? Clue, it has to be more than skin deep. Delve deeply into your characters so you can form truly three dimensional people that your readers want to know and understand. Each character should have internal and external goals, motivations, and conflicts. These three things drive the story. For a really great book on this, try Debra Dixon's Goal, Motivation & Conflict. It is clear and easy to read and by the time you finish, you'll know what I'm talking about.

Were there more things that I saw over and over again as a contest judge that troubled me? You betcha, but these three were the biggies. Learn how to tell a story, use proper grammar to tell that story clearly and effectively, and make your story better by creating three dimentional characters that your readers care about.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Happy New Year

As usual I'm a bit late with my New Year's greeting, but I hope you all have a productive and healthy 2012.

I plan to blog more, yeah, I know. I say that every year. But I try. I've got contest entries to judge right now, and they are due on Feb. 1st. I've got a romantic suspense manuscript to edit and send to my agent, I hope she likes it. And one thing on my list is to actually talk to my agent more. We found out last year that neither her emails to me nor my emails to her were getting through. Thanks to the magic of Facebook, we've finally reconnected and I discovered just how much she's been working for me in the submissions department. In the children's area, I'm hoping that Apprenticeshop Books will be starting on the Colorado book soon in the America's Extraordinary Women series 25 Women You Should Know. It's been great fun writing children's non fiction. I'm also hoping to send Muriel a brief proposal for a non fiction book aimed at tweens that she'll like. And I'm still waiting on edits for my tween book on the Ludlow massacre.

Okay, my office needs its semi-anual cleaning. I've been very lax in that department but I know when it's time to start a new project I'll be happy to have a neat, better organized space in which to work.

I'd love to network more with my friends from Pikes Peak Romance Writers. I haven't been a member or gone to a meeting in ages, so I need that. Oh, and I'll be attending the Pikes Peak Writers Conference for the first time in ages. I hope they'll ask me to present, I've sent in a couple of proposals. But even if they don't I'll be sending in my registration soon. They've got a host of marvelous authors coming in for the event and editors and agents as well. It will be an exhausting, exhilarating weekend. Guess I'd better see if that's a weekend I don't work. Otherwise I'd better request vacation time soon.

If I get my act in order I hope to get my romance backlist published on Kindle. Amazon.com has made it easy to do, but I want to see if I can get permission to use the cover art already created for it. Otherwise I'll have to persuade someone to create it for me.

I read a lot in 2011, but it seems like a good deal of it was re-reading old favorites. I hope to have the stats on that in my next post.

There's loads more going on, both personal and professional, that I have good intentions for 2012. Fingers crossed that I get some of it done.

What's on your list of things to do in 2012?

Monday, December 19, 2011

Hearts aglow

The phrase, "All aglow in the work," is attributed to Virgil, a poet who wrote during the days of ancient Rome. The sentiment reflects the heart of an artist, whether a writer, painter, dancer, and so on. I love the fact that this has not changed in several millenium. The joyful heat, fire, of creativity is such a human thing.

When the fire of creativity takes me by the throat, my fingers fly over the computer keys with joyous energy and the story seems to bypass my brain and come straight from the heart. I lose track of time and become so completely immersed in the story that I hear neither phone nor doorbell. When I have that glazed look in my eyes, my family has learned not to even try to communicate.

The creative fire is bliss.

So find your bliss, as the saying goes. Find the creative outlet that will set you aglow, set your heart on fire.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Legacy versus Digital publishing

This blog http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2011/12/eisler-konrath-vs-hachette.html is required reading for anyone hoping to be published or who is already published and wonders what's going on with traditional publishing models versus the rapid growth of digital publishing. Though the authors are discussing one traditional, or legacy, publisher in particular, their arguments strike the right note throughout. Thoughtful and provocative and very timely.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Rime

 


The following poem appeared in Beyond Doggerel, vol. 3 no. 1, Fall 1998. It seemed particularly apt considering yesterday's weather. The picture is our little blue spruce, cleverly named Blue, in our front yard.

Rime
by Karin D. Huxman

God exhales.
Icy breath settles,
surrounds
houses, trucks, lonely
trees. Tansforming
fisted sheath softly
captures, then
hardens the
embrace until
morning sun turns
all it touches
into diamonds, dancing
and dripping
onto the waiting
Earth below.
Soon to be reborn
as God's breath.

Friday, December 2, 2011

My Artist's Date

I'm working my way through Julia Cameron's Walking in This World, a follow-up to her popular The Artist's Way. Both books are about celebrating your inner artist through inspiration, motivation, and getting to the work.

Daily Morning Pages are a cornerstone of this philosophy. The idea is to write three pages first thing in the morning, in long hand, in order to clean your mind of the clutter and distractions that often feed into a creative person's procrastination problems. I've tried using a laptop but that method doesn't have the mind, hand, words connection - it's not quite the organic experience that's important to the Morning Pages. But after three days I've discovered that I need a fatter more comfortable pen for my cranky arthritic thumb and fingers to grasp.

Hence the Artist's Date, another cornerstone of Julia Cameron's method. It's a way to fill the creative well in a small way and once a week to do something nice for yourself, by yourself. So, in search of a fatter pen or at least one of those squishy fat things you can wrap around the pen to make gripping it more comfortable, I took myself to Target.

Okay, I had some other things to pick up and granted, 4 pm on a Friday is not the most relaxing time to visit a SuperStore. But that's exactly what I did. I got my other choices out of the way and wove a path over to the office supplies aisle. It was a good thing I didn't go to Office Depot or Office Max, I love those stores like some women like jewelry stores. I found plenty of choices in writing implements in just one aisle. No squishy things to surround the tube of my pen, but pencils galore. Mechanical pencils, both fancy and throw-away, pencils that needed sharpening along with an array of sharpeners, all sorts, sizes and colors of erasers, and finally - ink pens.

No fountain pens but just about every other size, color, and type. From clickable felt tips to ball points to gels. If I'd been at an art store I would have been able to try out anything and everything. But I could see that the lines at the check out lanes were lengthening. Then I saw it. An eight pack of gel pens. Not just any gel pens, but eight different colors of sparkly gel pens with built in squishy things already installed on each pen. Happiness at just a little over fifty cents per pen.

Will these sparkly pens make the works flow more freely across the page? The colors are happier than plain blue or black. Maybe my works will be more positive, get their own sparkle back.

Haw about you? What kind of Artist's Date appeals to you? I'm off to sparkle but I look forward to reading your ideas.