Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Plant a scene

I finished the first draft of my still untitled WIP yesterday!  Even though I know it's just a step towards the finished product it still made me happy and I've been 'celebrating' today by taking the day off.  I've put in 40K in the last three months, which is a lot for me.  Now that the first draft it done I find my mind already turning to thoughts of editing.

I have hear a picture of a snapdragon growing in between the bricks on my front stairs.

I haven't planted snapdragons in years but somehow I keep finding them in odd spots like this. Back when I first started blogging I used a picture very similar to this to show the determination of the plant and vow that I had that much determination and that I would keep working until I was published. Which is true. But now that I’ve got a little more experience under my belt I see this differently. 

 I love snapdragons.  Thus the reason I planted them in the first place many years ago.  They’re pretty, and I love how they strive to survive.  But, no matter how much I love the plant. It doesn’t belong here.  Not only is the plant not able to grow to its full potential, it destroys the mortar and weakens the stairs.   

There are scenes like that in my first draft.  Scenes I may love but that are just in the wrong place.  Maybe they can’t deepen and reach their full potential where they are.  Maybe they weaken the story and detract from the plot arc.  Either way I need to take them out.  No matter how hard it is.

Thursday, July 25, 2013


Happy release day to Barbara Rogan’s new book A DANGEROUS FICTION!

 Jo Donovan always manages to come out on top. From the backwoods of Appalachia, she forged a hard path to life among the literati in New York City. At thirty-five, she’s the widow of the renowned author Hugo Donovan and the owner of one of the best literary agencies in town. Jo is living the life she dreamed of but it’s all about to fall apart.

When a would-be client turns stalker, Jo is more angry than shaken until her clients come under attack. Meanwhile, a biography of Hugo Donovan is in the works and the author’s digging threatens to destroy the foundations of Jo’s carefully constructed life. As the web of suspicion grows wider and her stalker ups the ante, she’s persuaded by her client and friend—FBI profiler-turned-bestselling-thriller writer—to go to the police. There Jo finds herself face-to-face with an old flame: the handsome Tommy Cullen, now NYPD detective.

 Barbara Rogan is the author of eight novels and coauthor of several nonfiction books. Her latest novel,  A DANGEROUS FICTION, a mystery set in the publishing world, has just come out with  Viking Books.  She has also worked extensively in publishing, starting out an editor at Fawcett, then as founder and director of the Barbara Rogan Literary Agency. She has taught fiction writing at Hofstra University and SUNY Farmingdale, and currently teaches for Writers Digest University and in her own online school, Next Level Workshops.  A frequent lecturer on both the business and craft of writing, she writes a popular blog, In Cold Ink, and teaches seminars and master classes at writers’ conferences.


Your latest book takes place in the publishing word, a world you’re very familiar with, was writing about something so familiar easier or more difficult than other settings?  
It was so much easier I sometimes worried I was getting lazy. Having been an editor in a large New York publishing house and then a literary agent for many years, I know the industry from the inside. I’m also quite fond of it, which I imagine comes across in the book. It was great fun. I traveled widely, drank too much champagne and consumed too many publishing lunches. The people I worked with—publishers, agents, and authors, many of them brilliant, all of them book-lovers—were at the heart of that experience; and returning to that world was one of the great pleasures of writing A DANGEROUS FICTION.

How much research is associated with your books? 
Quite a bit; almost as much research as procrastination. My previous books  dealt with topics as diverse as chaos physics, jazz, Shaker furniture, adobe houses, high-level embezzlement, homicide investigation and open-heart surgery, none of which were areas of particular expertise until I started writing about them.
I usually start with reading tons of books and articles. I try to find experts willing to work with me; and then I go out and see things for myself. A few pages in A DANGEROUS FICTION concerns the training of protection dogs: that was fun research. I once spent three weeks in an inner-city ER, trailing doctors and nurses. I’ve met with retired spies, homicide detectives, jazz musicians, physicists, reporters, carpenters, heart surgeons, and nuclear physicists, all of whom were incredibly generous with their time and expertise. It’s a fallacy to think that fiction writers just “make it all up.” Fiction always needs to sound plausible, or readers won’t believe; and sounding plausible requires learning enough so that experts in the  various fields, reading the book, will nod their heads, not scratch them.

You used to be an agent, Do you have an agent to represent you or do you handle it yourself?  What advantages are there to having an agent?
 I have a literary agent, the wonderful Gail Hochman of Brandt and Hochman. I wouldn’t represent myself even if I were still an agent, because you can’t tout your own work the way you can a client’s. Having an agent is necessary if you want to get your work read by the right editors in the major publishing houses. Most of them don’t take unagented submissions. A good agent is an essential part of the team that goes into publishing any book. Their job starts with selling the book to a publisher, but doesn’t end there. The agent looks after the writer’s interests in every phase of the publishing process, acts as an intermediary to get information and settle any issues that arise, gives career guidance, and educates the client about the realities of the publishing world. Many of them act as the first editor of the book, in order to go out with the strongest possible work. They also handle subsidiary rights, including translation, film and serial rights. A solitary author has far less clout in the world of big publishing than an agent with a strong list.

You recently had some books re-released in ebook form.  Did you do that yourself or did your publisher do it? Can you tell us about them? 
This was really a banner year for me. Five of my books were re-released this year, and I’m thrilled that readers who discover me through A DANGEROUS FICTION will have other books available to them.

The three most recent titles, HINDSIGHT, SUSPICION, and ROWING IN EDEN, were reissued by their original publisher, Simon & Schuster, in ebook and paperback editions. Rights to two earlier novels, CAFÉ NEVO and SAVING GRACE, had reverted, and for a while I considered reissuing them myself as ebooks; but the prospect of self-publishing was daunting in terms of time and learning curve. Also, after working with top professionals, I had too much respect for what they do to think I could duplicate all that work myself. So I got in touch with Richard Curtis, venerable literary agent and founder of E-Reads, the oldest ebook publisher in the country. We’d been colleagues back when I was an agent, and Richard, who knew my books, offered to reissue them in his imprint…which he did. For me, it’s a dream come true to have six books in print at the same time.

I’m a slow writer.  I know each writer has to go at their own pace but about how long does it take you to write a book?  Does it vary book to book, or is it fairly standard?
It varies according to how much research is required and other factors. But I’m quite slow, too. Most of my books have taken two years to write and revise; one took as long as five years.

 Do you have a favorite character that you’ve written?  Favorite character that someone else has written?
 Jo Donovan, the protagonist of A DANGEROUS FICTION, is my favorite, as evidenced by the fact that she’s the first character I’ve ever felt drawn to write a series about. She’s the smartest character I’ve ever created, but also the most flawed.  Her virtues are ones I admire—she’s tough, resourceful, and loyal—but her flaws are what make her interesting to me. She sees either very clearly or not at all; she’s an expert in every sort of fiction except the kind she tells herself.
As for other writers’ characters, there are many who’ve become part of my life. But if I had to pick a favorite, I’d say Huck Finn. Love that kid.

Can you tell us about the classes you teach?
With pleasure. After teaching writing at Hofstra Unversity, SUNY and online for Writers Digest, I started my own online school of writing, the Next Level Workshop. I teach several intensive workshops a year for fiction writers who are serious about mastering the craft, including “One Good Scene,” based on the premise that all the skills writers need to write fiction can be learned by focusing on the creation of one good scene;  and “Revising Fiction,” my most advanced workshop, for writers who have completed a draft of their novel and want help bringing it to the next level. I keep the classes very small, and I only teach a few each year, so there’s usually a waiting list. I don’t advertise. The best way to get in, for writers who are interested, is to contact me via my website ( and ask to be on my workshop emailing list.

Barbara is not only a wonderful, giving person, she is an amazing writer. I can't wait to read this latest offering and I hope you all join me in giving her a big congrats on her new book.  I know it will be the kind of book you can't put down.


Monday, July 22, 2013


I participated in a very small conversations about authors' privacy.  Someone was concerned about how much biographical information there was about authors now.  In all honesty she was appalled at what she could find out about the authors, just on their back cover flaps or what was read after an audiobook.  

My comment was that many of the younger writers grew up in a world with email, MySpace, Facebook, and other such social media.  They're used to putting everything out there to share with their friends.  I think that writers of that generation are going to feel a lot more comfortable with detailed bios than those who grew up without such social media. 

What do you think?  Do you find that bios have more information than you're comfortable sharing about yourself?  Or do you think it's a great way to connect to readers? 

Monday, July 15, 2013

Yeah, but...

If you haven't read this post about the two words you should never say when getting critiqued you really should.  So head over to Writer Unboxed and give it a try. 

I've got family coming in town this week so I'll be a little scarce on the blogosphere.  See you all next week!

Monday, July 8, 2013


The other day I was doing a puzzle with my daughter, Pretty Girl.  She started with only pulling half the pieces in the box out. She doesn't understand yet the idea of the whole picture.  She sees little flashes of color and thinks they're pretty and tries to smash them together regardless of fit.  I tried to explain that picture isn't complete without the background, edges and neutral colors that make the bright colors seem brighter. But at three years old this concept is a little difficult for her.

When we write we need to use all our puzzle pieces.  We need the idea, the flashes of color, but we also need the craft, the grammar, the dedication that hold those flashes together.  Grammar may not be the most exciting puzzle piece (and if it is don't tell me cause then I'll worry about your mental state) but it's a puzzle piece that can make the story shine.  It's grammar that get's the idea across appropriately so readers can understand what you're saying.

We can try to just write the shiny bits and smash them together into a story, but when you step back from the puzzle and look at the whole we'll be able to see the missing pieces and awkward fit. So go ahead and pull all the puzzle pieces from the box.  Dust off your unused writing skills and lets see what kind of picture we can write today.

What other writing puzzle pieces can you think of?

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Balance and Sacrifice

Shannon Hale has a blog post here about how she balances being a writer and mother.  She takes her writing very seriously and has found a way that works for her and her family. Obviously that way won't work for everyone.

 At the end of the post she challenges everyone to make the time for whatever passion they have, suggesting that if we turn off all our extra stimulation (internet, tv, computer games, etc) for one week we'll find we can make time for creativity.  She encourages us to be hard core and to take ourselves seriously. 

I think this is a wonderful challenge because I believe there are people out there who want to pursue a dream but don't know where to start.  Well, the best place to start is to sit down and do it.  Following a passion or dream will invariably mean sacrifice of some kind.  Each of us has to choose what is sacrificed, though.  What are we willing to give up? And is extra publication and popularity what we give up for other parts of our lives that we deem more important? 

Are you hard core?  Do you take your writing (or art, or gardening, etc) seriously?  How do you balance the need for self expression with life and family and everything else?  After reading her post I'm curious to see how others do it. Balance is elusive, even if achieved for one perfect second it can't be maintained because life and priorities are shifting and changing.  But, if we're serious about ourselves we'll find a way.