Friday, January 30, 2009

Walking Inspiration

I was out walking today, pushing my little girl in her stroller. Here of late I've had a walking buddy, but she had to get a haircut today, so I was by myself. My daughter is used to my friend and I chatting away, so I talked to her for a while...but one can only do this so long without response (she'll be one year in February). So I started thinking out loud about the current novel I'm working on.

Wham! In between a cow pasture and a old cemetery, I had the perfect romantic foil for my heroine! It was like a light bulb turning on! Of course, my daughter was asleep by this time, so she missed out on my epiphany this afternoon.

All that waits now is for me to get some uninterrupted writing time to actually type this into creation! I'm hoping that's on the agenda for this weekend.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

It's All About the Inner Journey

So I recently finished Sweet Caroline, another chick lit-style book written by Rachel Hauck. Visit her site here. It struck me as different for several reasons, but the first and foremost was that the heroine didn't end up with the love interest as you might expect. There was the promise of something more between them, but it wasn't the culmination of the book.

This book put to mind that the true focus of this style of book is the heroine's journey, not the romance. And I'm such a romance-a-holic, that this can be a little disappointing! But then I thought about the true message to these type of books could be so much more powerful without the "fairytale" ending.

Let's face it...fairytale endings don't happen in real life all the why should they in books? I guess there is the argument that since they don't happen in real life much, then we want to at least read about them. Maybe even so much so that when we read a book or watch a movie that doesn't end with everything neatly wrapped up and all strings tied, we get upset. So I think I'm going to try to have a happy medium in my writings. Maybe not everything will work out the way the heroine wants, but she'll dang sure get the man. Maybe?

Just some musings I've had today.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Pitch Rewrite

Here is my rewritten elevator pitch to an agent:

My WIP is a contemporary romantic suspense about a foster care social worker suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder due to getting raped a few weeks before her wedding date. She has to quit the job she loves because she is paralyzed by fear and anxiety, and her fiance - the director of the agnecy she works for - breaks off their engagement. After two years of therapy, she's given the go-ahead to work in social services again, but she has a panic attack associated with her PTSD while in the line of duty which raises questions about her competency. A handsome attorney with a client on her caseload is keeping tabs on her, which unsettles her because he reminds her so much of her ex-fiance. My heroine wants to learn to trust her fellow man again and prove to others and to herself that she can carry out her responsibilities and reclaim her life back from her mental disorder. In the process, she embraces her faith and femininity once more, but can her newfound strength withstand her biggest fear of being attacked again?

If any agents happen to be reading...I'll be at the ACFW conference this September! Look for me in the elevators or hallways. :)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Elevator Pitch Coaching

Christian literary agent Rachelle Gardner with WordServe Literary has a blog that I recently started following (click on post title to go there). It's been such a great way for me to learn more about what agents are looking (and listening) for when an author gives them a proposal or a pitch.

Recently, Rachelle called for elevator pitches (pitches made "off-the-cuff" to agents in unlikely places and perhaps quite unexpectedly) on her blog, and I submitted my first ever. It was weird to just put my idea out there in cyberspace...but at least 110 other people did, as well.

Starting yesterday, Rachelle has been selecting a few to critique and has offered feedback on how to make them better. She selected mine to review (for which I'm very grateful) and I'm reproducing it here in its original form (along with her review).

Me: Well, my WIP is about a foster care social worker suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. She's trying to get her life back on her career path while coping with her mental disorder, but a severe flashback raises questions about her competency from a handsome attorney who has a client on her caseload. She's also struggling with understanding why God would have allowed something so traumatic to happen to her in the first place. (Hopefully the agent would be somewhat interested here...and I would go on to explain my qualifications in writing such a book, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, and how mental disorders affect 1 in 4 adults but are largely left untouched in Christian fiction.)

Rachelle: Jeannie, this is a nice, conversational style, is a good length, and I like the way you plan to explain your credentials. The problem is the lack of story. It's very vague, and I can't easily imagine an exciting tale about a woman "trying to get her life back on her career path..." What does that even mean? And how much drama or action could that possibly entail? You reference a handsome attorney, but only in passing, which is a bummer because he was the most interesting thing in the pitch. I'm wondering why you've left out the most potentially dramatic and attention-grabbing details: What traumatic event is she suffering over? What was the nature of the "flashback" she had? I'd recommend you go back to the drawing board and work to convey the story, not just the themes, not the internal struggles of your protagonist, but what would make me want to read the book.

Stay tuned for my next post, when I try to take her suggestions to heart and rework my "elevator pitch" on my blog.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Critique Group

I just got my first email today from the leader of my critique group. I joined American Christian Fiction Writers and was hooked up into Critique Group 88! For now we're just introducing ourselves and getting to know one another. Soon, though, I imagine we will be swapping WIPs (work in progress for those who don't know) and getting down to some editing.

Which prompted this post.

I've been using my mother as a sounding board-slash-editor for my WIPs and completed manuscripts. She has given me feedback that I then take to try to rework my story so that it a) reads easier, b) is more feasible, c) has better dialogue or d) makes more sense. I've found that these editing comments have been very helpful, no doubt, but also wounding!

You spend enough time with something, it becomes a part of you. These characters are my friends! What do you mean, they wouldn't say/do something like that? I'm learning that one thing I'm going to have to get better at is taking criticism. Editors in the publishing world aren't really going to spare my feelings, so why should my mother or my critique partners?

So my resolution from this epiphany is that I'm going to work on developing tougher skin. I believe it to be perhaps the biggest necessity when trying to get published. (Lord help me...I haven't even gotten to the rejection letter part of this journey...)

Friday, January 16, 2009

Faux Pas Fiction

I'm a fan of romantic Christian fiction for women, particularly the genre known as "chick lit." The more I read of this genre, the more I find myself wanting a bit more in terms of character development.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 1 in 4 adults suffer from a mental disorder...TWENTY-FIVE PERCENT. This percentage isn't translated into Christian fiction much (that I know about, at least). Women (and men) struggle with depression, anxiety, grief, trauma, eating name it, yet the romantic chick lit genre is certainly silent about them.

As a result of this omission, I believe that I've found my niche as a writer after three years. My intimate acquaintance with these disorders (among others) paves the way for me to weave how they affect women and their relationships with others into the pages of fiction.

So for now, I'm working on a book about a social worker with post-traumatic stress (PTSD). I've completed a book about a woman grieving the loss of her husband and dealing with the reluctance (and guilt) of moving on.

My hope is to get published and bring hope and healing to women everywhere who might struggle with these same disorders or know someone else who does. Once the pain and confusion some people live in as a result of a mental health diagnosis is brought to light, I hope others will have more compassion and understanding, as well.