Monday, October 31, 2011

Query Contest

To celebrate her move to Nancy Coffey Literary, Suzie Townsend is doing an awesome query contest. Submit your query to her between 9-10 am EDT tomorrow and she'll respond with complete honesty. Totally scary, but so awesome at the same time.

Plus, in the comments she said that if you query her for the contest and she rejects you, you can resubmit your revised query later as a regular query. And if you've queried her before and been rejected, you can still submit to the contest. So cool, right?

You can check out all the details, here. Don't wait. The entry window is really small. Good luck to all of you who enter! :)

Monday, October 24, 2011

Spaghettification: Making Up Words for Your Story

For those of you who are not familiar with black holes, spaghettification is a real-life term used to describe how the gravity of a black hole (or anything with a very strong gravitational pull) affects objects that get too close and are subsequently sucked in to their deaths or maybe transported to another place or time. Lots of sci-fi possibilities in black holes. If you want a more detailed explanation, you can find one here.

I'm not a scientist, so I don't know how frequently this term is used outside of television (I watch a lot of astronomy shows because I'm a huge nerd), but every time I hear it, it makes me laugh. And the last episode I watched on black holes had the black holes rolling around in space looking like space Roombas, so I don't think that helped.

And then at the end of that episode, the narrator said something to the effect of, "Black holes truly are the masters of the universe."

The use of the term spaghettification (and my amusement over it) got me thinking about how it applies to writing. Doesn't everything apply to writing?

If you write in the worlds of science fiction and fantasy, you've probably, at some point, had the need to make up words unique to your worlds. But how do you know what works and what doesn't? You don't want the reader to laugh because it sounds too ridiculous or totally made-up.

Personally, nothing pulls me out of a story like a made-up swear word. I know that most pretend worlds wouldn't have the same swear words that we do, but most of the made-up ones sound silly and we all know what they're supposed to replace so why not just use the real thing? Okay, so that may or may not be one of my pet peeves. ;) 

In my own writing, if I need to come up with a world-specific word or even a name, I'll usually turn to other languages and try to find something I can tweak to fit my world. Or I might type the meaning into a baby naming site and see if there's something I can use there, and not just for names. I've come up with at least one world-specific word using a baby naming site. Even then, I'm not always sure that what I've come up with is working. I just try to go with what feels and sounds right for the story.

And I always google the word to make sure it doesn't already exist. Except for when I forget to do that and one of my crit partners has to point out that one of my character names is a gelato flavor. :)

What about you? How do you feel about made-up words in stories? Have you made up any words for your own stories? If so, how did you go about it?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Backing Up

You'd think I would've learned this lesson already.

Friday morning, I sat down at my computer to find that some "wonderful" updates from Microsoft had been applied during the night and my computer had been rebooted automatically. I'd saved everything I was working on, so no big deal. Well, except that the computer kept locking up. So I restarted it, since that usually corrects any issues.

That was the beginning of the end. Okay, so maybe it wasn't that dramatic, but when it got stuck on the welcome screen (probably not the actual name of the screen) and refused to boot, I freaked out a little. Other than the whole I can't write without my computer concern (yes, I know technically I can still write without my computer), I was mostly worried because it's been at least six months since I backed up my hard drive, probably a lot longer.

Periodically, I will save my WIP to my hard drive and then to a flash drive where I keep the most recent version, plus I recently uploaded it to my crit group and printed it out, so I knew that was okay. My photos and all my other documents, on the other hand, are only on my hard drive. Fortunately, my computer is setup with a recovery program, so I was able to go in and backup all my files--four very stressful hours, especially when it got stuck at 89% for over twenty minutes, but it did work.

Then it took three tries, but System Restore finally decided to cooperate (I swear System Restore HATES me) and I haven't had any problems with it since. Well, except for my Norton Internet Security which either got damaged in the process or was the cause of the problem (and probably the reason System Restore hates me), but that's taken care of, too.

So, my point? Remember to backup your files on a regular basis. This could've been so much worse. Losing my writing would be hard, but my photos? I once lost six months of photos (including my youngest daughter's first birthday) thanks to a computer crash and I was sick for a week. It still makes me a little nauseous when I think about it.

What about all of you? Do you backup your computer regularly? Is it set up to run automatically or do you run it manually each time? Anyone using an online backup system? If so, how do you like it?

Photo credit.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Writer Therapy

Ever had one of these days?

I've threatened to do this many times, but have never followed through.

Just using a lighter does not work. Plain old matches don't work either. The stack is too dense to get hot enough fast enough. I finally spread out some dryer lint across the top and that got it going really strong. Dryer lint is SUPER flammable. If you feel compelled to do this, you'll probably want to do it outside on a grill or something else non-flammable. You know, so you don't set your house on fire. :)

And now I smell like smoke, but I do feel better. :)

How do you vent your writerly frustrations?

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Blog Chain: Critter Love

This round of the chain was started by Sarah. She asked:

Do you work with critique partners? How did you find your crit pals, and what influence have they had on your work?

I have to say, I smiled when I read this round's topic. This is an easy one for me. :)

Yes, I have critique partners. I belong to a the best critique group with three awesome writers. Love you, Tere, Plamena, and Jade! I also have a few other people who I've swapped manuscripts with and gotten great, honest feedback.

My longest standing crit partners (and writerly friends) I met through Query Tracker. If you're looking for critters, QT is an excellent place to start. Lots of helpful folks over there. I think I've found all my other critters through blogging or through other crit partners.

Having crit partners has had a HUGE impact on my writing. Sure, it was super scary putting my work out there for the first time, but I don't think I ever would've realized what a crapfest my first draft was without the awesome people who were willing to read and comment on that crapfest. And no, crapfest is not an exaggeration. It was so bad. The people who read it and didn't tell me it was hopeless should be given medals. And chocolate. Lots and lots of chocolate. ;)

And the emotional and mental support I've received from my crit partners (especially Tere--you rock!) can't be measured. I really could not do this writing thing without them. 

I've heard horror stories about critique partners from Hell, so I consider myself truly blessed that I've connected with so many great writers and gotten so much helpful feedback. And now I'm totally addicted to critiques. Seriously, I think I might like feedback a little too much. ;)

I know I've shared this before, but I believe this commercial shows the critique process very well--painful, but necessary--and it makes me laugh every time I watch it. :)

What about you? Do you have crit partners? How have they influenced you?

Be sure to check out Christine's post from yesterday and Amparo's post tomorrow. :)