Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

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Blog has moved

July 10, 2011

DayByDayWriter has moved. I figured it was time to have a URL with my name. 🙂

So, please come and join in over at SamanthaClark.wordpress.com.

Write On!

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It’s Blog Action Day!

October 15, 2009

Done today: First half of Chapter 2 (two pages)

Revision remaining: 163 pages

Daily pages needed to be finished by end of November: 3.5

Today I’m blogging as part of Blog Action Day, along with more than 5,000 bloggers around the world. How fun! The topic is climate change.

Now, I’m no scientist, and there are plenty of studies floating around that say the world’s climate is changing because of our negligence and plenty of others that say the climate change we’re seeing is just part of the ups and downs that have brought ice ages to the planet long before we got here. So, what to believe? Are our smoggy cars, polluting factories, etc., slowly destroying our planet?

Well, here’s the way I see it: Does it make a difference? Climates are changing, but whether it’s from pollution or not, there is something we know for sure that pollution gives us — lung problems. Too much bad stuff in the air causes more asthma and other diseases, and we don’t need any more of that — especially with the cost of health care. 🙂

Now, this is a writing blog, so here’s the writing part. In most books, the nice parts of stories take place in areas with lots of trees, green grass, clean air and the people are happy and smiling. (Look at all those allergy commercials.) Horror stories happen in drab, rundown factories or buildings with rain pouring outside. Ok, this is a generalization, but I hope you’re getting my point. Nice = green and clean, bad = polluted and rundown.

That’s not to say I think we should all sells our cars and not use electricity. My husband’s a Mustang fan, and I don’t think they’ll be selling them as hybrids any time soon. But that’s ok. The important thing is that we do what we can to reduce our impact. And, I think it’s very important for corporations to do EVERYTHING they can. Per capita, they have a lot more of an impact then us individuals.

Anyway, I for one, will be looking forward to more blue skies and clean air in books and real life.

Write On!

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Writers are never alone

August 5, 2009

Check-in: Another chapter and a half done on the rework of my first novel.

Now, here’s a great author article to read. I loved this Washington Post article about author Elizabeth Strout, who wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning Olive Kitteridge. Strout, the article says, lives in a “modest apartment near the East River features a view to the north of 72nd Street and an air conditioner that starts spitting smoke the moment it’s turned on.” (Remember what I said about best-selling writers’ earnings yesterday?)

What’s wonderful about this article is that I can see so much of my writing experience in what Elizabeth says, like the epiphany she had while struggling with one story and finding the answer in another (bottom of the first page). That has happened to me, and I credit a lot of the changes I’m making in my first novel with the fact that I moved on to novel number two. That experience gave me the ability to look at my first novel in a different way.

The fun thing about reading about other writers is seeing yourself in them. Because no matter whether they’re best-selling authors or writers working to sell their first book, all writers share certain experiences, like those days when inspiration is nowhere to be found, feeling of insecurity and those epiphanies when everything comes together and you wonder whether you it came from you or something devine, because it’s so perfect. We all have these times, but it’s always good to be reminded that we’re not alone.

How’s your writing experience going?

Write On!

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Setting goals

June 28, 2009

With a full-time job and family, it can be hard to make sure writing is given its time, especially if you’re not a “working” writer, i.e. getting paid, with deadlines. So, for me, setting goals can help keep you going and see your progress.

Yesterday, I decided I wanted to finish my new novel by the end of October. No particular reason why. The date just stuck out in my head, maybe because I’d love to try National Novel Writing Month in November and see if I can write 50,000 words in one month — which I think is going to be an impossibility for someone like me with a day-job and family, but who knows.

Anyway, to get to 50,000 words by the end of October, I have to write … 354 words a day. Ok, for some reason, I did a rough calculation of this yesterday and came up with about 1,600 words, starting with 45,000 words still needed (I already had 5,000) divided by four month of four weeks each. Just now I did the calculation properly with the exact number of days (127, including yesterday, as I started yesterday) and came up with 354. My in-my-head math must have been way off yesterday. Ah! The 1,600 was probably the number needed for a week! This is why I’m a writer and not a mathematician.

Anyhoo, so I need to write 354 words a day. That’s way more doable than 1,600. 🙂 Yesterday I wrote about 1,500 in about three hours and I was thinking there’s no way I was going to be able to do 1,600 on work days. But 354 is much more doable.

So, I’m going to write a blog post every day, and at the beginning, I’ll keep a running tally of where I am in the word count.

If you’d like to tally yours too, join me in the comments. It’ll help us all keep going and inspiring each other.

Today’s start: 6,191

End: 6,794

Total for the day: 603

Still needed: 43,206/345 a day

Write On!

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Terry Pratchett – Alzheimer’s and writing

June 19, 2009

If you haven’t read a Terry Pratchett book, stop reading this, run to your nearest bookstore, buy one and spend the rest of the day devouring it. His books are hilarious, thought-provoking and all around wonderful.

I just looked up his website this morning and found out that he has been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s Disease. This isn’t new news; I guess it was announced last year, but it’s new to me, and sad. Pratchett has written many, many, many novels, including the fabulous Discworld series and so funny Good Omens with recent Newberry Honor winner Neil Gaiman. And I hope there will be many more.

Pratchett says he hopes for the same. In a speech he gave to the Alzheimer’s Research Trust Conference last year (he gave them $1 million for Alzheimer’s research and points out the Alzheimer’s research has only 3% of the funds that cancer has, yet he knows of three people who have survived brain tumors and not one person has survived Alzheimer’s), Prachett says he wants to be around long enough to find a cure because he wants to keep on writing. Interestingly, he says that although small things have begun to challenge him, and he has voluntarily given up his driving license, his writing has not been affected. The words and stories are still swimming around in his brain as much as ever, but now he’s a little slower on the keyboard.

Terry Pratchett was always an inspiration to me because of his writing. Now, he’s even more an inspiration to me as he struggles to continue writing. There’s a lot we can learn from him.

There’s a great interview with Pratchett on his website with the author talking about story making. He says that wanting to write a story about pirates isn’t enough. You have to add more detail to make it more interesting and a story worth telling. I’ve embedded it below too.

Also, if you’d like to follow his example and donate to Alzheimer’s research (it doesn’t have to be $1 million 🙂 ), here’s the Alzheimer’s Research Trust UK donation page and here’s the U.S. Alzheimer’s Association donation page.

Here’s the interview:

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Writing a query letter – links

April 12, 2009

Happy Easter!

As much as I like this blog to be read, hopefully you’re all taking a break from publishing (I know, strange for the “write every day” girl to say that) and enjoying your Easter. It’s hard to believe, but some things are more important than our writing. 🙂

I’ve done more research on how to write a killer query and discovered that the query was even more important than I had previously thought because at least one of the agents I plan to query wants just a query in the initial submission, not even a couple pages of the story to show my writing chops. That means the story, tone, voice, everything has to come through in my query. After I got over my desire to bury my head in the sand, I continued my search of agent/editor websites and blogs about query writing tips and wanted to share a list of links that I think are very helpful. Also, remember that yesterday I posted some links to agent Rachelle Gardner‘s tips, so check them out too.

Literary agent Nathan Bransford has a list of posts about “The Essentials” in the right nav bar on his blog, but here are some I think are most useful:

Two copies of query letters Nathan thinks are good. These are real query letters, and he comments on what was good about them. Here’s the first one and the second one.

How and Whether to List Publishing Credits – The jist is, do if you’re published (not self-published) and/or the experience relates to the project.

Nelson Literary Agency has a wealth of information in their FAQ section. In it, you’ll find links to a 12-part Pitch Workshop, seven examples of query letters they received from some of their clients along with commentary and a bunch of query letter dos and don’ts.

You should also read agent Kristin Nelson‘s blog, Pub Rants, which is very informative.

Got any good query letter links to share?

Write On!

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Our story update

March 16, 2009

The next installment for the Community Story is below, but first here’s an update on my goals.

I lowered my six-chapter-a-week goal to four chapters a week, but to be honest, I’m not sure if I met it this week because I don’t remember where I left off last week. Despite that, however, the revision is going well. I have been getting through chapters, even though not as fast as I’d like. But I guess it’s better to go slower and get it right than to rush it. I im still on track to make my first deadline from the SCBWI Houston Editor’s Day at least.

And now on to your Community Story. The story has gotten quite long now, so I’ve created a page where the full story so far can always be found. You can get to it in the right nav bar on this blog’s main page. Or click here.

We have a nice long addition from Mand this week, which is in the second block. Thanks, Mand. It’s great to see how people can expand on the story. My new addition is the third block.

Join in the fun by posting the next part of the story in the comments.

Bonnie’s eyes flickered open as she laid on her back looking up at the sky. She caught a brief glimpse of a person moving away from a ledge 30 feet above her. Slightly dazed, she was not sure if she had fallen or been pushed, but what she did know was that her back was hurt and her head was throbbing from her fall. She lifted her right hand to her head. Wet. She was bleeding, and it didn’t feel like a cut that could be patched up with a Band Aid. It would have to wait, though. She could hear footsteps, and they were getting closer and more urgent.

Wincing against the pain that now radiated from her back as well as her head, Bonnie eased herself up to a sitting position and surveyed her surroundings. She had landed on a patch of soft grass nestled between two rock faces, and to her right was what looked like a drop off. She tried to stand, careful not to make any noise. But as her elbow buckled in pain, her hand knocked a small rock over the edge. She froze, waiting for the sound of the crash to alert the other people. But when no noise came, she looked over the edge and her head began to spin. The drop off was at least a hundred feet, ending in white caps of a rushing river.

Something hit the back of Bonnie’s head and she looked up. A rope had been thrown down from the ledge above her and a head was peering over the side. Panic rushed into Bonnie’s mind. “Climb up!” The head from above was shouting at her. But Bonnie didn’t know what to do. Was the head friend or foe? And really, what other choices did she have?

She grabbed the twisted rope and as she did, a FLASH popped into her mind. Wind rushed into her ears as she flew from the green Cadillac. Two quick glimpses of sky and earth and her face crunched against the rocky Tennessee soil.

That’s right. She had been in a car crash. No, not a crash, she remembered. She had jumped out of the car while it was still moving. But why would she do that? Or was she pushed? “Climb up!” the voice above her insisted again. Bonnie wished she could remember more.

The footsteps around the ledge were closer now and accompanied by shouts in a language Bonnie didn’t understand. She couldn’t see who owned the voices, but something told her they weren’t friendly. She wasn’t sure about the head above her either, but, as she looked over the hundred feet drop-off at the edge of her ridge, she knew she didn’t have much choice. She was going to have to trust someone — at least for now. Taking a deep breath, she grabbed the rope and began to pull.

Every muscle in her body ached as she dragged herself up the mountainside to the ledge above. She could see the head disappearing then appearing again. As she got closer, Bonnie realized there was concern in the person’s eyes. But still, she told herself, that doesn’t mean she can trust them. As her left hand reached for the edge of the ledge, her right hand balled into a fist, ready to strike as soon as she was on steady ground.

A hand reached over the ledge and pulled Bonnie up the last few feet. The head that had seemed so distant from below now looked strange. Bonnie had no recollection of this person whatsoever. She squinted, as though through slits she might get a better idea of who owned this face. A memory just began to poke into her brain, when everything went white and Bonnie collapsed on the floor.

The smell of wet newspaper filtered into her nose, pulling Bonnie from her daze.

Her eyes slid open like withered old windows to reveal a dark wet room of block concrete and hanging lawn equipment.

The only trace of life in this gray room was a small green plant standing as proudly as a three-inch plant could stand, almost as if the plant were in defiance of its terrible living condition.

Bonnie sat up, but her pounding brain quickly pulled her flat on her back again. She lay on a steel table, cold and slightly wet.

Her eyes opened again and then she heard footsteps.

A door creaked open, letting in a spray of bright sunshine that slapped Bonnie’s eyes. Then the door was slammed shut again. Bonnie could hear breathing, then shuffling of shoes on concrete. She wanted to scream. She wanted to get up and run. But her body was completely frozen.

“You awake?” said a voice.

A voice she knew. Knew from the old days. The old, bad days.

Urgent as the command was that her brain sent, her body would not obey. Only her eyes could widen, as sight confirmed that this was indeed the woman who had blighted so many years of her life.

She had suffered so many nights painfully awake, days trying to escape or ignore the flashbacks, months of therapy when the fifth or sixth employer, the supportive one, had suggested getting help, in the same conversation as he told her she was failing and they couldn’t keep her on.

Thirteen years. Thirteen years, this coming Saturday. And for nearly ten of those years Bonnie had felt it was behind her – never got rid of, but put away far enough that she’d managed to lead a life that was normal and even reasonably successful. To outside observers.

Now standing over her, with an expression that may have been triumph or may have been disgust, stood the woman who had haunted those years of terror and recovery. Whose name Bonnie and the police had never discovered. ‘Yes, good,’ said that mannish voice. ‘Awake already.’

* * *

‘And now she hasn’t got her phone on!’ grumbled the old woman, slumping heavily into her armchair. ‘That girl doesn’t ever think. What am I going to do now?’

‘She could have no signal, Mum. Try in a minute.’

‘She’s not like you, Mark. She doesn’t remember my needs. My only daughter…’

‘Paul O’Grady on in a minute,’ he interrupted before she could get tearful. ‘I’ll keep trying the phone while you enjoy your cup of tea.’

Privately he was beginning to worry. It wasn’t like Bonnie to forget Mum’s birthday.

* * *

Bonnie tried to speak, but her throat was dry.

What did this woman want? It had been 13 years since Bonnie had escaped, 13 years since she discovered her so called “cause” wasn’t anything more than an excuse for blood-hungry psycopaths to murder and pillage.

Bonnie gulped. It was so hard to believe she had been part of those horrors. She never regretted leaving. She never regretted telling the police. But then again, she never thought they’d find her again.

What’s going to happen next? You decide. Post your addition as a comment, and it will be included in the full story next week.

Write On!

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Don’t give up

January 9, 2009

Children’s author Jill Corcoran posted a great quote on her blog on Wednesday, a tidbit of advice from editor Alvina Ling. Alvina reminds us of Julie Andrews’ quote that “perserverance is falling 19 times and suceeding the 20th.” Alvina goes on to say that many authors went through a number of rejections before they were published: Dr. Seuss, 28; J.K. Rowling, 8 or 12; Kate DiCamillo, 470!

So, don’t give up. Every time you get a rejection letter, file it away and think, I’m one rejection closer to being published.

You might go through 10 rejections or 500 before you’re published. But the important thing is that if you perservere, keep writing and keep working hard, your chances of being published increase.

Some tidbits on how to cut down your rejection letters:

  • Don’t send out your work until it is the best it can be. We all want to rush to the goal, get the touchdown and start our new lives as “authors.” But if you send out your work prematurely, you’ll get sacked. (Light football references in honor of the upcoming Super Bowl.) I have read more than once in interviews with editors and agents that if they reject a work, they don’t want to see it again, even if it has been revised. (Some say they might look at it again but only if it has been substantially rewritten, but usually, if they’re willing to take another look, they’ll say so in their rejection letter.) So, if you have done lots of research for your favorite agents who you want to work with for a lifetime, make sure the work you send them is your absolute best. If they still reject it, it wasn’t right for them and that partnership would not have been right for you. But slim your chances of rejection by making sure your work is top notch.
  • Do your research. Don’t open up your agent/editor list and submit alphabetically. Not only will editors and agents be annoyed to get submissions that are clearly not for them, it will waste your time and money and make your work get more rejections that it should. Check the agent/editor guidebooks for ones who work with books that are similar to yours. Then research them to see if they will be people you think would like your work and would be good to work with. You will have to trust this person for the relationship to work best, so make sure it’s someone you can trust. There are numerous places online to research agents and editors. Many have their own websites listing their submission guidelines. (Always check their websites before you submit; never go off what the guidebooks have listed because the submission guidelines might have changed since the books’ publication.) And if they don’t have a website, call the main number at the publishing house and ask the assistant. A search on Google will often bring up interviews with the person, and those can give you an insight into their working habits. Also, go to conferences and meet them in person. You can build up relationships that way.
  • Don’t get dejected. Getting a rejection letter does not mean you suck, you should give up, you can’t write, etc. We all think this when we get a rejection letter, but it’s not what it means. It simply means that the person sending it didn’t feel that he or she was passionate enough about the work to continue with it. This could be because it’s not quite ready for publication yet (see the first tidbit) or this could mean it doesn’t resonate with the person (see the second tidbit). So, accept that rejection letter as a step forward and keep going. Sometimes the rejection letter will include a nice note saying why the work is being passed over. Consider those notes — you don’t have to take them to heart, but at least consider them. If they say things you’ve heard a lot, then maybe it time to make some changes to the work. Do that and send out again, this time to new agents and editors.
  • Keep writing. Most importantly, once you’ve written and re-written your work until you think it’s the best you can do, you’ve put it in a drawer for a couple months, then looked at it again, given it to critique group friends, gone over it with a fine-tooth comb looking for spelling and grammatical mistakes, and then you’ve submitted it — don’t wait! Move on to your next story idea. Start writing something else — immediately. Often a writer’s first book isn’t published, but their second or third might be. Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones was not her first book, but it was the first to get published. So, don’t stop writing. Keeping moving on to something else. And don’t give up.

Write On!

P.S. Don’t forget to vote for our Community Story start.

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Vote for the Community Story

January 6, 2009

I finally finished my novel revision on Saturday, only three days past my end-of-year deadline. At least it’s finished. Next up, finish editing a friend’s novel, do our taxes (ugg) and then back to my novel for a good polish.

Even though I’ve just finished the revision, I actually can’t wait to start from the beginning again. The characters are still alive in my mind, and I’ve been writing down notes of ideas to consider in the next revision. But I’m holding myself back for two reasons: first, I really need to get these other things done, and second, time away from your work helps you see it in a new perspective, see the flaws, the mistakes, the typos spell check won’t find. So, I’m sticking to my guns, but hopefully, it won’t be long until I’m back in that world.

And, it’s the new year (HAPPY NEW YEAR!), and so, time to start the Community Story. I meant to write this on Sunday, then yesterday, but time ran away with me (he’s funny like that).

As a reminder, the Community Story is something that I’ll moderate on this blog but we will all be able to contribute to. Kind of like regular writer prompts, but with a running theme. We’ll start by voting for the story start from the ones submitted by readers (listed below), then, in the comments, you can add your suggestions for what should come next in the story. Each week, I’ll post the next sentence or paragraph for the running story and we can continue to add to it and see where it goes. How fun!

The Community Story is not for future publication outside of this blog. It’s just for fun, something to keep our creative juices flowing. When you’re stuck or need a quick break, you can check here for the latest in the Community Story and add your own next piece.

So, here are our Community Story beginnings. Please vote in the comments.

Thanks to Mand for this entry: It wasn’t the first time Derek had been swimming, but it was the loudest.

Gratitude to Shane for: Bonnie’s eyes flickered open as she laid on her back looking up at the sky. She caught a brief glimpse of a person moving away from a ledge 30 feet above her. Slightly dazed, she was not sure if she had fallen or been pushed, but what she did know was that her back was hurt and her head was throbbing from her fall.

Kudos to Jamie for: Rain spat down the window as he watched his mother’s ‘67 Impala drive away.

Gracias to Jennie Wong for: Sherry fought the urge to drink away her troubles, but it was especially hard given her job as a wine critic.

Merci to Layne for: Erika pulled her hood over her head as she boarded the red line to Bethesda. She drew the note from her pocket, re-reading the instructions for the thousandth time. Who was this man, and what did he want with her? “I should have brought a weapon,” she thought.

Thanks to KC for: Abraham followed the acrid stench to the door at the end of the hall.

And lastely, from me: Sarah knew all about ice. She knew it happened when the air got really cold and your breath turned into smoke. She knew it was hardened water and would melt in the spring. She knew it could make icicles that were as sharp as needles. What she didn’t know, until now, was that a face could be buried in it.

Vote On!

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Happy New Year

December 31, 2008

It’s New Year’s Eve, a few hours before 2009, and I’m sad to say I didn’t make my goal of finishing my novel revision by the end of the year. (I could bust my butt and do it tonight, but my husband, a friend and I are going to see in the new year with hours of Rock Band.)

I emailed a friend last night saying I wasn’t going to make my deadline, and, the nice friend that she is, she congratulated me on getting as far as I did. I’m only about 3,000 words short of the full 60K. There are many reasons why I didn’t make it, and we all experience them: work, family, housework, gardening, life in general. And they’re all good reasons.

But, although I’m bummed about not making my deadline (especially as I had extended it from summer to November and then to the end of the year), my friend is right. With so many other things going on in our lives, especially at this time of year, it’s important to recognize the writing we do get done. It’s often not easy to fit in writing with everything else that fills our days. It’s easy to go months without sitting with our novel or screenplay or whatever we’re working on. Believe me, I’ve done it. But, like anything that’s worthwhile, writing takes time and dedication, and we have to make that time and be dedicated if we’re going to be a success (just not on New Year’s Eve).

So, look back at the writing/revising you did this year and congratulate yourselves. Tomorrow, after the Rose Parade and football, dedicate yourself to doing even better in 2009. Finish your novel or screenplay, revise it, send out query letters, make a plan to do whatever it is you need and want to do. And, most importantly, as you strive to make writing a priority in your schedule, pat yourselves on the back everytime you stick to it. It’s not easy, but it will be worth it.

Happy New Year!

Now, off to Rock Band.