Peg Herring's Blog – January 2008 Archive (23)

I Hate-I Love-I Hate My Computer

There was a time in my life when if you'd asked me what I most wanted to be, it would have been a ballerina. There was also a stretch where being able to sit down at a piano and play whatever music was required would have been both pleasing and useful. Nowadays, I most often wish I understood this stupid machine better.

I know, it isn't the machine that's stupid. That's the problem. It's amazing, it's capable, it's complicated, and I can only take the technology it offers to a certain…


Added by Peg Herring on January 31, 2008 at 10:52pm — No Comments

Blizzards Inspire Bad Pun

I can't claim to be inspired by weather, but a blizzard does one thing for me as a writer. I can't leave the house, so I settle my mind and concentrate on writing. There's no rushing to the post office to mail out those fliers that advertise the new book. There's no visiting libraries to make sure every person in the place knows who I am and wants to recommend my book to patrons. There's not even meeting a fellow author for lunch and moaning about the state of the business for an hour or…


Added by Peg Herring on January 30, 2008 at 10:17pm — No Comments

Did You Write All Those Words Yourself?

It's funny how a lot of people can't believe that someone they know is both capable of and willing to write a novel. For someone not that excited about reading one, writing a book seems a Herculean task, an incredible number of words piled together, beyond comprehending. I actually got the comment above from someone I know well. She could not believe, as she flipped through a book that she will never even attempt, that I knew that many words and could set them down in some logical…


Added by Peg Herring on January 29, 2008 at 10:23pm — No Comments

Criticism: The Hypodermic Needle

If you publish, you have to be ready to take criticism. It may come from an idiot in a crowd who wants to make himself look important, it may come from a well-meaning acquaintance who feels the need to point out an error that it's too late to change, or it may come from a clinical professional. However it arrives, criticism is like a needle under your skin, a short burst of pain and a lasting sting that is hard to ignore.

We want to be understood, and when people pick at our work, we…


Added by Peg Herring on January 28, 2008 at 10:26pm — No Comments

Who Knew That Neatness Counts?

Your teachers used to preach it, give extra points for it, rail about your lack of attention to it. You know that neatness and accuracy matter, but somehow when we're tired and frustrated with the whole business of querying, we tell ourselves that one tiny mistake will go unnoticed.

No it won't. Perfection may be an unachievable goal, but close is where you want to be. I have a relative whose job it once was to sift through incoming mail at a large, prosperous firm. His instructions…


Added by Peg Herring on January 25, 2008 at 10:34pm — No Comments

Authors Need a Friendship Web

I wrote a few months ago about making friends of librarians, and now I'd like to suggest another valuable friendship: other authors. One of the values of sites like this, conferences, and other networking opportunities is that you find people who not only understand you, but also can help you achieve your goals.

I've met authors over the last six years in many venues. In most cases you make polite conversation for a minute or two and then go one with your life. But sometimes there's a…


Added by Peg Herring on January 24, 2008 at 11:04pm — No Comments

Writing Groups

Last night I was asked to speak to some people who want to start a writing group. The discussion brought some pros and cons to mind as I came to the computer this morning.

Pros: encouragement, certainly. We often need impetus to keep writing, to improve our work, and to perservere.

Companionship. No one knows about writing except writers, the joys, the frustrations, and the plot-knots that drive you crazy.

Information. We all know a little bit about writing, editing, and…


Added by Peg Herring on January 23, 2008 at 11:55pm — No Comments

Hints for Time Management

My husband worries about me because I spend so much time in my office, doing "stuff." The problem with any profession is the all-absorbing quality of it, the inability to leave it alone. Writing is among the worst because it's always possible: if you're home, there's the computer. If you're away from home, you have a pad of paper and can make notes. You're always thinking about that plot-knot or how to make that character more real to the reader.

What does one do about it? Not much, I…


Added by Peg Herring on January 22, 2008 at 10:47pm — No Comments

Make Just One Someone Happy

The old song lyric says, "Make just one someone happy/ And you will be happy too."

I'm not sure if it's universally true, but it worked for me yesterday. After a stressful few weeks I received a few advance copies of Macbeth's Niece last Thursday. Because she's been very good to me for many years, I gave a local librarian an early peek, asking her to keep the book off the shelves until after my launch party. After driving through a nasty snowstorm I arrived home last…


Added by Peg Herring on January 21, 2008 at 10:12pm — No Comments

Contests: Winners, Losers, and Leaners

It's a reference to horseshoes, where you get one point for a "leaner," touching the post but not around it, hence the saying, "Close only counts in horseshoes."

I just got word that I've finaled in another contest. It's always a thrill to be chosen from the herd, but I've learned to practice cautious optimism. Many factors affect the eventual choice, and the dismal fact is that there will only be one winner. Everyone else only came close.

There are ways to maximize the value…


Added by Peg Herring on January 18, 2008 at 10:19pm — No Comments

You Need New Eyes

I had a manuscript that was done, at least I thought so. When I told people in the business about it, they showed interest, but when I sent sample pages, the interest died. That told me there was something wrong with the writing, but what was it?

It's hard for a parent to see her child's flaws, and it's hard for a writer to see weaknesses in a manuscript. We might sense from the reactions of others that there's a problem, but love creates a halo of goodness that blurs our vision and…


Added by Peg Herring on January 18, 2008 at 10:17pm — No Comments

And They All Lived Happily Ever After

I'll admit it. I like endings with all the loose ends tied up and all the good people, if not happy, at least content. I have a hard time really hurting my characters, and when I read, I dislike it when the author dwells too long on torture or even mental anguish, especially of an innocent.

It's not a bad thing, but I have to watch the Pollyanna stuff. It's hard to create tension in a story when everyone is nice to everyone else, and even good guys have to be irritating at times to…


Added by Peg Herring on January 16, 2008 at 9:58pm — No Comments

Tomorrow's Petty Pace

I just got word that I've sold a short story. Another notch in my belt, another addition to my resume. But the wheels grind slowly. As Macbeth says so well, "Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow,/Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,/To the last syllable of recorded time." Publishing is a lot like that.

I was once approached by a coworker who had just been told that he'd be laid off soon. He knew I was submitting and asked if I could help him. "I've got four kids," he told me. "I…


Added by Peg Herring on January 15, 2008 at 10:36pm — No Comments

Advice from Yoda? Maybe.

"There is no try," the little green guy says, and I suppose it's true. We either do or we do not. Still, there is something to be said for trying. I present workshops on writing, and often I meet people who seem paralyzed by the "What ifs" of publishing. What if I'm rejected? What if I'm not good enough? What if someone steals my work?

The answer to those "What ifs" is another question: "What if you never try?" If you refrain from sending out material for fear someone will steal it,…


Added by Peg Herring on January 14, 2008 at 11:02pm — No Comments

With Fear and Trepidation

Today is moving day: putting my computer in a new spot. Being a techie wimp, I hate it. I'm one of those who likes to set a computer that I'm comfortable with in a spot that is usable and then do certain things in ways that I've always done them. Moving makes all that change, which makes me nervous. However, behind me as I type a certain gentleman is already moving whatever I'm not in physical contact with to the new spot, so I know it will happen. And I have to add that he can not do this…


Added by Peg Herring on January 11, 2008 at 9:33pm — No Comments

Does The Thrill of Victory Equal the Agony of Defeat?

Rejection is hard, and it takes a bunch of "victory thrills" to overcome one defeat, at least for me. We know all the platitudes: that success is getting up one more time than you're knocked down, that only the strong survive, that the great men and women of the world often felt the sting of defeat, too. None of that helps when you've just gotten that "Dear Author" letter.

You start trying to prepare yourself for it. A queried agent asks for a partial: "Don't get your hopes up." A…


Added by Peg Herring on January 10, 2008 at 10:26pm — No Comments

Record-keeping: the Bane of the Creative Mind

When I lecture on writing, I stress the importance of keeping good records, but I must confess, I don't always practice what I teach. When within a few days I hear from a bookstore owner who wants a signing, a festival organizer who wants an appearance, a former student who sends congratulations, a local cable operator who wants programming, a library group who wants me to come and speak, and an acquisitions editor who wants an electronic version of an MS for her editor in chief, I get a…


Added by Peg Herring on January 9, 2008 at 10:44pm — No Comments

Cruel & Usual Punishment

The Supreme Court is taking up the question of the death penalty, but that's not what I mean. For authors, it becomes usual to wait long periods to find out if your "baby" lives or dies. Agents, editors, and pub houses throw out casual approximations like "six to eight months" when accepting a MS for possible publication. One of my plays took three years to make it through the editing system at the pub house before acceptance, and I've gotten refusals so long after submission that I have to…


Added by Peg Herring on January 8, 2008 at 10:15pm — No Comments

Who Do I Have to Thank?

An email from a friend brought to mind the number of people required to make a book out of an idea. My name goes on the cover, and you'll judge me to be successful or not on your own terms. You may never hear of the others who played a role in the final result.

Often authors thank family and friends in their acknowledgments, and that's certainly appropos. Whether they read for content and clarity, listen and share ideas, or just tolerate odd behavior, their contribution is immense. My…


Added by Peg Herring on January 7, 2008 at 9:50pm — No Comments

It's Not the Hard Drive, or the CD Drive...

Yesterday I wrote about computers and how they make writing easier for everyone. At the same time, putting fingers to keyboard or pen to paper is never easy: it's hard to actually begin that novel, sustain that novel, and finish that novel.

When people hear I'm an author, they often say, "I've always wanted to write a book." Some have one started; some just have an idea. But somehow it never gets going. What is it that makes some people want, even need, to finish a project while…


Added by Peg Herring on January 4, 2008 at 10:20pm — 2 Comments

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