Agent Appreciation Day: Erin Murphy

Top 10 reasons why I love my agent:

10. She represents picture book authors.
9. She’s a hands-on, editorial agent. Nothing goes out until it’s perfect.
8. She loves my projects – not all, but most.
7. She gently nudges me in the best direction for my career.
6. She responds to my e-mails by the end of the day.
5. She knows the business and targets submissions with expert precision.
4. She treats all my ideas with great respect.
3. She considers her clients one big family – we have our own Yahoo group.
2. She holds an annual retreat for her clients.

And the #1 reason why I love my agent …

1. She’s a lovely and lovable person – kind, considerate and fun.

Learn more about Erin Murphy:

Guide to Literary Agents Interview
Part I
Part II

Erin Murphy Literary AgencyNEW WEBSITE!!

Ho! Ho! Ho! Holiday Picture Book Peek – December 14th!

HO! HO! HO! Holiday Picture Book Peek Week
Free critiques of select PB manuscripts – including those wretched rhymers (Yup, 3 of my upcoming PBs are written in verse!

It begins December 14th, and I’ve changed up the format a bit. Here’s how it will work:

Sign up for a critique by entering your PB WORKING TITLE in the comment section of this blog post anytime (midnight to midnight Mountain Time) on December 14th. Titles submitted before or after December 14th will not be considered.

I’ll throw all titles into a hat and pick 1 for critique. Please note, I’m only picking one so as not to dilute the auction value of my critique offered at the Bridget Zinn Auction. To up your chances of winning a critique, why not check out the auction too.

Keep in mind:

* Manuscripts must be 1000 words or less.

* I accept only fiction.

* Level of detail in the critique will vary based on my impression of the caliber of the writing.

* Please understand that I’m not an editor and will not be providing line-editing of your work. My critique will be comprised of suggestions for improving your manuscript. So please send me your most polished piece.

* The critique winner must e-mail me his/her manuscript as a Word attachment upon announcement of the winner. Manuscripts will be kept completely private. When I receive the manuscript, I’ll let the author know when they can expect my critique.

* As with any art form, likes and dislikes are entirely subjective. Please understand that my critiques are only one reader’s/writer’s opinion. It’s always wise to seek feedback from a few different readers. If my ideas resonate with you, they’re yours to use. If you disagree, I encourage you to compare my comments with those of other readers. But in the end, it’s your book. Stay true to your vision.

I look forward to reading your work.
P.S. For little “fashionistas” everywhere- TOO PURPLEY!Preorder it now!

Pay it Forward Friday – Bridget Zinn Auction

Bridget’s friends have done it again. Please check out the online auction – Bridget Kicks Cancer – for my fellow author and librarian Bridget Zinn.

From the auction website:

“All proceeds from this auction will go to Bridget Zinn and Barrett Dowell. Bridget is a 32-year-old author and librarian who was diagnosed with colon cancer last February. She and Barrett, who have been together since they were teenagers, were married in the hospital just minutes before she went into surgery to remove a large tumor on her colon. She is now undergoing expensive treatment to shrink – and we hope obliterate – additional tumors. The treatment is working, but much of it is not covered by her health insurance. Bridget & Barrett’s friends and family are rallying to help them pay the bills so that they can focus on Bridget’s health.

I’m excited to be participating again. Bid to win an autographed F&G of TOO PURPLEY! OR a picture book manuscript critique from me OR other great items and services including books, toys, art, jewelry, critiques, home items and more.

Get some holiday shopping done early and give to a great cause- check it out!!

Use Directed Freewriting to Flesh out Your Characters

I’ve found that my single most useful tool for fleshing out a character – better than any lists or profile sheets – is simply freewriting in the character’s first person voice. But rather than sitting in front of a blank screen only to fill it with details of eye color, hair color and family history, I give my character a topic – usually a topic that ties to my book. Directed freewriting is like journaling but with a prompt.

So, for example, if my novel is about a tween named Sam coming of age, I might freewrite on “What Sam thinks about his first kiss.” Or let’s say Sam’s mom decides to have another baby – who would now be 12 years younger than Sam – I might freewrite about “What Sam thinks of his Mom’s growing belly” or “How Sam imagines life with the new baby.”

Even though the topics may be specific, freewriting allows for tangents, redundancies, brainstorming, voice experimentation and character discovery.

As part of my prep for NaNoWriMo I wrote detailed character sketches for my novel. It’s essential to know your characters well, like you know your best friend or even better, like you know yourself. And once you do, characters will tell you their stories.

While the categories from available character questionnaires provide great food for thought, I found writing narrative descriptions of my characters – freewriting about them – much more useful. Why?

* I can flesh out character thoughts and tangents that might not have a category on the questionnaire.

* I can write on topics that are essential to my story.

* I can explore how characters feel about each other.

* If there’s a story in a character’s background, I can tell that story.

* I can write as ideas spring forth instead of following a rigid list.

* I often write in the voice of my narrator, main character or secondary characters which helps me find the voice of my novel.

But possibly the most significant discovery that’s comes from freewriting in character is …

* Characters reveal the plot. Yes. All my character narratives have inspired not only intriguing but necessary plot lines in my story.

So how do I find topics for my characters to talk about. Basically I list backstory, events, turning points, plot points, settings, and people that I expect to or have already come up in my novel. Then I choose a character – sometimes two or three – and have then freewrite on that topic.

Sometimes I’ll even set a timer or establish a word count. This forces me to dive deeper. It’s often in those final few words that an idea reveals itself and I end up writing more.

Even if the entry appears to be endless babble, I usually find a nugget or two to use in some critical scene. At the very least, freewriting takes me deeper into my character and subordinate characters, allowing me to make necessary connections, in hopes that my readers will connect to my characters as well.

And if you’re feeling really wacky, journal from a point of view that has no relevance to the scene. I’m not asking you to make up a whole new character here, but simply have one of your existing characters write about a person, place, event, idea that, you think, bears no relevance to that character in your story. You might find connections that you never knew were there – and an interesting detail or entire subplot for your novel.

Now, even though I’ve finished my novel, I plan on spending this week freewriting about plot points, scenes and stories that came up in my first draft.

Karen S. Wiesner in her Feb. 2009 Writer’s Digest article “Your Novel Blueprint: Turn your Dream Novel into a Reality by Taking Some Tip from the Worksite” says that

“Goals and motivations are constantly evolving (not changing necessarily, but growing in depth, intensity and scope) to fit character and plot conflicts. Your character’s goals and motivations will evolve every time you introduce a new story spark because he’s modifying his actions based on the course his conflicts are dictating.

Beginning goals and motivations don’t generally change as much as they become refined to the increasing intensity of the conflicts …”

So today, I’ll be diving further into the depths of my characters’ goals and motivations. How? Freewriting, of course.

For a related article on freewriting for character discovery see
Let Characters Reveal Themselves: Freewriting Leads to a Character-Driven Story

Shhhhh! I’m NaNoing.

Sorry it’s been a little quiet around the “Romp” lately. I’ve been NaNoing.

I just hit 30K words and I think I’ve found my ideal daily word count – 2500/day. It keeps me in character for a few hours. It stretches me. It feels hard but doable. It knocks off a couple of short chapters, giving me a solid sense of accomplishment. And it leaves me spent — for the day. But I try to finish each session with some trailing thoughts for tomorrow, so I can pick up easily where I’ve left off.

Hope to be blogging more again soon.