Sunday, December 30, 2012

Writing Update 12-29-12

So I haven't written one of these in a few weeks. I was thinking I'd do these every Sunday, but then I realized they'd get pretty repetitive and boring to read, so I decided to be a bit more sporadic with them.

I currently have five query letter pending. I also got three rejections from this most recent round of querying. One of the rejections was actually a really nice, encouraging rejection (weird but true). She told me that she'd definitely be interested in my manuscript if she hadn't just signed on someone with a very similar novel. So that gives me some hope. The current five, though, who knows. I might not hear anything for months (or they might be no response means no - I'd have to check my spreadsheet to be sure). Either way, I'm probably in for the long haul with them.

I've started to wonder if this MG Fantasy just isn't going to be The One, but that's no reason to give up just yet. If you quit too soon, you'll never know what could have been.

I've also started a new YA Fantasy. You know, I think it's pretty good, but that might just be my "Ooooohh, shiny new project" phase.

Wish me luck!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Snowman!

Merry Day After Christmas To Those Who Don't Mind Being Wished A Merry Christmas!


It snowed here on the 24th! So my husband and I went out to play. Here is a picture of our snowman from the waist up (note: I took this picture on Christmas day, and everything was starting to get a little bit drippy, so he was crisper the night of the 24th. Also he had a stick mouth on the 24th.):


You're seeing him from the waist up b/c my husband decided to make him "anatomically correct". I tried to explain that one single body part does not, in fact, make a snowman anatomically correctly, but he didn't seem to care about all that.

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

For the Austen Fans Out There

You may not be able to tell, but I'm actually wearing two pairs of sunglasses here.
My future's so bright - I gotta wear two pairs of shades. ;) (For those 80's music fans out there.)

Today's Media Innovations (a.k.a. Vlogging Pride and Prejucide!)

It is so cool to see what people can do with the media resources available today. I just found a vlog based on Pride and Prejudice called The Lizzie Bennet Diaries (It's on YouTube, here). It's fairly popular, so maybe a lot of you are already familiar with it. It's a really fun, modern re-imagining of, arguably, Austen's favorite work, and I am really enjoying it. It's sort of starting out as Lizzie's "complain about her mother" vlog, but they're going to cover all of the book, and it's done in a really funny and smart way.

It's amazing. There are all these resources out there if we're willing to reach out and master them (of course it always helps to have a little spare cash). It's also wonderful to see what sort of fresh and imaginative thing people can do with a classic that already has so many other spin-offs (movies, mini-series, books written as sequels, books or movies based upon the same basic plot (ahem, Bridget Jones), etc.)

Because I become overly obsessive with the things that I'm interested in, I, of course, wikipedia'ed the show (see here, if you're curious), and the only name that had a link of it's own was Hank Green's. He's John Green's brother, who most people seem to know about these days. Hank and John have a very strong online presence (which has helped make John's books even more popular, and I've seen some clips of him - he has some really wonderful things to say, and they're both pretty funny). But I just think it's fascinating that some people are able to turn their media-savvy (which seems to usually just start out as playing around) into a  whole profession. And, you know what? I think that's amazing. These are a few people who actually get paid to do what they love.

Edit:  I discovered that there's also a really cool, interactive site (here) that puts together all the vlog videos with the extras (for example, some info from the main writer, Bernie Su, and twitter conversations between Darcy, Bing Lee, and Caroline). Each character has his/her own twitter where they speak in character. This whole project was an amazing amount of work.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Whimsical Dragon For You

So, I have been revising my summary and getting out a few queries, but my primary project this weekend was artwork (because why not?). As not bad as my current blog format is, "I'm just not in love with it" (as agents may tell you). I wanted something more fun and personal - I want to use some of my art in a header. Of course, that probably won't happen any time soon b/c I'll have to hunt down one of my friends with Photoshop to get it right, but, in the meantime, here's the creature/dragon I made:

She's part seahorse, part dragonfly, and part lizard. I am very happy with the results.

A few months ago, I realized I wanted to add my own artwork to the blog header and had this cool/cute idea for a mother and baby penguin (ended up choosing Emperor Penguins). But then I realized it wasn't quite right b/c I want to write for YA/MG audiences, not for picture book type audiences. But I'm proud of it and still want to show you:
Can you tell that the baby penguin is about to splash right into the puddle? Momma (or poppa) penguin isn't going to be happy.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Writing Update 12-9-12

Hmm, I always wonder how quickly I ought to be getting back to writing, but I do feel like I deserve a vacation of sorts after finishing something big (like my (hopefully final) recent draft of my MG fantasy).

So, I haven't really been writing. I have been brushing up on the manuscript I started back in March and seeing what all I'd decided I wanted to do with it, so I'm prepping to write. I always feel guilty about this but I also feel like I deserve a vacation. I am a very conflicted individual.

Also, I got out three queries over the week. I intend to get out two more - my plan is to have five active queries out at a time, but instead I've been drawing this weekend.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Revisions – Ugh


So this is another post I also have posted over at Kristie Britt's blog.

The Necessity of It All

So, no doubt about it, revisions are necessary. There is no way you’re ever going to write the perfect first draft. If you ever think so, well, sorry, but you’re wrong. In my own opinion, one of the mistakes we make early in the writing game is thinking that our draft only really needs a grammar check and a very minor facelift. Maybe I’m just a very flawed writer, but I usually find some big things I end up wanting to change. Of course, I don’t plan out my drafts so that’s probably part of the reason I personally need to do so much revising/editing, but no matter what, I think a writer can always find areas to improve.

A Little Help in the Revision Process

Of course, like I said, I’m not a planner. Planning out your book could really help cut down on the number of revisions necessary. Actually, I’m currently reading a book that came highly recommended by a ton of different people called Story Engineering by Larry Brooks.
This post by Jami Gold discusses this book and breaks down the recommendations made by the book into a nice and easy to use spreadsheet format.
Larry Brooks is all about planning, and he’s a bit down on people like me who don’t plan, but, as he very realistically points out, that’s just fine so long as you’re willing to do the extra revisions.

I have tried so many different things to try to get my novels where I need them, including, for some of my last books, abandoning them when I started to realize that the plot just wasn’t original or interesting enough. But one of the most helpful things you can do is get an outside set of eyes on the book. A good critique partner can really help you know where your book starts to get bogged down. They’ll also have input on what they want more and less of, which is incredibly helpful for revisions.

Why am I Doing This Again? Oh Yeah. To Get Published.

There are so many reasons your book might have gotten bogged down. Maybe you absolutely fell in love with an idea and got a little too involved in explaining it. Maybe you just have too much back-story in too many large chunks. Maybe there’s a whole expendable section of your book that just isn’t worth keeping. Who knows? The point is, you’ve got to be willing to get rid of big chunks of your writing, listen to criticism you respect, and learn to identify some of the slower sections of your own writing.

Pacing is very important in keeping your audience captivated, and revisions are one of the best ways to keep the pace moving. (My fellow blogger/writer Saybe Scott recently did a helpful post on pacing that included some good links)

Revisions are rough. Good luck, everyone!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Writing Update 12-2-12

Wow, December already. Good thing I finished my book before the Big Apocalypse.

Yes, I finished!!!!

Well, at least this draft. Who knows what I'll be saying in the future, but for now, I fully intend for this draft to be my last. You can only spend so much time attempting to make a book better/more marketable before you should be moving on to the next one. Which doesn't mean I really know when that time is, but sometimes you just gotta put yourself out there, see what happens, and move on when it turns out no one likes it. Otherwise you'll just get stuck in a rut.

In this draft, I tried to add much more info about the antagonist. And as I was adding it (to add more tension and help the reader better understand what was happening), I realized I was making him more sympathetic, which I think I like.

All told, this is my sixth draft (6th! Yeah-obviously I didn't quite know where I was going with this at first, but, man, is it SOO much better than my first draft). Between 5 and 6, I did a lot of eliminating - got rid of at least 5k-6k words (honestly, probably more) but my word count only decreased by 1k, so I added back in around 10k (if not more).

Yeah, I've definitely spent more time editing this book than initially writing it. Way more time. Ugh. On the plus side, I've had a ton of great ideas while I was editing, and I'm pretty excited about that.

So now it is time for the next round of queries. I have a whole new query letter too (which my critique partner helped me with a great deal). So thanks to Saybe Scott!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Brave New World


So Halloween's pretty long gone by now, but we finally took photos of my husband's costume & this is too good not to share. He made the stilts. I papermached the head and made the tie. We're quite proud of the results.

A Guilty Conscience

So, when I go to lengthy family gatherings, I sometimes bring my netbook with me to write. I only sneak it out after I've visited for a good while, so I feel like it's an okay thing to do. Actually, I'm probably writing this b/c I don't really think it's an okay thing to do, but it helps keep me sane so I do it anyway.

Plus, a netbook is so much smaller than a normal laptop, and that makes it much less obtrusive, right?

This is actually very similar to what I did in college when I had tons and tons of homework and would bring my schoolbooks with me everywhere (and I mean pretty much everywhere) just "in case" I had time to work on it.

So, yep. I'm a crazy person.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Holidays!

Tis the holiday season. Happy holidays, everyone.

I've got all sorts of family events, so I may take a short vacation from my blog. Hopefully I'll be posting next week, and I'll definitely be working on my editing, but for this week all I have to say is: Happy Holidays! (And, for you Americans: Happy Thanksgiving!)

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

How Changing Jobs Is Like Growing Up

Here I am in full-on wizard gear. This is meant to be Gandolf.

 

My New Job

This past week I changed jobs. It's a minor move down the hall, but I will be working with different people, and I had to clear out my old desk and re-locate everything. Just the process of moving can be a bit sad because it makes the change much more real. While I was moving everything, I also found a few note cards I'd written when I first started working there that helped me keep everyone straight. Now, I know these people so well that the very idea of those note cards is completely ridiculous, but finding them made me remember there was actually a time when I didn't know these people at all.

The sort of sad and teary way I felt to leave behind my old desk and the people I worked with made me think about just how common big (and even bigger) changes like that are as you grow up. I write middle grade and young adult fiction, and I was thinking that those Big Moments that really affect you are much more frequent in childhood and young adulthood, and maybe that's part of what attracts me to those ages.

The Traumas of Growing Up

As you grow up, you start school. Talk about a jarring experience. You start spending your days somewhere completely different from what you were used to, and now you're thrown in with a bunch of people you don't know but still have to get along with. Then, from year to year, that group of people might completely change. The friends you make might move or just not be in your class any longer. The teachers will definitely change. Some will be amazing. Some will not. Then there are summers. Summer camps with whole new groups of people you meet, make friends with, then potentially never see again.

Ugh. Middle school. Talk about a big change. A whole new group of people you don't know, and you're all thrown together along with changing class schedules and changing homework/extracurricular expectations. Then high school is another big, scary step. All during this changing scenery you're expected to start figuring out who you are, who you care about, how to interact with the opposite sex, and what you want to do with your life.

And then comes one of the scariest things you'll ever do. Graduate. Suddenly you're expected to make some pretty big decisions and chances are you won't have a single friend along for the ride. You're even stripped of the stability of home (most people have a stable life at home, and I hope you do too), AND you're expected to make some huge decisions about what you want to do with the rest of your life.

So there is all that fear and sadness about the things you're leaving behind and the decisions you have to make. But there is also huge potential there. Growing up is one of the scariest things you'll ever do, but it's also one of the most exciting. I think that may be why I am so drawn to young adult and middle grade fiction (plus the books are usually more fun). Those big moments of discovery and change are ones that really impact you on an emotional level.

The Fairly Positive Conclusion

In the end, I think this change of jobs will be better for my career (if becoming a novelist doesn't work out), and I think I will enjoy the new job more. So it was sad and I'll miss stuff about the old job, but I think the change is for the best.

It's incredibly like growing up.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Writing Update 11-11-12

This update is pretty much non-existent. Editing was done.
Also, I've been busy, so I've only been able to spend a few hours on the editing, but I feel good about what I've done. My husband actually likes my first few pages now! That's pretty huge for me b/c he's a really critical guy (and he thought they were boring before).

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

How I Write a Book

I've started doing guest posts once a month on Kristie Britt's blog. I met Kristie through the Bransford Forums. Anyway, today's post is also posted on her blog. And this is how I write a book!

 

The Idea Starts It All

So first I need an idea for my book. Sometimes that starts in my head with a relationship or a villain or a snapshot of a scene within the book. It’s started in different places for all the manuscripts I’ve written, but before I start writing an entire novel, I have to fall so much in love with some aspect of this novel that I want to spend the next few months of my life hammering out a first draft.

The World Forms

I write fantasy and science fiction, so before I can really start writing, I need to understand my world. I brainstorm my world and basically spew out my thoughts into a Word document. By writing down all the things I’ve been thinking about, I develop a much clearer idea of what my world looks like. Some aspects of this world will probably change, but now I have a fixed place in my head.

The Main Character Becomes Real

Then I need to understand my main character (MC) and what on earth I’m doing with this book.  Mostly I take a few walks and think about my MC until I start thinking of my MC as a real person, and I start throwing notes onto the messy Word document from above. By the point I think of my MC as a real person, I know I can write that MC, but I still need to have some basic idea of the conflict I want in my book. The adversary has to be tied into the main character because that adversary is, in some way, working against the main character, so I’m counting the villain or Big Problem in this step. More Word document brain spewage and I’m off.

The First Draft Somehow Gets Written

So now I’ve got a very basic idea of where I’m going, a person who’s in the starring role, and a world where it all takes place, and some sort of adversary or conflict. I’ve just got to sit down and write. And write. And write. Sometimes the writing is easy. Sometimes I have to sit down whenever I can and make myself put out whatever I can, whether that’s a few thousand words or a few hundred. And then, after months of pouring over my first draft, I find myself at the end, and I’m soooo happy I could just do a little dance.

Analysis and the Re-Writes

I set aside my first draft for a while because I need a vacation from it before I can look at it with truly critical eyes. But then I come back ready to inflict damage on the poor thing. At this stage I’ve done things like cut out whole chapters, write chapter by chapter synopses to figure out what each chapter contributes, and add new chapters to amp up the tension. Since I don’t really plan out my first draft, here is where the planning needs to happen. I need to figure out where my draft moves like molasses, where it picks up, what it has, and what it needs. This stage can easily take place over several different drafts, but, hopefully, at the end, I have a book with a solid beginning, middle, and end. By the way, additional eyes at some point during this process are key because by the time you’ve read your own book over and over, you just cannot be objective. Those readers are the key to a molasses-free book.

Unfortunately, you could keep writing and re-writing the same book for the rest of your life. At some point you’ve just got to say “Enough!” and start querying. Unfortunately, sometimes you’re wrong, and then you have to do a few more re-writes before it truly is enough, but if this book doesn’t make it, there’s always the chance that the next one will. And you will have gained so much just from having written this book that surely it’s got to be worth it. Right?

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Writing Update 11-3-12

I don't have much of an update this week. I've been editing. I added one chapter, cut stuff, and did things that are generally boring to talk about.

I've been kinda busy since we had a Halloween party yesterday, and I paper mached a Jack Skellington head for my husband's costume and finished off my costume, so I haven't gotten as much done as I'd like. But editing can be a slow business anyway.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Building a Writer's Workplace and Not Going Insane

Happy Halloween, everyone!
I am very proud of the fact that I made this hat myself.
Also, this is before the costume is complete. It will eventually (hopefully) be Gandolf.

Full Time Writing

First let me say that I am not a full-time writer. I hold down a 40 hr/wk job. If I were a full-time writer that would be both awesome and also a risk to my sanity. As a full-time writer I'd have much more opportunity to focus on something that I love doing and that I hope will become my profession. However, I would also have ALL my time to myself. Less socializing, a less regimented existence, and potentially less sanity. I'd have WAY too much time to spend in my own head. Of course, I'd have to work something out. I'd probably help babysit my sister's kid both to make sure I got out of the house and to help her out. And I'd make myself enjoy a few more hikes in the nearby state parks. Things like that.

Yea for the Internet!

But forums and blogs and e-mails and really just the whole on-line world would definitely play a big part. Both with my writing and keeping my sanity. This amazing invention called the internet has helped to link people who will never meet in person and who never would have met out in the "real" world. As a writer it can help you read what other writers are doing, help you meet fellow, struggling wanna-be authors, and get you some awesome insight and advice. I personally am a part of the Bransford Forums (Nathan Bransford is a former agent and is now a middle grade author and social media manager-his blog has some really helpful stuff on it too). On there I can meet people, get feed back on my queries and excerpts, talk about random stuff, and generally feel like I've socialized with real, live people without leaving my bedroom or putting on anything other than my pajamas (which I'm wearing as I write this very post!). There are all sorts of online forums for writers, and many of them are completely awesome. There are also other ways of meeting people through the internet - like participating in their blogs, writing your own blog, using Goodreads, and of course the ridiculous number of social media sites out there.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Writing Update 10-28-12

Today's writing update is very simple - I'm editing, editing, editing. I think I removed about 6,000 words from my first few chapters in an effort to amp up the pacing and add a little tension. I also added one new chapter and moved one later chapter up. I cut out all sorts of back story b/c my husband said it was boring and my CP said she didn't start to get really interested until about a third of  the way through the book. Hope people still get what's going on!

So, in other words, I spent tons of time playing puzzle with my book. And also making it shorter. Probably things most non-writers never think of. Definitely never something I imagined I'd be doing when I set out to write my first book.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Magic & Powers

And I move with superhuman speeds!

From the Worlds of Science Ficiton and Fantasy: A Cool List

So I'm a fan of science fiction and fantasy, and I was thinking about all of the ways that you have have some sort of supernatural power in these worlds. I wanted to come up with a list before I wrote anything else science fiction/fantasy, so I have some options laid out before me.

I've read a fair amount, but I'm positive I've missed a few things (feel free to remind/berate me in the comments), but this is what I've got so far:
  • Magic
    • From nature/ley lines
    •  Inherent from birth
    •  From objects of power
    •  Learned/academic magic
    • From other beings, such as demons (either direct theft of their power or use of the demons to do your bidding)
  • Inborn Powers
    • (Obviously magic can be one of these)
    • Control over an "element," for Ex. Avatar
    • Talents, for Ex. healing, telepathy, clairvoyance
    • Supergenius, for Ex. Girl Genius of the eponymous webcomic
  • Superhumans/Mixed-breed humans/Mutants
    • Superpowers and superheros
    • Werewolves/animals. So many wereanimals these days.
    • Maybe vampires. I think they're kinda superhumans.
    • Scientific experiments, for Ex., Peter Parker (so there's a superheros again)
  •  Religious powers
    • Power from a specific God
    • The Force (Star Wars)
    • Reverend Mothers (Dune)

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Writing Update 10-21-12

So I had thought I'd be sending out some more query letters this week, but I just got a very insightful critique on my WIP (work in progress), and instead I'm back to editing.

I spent Friday brainstorming and laying out an outline of things I want to add (and delete), and now I'm working on actually adding (and deleting) them. Oh, the drafts! The many, many drafts.

P.S. I color coded my outline and it looks like Christmas spit on my outline. Red=delete. Green=add. Christmas has very festive spit.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Fear and Writing


Would you believe I'm actually scared of starting my new book?

I have the idea all plotted out, and, actually, before I set it aside to do some serious editing of the project I'm querying now, I got started on this project. So I have a few thousand words and a flushed out idea, and I love the whole thing. And that's why I'm scared. Right now, my idea has all sorts of potential to become an absolutely amazing book. Heck, right now, my book could be the Next Big Thing.

But when I finally get started (or, here, re-started), my project starts to lose the potential of what it could be and turn into what it actually is. And, somehow, that's a bit scary.

What if I'm not good enough to do this idea justice? What if I just write an absolutely horrible introduction but the rest of it is wonderful and nobody ever reads it because they can't get past the first few chapters? What if I miss my opportunity to make this book what it really could be?

All of these insecurities are stopping me from starting my project. I mean, honestly, I just finished a few big editing projects and I could probably use a little time off, and one of these days I'll just get so impatient about the fact that I'm not writing that I'll just start writing, but in the meantime, as silly as it is . . . I'm scared.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Writing Update

So my husband reminded me that I originally started this blog to chronicle my attempts to get published b/c IF I do become a published author it'd be cool to have a sort of timeline of what I was doing.

So, I'm thinking of doing quick Sunday updates in addition to more fun to read Wednesday posts. This one's a bit longer than I eventually intend them to be.

Here's where I'm at: I recently finished a fifth draft of my MG Fantasy because I needed to add more tension and a clearer villain from the outset. I also tried to get rid of all extraneous stuff from my first few chapters because they were dragging a bit (and I'm a little worried they're still too slow, but I feel like I NEED everything else).

I queried on both my third and fourth drafts of this book, and (according to my spreadsheet) I've already put out 21 queries, and not one of those got a hit. That was what helped me to realize I need to do something different. I'm sad I "wasted" 21 agents, but I re-revamped my first chapter, my plot, and my query letter, so here's hoping! And, really, I wouldn't have improved the book if it weren't for those 21 agents.

I also recently joined the Bransford forums to get online critiques of my queries and excerpts (and for fun), and I have one CP (critique partner) I don't know in person through there. I'm thinking of expanding that, but it is quite hard to write, have a life, keep up with social media, and work full time, so some weeks are slower than others, and I don't always get everything done that I'd like.

Wish me luck!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Favorite Places & Small Spaces


When I was a little girl, I used to take pillows and blankets and books and create a nest of sorts for myself in the bathroom (the only one in the house). I'd hole up in there for hours and read. And I'm not sure what was wrong with my parents' and sister's digestive tracts, but I don't remember getting kicked out of my nest very often.

Now, despite it's strategic location, I did not pick the bathroom because it was a bathroom. I picked it because:
1) It had a heater! I was (and am) a cold sort of person who really enjoys a good heating.
2) It was the smallest room in the house, and I love small spaces.

This post was going to be about how I love writing in small spaces, but then I realized it's not that I love writing in small spaces, it's that I love being in small spaces.

Our last apartment had a long walk-in closet (it wasn't a classy sort of apartment, I just don't think they knew what else to do with that space-it was long and awkward). And I'd create a nest for myself in that closet and read and write for hours. That was most likely where I finished my very first manuscript. (See? This is about writing, you just had to wait for it.)

And, very recently, we were working on our living room (staining some window trim), and my husband moved his computer out of the living room and into the smallest room in the house (barring the bathroom), so, of course, I followed him, put down a sleeping bag and some pillows, and now I am much happier than I was in that horrid, big old living room. Ahhhh, I didn't realize how much I missed my small spaces.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Reading And Writing, But Not At The Same Time

 Oooooo, and today I'm mysterious.

To Read Or To Write-That Is The Question

One of the things I see a lot is that if you intend to write you MUST read.
I completely agree. (How else would you know if what you write has any appeal? And how else can you learn and grow?) But I have noticed something about myself: the more I write, the less I read.

It's an interesting phenomenon. When I'm really caught up in my writing and writing a decent amount every day, I just don't have the inclination to read. It feels too much like work.

Fortunately, when I just can't stomach the idea of writing or I'm really lacking in inspiration, I love to read. I've re-read lots of books that I really liked just to see how the author wrote them and why I think they were successful. And then I just read the stuff I want to read too. It's fun!

I just think it's funny that when I write I don't read, and when I'm really reading a lot, I don't write.

Does anyone else have this problem? Or maybe it's not a problem. Or maybe I'm crazy (or maybe that's a separate issue).

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Why Couldn't I Be Born British?

Hello!

Today I am reading The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaimon, and it's beautifully written, and he has managed to come up with all sorts of the most interesting things - things that kids (and adults if they still have any sense of imagination) will absolutely love reading about, even if before they read the book they had no idea they'd take an interest in any such thing.

Which reminds me of Roald Dahl, who had the absolute, most fascinating of ideas. I mean The Witches? How does someone come up with stuff like that?

And I'm also reading the very entertaining Terry Pratchett right now, so I have come to the obvious conclusion that one must be British to be a truly great writer.

Oh, man, and I just thought of J.K. Rowling.

How very sad for me. I mean, by this point there's no way around it, I will never truly be British. I even married a fellow American. I mean, I suppose I could try moving over there and see if it takes at least a little and maybe I could pop out a few British children and hope for the best for them, but obviously my own non-starter of a career as a writer is doomed. Doomed, I tell you!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Lazy Day

Just for something a little different: here is a beach sunrise photo from my vacation last week.

I'm in one of those weird in between stages in my writing. I have a book I'm querying that's on it's fourth draft (or possibly closer to twentieth draft, depending on what part you're looking at.) I just finished a second draft of another book that I need to walk away from for a while, and I have an idea for a new book.

The thing is I'm so vested in my other two projects that I don't really want to start anything new. Or maybe I'm just being lazy-that's always a possibility.

I feel like I have a ton of things going on and a million things I could do (should do?) but I'm not interested in a single one of them. I'm in one of those negative moods that I either need to decide I won't accept and start working no matter how I feel or let the mood take me for the evening and just have a good old fashioned lazy day.

Right at the moment, I'm leaning towards the Lazy Day. After all, I need to find out who won The Glee Project.

And one more, just for the colors (it was worth the lack of sleep):

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Vacations and Wild Horses


I'm on vacation this week!

I'm making my husband take me to the beach for my birthday. With my ridiculously pasty skin, I might not be a natural fit for the beach, but I do love seafood, and you can get some damn good seafood down by the beach (imagine that)!

We've settled on Ocean City, MD because I want to visit Chincotegue and Assateague Islands. I read all about Misty and (I believe) Stormy of their respective islands when I was a little girl, and I think it'd be cool to watch the wild horses run all around.

I suppose I could just google whether it was Stormy or some other horse that lived on Assateague, but somehow that feels like cheating. With so much information at our fingertips, you've gotta draw the line somewhere, and Stormy's where I've arbitrarily drawn it.

Have a great week! I know I will.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Writing and Music

Don't I look majestic?
Or maybe just odd.

Inspiring Playlists

When I read about some of my favorite authors, one of the things I've seen over and over is that they had specific music they listened to when they were writing a book. It always sounds so cool. There's a soundtrack that goes along with their book. I bet they could read certain passages and a few lyrics would just pop into their head. I bet certain lines were inspired by the way the music made them feel.

I'm jealous.

I don't listen to music when I write. I've written enough that I can usually write with something happening in the background, but it'd better stay in the background or my concentration's shot. I can either listen to music or write, not both.

Obviously all writers are different. They write different things for different genres and different ages. The music thing is just something rather random that I'm envious of. I think it sounds so neat.

Maybe I should just make myself a mix for each book and listen to it when I'm not writing. It's not really the same, but you gotta take what you can get.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Unexpected Inspiration

Aren't I regal?

Inspiration from the Internet (and Those Crazy Web Comic Creators)

As a writer, you can find inspiration in the most unexpected places.

I thought I'd share one source of inspiration today b/c I think it might inspire others (and it's hilarious, so it can't be a waste of time, right?)

My husband is a nerd (he's also very cute, very entertaining, and very wonderful), but he's an ex-World of Warcraft playing, spreadsheet making nerd. I love him, and I can't exactly claim not to be a nerd, just not in the same way.

Thanks to him, I got hooked on Red vs. Blue a while back, even though I don't play Halo.

I got him hooked on the web comic Girl Genius, but he's the real web comic fanatic. He's always followed Penny Arcade. Sometimes I understand Penny Arcade, and sometimes I don't, but today he was telling me about the webisodes the Penny Arcade creators put out that shows them brainstorming the strips. This, of course, was his lead up to conning me in to watching a few with him.

It is utterly fascinating to watch the creators take their lives and turn them into comic strips. This series shows collaboration at it's best. You can tell these guys have been working together forever. They have their system down pat. You watch them brainstorm, refine, and edit before your very eyes. There's some real writing there, but they have so much experience that they can just churn it out.
Plus, they're funny. I honestly find the webisodes to be much funnier than the comic strips, but maybe that's because I'm not quite nerdy enough.

I'm going to go ahead and recommend this episode (webisode, I guess) because it was completely hilarious. For the rest, they're under PA TV, but you have to look for the ones labeled "4th Panel." Warning: these are not for kids.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A Vacation From My Brain


Oh, man, how did I get to be this cool? ;)

Initial Problems

Do you ever just want a vacation from yourself?

I'm posting this Wednesday (to be a good, reliable blogger), but I'm writing this post on Sunday, and I have just spent somewhere between two and three hours choosing a background for my blog. That's after I spent hours yesterday looking through downloadable blogger templates.

Let me tell you, I am driving myself insane:

"Wow, I love that pattern. Oh, but it's kind of distracting from the text."

"Oh! That's pretty, let me try that one out. . . Meh."

"Oooooo, that's so pretty. Hmm, but it's a little hard to read."

Secondary Problems

So finally, I settled on this pattern you see before you now (I thought it was cool but didn't distract from the writing), but my analysis wasn't done yet! Here is a sample:

"I don't know. It's sort of curliquey. Maybe that's too girly. Would a guy be ashamed to read a blog that was too girly? What if someone sees him and he feels like he ought to close out of the blog really quick because it's too girly?"

And then I debated header color! I love the red, but I'm still a little worried it's too goth with the black and red, and I am not goth at all, so it might send the wrong impression . . . . yep, I need a vacation from myself.

The Real Problem

And the worst part is that all this silliness has kept me from writing much today. Of course, I'm feeling a bit paralyzed by indecision there too b/c I cut my original first sentence, and I'm just not sure that's the right thing to do, and I don't want to mess up any submissions with the wrong first sentence.

As you can see, it's just one of those days, and I simply need to get out of my own head. Maybe I'll go for a walk and listen to loud music. Or call my sister.

Does anyone have any suggestions for what they do to get their brains to shut up?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Most and Least Favorite Characters

This is me. One day I grabbed some things out of the closet & had fun with my camera.

Wonderful Characters

Sometimes I compile writing notes for myself. I recently found myself thinking about the types of characters that really help create an interesting novel, movie, or TV show. I made my husband help me, and I asked him this question: "Who are your favorite or most hated characters?"

Here's my list:
  • Mr. Wickham (of Pride & Prejudice)-at first he seems wonderful, but then he turns out to be the villain. This type of character is most interesting if the main character discovers Wickham's evil ways before the rest of the characters, allowing the audience to know just what sort of a fellow he is while the other characters fumble along, trusting them like the saps they are.
  • Kronk (of The Emperor's New Grove)/Bolin (of The Legend of Korra)-this character is big, dumb, and loveable. He creates laughs and relieves tension and is truly a worthwhile character because he also has unexpected moments of brilliance or usefulness.
  • Dolores Umbridge (of Harry Potter fame)-she is just so darn evil, and she has the main character right where she wants him. The reader wants to help the main character but is helpless against Umbridge's pure evil. Her appearance is a contradiction to her evil nature. She is not even a powerful person in her own right, but because of the situation, she is all-powerful, and she makes the life of the main character miserable.
  • Hobbes (of Calvin & Hobbes)-he is clever and makes you laugh. He is the best friend who lives in the background of Calvin's larger than life persona. People relate to the way Calvin feels, but Hobbes can see the full truth of the situation and says something hilarious that puts the whole world in perspective. Hobbes is downright insightful.
  • Snape (of Harry Potter)-unrequited love is a very moving thing. Snape's love gives his life purpose, and, in the end, you feel so much for him. He's also interesting because he is a villain too. Even though he turns out to be a hero, I think he made Harry's life miserable enough to consider him the secondary villain of several of the books. Fascinating character.
  • Miss Havisham (of Great Expectations)-the twisted side of unrequited love. An obsessive, insane character who cannot get over past disappointments. For an insane person who lives in the past, she's remarkable good at plotting.
  • Elizabeth Bennet (of Pride & Prejudice)-ok, so I love Lizzy. I don't think she's quite so fascinating as the others on the list, but I needed one positive female character! She's sarcastic and smart. She's a great sister, and a woman who learns from her mistakes.  She also has a "fine set of eyes," and you love her so much that you're ridiculously happy when she gets her Happily Ever After. She is a flawed person, but you understand how she makes her mistakes and you love her for the way she tries to be a better person.
  • Fred & George Weasley-They're on this list, "Because they're f*ing awesome." My husband refused to speak to me if I didn't include them. (Side note: In our copy of the Deathly Hallows, it has been penciled in that the little known Weasley brother Sam died during the scene when most people seem to think Fred died. They're wrong. It was Sam.)
I know, I know. I'm a little Harry Potter heavy. So sue me. ;)

I'm sure I missed a few wonderful, archetypal character types. I'd love for some people to add to my list in the comments below.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Highs and Lows of Writing



Writing is a series of raised hopes and crushed dreams. Ok, so maybe I'm being dramatic, but some days it doesn't feel like it.

Just by it's very nature, writing is a very tumultuous process. Or perhaps I mean the process of getting published, but for many people it's much the same thing.

You write something. You think it's amazing. You read it again, and think it's crap. Then you do some editing. And maybe some more editing, and what the heck, maybe a bit more. And by the time you're done you can't help but think, "You know this is pretty darn good."

So you put together your query letter (and maybe synopsis). You agonize over it and edit the crap out of it. And then you put yourself out there.

You think to yourself, "I think I really have something this time."

And then you start to get the rejection letters. That's when you realize, "Maybe I just don't have it. Maybe this isn't something I can do after all. Maybe I should just curl up into a little ball and feel sorry for myself."

And then, of course, a few days later (or hours or weeks, depending on just how much spring back you've got in you), you put out a few more query letters and hope springs anew. Because if you don't keep trying you're never going to get anywhere.

Seriously, it's amazing there aren't more medicated writers out there.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Some thoughts on Copyrights and Copyrighted Images




To Infringe or Not to Infringe: It Isn't Really a Question


Well, if you're on this blog you know I want to be a published writer. And if I achieve that dream, I imagine I'll have quite a stake in this whole copyright business.

That's why when I read this article by author Roni Loren, I started to think really long and hard about copyrighted images.

You see, I have a Tumblr account, and I had rather assumed that if you credited the artist/photographer whose work you were posting, you were golden, and with re-blogged posts I was even less careful. Who knows where those things came from?

However, after reading Roni's post, I am now fully aware that that is insufficient, which lead me to some soul searching. Should I really be irresponsible with other peoples' images when I want to be able to be paid for my own work? The obvious answer is no.

So then what?

I don't have a huge number of Tumblr followers, so I considered deleting my account. But, you see, I'd just gotten my Tumblr to look exactly how I wanted it (that took forever & shouldn't be knocked-it looks so pretty!), and I do really enjoy procrastinating by reading through my Tumblr feed. Plus, I want to write books for teens, and reading the posts of my teenaged followers has helped me remember what it's really like to be a teenager. That's invaluable to a writer.

So today, I've been slowly but surely searching through the creative commons for images that their creators have given us all permission to use. I'm going to build up a number of 100% legal posts as I slowly delete my old posts. I've already lost a few of my followers, but I feel very good about this decision (although not so good about how much work it is-but that's what I get for not doing it right the first time around). But now I know, and I WILL do better.

Happy Wednesday, everyone!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Confession Time



I have not been writing my query letters. I know. If you don't write a letter, you can NOT get published. There is zero chance (if you've decided on my route). If you do write the letter, you may get rejected (most likely will) but there's still that chance.

I have a ton of great excuses, though. Want to hear them?
  • I just gave my book to another friend and am waiting on feedback from her.
  • Work has been insane the past two/three weeks. (It really has).
  • I'm editing another book and don't want to stop to write query letters. My writing time is limited, you know?
  • I'm trying to learn Spanish. (I'm using duolingo.com, and I really recommend it. It's awesome AND it's free!)
  • (Here's where my excuses start to get really lame): I have so much housework to do!
  • I have to build my social networks (really, I've become a Tumblr addict).
  • Um. I'm watching this new show that I think will give me some insight into my key audience (and it's really fun to watch).
Rejection sucks. Unfortunately, we all have to suck it up and take it sometimes, but I don't think it's wrong to take a tiny, little break from it now and then. But, eventually, if you want to get anywhere, you've GOT to get back to it.  Soon. I promise. Soon.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Traditional vs. Self-Publishing

This is me. I am kinda weird.

 

Why I'd like to Publish through the Traditional Route (Assuming they let me):

 

Wow. There has been so much written on this topic, and some people get really nasty about it.

I highly recommend some of the articles published on Nathan Bransford's blog about the topic. He's gone over it quite a few times. And there are other great sources of information out there. I recommend doing some real research before you decide either way.

My thoughts:
I've been writing for several years now. I've never gotten anything published. (I don't write short stories, only novel length books, so, for me, it's all or nothing.) To me, it's still worth it to keep trying the traditional route. You see, no matter how much I polish my books, I KNOW they could be better. And somewhere inside of me exists a dream that I will be the next big thing. To even have a shot at that, I'd really like to work with a professional editor and literary agent who can both help steer me in the right direction. So here's my list of why I'd like to go the traditional route:
  • I want to work with an editor (and possibly an editorial literary agent).
  • I'd like to have a beautiful, professional cover.
  • I'd love a title from someone who's (hopefully) better at naming books than me (it's one of my weaknesses).
  • I would like my book to be able to be reviewed by respected journals like Publisher's Weekly and the School Library Journal.
  • I'd like a shot at getting my book advertised, although I know traditional publishing can be very unhelpful in that respect. 
  • I also have a dream of holding a copy of my book in my hands, and I am WAY too cheap to pay to get it published myself.
  • Also, I just don't have the distribution sources that a traditional publisher does. I have a new blog and a few friends, and I just think I can reach more people through the traditional means.
So that is why, for now, no matter how many discouraging query letters I get back, I will continue to polish and re-write and send out letters and hope for the best.

*Nathan Bransford has lots of wonderful information for writers on his blog. He was a literary agent and is now a published, MG author. There is also a very friendly community on his blog.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Where I'm At

I look like an idiot, but that's part of the fun of life.

 

Where I'm at with my Writing

So, I've written a few books. I even tried to get one published, but after about 15 query letters I decided it wasn't quite the right book for me and rather than re-write it, I moved on to another book because I liked the plot of my new book better.

Now, I'm on the fourth (4th!!) draft of an upper MG (middle grade) book. I had put out a few query letters when I was on the third draft, but then I decided I'd have another go at editing it. I just re-re-wrote the first chapter two days ago (since the first 10 or so pages are key to getting an agent's interest). The first chapter is probably on it's 20th revision at least (I've completely lost count).

So, now I have to get my shit together and get out some query letters.

I just recently sent out a query letter to an agency I really, really wanted to work with, but I got one of those "no answer means no" answers.  Hence the re-write of the first chapter.

I am also editing another book I've been working on and hoping for the best.

Wish me luck!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

How I Got Started Writing

This is me. (Hi.)


I'm going to tell you all the story of how I started writing.


I've always read (and read and read) books, but I came to writing rather late in life. I was in grad school writing my thesis (for a science) and inhaling romances. The thesis was getting to me, and I just wanted a story (ok, so more like a bucket-load of stories) with a nice, happy ending.

Now, some romances are extremely moving, well plotted, and well written books. Some are not. I'd just finished a series of not. In fact, I'd just finished a series of tear-out-your-hair, these-books-are-so-offensive-to-women romances. I decided I could do better.

And that was how I started writing.

I wrote two romances before I gravitated back toward my first love in books: YA fantasy.
Some romance authors can create original, moving, interesting books within the confines of boy meets girl, boy and girl have problems, boy and girl live happily ever after. I cannot.
Plus, I love inventing my own worlds. I can daydream about what I want in my world for days on end.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Why Write a Blog?

Hello!

Alright, so I tried this blogging thing before and did not keep up with it, but this time I have new purpose:
This blog is to tell all of you about my writing and my attempts to get published.
I've also been researching  all this writing stuff for a few years now, and I do have some helpful info and a few helpful resources for any newcomers to the field.

*Disclaimer: I will not bore any of you with my actual writing. I'm sticking to the starving artist story. (Except I have a real, paid job too and am not starving at all-but I do admire all you real starving artists out there. I'm just glad I'm not one.)