Manic Monday: Reading and Writing or the life of an author

Now that I’ve decided to be a full-time writer (minus my tap class and volunteer work), all I do is read and write. If I’m blocked for writing, I read. If I can’t focus on a story, I write. Pretty nifty, huh?

What do I read? I have baskets of books in my “to be read pile” as well as a backlog on my Kindle. In addition I track about 150 blogs a day—mostly agents, editors, publishers and writers—hoping to garner every piece of knowledge possible. Then, of course, there are the “how to” books I use more for reference now than anything else.

I also have my critique partner in Atlanta who is well into his second book and I’ve joined a writing group online with 10 writers. Everyone posts every other week and we all critique each other’s work. I’ve been trying to play catch-up with the group reading prior chapters (which I didn’t critique) so I wouldn’t be lost when I read the current chapters for each of them (which I did critique). They are some damn good writers of several genres and I’m already hooked on their stories. I hope I’m not in over my head, but if I am maybe they’ll help me learn to swim.

And then there’s this blog, which I love doing, but it is time consuming. Having one of the characters from MURDER ON MUSIC ROW blog most Fridays is a big help. Unfortunately, I never know what they’re going to say until it’s down on paper. A spooky feeling writers will understand.

Where do I do this reading and writing? I have a great writing spot, but I’m designing a new layout which I’ll tell you about in a future post. There’s nothing wrong with where I work now but I’ve gotten to the point where it’d be helpful to have two screens (one for editing) and I can’t do that as I’m set up now. However, if I’m going to undertake a big do-over of the office, I think I’ll redo the flooring and paint all the rooms upstairs so it will be a major, definitely after Christmas, project.

I’ve got reading and writing to do so goodbye for now.

Until Wednesday,

~Kay

Friday Favorites: Character Chat—Loralee’s Lyrics

Guest blogger: Loralee Anderson, character from Murder on Music Row

Hey ya’ll,

I’m slipping in here before anyone else does ‘cause it’s not literally my turn, but since no one has posted yet, I will.

I hope ya’ll had a good Thanksgiving. I went to Nan’s folk’s house and ate so much they had to roll me away from the table. Kat and her family were there too. Sometimes Nan and Icause we’re singleshave to sit at the kiddie table, but this year we didn’t, even if we were in the kitchen. It was still a promotion.

I don’t work at the Wildhorse again for a couple of weeks which is good ‘cause I’m gonna have to start doing crunches or I’ll never get into my good jeans, which happen to be my fat jeans and I’ll be hosed down and hung up wet before I’m going up another size. I’m wearing sweat pants today ‘cause yesterday I had to unbutton my britches in order to breath. Nan’s mom, aka Miss Etiquette, gave me the evil eye, but she’s no bigger than a minute so what does she know about it?

But my granny knew, God bless her soul. I remember when I was a teenager and getting my first real bikini, which she helped me pick out by the way. She was one cool grandma. Anyways I was a moaning and a groaning about how fat I was (what I wouldn’t give to have that body now) and she told me to hush up and she’d tell me her surefire way to beat the flabs. She had me lay down on the floor (not the bed) and take a rolling pin and slowly go up and down my stomach. The first time I tried it, I’d just had lunch and it made me throw up so I’ve shied away from rolling my tummy again. But I’ll be kid of a witch if it don’t work on your legs and butt. Seriously. If you don’t believe me, just try it. Go slow and start with about 25 rolls each way or you’ll get sore. Let me know how it works for you.

There was about 50 people at Nan’s parent’s house for Thanksgiving dinner yesterday.  Everyone’s seated with a little place card and there’s a master seating chart and all. Nan’s mom takes her Thanksgiving dinners very serious. She used to let us help put the place cards out until the year we thought it would be funny to put Uncle George and Aunt Agnes at the same table. Let’s just say it weren’t funfor them or for usand leave it at that. I’ve been going for longer than I can remember. Nan’s family seems more like my family than mine does. After lunch, most of the guys either watched football or went outside for a game of football while the women cleaned up. I was told a long time ago it’d be in my own best interest if I stayed out of their kitchen—I think I’d just broke something . . . again—so I wandered around to see what everyone else was doing. Just about every sofa had someone snoozing on it and I decided a nap wasn’t a bad idea so I went to my old room from when I lived with them for the last part of senior hear in high school. What did I find in my bed? A teenage boy, that’s what. I might be a cougar on occasion but 25, OK 24 or maybe 23, is my absolute limit. Nan was napping in her room so I just made her move over and we slept for a couple of hours.

When we got up, there was a buffet of left-overs set up for a help yourself whenever you’re hungry kind of deal and every table and card table in the house had either a card game or a game game on it. I jumped in to play Apples to Apples—it’s lots of fun—and Nan joined the group playing Monopoly. It was the UT version and not only did she graduate from there with a business degree she’s always been a whiz at Monopoly and Scrabble. I mean to the point I won’t play with her. She can even beat Kat most days and that’s saying something.

I love the day after Thanksgiving. I seldom leave my house because all the crazies are out. Nan went with Kat to buy for the kids but I’m not gonna stand out in the cold and dark to save a few bucks. Nope, I’ll let my fingers do my shopping right here on my computer board. It’s black Friday in cyberspace too, you know.

Enjoy the rest of your long weekend and if you get a chance on Sunday cheer on the Titans and their new rookie quarterback. I’d love him to complete 100 passes and show everybody the world don’t revolve around Vince Young. Of course Coach Fisher’s known that for ages (and so have I) but I don’t know what it’s gonna take for Mr. Bud Adams to get the message. Didn’t mean to get off on a tangent so I’ll run.

Until next time . . .

~Loralee

Wildcard Wednesday: Happy Thanksgiving

I am thankful for:

  • My husband, the love of my life — for his love, his encouragement, his wisdom
  • My wise-ass sister who lives way too far away
  • My three gorgeous stepsons and one beautiful daughter-in-law
  • Great in-laws
  • The rest of my family including of my 2 nieces, 1 nephew and 5 godchildren
  • My AOII sisters and other good friends – locally and worldwide
  • A warm home in the winter; a cool home in the summer—a home.
  • Being fit enough to tap dance at my age–and my new tap dancing friends
  • The opportunity to volunteer and the pleasure I get from it
  • My collection of books
  • My laptop, my Ipad, and Kindle
  • The ability to write
  • My writing corner
  • My new writing partner and online critique group.
  • The Internet and other social media (even though I don’t understand all of it)
  • E-mail
  • Online banking
  • The telephone (and cell phones) though I hate to use them
  • Bluetooth built into my phone
  • GPS technology
  • Airplanes
  • Reliable transportation
  • My education and my life’s experiences—and the knowledge and wisdom  gained from them
  • Freedom to write, to speak, to be . . .  and to give thanks however and whenever I want.
  • My blog and all those who subscribe or follow it … YOU

Peace be with you this Thanksgiving. I wish you safe travels, wonderful experiences and fond memories.

~Kay

© 2010 Kay Elam

Manic Monday: Expectations

Saturday afternoon Hubby and I ran a few errands between SEC football games. We ate dinner out (at a restaurant with a TV, of course) and came home in the shadows of a beautiful full moon. When we turned into our cul-de-sac, our across-the-street neighbors had fully decorated for Christmas. I’m talking outdoor lights, yard display, two inside trees visible from the street and festive creations on the mailbox, streetlamp and front door. My guess is their family will be coming in for Thanksgiving and they’ll do their family Christmas then.

Yesterday was another beautiful day and our next door neighbors were outside most of the day putting up their decorations. They don’t have children, so I doubt they’ll have a Thanksgiving Christmas. We’re going to visit my step-son and daughter-in-law for Thanksgiving so when, we wondered, would we decorate our home? We certainly don’t want to get kicked out of the cul-de-sac!

The next thing I knew Hubby was dragging boxes up from the basement, checking lights, and taking inventory of what he had and what he needed for the outside. He’d just gotten out of the hospital this time last year so his youngest son had decorated (and undecorated) the outside for us. Dare I say things weren’t in their usual order? After a trip to Target, he got out the ladder and hung lights, bows, and garlands. I was watching the Titans get beat so he got no help from me.

When he was finished, he called me to the street. My verdict (as always), “more lights.”  I also thought the door needed more garland so he headed to Walmart while I dealt with the fall wreath still on the door.  While he was gone I took it apart and turned into a Christmas one.  Hint: I use one wreath year-round—a large grapevine. I drape seasonal garlands and ribbons around it and sometimes add a bow. It’s thin enough to work with a glass door and never does it look the same way twice.

The next time Hubby called me to the street, he’d hung colored lights around the door and on the two topiaries flanking our front steps. Colored lights—not white lights. Never in my adult life have I used colored lights. But, you know what? He did the work. He can pick the lights. It wasn’t what I would have chosen, but I’m experienced enough to know my way isn’t the only way (even if it is usually the best way).

We’ve done nothing inside and won’t until after we return from our Thanksgiving trip. Would we have decorated outside if the neighbors hadn’t? NO.  But our perceived expectation was we should go ahead and do it, so we did. Our cul-de-sac is now complete and probably the only one in the subdivision that is fully decorated for Christmas.

In writing we must also deal with expectations. If fortunate enough to have an agent, editor and/or publisher, a writer has deadlines and has to deal with the expectations associated with them. If the writer is still unagented, the expectations (and motivation) must come from critique groups, a writing partner or from within. Regardless of where it resonates, it must be present for a writer to achieve success. If we are serious about our craft we not only need expectations, but must exceed them in this competitive industry. What are your expectations? Are they internal or external? How do you deal with them?

Until  Wednesday,

~Kay

Friday Favorites: Character Chat—Nan’s Notes


Guest blogger: Nan Macomb, character from Murder on Music Row

Hi everyone,

It’s my turn to blog, and I almost missed it. I’d planned to get up early and do it before my first client, but have you ever had one of those days?

I know I set my alarm last night, but apparently the power went out because I woke up to flashing numbers all over the house.  I was really pooped when I went to bed so I slept until about an hour before my first appointment. By the time I woke up good and got all the clocks and timers reset, it was time to start my work day.

Since it’s the week before Thanksgiving I’ve been double booked most of the week. I like to schedule one client at a time—people appreciate their alone time with their hair stylist—but this time of year I have to overlap to get everyone in. Then when there’s more than one client here at a time we all get to talking and it slows down my productivity and I get behind which I hate to do. At least I have a comfy sofa in my living room where people can wait and of course I have the latest magazines. The problem there is inevitably someone sees a hairstyle in one of the magazines she thinks is perfect for her, and I have to spend extra time explaining why it won’t work with her type of hair. People with thin hair love the styles that only do well with thick hair and vice versa.  Why is that???

When my last appointment left, I sat down to do the blog and remembered I was supposed to meet Kat and Loralee for happy hour at the Opryland Hotel. It just opened back up this week from the damage of the May flood. We’d said the first Friday after they reopened we’d go out there for happy hour and since they’d both called to make sure I remembered, I couldn’t renege.  Happy hour turned into dinner and then we had to walk around and look at all the Christmas lights which are as spectacular as ever. If you get a chance, be sure to go see for yourself.

So I’m just now getting around to blogging and I’m gonna cop out.  It is, after all, almost tomorrow but I don’t want to be the first character to miss a deadline so I had to write something. I’m too tired to be clever or tell you anything of importance so I’ll just promise to do better next time—if I get a next time that is. In the meantime, have a wonderful Thanksgiving and remember to be kind to your hair stylist during the holidays.

All my best,

Nan

Wildcard Wednesday: Is my participle dangling?

I grew up in a small town where there were two school systems through the eighth grade. Then we were funneled into one not so centrally located high school. This was great as we entered our dating years because the City School girls could date the County School boys and vice versa—we weren’t stuck with the same kids who’d been so yucky a few years earlier.

In the City School System we started changing classes in the fifth grade and each grade had one class of English, Science, Math, History/Social Studies, Literature, and PE (girls and boys separate, of course). For most of the subjects we had the same teacher all four years. This meant they knew what they’d taught us the previous year and could jump right in with the teaching without assessing our skills at the beginning of a school year.

You might have noted English and Literature were two separate subjects which meant we had a whole lot of time to learn grammar and writing in our English class. Mrs. McDaniel was our teacher and that woman loved to diagram. We diagrammed sentences that filled the entire blackboard and wrote papers using research books found via the card catalog (now wasn’t that useful?). This is also where we learned how to document our sources with footnotes and bibliographies. I loved this class! Really, I did.

In regards to grammar and writing techniques, I can honestly say there was nothing I was taught in high school or even my first year of college that I’d not already learned by the time I was in the eighth grade. Although I don’t recall having to diagram another sentence, I could do this in my head if I needed to identify nouns, verb, prepositions, etc.

This knowledge was useful because my City School classmates and I could breeze through the grammar and writing portions of our English classes which in high school also included literature. Even in college, writing papers was a breeze.

However, the knowledge gained in Mrs. McDaniel’s classes was not always a blessing. I won’t pretend I could diagram a complex sentence today. However it was so banged into our heads to never end a sentence with a preposition or leave a participle dangling I almost needed therapy to unlearn those rules. To this day when I break one of them (most often in dialogue) a little voice in my head reminds me it’s technically wrong. I’ve learned to squelch the voice, but it’s still there. Every. Single. Time.

Probably the best part of my writing is my dialogue. But for dialogue to work in creative writing it has to be realistic. Often sentences end with a preposition—“what’re you talking about?” works better than “About what are you talking?”—participles dangle (Playing in the trees, I watched the squirrels) and subjects and verbs don’t agree (My favorite of all my jeans have torn-out knees).  It’s what makes conversations believable, especially in the regional fiction I write.

So thank you Mrs. McDaniel for all you taught me. Please don’t take out your red pen when you read my book.

~Kay

Manic Monday: All Weekend Long

My uncle died last week and will be buried today. He lived with my aunt in an assisted living facility in central Florida. Their only daughter was always a favorite cousin to my sister and me. When we learned of our uncle’s passing, my sister and I arranged to meet at the Orlando airport Saturday night, rent a car, attend the memorial service today, and spend a few days with our cousin and aunt. It seemed like a simple enough plan, right? You be the judge.

As I was boarding my non-stop flight to from Nashville to Orlando, my sister phoned to tell me her flight out of Seattle had been delayed due to mechanical problems and she’d missed her connection in Phoenix.  The airline had rerouted her from Phoenix to Denver. From Denver she’d go to Charlotte and from Charlotte finally to Orlando—to arrive thirteen hours after her initial arrival time.

No problem. I’m a seasoned traveler. I arranged a hotel near the airport before my flight took off (and only had to talk a minute (maybe two) after the flight attendant told me I had to turn off my phone.) I arrived, took a shuttle to my hotel, got settled, called Hubby, checked my e-mail and sacked out until about 4 a.m. when I woke up feeling guilty I was in a comfy bed while my sister was stuck on an airplane.

The next morning I took the airport shuttle back to the terminal and decided to try to get the rental car, even though it was in my sister’s name. Of course they didn’t want to give it to me, but I’m a Gold Club member—okay now we all know it was Hertz—and I eventually talked them into letting me have it. (I’m not sure whether they relented because of my persuasive arguments or if they were just tired of dealing with me, but regardless, I got the car.) When I saw it wasn’t much bigger than go cart, I went back and asked what it would cost for me (remember I’m a Gold Club Member) to upgrade to a full-size car. They said they’d give me a 50% discount, so I handed over my American Express (which, of course they didn’t need because they had it on file). I stowed my bag in the car and went back to the terminal to meet my sister.

As we were leaving the Hertz lot, we noticed we had less than ½ tank of gas and had the attendant note it on our contract. I plugged my cousin’s address into my phone’s GPS and it told me it’d take 17 hours to walk there which turned on our tickle boxes. We’d both been to our cousin’s home before so we decided to wing it. My sister kept me amused with her travel stories, my favorite that she was so tired she’d gone to her seat number instead of her gate number at one of her layovers—I figured I’d be reminding her of that misstep for ages.

After we passed (and resisted) the Disney World exits we made a pit stop and filled the car with gas. That’s when all hell broke loose. Warning bells (seriously) told us we had brake and traction problems. The air conditioner quit working; the gas gauge was on E; the speedometer wouldn’t move, etc. We carefully drove across the street to a McDonald’s, parked in the shade (this is Florida, folks and it’s hot down here), and went inside to set up a work space.

I called Hertz’s emergency number and the phone was answered, “Are you safe?” I have to say, I liked that. I explained my situation. The attendant said the car would have to be towed and we’d need to go to the nearest Hertz rental spot and get a different car. He offered to call a cab for us and soon we were headed (in the opposite direction from our cousin’s) to Kissimmee. I’m pretty sure we didn’t go the most direct route—though the taxi driver kept assuring us he knew where he was going as he mumbled, “I think.”

In the meantime, the AAA tow-truck driver called to tell me he was at McDonald’s. I explained where the car was parked, which door I’d left unlocked, and where the key was. We picked up our new car and were once again headed down the yellow brick road. My sister, with her sleep deprivation, called our cousin to ask which exit to take. After we got off at the wrong place we determined perhaps I should get the directions first hand. I looked at the recent calls log (my sister had used my phone) and called my cousin back. When aman answered I was pretty sure it wasn’t my cousin’s husband and assumed it was either her son or someone there due to her father’s death.

“Hey, this is Kay. We’re lost again.”

“Hi, Kay. Where you want to go?”

“To your house,” I told him, not amused at his sense of humor. When he asked where I was exactly, I answered, to the best of my ability and he started with the directions … but they seemed a little … I don’t know, off, or something.

“Who is this?” I finally asked.

“Your tow truck driver.”

I don’t think I’ll tease my sister about going to the wrong gate. What do you think?

Until Wednesday,

~Kay

© 2010 Kay Elam

Friday Favorites: Character Chat—Loralee’s Lyrics

Guest blogger: Loralee Anderson, character from Murder on Music Row

Hey ya’ll,

I’ve had me a ball since the last time I got to blog, three weeks ago. My bruises and all from the bike throwing me off are almost all gone now and truth be told they quit hurting after a few days. Or maybe they quit hurting ‘cause I’ve been so damned busy. Whatever, you can’t hardly see ‘em at all now so I’m back to looking good.

I’m pumped ‘cause I’ve been hired for a semi-regular gig at the Wildhorse Salon down on 2nd Avenue. If you’ve been to Nashville, you’ve probably been to the Wildhorse and everythang so you know it’s a happening place. I’m just playing early evening which at most places would be a kiss of death time-slot, but in Nashville where you’ve got music almost 24/7 and tourists to match, it ain’t so bad. Everbody’s walking ‘round downtown looking for something to eat and since the Wildhorse serves food, that’s another draw. Sure, I’d rather have Saturday night at 11, (or any night at 11) but I’m still paying my dues, damn it. For now, I’m doing the Acustic Set  from 6 to 7 two nights a week. The problem is I don’t know which two nights until the start of that week.

I was afraid that was gonna cause trouble with my day job—I work as a Ticketing Representative for Gaylord Entertainment. They call their employees “stars” but I won’t even get started on what I think about that. I basically work in a call center selling all the Gaylord attractions in Nashville (and Maryland too but not Texas or Florida.)  We do the hotel reservations and all the special packages and also anything at the Ryman Auditorium downtown, The General Jackson, Christmas ticketing (like the Rockettes or the ICE exhibit), other special events and we’ll even arrange transportation.  I’ve been there full time for a while—except after The Flood 2010 where we had a bunch of layoffs. I still got to work part-time then and was glad just to have a job.

Anyways, I fixed it with my call center supervisor to do an early shift on the days I’m doing the Wildhorse. Normally I work 10 to 7 ‘cause I hate early mornings, but when I get to play downtown they’re gonna let me work 7 to 3. That’ll give me plenty of time to go home and change and redo my makeup. The call center’s open 24/7 and I was afraid they’s gonna make me work an overnight shift or worse, 7 to 3 every day. But I reckon since Gaylord owns the Wildhorse, they sees it as still helping out the company. They wouldn’t let me drop back to part time and still keep my benefits—which are rockin’ good—but I’m just tickled pink they didn’t make a stink about moving my hours around a bit.  Needless to say I’ve been working my well-toned butt off doing two job even if one of them is just two hours a week. Those two hours take lots of preparation.

So that’s what I’ve been doing since the last time I blotted. With the days getting shorter I don’t have no daylight hours at home anymore, but that’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make for my career. If you make it to Nashville be sure to check out the Wildhorse. Even if I’m not there, the music’s kick-ass and the dance lessons are a hoot. Be sure to tell ‘em to tell Loralee, “hi.”

See you next time,

~ Lor

Wildcard Wednesday: Online Friends

How many online friends do you have whom you’ve never met? If you’re on Facebook, My Space, Twitter, or any number of other social networking sites, I’m willing to bet quite a few. It starts with a friend of a friend, but as you put yourself out there in cyber-land on discussion boards, forums and what not, you find others with whom you click or feel a bond and pretty soon you’ve become friends on multiple social media sites.

I’ve only recently begun participating in online forums. I’ve enjoyed reading them for some time, but didn’t feel the need to jump in and give my two cents worth—besides who would care? It’s been interesting to see the personalities of participants emerge on these sites. Most people are helpful and tactful and seem to participate because they sincerely want to help others who are struggling.

Then there are the bullies. The people who use their words to viciously attack others. Groups that have a moderator usually shut these down quickly enough, but I’m surprised at the number who are out there. They don’t even make a pretense of trying to be nice. They find fault with every thing and everybody and, I’m sure they scare off many newbies. Of course we all know these are their own insecurities manifesting themselves and really have nothing at all to do with the person and/or writing they are attacking.

There’s a difference between being honest and being brutal. When we put our work out there to be critiqued we’re opening ourselves up for criticism—we all know that. It’s what makes us better writers. We don’t have to make the suggested changes—it’s our writing and the decision on how we present it is ultimately our own. While most people give feedback in a respectful manner, I’ve seen some that, if I’d been on the receiving end, would’ve made me run for the hills. I think this is why it took me so long to actually weigh in to online conversations.

But once you bite the bullet and put yourself out there you can find some amazing new friends. I told you Monday about a writing partner I found in an online forum. I’ve met some other people on writing sites with whom I’ve communicated outside the perimeters of the site. In addition I’ve found some incredible people in the two online classes I’ve taken.

In the first I really hit it off with an attorney from the LA area. We started communicating outside the class and actually read each other’s full manuscripts when they were in a very early stage. We even decided to meet in person when I went to a conference in Las Vegas with Hubby last year. (She was going to fly over for a few days.) Unfortunately, he had emergency surgery the week before the event was still in the hospital when I should have been meeting her. Bummer!

In my blogging class this past summer, I liked all of the participants and we still follow each other’s blogs and stay in touch through comments. But there was one woman to whom I felt an immediate bond—to her quick wit, to her insightful comments, and to her kindness. Plus she has a really fun blog where she shares her bucket list adventures—and she’s had some amazing ones—while encouraging others to do the same. Ironically, she also lives in the LA area. Why do all of my online class crushes live there? Maybe it’s their proximity to Dancing With the Stars that makes me bond with them…I don’t know.

Anyway, don’t be afraid to establish friendships outside of the traditional ways. Find a subject that interests you, locate discussion groups and/or forums on the subject and jump right in with both feet. If someone is mean or tries to bully you, remember it’s their issues driving it—it’s not about you. Ignore them. Don’t engage. Keep participating until you find like-minded individuals with whom you can relate and who knows … maybe you’ll find a new friend. I’d love to hear about any friends you’ve found online.

One of the characters from MURDER ON MUSIC ROW will guest blog on Friday. I’ll be back Monday.

~Kay

© 2010 Kay Elam

Manic Monday: Online Relationships

Writing is a solitary past-time, and I’m at a stage in my life where I love being alone—especially when I’m in creative mode. But I dare say all writers depend upon the input of others to proof-read, edit and help polish their work.  It’s just too difficult to see your own mistakes. You wrote it, you know what it’s supposed to say so that’s the way you read it; not as it is, but as it should be.

Letting others read your writing is much easier said than done. If you read my blog regularly you know it took me years to have the courage to share what I wrote—with anyone. Gradually, I began to let others read things, but only people I trusted to be honest yet kind in their assessments. When I finished MURDER ON MUSIC ROW, I asked a few friends to read it. I got several suggestions but most told me how much they liked it. After a year of on-again/off-again editing, rewriting and polishing, these same friends probably wouldn’t recognize it as the same book today. I’ve eliminated subplots, added scenes, and cut, cut, cut to prepare the manuscript for publication. I’ve also figured out my best critique partners going forward will be people who don’t know and love me. It’s not that I don’t have faith in my friends to proof, edit, etc.—they are all very talented, intelligent people who write well—but none are writers. Plus my insecurities jump in when friends are reading something of mine. If I don’t hear back quickly, I think they hate it. I don’t consider what’s going on in their lives with family, work, and just surviving on a day-to-day basis. I also fear they wouldn’t tell me if they thought it was horrible …

It seems like I’ve worked forever on my query and synopsis and actually feel better about them than I do my manuscript. Why? Many, many objective eyes (that I’ve never seen) have weighed in with opinions on them. I (bravely) posted them on a couple of websites for feedback. When critiquing online I’ve found people aren’t afraid to say it doesn’t make sense, or it’s awful, or maybe even I should stick to my day job. (No one has actually said that to me, but it’s been said.) I also found a wonderful source, Phoenix Sullivan, who critiqued my query and synopsis on her website and some of her experienced faithful followers also offered their honest, yet helpful opinions. I’m ready to send the queries (and when requested the synopsis) out with confidence, but what if the agent asks for pages … or (gulp) the manuscript? That is the objective, after all.

Since I found writers who’ve been gracious enough to offer suggestions about my query and synopsis online (and I’ve tried to pay it forward), I decided to try to find a critique partner via the web as well. People shop on line, find dates online, take classes online so why not? I started trolling researching discussion boards looking for a good match. I discovered a guy trying to determine the genre of his book. It appeared it might be a cozy so I jumped in the discussion. (Since Nathan Bransford published my post on that subject on his popular blog, I’ve appointed myself an expert in the area.) After monitoring the feed for a couple of days, I had a gut feeling he (genre guy, not Nathan) might be Mr. Right. So I sent him a PM (private message) asking if he’d be interested in trading chapters to critique.

It turns out we’ve both completed one novel and are in the querying process. We’ve both also started additional books. It appeared we’d be a good fit so we decided to give it a try. When we exchanged critiques on the first few chapters I became cautiously optimistic this could work out. (How lucky would that be to find a good critique partner on the first try?) His writing is funny and fresh and it seems we’re at roughly the same place in our writing careers. His work is more sophisticated than mine, but I’m aiming for a more folksy tone.

I finished the first half of his book yesterday and only stopped because I had other things I had to do—like write this post. His book is delightful and I have to remind myself to critique it not just read it. Oh, I’ve found a few inconsistencies and had some suggestions (I wouldn’t be a useful critique partner if I hadn’t) but all in all I think when he works out some formatting issues (like putting only one space after a period), his novel will be good to go when that first agent asks for a full.

When I got up this morning, I found a surprise in my inbox. He’d finished my book. Finished it. I feel like such a slacker. (OK, people who know me. Get up off the floor and quit laughing.) Best of all his feedback is right on the money and extremely helpful, especially regarding my point of view issues.  (I’ve heard of writing partners who just say, “This sucks. You call yourself a writer?”) He tells me what works, what doesn’t work, what might work better–all in a non-judgmental and kind way. When I go through my master manuscript and incorporate the changes he’s suggested, I know I’ll be more confident in sending it to any agent or publisher who requests it.

I realize I’m still in the honeymoon phase of this new relationship, and I’m trying not to get my hopes too high. What if he doesn’t like me as much as I like him? What if he quits responding? What if he dumps me? … or what if it all works out and we both become best-selling authors and continue to critique each others’ award-winning books. It could happen!

Until Wednesday,

~Kay

© 2010 Kay Elam