Wednesday, September 30, 2009


One of my peeps has super exciting—super secret news that I can't really share. But I will say this:


Okay, that is all.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


I'm gonna have to try this "Stop, Drop & Roll" method the next time I walk Chloe & Bailey!

*Rubs Hands Together*

BTPM is coming along! I've decided to keep this really kick arse fight scene I wrote and trashed a while back. It's a little too much at present, but I think with a few tweaks to tone down the tone, I should be good to go. :) I have to say, it reads REALLY well, probably the best stuff in the book, if I'm honest. I just can't let it go! But it can't really work the way it is now, either. Me and my little minions will go to work on it and pound it into something usable.

Oh, and I'm devising a very clever plan with some friends. We shall be revealing it very, very soon. *muhahahaha*

And I'm blogging/emailing at seven in the morning. Someone do an intervention. Quick!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Funniest Thing I've Read In A Looooong Time

Maureen Johnson, YA author extraordinaire, is doing a chapter by chapter reader's "guide" to Dan Brown's new novel, THE LOST SYMBOL.

It is seriously...da bomb.

I haven't laughed this hard in quite some time.

You must, must, must, MUST check it out. (Or avoid if you actually WANT to read the book. And admittedly, I kinda do!)

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3...

Stay tuned for the next installment.

Oh, Evergreen! How I Miss Thee

After the Colorado Gold conference, the gnomies got together for a little writer's retreat. We did this last March -- in Myrtle Beach, SC. So beach and the mountains so far... I can't wait to see where we go next time!

(And I just read on an agent's blog that a writer's life DOES NOT consist of spending quiet afternoons in a mountain retreat...or seaside in a cottage. Shame on us. We're doing it ALL wrong.)

Anyway...some pics. (Be forewarned, amateur here!)

Our House. This is what you call roughing it in the wilderness. I'll tell ya. It's a tough job, but we gnomies are up to the challenge!

It was HUGE...had an indoor pool and everything! Yeah, it was pretty much made of awesome, even if the decor was stuck somewhere in the 80's.

Our patio. Check out that blue sky! We had PERFECT weather while we were there. Lucky. A week later, they had snow!

The view FROM our patio. Are you feeling sorry for us now?? I mean, goodness. To wake up that view takes a certain kind of human strength and endurance. We are all very brave women.

More view from the patio -- obviously a different time of day. Did I mention this house was gated on acres and acres of private land? I'll tell you what. If you ever vacation, you WANT Beth Shope booking the rental. She always finds the greatest places to stay!

The view during a hike we took. I can't remember the exact name of the location. Something with bears in it...Beautiful.

A HUGE beaver's dam. Holey moley they've been hard at work!

Cool cloud shapes. I think this is a sign that Beth Shope needs to finish her book. Can't be a coincidence that we saw this. :)

This little guy decided to pop and say hello to me when I was out on a walk on the rental property. We watched each other for a long time, and he/she actually ended up following me for a little while. There was a whole family of deer living under some brush near the property gate.


Our final morning in Evergreen. I didn't want to leave. Sigh. Can you blame me?

Friday, September 25, 2009


3 chapters down...only to go.

I can SO do this.

RMFW Workshops – Screenwriting, Presented by Eldon Thompson

I wanted to post some of my notes from the RMFW conference. You'll have to excuse me if these are a little sparse in certain spots. The only real point that I can criticize Eldon Thompson on as a presenter is that he spoke EXTREMELY fast. I'm a quick note-taker (law school, hello), but even I couldn't keep up at times.

So, you might be wondering – why take a screenwriting class, Jen?

What can I say? I love movies. Love, love, love, LOVE me some movies. You might say I'm slightly obsessed with them, though I haven't seen a new one in ages. And one comment I've heard over the years is that some of my scenes are "very cinematic." I'm not sure that's always a good thing in writing – guess it depends on who you're talking to. That said, I really didn't know much about screenwriting before taking this class. Even now, I'm not sure it's something I could do – well. I definitely want to try, though. Especially after taking this class.


Eldon started off by talking about some of the differences between novels and screenwriting.

  1. For one, novels have more freedom while screenwriting is much more structured. For a two hour film, you'll need 120 pages. It's 1 page per minute. Therefore, if you're writing for TV, you'd be shooting for 40 pages, etc. No going crazy on the word counts, people!
  2. Certain events HAVE TO happen on certain page numbers. This all helps to provide a tempo and/or the beats that are expected in films. In novels, we can pretty much do just about anything and get away with it. Within reason, of course.
  3. While writing a novel is a solo venture, writing a screenplay is very collaborative. Eldon made a point of saying you'll get opinions from every direction – the actors, the director, the boys in the office, etc. Actually, he made this part of screenwriting sound very tiresome. In novels, specificity is the key. You can go on and on about using a certain dog breed in a scene, while in screenplays you simply have to say "there's a dog." Why? Because you're not the only one working on the project. Someone else might come along and see a different breed. (Jen's aside: Are you getting the sense that while you're giving a lot of creative input into a project, you're not allowed to go hog wild on details? Cuz I sure am.)
  4. Films/TV shows are dictated by cost. Obviously in novels you can place your characters in the wildest, most extravagant setting you can imagine. In film, things come back to the Benjamins. Can you really afford to shoot at the top of the Eiffel Tower or would the backyard of your mother's house be more reasonable? (I think we all know the answer to that one.)

Eldon finished this section by reminding us of The Golden Rule: Every rule is made to be broken. But, Eldon pointed out, understanding why the rules exist is always a good idea.

So, some tips on writing a screenplay:

  1. You want a major event to occur every ten pages. At the 30 page mark, you want a culmination of the previous two events. AKA – The Payoff.
  2. Conflict (as in novels) is the key element. You want two characters with opposing objectives in every scene.
  3. Avoid dinner scenes!
  4. One of the big mistakes first-time screenwriters make is that they want to add direction. (i.e. try to dictate camera angles, how emphasis should be placed on certain lines of dialogue, etc.) Basically, they want to be the directors. They want their screenplays to play out in their minds just like a novel would. Well, folks, Eldon said to NOT do this. You'll step on peoples' toes. Big time. I mean, just imagine if I wrote a screenplay that eventually starred Jack Nicholson. Do you think Jack would want me to tell him he has to say his line like a little girl? Yeah, don't think so.
  5. There's a lot less time in film, so you need to keep your writing lean and mean. Central character focus is very, very important. You'll want to focus mostly on your primary characters, a little less on your secondary, and leave out your third altogether.
  6. Scenes should build on the previous one. NO tangents.
  7. You don't need to describe setting with a lot of detail. (Goes back to the Benjamins and stepping on peoples' toes again.) You pretty much want to stick with whether the scene takes place indoors or outdoors; whether it's day or night; and the location (once again, bearing in mind that this is subject to change. Ah, you just know most of it will be shot at your mom's house.) Remember Eldon's BIG RULE: SIFYN – SAVE IT FOR YOUR NOVEL.
  8. Everything in a script has to be seen on the screen. You can have someone frown, but you can't say WHY they're frowning. EVERYTHING is visual rather than internal. If it can't be seen on the screen, take it out.
  9. Do not let reality cloud your story. Hollywood could care less if the scene you're describing really happened. A movie has to be the most dramatic version of an event possible.


How can you get started?

  1. Try to adapt an established story. You'll need permission if you want to shop it around (an option from the writer), but it's a good way to get practice.
  2. Eldon warns it's difficult to adapt your own work. In order to adapt a novel to a screenplay, you must be ruthless. You have to yank out entire threads/subplots, delete characters you love, etc. You must be ruthless if you attempt this. Go into it open-minded, and DO NOT be afraid to KILL your darlings!

Software options for screenwriting:

  1. Movie Magic
  2. CeltX (free download)
  3. Final Draft (industry standard)

Okay…now we're going to get into the nitty-gritty of writing a screenplay. The "set-up" so to speak.

Three things you should always keep in mind: Character, Desire, and Conflict. Repeat after me. Character, Desire, and Conflict. Got it? K.

For this section, he used Michael Hauge's Six Stage Plot Structure, seen here:

I'll go through because Eldon listed some great examples for each stage/turning point, etc.

Stage 1 – Setup. (0-10%)

  1. Basically, you introduce your hero doing what he/she does.
  2. You should draw the reader/viewer into the setting, establish identification with your character, etc.


  • Erin Brockovich – We see Erin is a broke, single mother who has fallen onto hard times.
  • Castaway – Fedex guy who has to leave the love of his life to go on an impromptu business trip.
  • Gladiator – What's his bucket – Russell Crow – leads his troops to victory.

Turning Point #1: Opportunity (approx. 10% of the way in)

  1. The new opportunity. A new, visible desire develops that will start a character on his/her new journey.
  2. The character goes in WILLINGLY.


  • The Empire Strikes Back – Luke goes off alone to find Yoda.

Stage 2 – New Situation (10-25%)

  1. Hero reacts to his/her new situation.
  2. Formulates a specific plan to tackle new problem/journey.
  3. Will often see a geographical shift (i.e. the character moves)
  4. The characters go into the situation willingly. They're excited and believe the obstacle can be solved easily.


  • Mrs. Doubtfire – Robin Williams devises a plan to see his children. (Becoming a female housekeeper)

Turning Point #2: Change of Plans (Approx. 25% of the way in)

  1. Something happens that makes it clear things won't be as easy as they first thought.
  2. Audience should be cheering them on.
  3. Character's inner journey may be different, invisible. But you must develop a visible desire that the audience can see on the screen.


  • The Empire Strikes Back – Leia and Han Solo escape Hoth, thinking they are well onto their destination when their light speed doesn't work.
  • Working Girl – Tess realizes her boss has stolen her idea and is determined to sell it herself.

Stage 3 – Progress (25-50%)

  1. The hero's plan seems to be working.
  2. He/she has avoided all obstacles for now


  • Erin Brockovich – Erin gets Ed to represent the Hinkley residents. She also establishes her relationship with biker boy.
  • The Empire Strikes Back – Luke finds Yoda and begins his training.

Turning Point #3: Point of No Return (Approx. the 50% mark)

  • The character must fully commit to his plan
  • There is no way out but forward


  • The Truman Show – Truman crosses the bridge.
  • Titanic – Rose sleeps with Jack.
  • Erin Brockovich – Ed's firm hires the new, bigger firm.

Stage IV – Complications and Higher Stakes (50-75%)

This should be fairly self-explanatory. IOW, I have a hole in my notes. (g) If you need help, read one of Donald Maass's books. J

Turning Point #4: Major Setback (75% point)

  1. Should take place around page 90 in a two hour movie
  2. This is the hero's darkest moment. All hope seems lost.
  3. If the hero is pulling off some great deception, this is when he/she is revealed.
  4. Couples break up.


  • The Matrix – Morpheus is captured.
  • Titanic – It's clear the ship is going to go down.
  • Working Girl – Tess is caught by her boss and gets canned.

Stage V – The Final Push (75 to 90-99%)

  1. Hero must gather resources to achieve goals.
  2. The conflict is overwhelming, nothing is working.

Examples: (these are my own – more holes)

  • Titanic – Jack and Rose try to save themselves; get to a boat.
  • The Matrix – Keanu Reeves is fighting the matrix guys, but he isn't strong enough.
  • Gladiator – Crow's escape/coup attempt fails and his men are killed.

Turning Point #5: The Climax (90-99% point)

  1. The hero must determine his/her own fate.
  2. He/she cannot rely on someone else to save them.


  • Gladiator – Final battle scene in the coliseum
  • The Empire Strikes Back – Luke fights Darth Vader and discovers DV is his father. (Jen's aside: Luuuuke… I am your faaaather. Umm, sorry if I spoiled that for any of you.)

Stage VI – The Aftermath (90-100% point)

  1. The hero's challenge has been overcome.
  2. This gives a look at where the hero is NOW.


  • Erin Brockovich – Erin receives her bonus check and is now working on a new case.
  • Gladiator – Russell is reunited with his family. I remember there was a lot of wheat.


And that's it, folks. You've just got the lowdown on how to write a screenplay. Anyone dying to give it a try?

Oh…just a few last notes.

Genre standards:

Comedy/Rom. Comedy – 90 min/pages

Action – 120 min – pages will likely be less because of the big action scenes.

Historical Drama/Epic – 120 min/pages

NOTHING goes under 85 minutes.


Eldon's final tips:

  1. Create balance. White space is very important!
  2. Less is more for dialogue.
  3. Flashback/dream sequences: As a rule, don't use them. (But what was it Eldon said earlier…what was THE GOLDEN RULE?? Ah yes, all rules are made to be broken.)
  • When using a flashback, use headers – end/begin flashback.
  • Patterns CAN work well, but don't use them as a crutch to get backstory in.
  • Use them very carefully. Most people consider them a cheat. (Jen's Aside: There must be a lot of people REALLY mad about the show Lost.)


And Eldon's one last piece of advice. This is important. I'm putting it in big bold letters:


Jen: Wha? When did floors come into it? I mean, I know there has to BE a floor, but I DIDN'T specify whether it was hardwood, marble, or parquet. SWEAR!!

No, no, no. That's not what he meant.

He simply meant you can't fixate on/polish one section of your screenplay forever. Move on. Push through to the end. Go, team, Go!


Hope this was useful! Thanks Eldon – great class!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Have I Mentioned...

....I've got my BY THE PALE MOONLIGHT cap on right now?

I do. I love it. I've missed it. I'm so glad to be back with Ty and Mac for a while.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

RMFW III -- The Art of Mingle

Umm, let me preface this with the fact that I SUCK at mingling. The very idea of striking up a conversation with an agent or editor...or even another writer, somewhat frightens me. To put it bluntly, I suck at small talk. My go to conversation piece is books...and if I'm feeling particularly bold, the fact that I used to do undercover work (upon which I have based one of my books). THAT, of course, is always a crowd favorite which inevitably ends with people insisting (or if I'm on the sauce -- ME insisting) that I show them how to fake snort cocaine. I have done this numerous times over the years, and it's never pretty.

I once bent over and started my hair on fire with the candle sitting in the middle of the table. Clearly, that was one of my saucier moments.

'nuff said?

Is it abundantly clear that I often end up...well, making an arse of myself?

Okay, then.

That said, what's the point of going to a writer's conference if you stay holed up in your room, too afraid to talk to anyone? This, my friends, is when you rely on the people who DO NOT have a problem striking up conversations with random strangers. In fact, you should SURROUND yourself with people who have no problem doing this. They should come armed with cupcakes.

Yes, cupcakes.

I know that sounds weird, but you, like me, have probably underestimated the power of a little sugar and flour. And icing. Don't forget the icing.

The night before the RMFW conference began, I, along with my fellow gnomies, camped out in the bar with three dozen cupcakes...cookies...cheesecakes...and other assorted goodies, including one called Texas Trash. Which was total YUM, btw.

Then we just sat back and waited for everyone to come to us.

It totally worked. (g)

Okay, there was more to it than that. We happen to have gnomies who kick butt at the whole "hello, how are you" thing, and they busted their butts making sure people received invitations, and that everyone who happened by felt welcome. This allowed shy schmucks like myself to pretend for a moment that we're social genuises.

I know what you're thinking -- especially those who have met me. JEN, you are SO not shy.

Well, pssst...I really, really am. I cover it by acting the fool.

Don't believe me? What if I told you it took all of five minutes for Janet Reid* to threaten me with "her people?" I won't go into the specifics, but as you can see, I make an impression. Granted, most people probably wouldn't think a death threat is a GOOD thing. In my world, though, it's just an average day. And (g)

Oh...and there was that writer fellow. *cough*James Born*cough* Very, very funny guy. From Florida. Cop. Liked to talk reeeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaally slowly to the hick from Nebraska -- afraid she wouldn't understand otherwise. Personally, I think he must have played football down there at some point, and perhaps got knocked senseless by the Huskers a few too many times. For the record, I tried to take HIS cake back. :)

Then there was the lovely Becca Stumpf. So young. So sweet. So STALKED by half my group. She was awesome.

Jenny Rappaport...Mario Acevedo...Margie Lawson (who is totally made of awesome!)...and many, many others fell prey to our sugar bait.

I know it sounds silly, but those goodies were a great way to break the ice. They certainly made my debut into the conference world a whole heckuva lot smoother. So don't be afraid to try something outside the box. You never know who might stop by.

*And just for the record... Janet Reid really isn't as scary as she likes to pretend.


When you speak to her face to face, you actually forget about those teeth. And they're not really as sharp as they look. Promise.

Friday, September 18, 2009

RMFW Gold Conference, Part II

I know I said I was going to talk about mingling and getting to know agents/editors/writers outside the organized conference, but I want to touch back on the critique circle with Kristin Nelson. There are some points she made that I think were very important.

So, how's this for an issue: What if you have an agent read your pages, tell you she/he loves your writing, thinks the story is fantastic, but there's no way they could sell it.

*blink blink*

You think there's no way in the world this could happen. Well, my friends, it happened in our critique circle.

Without going into specific details, Kristin said pretty much these very same things about one of the submissions. I gotta tell you, that has to be hard to hear as a writer. Sure, there's a lot to love in a situation like this. Namely, the agent loves your writing and thinks your story has a lot of potential.

There's also a lot to really be bummed out about. Because even though the agent is feeling the love, they've told you flat out that your project will never sell.


I mean OUCH.

You've essentially done everything right, but there's one minor problem. You didn't give enough consideration for the market, nor the way your book will be sold.

Kristin made a very good point in our circle. As writers, we're always being told we're artists -- and that as artists, we shouldn't try to write to the market. We should instead write what we love. Write what is speaking to us. Write what makes the angels weep and the birds sing. Oh, yes. This is what we all want to do.

But Kristen pointed out that while all that is great, at the end of the day, your agent still needs to be able to sell your manuscript. And whether or not we want to, we must think about what is selling--what your agent can compare your book to--where it would ultimately be shelved in a bookstore, etc. IOW, you have to give the business side of things due consideration when choosing what to write.

Let's face it. We all want that break out hit. We all think that if we bend genres, come up with some new high concept novel or what not that WE can make it work. That somehow it will make us stand out from the pack. But is that the right attitude to have? In the end, it does work for some people -- but for most, it probably won't. If you're playing the odds, it's something you probably wouldn't want to risk.

But I'm a writer in the end. I would never tell someone not to write what they love. My suggestion would be to keep 90% of yourself trained on your work in progress, and the remainder with one eye on the market. If you're going to go in with something new, know where your book will fit in.

In other words, if you write young adult, you should know what is selling. What books your book would be comparable to. How your agent would go about selling your book -- what you would call it, where it would be shelved. Pssst. That means you actually have to READ YA. (Just a friendly reminder. (G))

I know none of us likes to think about the business side of things. Heck, that's why we have agents, right? But as Kristin said, you have to be there to HELP your agent. Neither the writing nor the selling should be done without direct consideration for the other half of the equation.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

RMFW Gold Conference

Okay, so I said I would give a recap of the conference. Well, it may have to be in parts. I've got a lot of work to do (thank the lord) and really need to be doing it instead of blogging. That said, I want to cover some of this stuff while it's still fresh in my mind.

I can't begin to describe how nervous I was about meeting editors and agents and fellow writers (oh my!). And well, I'd like to say that my nervousness went away once I got to Denver. I'd like to say that, but I can't. I was a wreck, and as agent critiques and pitches drew near, I was practically sick with nerves and felt like fleeing the building. I didn't care where I went, as long as I went somewhere else. Not a pleasant feeling to have. Trust me.

If any of you have ever experienced stage fright, then you know exactly how bad it can get. Your knees turn to rubber, your palms start sweating, you feel like you might lose your lunch... You want to lay down, yet you can't sit still. OMG. I think I'm reliving it as I type this. :)

I'll talk about some of the workshops I attended, but right now I want to talk about my critique circle with Kristin Nelson. It was a-mazing. Seriously, it was like a crash course in writing. Not only did I learn a great deal about writing in general, but I picked up a lot of the ins/outs of the publishing world. It was two hours. I can't imagine the amount of information a person could pick up by shadowing an agent for even one day. Well worth my time, money, and effort. In fact, it pretty much made the conference for me.

So, here's how it worked. I had 8 writers in my group, and one agent -- Kristin Nelson, who ran the workshop. We sent our first ten pages and a one page overview in advance and were asked to read and critique each other before the start of the workshop. Going in, we really had no idea what we would be expected to do, and I believe every group ran a little differently.

For ours, Kristin had us read a few paragraphs of our opening chapter, after which the rest of the group took turns sharing their thoughts, etc. When everyone was done, we all got to sit back and soak in whatever advice and/or thoughts Kristin had. Some pages she loved, others she didn't love. I don't think any of us was in complete agreement with her on every manuscript, but I'll tell you what, she never made you feel bad for having a differing opinion.

It was awkward--to the extreme--when I finished saying how I wasn't particularly jazzed over one opening, only to have her immediately follow up with how she thought it was perfect. LOL. But even when we disagreed, I could see her nodding her head in the background while I was speaking. She always made me feel like I had a valid opinion.

I really loved that she let us go first. That way, we weren't colored by her opinions. In the end, what I learned is that everything REALLY is subjective. What one agents passes on, another may embrace. It doesn't mean one agent is right or wrong. It just means that not every book is for each and every person out there. Tastes vary. We all need to remember that!

As for FAKING IT -- I received a great response from the group. I walked away with some good ideas on how to make my pages even better, and all in all, it was a very beneficial experience.

So, I'm sure you're wondering if Kristin liked it? Well, I'll end this by saying that she doesn't rep mystery/suspense. But, that doesn't mean she didn't like it. (g) How's that for a vague answer?

More tomorrow. I'll try to touch on mingling with agents/editors/writers in a setting we all adore: The Bar.

Oh...and one more thing. Kristin thought our critique group kicked butt, too.

HERE. Check out number 3!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


I'm back from Denver!

Lots and lots o' fun things to blog about, but alas, it will have to wait until tomorrow. I'm exhausted!

Hugs to all my gnomies!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

I'm Not Ready!

Do you hear that sound?

That's the sound of PANIC.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Denver's Almost Here!

I leave for Denver on Thursday! I can't wait to see all the Gnomies again!

I'll admit to still being extremely nervous. It's my first conference ever and I have that scheduled crit with Kristin Nelson. BAH. I'm very, very skerred. And excited. :)

That said, I'm still pounding the keys -- have to get this draft of FI as close to completion as possible. It's getting there. Honest. Every day it looks more and more like an actual book. It's so thrilling to see the end in sight. That said, I can't let up.

I have a ton of things to do this week in preparation, not the least of which is reading all the other submissions for KN's crit circle. I've been a bit of a slacker, but I must get to those soon. I'm also trying to figure out what goodies to bring to the conference -- we're doing a cookie exhange. I think I'm going for sugar free cheesecakes. I know, I'm cheating. But cheesecake is my favorite thing in the world, and they'd be bite-sized like cookies. (g) And total yum!

Still not listening to any books...have cheated a little on paper books. I read the HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins a while back, have started Book 7 (you know the one), and have dipped a toe into THE DEMON'S LEXICON by Sarah Rees Brennan. All of them I have enjoyed and/or am enjoying _a great deal_. But I'm trying to limit reading. It's a very, very difficult thing to do. Especially when the sequel to HUNGER GAMES just came out!!!! Ack.

Anyway, just thought I'd pop on for a minute. I have the next two days off and plan to get a lot of work under my belt.


Friday, September 4, 2009

Dealing With Crits

Being as I just woke up (whatta slack!) I figured I'd start the day by trying to confuse everyone with a crafty type post. Better to get this fuzziness out of my head HERE instead of when I start poking at FI, right? (g)

I thought it sounded like a good idea.

Okay, so crits. Who needs 'em? What do you do with them once you have them? and What if _all_ of them disagree? WHAT THE HECK DO YOU DO??

Well, let me start out by saying that critiques of your work are very personal things. No matter how much you try to distance yourself from the experience, and no matter how much you say you won't take things too personally, you DO. On some level, you always do. Sure, you get better at it as times goes by, but I don't think any of us can say that a completely negative crit is a fun thing to receive. I think most of us probably close the email and declare, "That person just doesn't get my work!"

Well, I'm telling you, those feelings are natural, and probably healthy in the long run.. BUT, when you simmer down, open up that email again, and open yourself up to the possibility that the critter may have some legit concerns. It's likely that there's something there you can use to make your work better.

As an illustration, I'd like to use my recent experience with my first three chapters. If you think you've received crits all over the board, wait until you hear about this.

I sent it to six readers total -- here's what I received back:

1. This person loved it. Couldn't think of a single thing to change other than minor cleanups.

2. This person felt it was good throughout, but that maybe I should cut chapter one and start with chapter two.

3. This person also felt it was good throughout, but that maybe I should cut chapter TWO and start with chapter ONE. *brows hitting the back of my neck at this point*

4. This person loved it -- hasn't offered any ideas for major changes. She also said the chemistry between my main characters was "smokin'" and that she was so connected to my MC by the end that she felt like she WAS my MC.

5. This person said the writing was good, but that she didn't feel any connection with my MC OR any connection/chemistry between my main characters. Overall, didn't sound like she liked the tone of the chapters either.

6. This person loved it.

Someone pour the vodka! I need a drink!

I have to admit. Even just two years ago, I would have been freaking out by now, thinking my book sucked. But having wizened with experience (heh, right) I had to take a step back and really break this all down.

My first step was to look at the two readers who suggested I cut full chapters. Why such opposing viewpoints? Well, after much thought, hair-pulling, and wallowing in buckets of my own tears (kidding), I think I've come up with an answer.

My book really starts out with a lot of background information. I TRIED not to do a huge info-dump right from the get-go, but I also wanted to make sure readers understood who/what Madison does for a living. My solution was to illustrate it, and make sure I got in the information in the least "info dumpy" sort of way I could manage. The end result? Two good chapters, but two chapters that basically illustrated the same things.

Solution: I'm keeping chapter one and dumping a good portion of chapter 2.

Now, I know as soon as I do this, readers will come back saying they don't understand this or that. It's a complicated business this writing thing is, and I have no doubt that many, many readers will cry foul. The thing is, though, I have to do what's best for the pace of the story. I don't want to confuse readers, but at the same time, I don't want to spoon feed them every answer either. And I certainly don't want to bog down the story by giving them the same stuff twice. I have faith my readers will figure it out. And if not, I'll go back in and make sure they'll get it. That's my job.

Now, on to the chemistry comments. This is by far the harder issue. I don't want anyone to feel a disconnect between my characters, and/or my characters and him/herself. That just sucks, and quite frankly, is my biggest nightmare. (Right after not being able to tell a good story. (G))

What do I do in this situation? Well, naturally you want everyone to LOVE your characters, to LOVE your characters together, and to LOVE reading your book. But is that a reasonable goal?

My answer: NO. It isn't. And it ain't gonna happen. Deal with that now.

There isn't a writer out there who hasn't been criticized for one thing or another. I've read many, many books...and I'm often shocked by the lack of connection I feel for a character and/or story which others have RAVED about, claiming it's their favorite book/character of all time! And I'm quite certain people feel the same way about some of the books _I_ love.

That's OKAY. That's why there are shelves and shelves of books for us to read. You can't please all of the people all of the time.

Learn it. Live it. Love it.

It doesn't make you any less of a writer. Promise.

That said, there does come a turning point where you NEED to listen to these people. If everyone comes back, saying you aren't connecting when you thought you had connected the heck out of your characters...well, Houston, you may have a problem.

You always have to weigh the criticism you receive. But if more people love it than hate it, dude, you're on the right track. Don't let the negative ones bring you down. And I say this fully as a person *cough* who has _given_ negative reviews from time to time. I'm only one voice out of MANY, and just because something didn't float my boat, doesn't mean the world is crazy for loving it. Or that you haven't done your job well. (Wait a minute? Did I just say I might be wrong in my view? Holy hell. Is there a new world order? Nah, I did say MIGHT. (g))

The flipside -- if you receive a round of crits from people saying your work is PERFECT as is? Well, send it out to some more people. Just to play it safe. In my opinion, there is always something you can work on to make even better. Ask any published author who wishes he/she could go back and change this or that. There's ALWAYS room for improvement.

Oh...and the critters who loved FAKING IT as is? OF COURSE THEY'RE RIGHT. Yay to the two of you for getting the right answer!!!!

*Lotsa Confetti!!!*


Happy writing everyone!