Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Hey buddy, can you spare some writing time?

TIme is, as they say, flying by. Thanksgiving flew by in a whirl of too much turkey and a half more of a chocolate cream pie than I should have eaten, along with boxes and packing and lifting and dropping for move into secret lair. Turns out, second floor=bad idea. Just so you know.

In all of the holiday hustle and bustle, though, I've found it increasingly difficult to carve out a few hours here or there (or anywhere) for writing. And even less so for blog writing, obviously. When I do have a spare moment I usually end up passing out or resting my brain by catching up on episodes of Glee and Bones (imagine a mash up of those two shows. Wait, I think that's been done). Which means poor writing gets the shaft most of the time. And I'm at an odd place with my writing: I've finished draft one of previous WIP and have now entered the editing stage, something I haven't really done before, and I just got a great idea for a new WIP based on a crazy dream I had. So I started that. Because hey, creating is always more fun than tearing apart and reworking.

So my general question out there is, how do you decide how to divvy up your time and actually stick to it?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

We had a good run, NaNo

Read this great post over at Maggie Stiefvater's blog today, it's her Dear John letter to NaNoWriMo (still pronouncing WreeMo, ack). I too have given up on the wily endeavor for many reasons, but I didn't know it was okay to say so. But reading such a missive from a New York Times Bestselling Author (do all of those get capitalized?) gave me the courage to say it out loud.

NaNo, I just can quit you.

Hahahahaha, you see what I did there? The quote from Brokeback Mountain? And I changed it? Funniest thing you've heard all day?

Maggie's reasoning (I can call her Maggie because we're imaginary Napa Valley buddies) reflects my exact sentiments: why in the world would I write 50K words that I know I'm going to have to horribly massacre later? I found myself hating everything I wrote, panicking if I deleted anything, and then obsessively checking my word count every 50 words. Nevermind that I still had pesky things like sleep and work and eating happening despite my STRICT INSTRUCTIONS that they not interrupt me for the month of November. Ironically, I found that trying to force a daily word count on myself brought on the worst case of writer's block I've ever dealt with, which I'm pretty sure is contrary to the whole concept of daily word counts.

Sometimes, yeah, what you write sucks. And you know it at the time, but you've just got to get to the next good part and then you'll go back and smooth out the transitions. Everyone has that, and everyone knows it. But NaNo took it a step beyond that and posited that everything you wrote would be crap, and would take months of editing to fix. Personally, if I can get it right the first time, that's what I'm going to aim for. The time you might save writing the first draft will definitely get eaten up with the second draft. And the third. And fourth. And five hundredth.

But you know what, NaNo? You may not have won this brand new writer, but hey, consolation prize! You inspired her to write more often. That's right, amidst the holiday rush, the packing and moving of secret lair items, the signing of said lair documents, working, etc., I wrote. More than I probably would have without such an ominous deadline hanging over my head. And while I certainly will not have written a 50K word novel by midnight Nov 30, I will have a solid start to a story that might have lain dormant a few months/years/decades longer in my brain without the impetus.

In conclusion, NaNo, I'm quitting you.

Hahahaha, you see what I did there again? Referencing the joke from earlier? It's totally cool to point out why something is supposed to be funny. That's how jokes work.

P.S. Secret lair: achieved. Just in time to be thankful.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Oh noes!

What will the publishing world do without Oprah? How will I ever talk about my genius and my alcoholic childhood now?

Cry, children, cry!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

There should be trumpets sounding somewhere...

Last night, bloggers and bloggettes, at 9 :05 pm (or roundabouts), this little blogger finished the first draft of the current WIP, soon to be known as the SDIP (second draft in progress). If I had had confetti in my hand I would have thrown it, if champagne had been poured I would have drank it, if there was a hand in the air I would have fived it. As it were, I simply handed the computer over to my partner in crime for final chapter reading. When he was done he looked at me in confusion.
"Is this it?"
"Yeah, that's it."
"What? No, you didn't answer a lot of stuff. What about [insert specific plot questions I'm obviously not going to reveal here] and [more plot questions]? What happens there?"
A shrug of my shoulders. "Doesn't matter."
This was apparently unacceptable to him. "No no no, this is a series. This is book one of, like, six." At which point he sketches out the plot points of the next five books for me.
Let me make it clear, this is not a series, nor do I intend for it to be. But as he went on, plotting out the next few thousand pages for me, I couldn't help grinning more and more. By the end of his diatribe, I looked like the Joker (the family friendly one, not the creepy scarred one, thank you).
"What are you smiling at?" he asks me.
"Nothing. It just makes me so happy that I could write characters that someone would care about enough to want to read more."
And it's true, that has felt like my biggest accomplishment (after actually finishing the damn thing, of course). There was definitely a lull period there where the only thing keeping me going was the fact that he asked me insistently for the next chapter. He deserves one of those high fives just as much as I do, what a trooper.
But let me make it clear, all fives, high or otherwise, will be directed to me first to be distributed as I see fit.
Next stop: beta readers. Uf.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Me likey the free

Hot tamales! I love when my favorite things come together. In this instance, it's the great meeting of blogging and free stuff. I'd do a lot for free things (but I wouldn't do much for a Klondike Bar, those things are nasty), including a blog shamelessly posted to gain an extra entry in said contest!

Lisa and Laura Roecker, the authors of the soon to be wildly popular The Haunting of Pemberly Brown, are holding a contest on their blog, and the giveaway is a shiny new Kindle! Since I've been fiending for an ereader I knew this contest was custom made for me. Like Edward for Bella, siiiiiiiigh.

So check out the contest, and then check out the book, because if the book is half as fun as the website, it'll be really fun. Is really half of awesomely? I'm not sure how to execute math on vocabulary...

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


Wow. Time, what happened? You and I, we used to get along. A long time ago we used to be friends. We would watch bad TV shows together in the summer, lay out in the grass on campus for an impromptu afternoon nap, stay up late reading cheesy romance novels, we were the best. I thought we'd be together forever, Time. But now you've left me for some younger, hotter, less responsibility encumbered little hussy.

Day 10 of NaNo necessary word count: 15,000
Day 10 of NaNo actual word count: 5,000

For those of you big on the mathness, that's 1/3 of where I should be. Or, an utter FAIL. Now, a few things in my defense:
1) Buying secret cave
2) Started one story and decided writing of said story=impossible
3) Began new story two days ago
4) Still working on current WIP
5) Eating and sleeping still annoyingly necessary
6) As is paying bills, i.e. working

But what I am taking heart in is that in two days I've written just over 5K words. That's impressive, right? I mean, if I just play catch up for the next few days and average about 2,500 words a day, I'll be on track to totally demolish NaNoWriMo like a wimpy kid at the arcade. Or that kid in The Wizard. The snobby one with the fancy glove, not the awesome kid whose vocabulary is limited to saying California in such a darn cute way.

My lesson about NaNo so far: you can't force a poorly thought out story. It would be an utter waste of a month and 50K words for me if what I wrote was crap and I knew it as I wrote it. When I tried to write the story that wasn't working - even though I had a plan - I was word counting every 50 words. This new story I'm working on, 2K words happened in the blink of an eye. The difference? The narrative for the second story flowed much better. Moral? If your current story ain't working, don't keep forcing it just to "win" NaNo.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The best laid plans...

Aft gang arye. At least, that's how Eddie Izzard pronounces it. And since Eddie Izzard is my foremost authority on history, comedy, and pronunciation, that's what we're going to go with here. I started the month of November with the highest of intentions, and even though we are only four days in, I already know it's going to go to crap. I'm going to wake up three days from now and it's going to be Thanksgiving. Of this I am convinced.

Why is it going to such crap, you ask? Well, for many reasons that mostly boil down to I put too much on my plate at once. But there is one such thing I have brought upon myself that kind of blows the other ones to pieces; no, it's not NaNoWriMo, which has sadly fallen by the wayside (2100 words in three days, yeesh). No, the big bad on my list is the fact that my partner in crime and I have decided to buy a our own secret lair. That's right, kiddies, no more will we share our treasures with Ali Baba's 40 thieves, we're getting a magic cave all our own. Turns out, buying said lair is a very lengthy and complicated process, as well it should be considering the genesis of our current economic crisis. And to get our piece of the goverment pie we have to close before Nov. 30, which times in Cleveland again.

My writing has fallen into 30 minute or (if I'm lucky) one hour fits, I haven't worked out in two and a half weeks, my day job took this convenient time to explode with work, and oh, yeah, there's that whole NaNoWriMo thing. I've been craving Nathan Bransford's blog with a side of The Rejectionist, but alas my work ethic and my bank account insist otherwise.

So yeah, the reason I haven't blogged in the last week? There you go. I'm not even bothering with the word of the day today, half because I don't have the time and half in protest of their random emailing schedule. I got one at 11 p.m. last night. Wha?

Anyone out there with mad organizational and time management skills, tips would be appreciated. Monetary or otherwise.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Fall of the Roman Empire (and not the fun color changing kind)

Word of the day: aesthete - One having or affecting great sensitivity to beauty, as in art or nature

Blech. What a lame-o word.

So I'm in a book club, because I like books. And clubs. Our reading savoir faire this go round was How I Became A Famous Novelist by Steve Hely. Hilarious book, brings up a lot of funny points about the industry and how bestsellers become so popular, but that's not why we're here today, kiddies. But seriously, if you're interested in getting published read this book, because it will strike more than one chord. And bring some relief to the hysteria.

But I've brought you here today to discuss the FUTURE OF BOOKSTORES. I've seen more than one complaint about the FUTURE OF PUBLISHING posts that a lot of agents and editors write, but this is about the demise of the brick and mortar stores, so I should be totally exempt from such vitriol. Right? Anyway, over at The Rejectionist they're (he's? she's? the perils of anonymous blogging!) interviewing Kevin Sampsell, a regular guy who just happens to run a publishing company, the largest indie bookstore in the US, and write books himself. As you would expect, he discusses the struggles that indie stores face, the looming ebook business, and whether or not he thinks paper books will ever die. This is a pretty common set of themes rolling around the blogosphere, and I usually keep to myself because I am not Nostradamus and therefore not interested in making wildly vague but nonetheless foreboding prophecies about such things. I prefer sandwiches. But I did want to share a little anecdote about my own experiences with a bookstore to highlight some possible issues in a very nonconfrontational way (because I'm not getting in a FUTURE OF PUBLISHING throwdown. Sandwiches, people.).

So my book club is tonight, and this time yesterday I still didn't have the book. Not cool. I went to my friendly neighborhood B&N, and shockgasphorror, they didn't have it. Strike one. So I sent my partner in crime to do my dirty work at another B&N on the other side of town. They had it, but shockgasphorrorfootstamping, they wanted...wait for it...FULL COVER PRICE. I am, through and through, an Amazon girl. And before that, I was a Half Price Books kind of girl. Paying full jacket price was, in my mind, for suckers and lesser wimps. Hardcover prices made me laugh out loud like a cocky superhero, and the concept of paying even for a trade paperback was ludicrous. I held firmly to this belief even through my own publishing days, when the prices of books made a little (but not much more) sense. But I needed that book and Amazon couldn't deliver on my admittedly outrageous timeline without charging me extra. But both Amazon and B& had the book for half price. Half. The. Price. I'm even saving them the shipping and they want to charge me full price? What the-?

So I concocted a plan to take it back the next day after book club, and then buy it on Amazon if I wanted. But...then I felt guilty. Guilty of robbing the bookstore, struggling as it is, of a legitimate sale. Guilty of being a part of the reason why the industry is suffering so much as it is now. Guilty of having a huge spaghetti dinner without exercising first (that probably didn't have as much to do with the book, in all fairness, but it lent to the overall sense of guilt). And once I started reading the book, and enjoying it, I thought I would give the bookstores a break and keep my full price copy, like I was giving a bum some money or petting an ugly cat.

But will that change my buying behavior? Uh. No. I don't pay full price for anything if I can help it; bargain racks and clearance stores are my cup of (discount) tea. And therein lies the dilemma. In order to keep such stores alive, I have to be willing to pay a higher price for the EXACT SAME PRODUCT. I'm not getting added benefit by physically going there and checking out. There's no customer service to worry about in bookstores because I'm not one to ask for help or recommendations from bookstore employees. Plus, there's alway the concern that the book I want won't be there, especially if it's not a bestseller. That's the rub; online stores provide the same product at a lower price point, they give me access to a much wider variety of books, and they save me the gas money of going to my local bookstores (the number of which are dwindling).

That's a hard argument to fight for me.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A Note on Character Development; or, What would my MC do if an alien ship landed?

Word of the day: scuttlebutt - 1. A drinking fountain on a ship. 2. A cask on a ship that contains the day's supply of drinking water. 3. Informal. Gossip; rumor.

Awesome word. Somehow, someway, I'm going to work that into my WIP today.

Found a great new read in Maggie Stiefvater's blog, especially her post on being asked by acquaintances to be written into her books as a character. Rachelle Gardner also had a great post of writing tips that I mentioned awhile back about putting your MC (or ancillary characters, if you so wish) into strange situations to judge their reactions and thereby deepen your understanding and development of said character.

Character development is an interesting process, one I would guess a lot of writers don't pay enough attention to, myself included. I consider myself a storyteller, not a builder of characters or worlds. If what I'm doing isn't driving the story forward, I'm not interested. Which is probably a bad idea, and why I am still le amateur. To be fair, Stiefvater (anybody else think Darth Vater when they see that? No takers?) explains that character development is meant to drive the story forward - you create characters who are bigger than life, and far more one-dimensional than real people so that when they step out of character, it's for a big reason (like saving people's lives, yo!). I had never thought through it that much, but she's definitely right. For some bizarre reason, to make a character believable we have to boil them down to a few essential traits that define their role in the story. Such characature, even in our celebrities, makes stories somehow more digestible. Even complex characters are only hinted at, their inner depth suggested rather than outright stated. That's how we know they're deep, because we don't know what they're thinking.

So it's most important in character development to create those few essential traits - two or three, let's not get cocky - and build all plot and dialogue out of those traits. It makes writing more manageable, and it makes reading more manageable. That's not to say you shouldn't think about all aspects of your character, but that doesn't mean all aspects need to come out in any given story. Otherwise you get a confusing mishmash that even Tolstoy would shy away from.

Any writers out there working on character development issues right now? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The values of beta readers

Word of the day: fugacious - Lasting but a short time; fleeting

Huzzah for getting my word of the day email today, is fickle in the bestowing of favor, I guess.

Bad weekend. As in: family drama, no sleep, and doggie destruction. Ready for new weekend. Do over?

So there are many blog posts expounding the benefits of very good, very critical (constructively, we promise) beta readers when you are writing your Great American Novel. This is very true, and very important, and if nothing else helps inure you to the inevitable pain of an agent or editor ripping your baby apart and flinging it to the wolves. (What's that you say? Editors and agents aren't evil people whose only joy in life is to suck the joy out of yours? They're just trying to do their job and make money so they can feed their kids and maybe buy a pair of rollerblades? No. I refuse to believe).

But I've recently realized another benefit of an alpha beta reader (the first beta reader, yeah I know my greek alphabet, so what if I learned it from frat parties): keeping the ball rolling. My partner in crime has been acting as my alpha beta reader on the current WIP for several months now, and handing over my manuscript chapter by chapter to him has kept me on an unofficial deadline track of sorts. But even better than that, it's kept me interested in the project. When I get comments from him, positive or negative, it spurs me on to think even more about the story and the character development, and it's nice to see someone outside of the creative process give their take on a character or a plot line. I know I seem all full of confidence and self-assurance here (I do, don't I? Does this blog make me look fat?), but writing can easily and quickly become very self-defeating. You start to question every move you make, and when a story can go in a hundred (million billion) different directions, it's hard to know that you're following the right path. But with a good beta reader asking the right questions I stay focused on where the plot is supposed to be going. No Frostian detours for this blogger.

So if you're feeling down about a story, or lost, or tired, or a little hungry, hand your work over to a friendly beta reader to spark that interest again. If nothing else, you can boast a wide readership amongst family and friends on your query letter. I hear that goes really far with agents.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Everyone is dead

Word of the day: exculpate - to clear from a charge of guilt or fault; free from blame; vindicate.

I am only sporadically getting my word of the day emails now, and that makes me grouchier than usual, especially when I have to go look them up on the website. Like, what? Not cool,, not cool. Why don't you try exculpating yourself by telling me what the deuce is up with your email serv.

So Nathan Bransford, agent extraordinaire, is having an awesome content over on his blog: The 3rd Sort-of-Annual Stupendously Ultimate First Paragraph Challenge! (I added the exclamation point in a moment of squee) You post your first paragraph of your best story and if you win awesome things happen to you. I've already posted the first paragraph of my WIP (which you can go see if you so desire), but I wanted to comment on something I noticed in all of the other 300+ entries so far.

There is a lot of dying going on in the first paragraph of people's stories. I mean, A LOT. Of the 200 or so that I've skimmed through so far, I'd say a good 150 have somebody dying, talking about dying, doing the dying, doing the killing of the dying person, reminiscing about someone dying, or getting prepared for some dying. The first few entries I read I thought maybe a murder mystery writers group got together and submitted their paragraphs all at once; fine. But when it kept happening, and it started crossing into all genres (dead babies in chick lit, dead wives in man lit, dead serial killer victims in suspense thrillers, dead siblings in sappy coming of age stories), I got a little worried.

People, what is this mass obsession with death? I mean, I've been to quite a few funerals in my day, but most of them were pretty much expected, and it certainly wasn't the cause of some grisly murder or a magic demon hunter from another dimension (almost pretty sure about that last one). It was such a common theme that I started to skip an entry as soon as I hit a dead person. The Lovely Bones these were not. I might have had a dead person story rolling around in my head somewhere (Lifetime movies-style, natch!), but I will definitely put the kibosh on that one. Yeesh.

Go check out the contest entries for yourself, and if you can stomach the blood and putrid flesh, there are some good ones in there. My personal fav (besides my own of course, shameless plug!) is the one about the black boy who returns to his hometown as a white man. I want to know what is up with that one, fo sho.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Why Jon Stewart steals my heart

Because of this.

Things we should have learned in Kinder but clearly didn't

Word of the day: convivial - 1.Fond of feasting, drinking, and good company; sociable. 2.Merry; festive.

It would seem I'm a little cranky today. Maybe it's because I suffered through a caffeine withdrawal headache yesterday, or that I keep getting mysterious bug bites on my feet, or that I've read another critical blog article about the publishing industry YET AGAIN, but cranky am I. And in the spirit of that crankiness, I noticed a few things today that I'd like to address to the public as a whole (or at least the two people that I know read this blog, big wave to Ash and Dad).

I've been aware for quite some time that technology has allowed us to reach a new level of rudeness in our society (not just within the US, I think, but the global community), but all advancements have their drawbacks (ironically), and you accept the good with the bad. However, there are a few things I would like to address that I've had to deal with a lot lately:

1) THINK before you send an email. Read it out loud if you have to, or send it to someone to ask how it sounds. There is something about not having to say what you're going to say to someone's face that allows this passive-aggressive demon to raise its ugly head and say snarky, back-handed things through email. I'd like to doubly reiterate (re-reiterate?) this for work correspondence. If you sound like a petulant toddler throwing a hissy fit, and if it involves extra bolding or all caps at any point, hint: probably not professional.

2) Remember when we were in kindergarten and the teacher said we couldn't cut in the lunch or potty line, no matter how hungry/full of pee we were? Yeah, that rule still applies. Drivers in my city this morning: I'm looking at you. If there is a line of cars, don't try to race down the lane next to them and cut in at the last minute before you get to your turn. It's rude and it makes me want to explode your car with my brain. Which I can't do yet, but I'm working on. And a side note to the people who let them in: you're only validating their behavior and encouraging them to do it again. So please, don't. Or I'll use my government-grade brain power on you, too

3) Hey, people who put the buttons on my clothes? Please stop making them fall off. I know you're doing it on purpose, and no, I don't laugh. I need those things to keep my pants up. Not cool. (Okay, I recognize this one has nothing to do with the others, but seriously, how am I supposed to keep my pants up?!)

Siiiigh. That makes me feel better. That and the impending promise of the weekend. In general, I think we can all just focus on being a little more civil than we think we should in our daily interactions.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The evils of word count

Word of the day: titivate - To make decorative additions to; spruce.

That is not what I thought that word would mean when I opened my email today.

Bangs bothering face, the tribulations of girldom.

Back in my days of publishing, I always understood word count to be about 300 words to a book page. That meant, if we had a manuscript submission of 90,000 words, it equalled 300 pages. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. However, now that I have delved into the dark realms of book blogging, I have found this to be a highly contentious issue.

Take this blog from BookEnds, LLC for instance. The blog itself is actually about why the agent in question (Jessica Faust, if you're interested) rejects certain submissions, but one of her reasons is word count. She goes on to give very general guidelines on word count, definitely nothing specific, and then gives other reasons for why she doesn't request a partial or full manuscript from a query letter. What happens to the comments section? It EXPLODES with heated word count battles (well, actually it explodes with spam comments toward the end, but BEFORE that it explodes with word count battles). There are arguments back and forth, for and against, but the overriding theme was that everyone was way upset about word counts.

Now, maybe I'm just old-fashioned when I worry about things like plot and technical skills, but this doesn't seem like that big of a deal to me. You're given a framework in which to do your writing, every agent across the board acknowledges that they will give you a little leeway both ways, and you're off to the races. Fretting about a few hundred or thousand words here or there just doesn't seem that important. The commenters, especially those who are unpublished (like yours truly), should really only worry about storytelling and craft. Trust me, even Faulkner got edited, which means your first draft and your final draft might be distant cousins, but they won't be twins.

For all of you aspiring writers out there whose word counts are over 100K, let me just say something: WOAH. What the hell, unless it's a fantasy, can you have to say for that long? I can tell you right now, about 90% of you need to get to cutting, because that thing sucks. Don't tell me it's essential to the plot, don't point me to other debut authors whose books were a billion words long, don't sell me on it. I've read enough crappy manuscripts in my time to know that you 90% need to do some serious, hard core editing. And I'm being generous with that figure. If you don't have experience in the industry to know if your books are going to fly at that level, then don't try it. Walk before you hovercraft.

But for the rest of us, in general, the guidelines are just that: guidelines. They're not meant to shackle you down or box you in. Don't panic, don't set your story a hundred different ways with a hundred different fonts and hope you can fool an agent. Most agents are looking for a really good story, not just a mediocre piece that fits within their word count specs. The only time queries get thrown out because of word count is when they are outrageously in one direction or the other (30Kers and 100Kers, I'm looking at you guys). Be happy you have the feedback you do, set your goal posts, and then kick the ball through (I'm using football as an analogy for writing, sports and literature totally go together).

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Don't quit your day job

I have always been a woman of pipe dreams. When I grew up, I wanted to be a writer, a doctor (a pipe dream if you know me and my academic tendencies), a musician, an actress, a bookstore/coffeeshop owner...the list goes on. Some of them seemed normal - doctor, nurse, lawyer - until I realized that I didn't want to go to school for them, I just wanted to do them. All the glory, none of the hard work. It's the American dream!

Turns out, hospitals won't just let you show up for surgery if you're not actually a doctor. And clients won't just hire you because you watched My Cousin Vinny and The Firm a few dozen times. I turned to the arts - music, acting, writing - in an effort to bypass all that "learnin" business. I figured I didn't actually have to be good at what I did to make money at it. What I learned from my few brief years as a "musician" here in Austin (read: coffee shops and Italian restaurants) is that just because someone isn't good doesn't mean they don't work their butts off. Sure, a kernel of talent would be nice, but even those at the top of their fields worked very hard to get there.

When I first got into publishing and started reading the industry blogs (you can visit any in my electronic hug department to know who I'm talking about), I got really annoyed. All the advice said you needed to write as much as possible, and most of that writing wouldn't see the light of day after it was said and done. And then, they had the nerve to say "don't expect to make much money from writing, especially in the beginning." Say wha?

I should mention something here. These pipe dreams of mine, they all brought me instant wealth and accolades and allowed me to retire at a very young age and live a life of luxury and laziness. As a writer, I had visions of myself lounging indolently on tropical beaches, sipping a Jamaican Smile and clicking away on my little netbook as the waves gently lapped my toes. Or curled up in a recliner next to the window of a ski chalet, bundled up in blankets and sipping Swiss hot chocolate as I watched the snow gently falling outside the big bay window, clicking away on my little netbook. Those are totally realistic fantasies, right?

Uh, turns out, not so much. Writing, just like any other profession, takes work and dedication. And it often means having to work your "day job" while you're writing and promotion your books on the side. AND most employers don't allow drinking on the job, so there goes the Jamaican Smile. Bootastic.

And yet, I keep writing. Perhaps there's real passion there, perhaps my focus has honed with age, or perhaps it's more entertaining than watching Til Death (seriously, how is that show still on?). Whatever the answer, I'm still writing, and while the dreams are still lurking in the back of my mind - okay, maybe not a tropical beach, but if I dump a bunch of sand next to a kiddie pool in my backyard - I'm more focused on growing my writing into a real career. It might be 20 years from now, and I recognize there's a real possibility it might be never be a reality, but this is one pipe dream I'm holding onto for a little while longer.

And if it doesn't work out, I've always got my rocket science pipe dream to fall back on, right?

Friday, October 2, 2009

Battle of the e-readers!

Word of the Day: adjuvant - 1. Serving to help or assist; auxiliary.2. Assisting in the prevention, amelioration, or cure of disease.

I'm going to be real with you, that is a word I will probably never use. I also feel like the two parts of the first definition are not actually the same thing, even though they are grouped together. Auxiliary means something that is additional or supplementary. Serving to help or assist doesn't mean that to me; for instance, a nurse can serve to help or assist, but their role is not additional to the doctor. In fact, they frequently handle things the doctor can't or won't do.

Okay, enough with my definition ranting, on to the meat on the bones. My partner in crime let it oh-so-subtly slip that he was thinking of getting me a Kindle for Christmas (after the fifth "would you rather have shiny new toy A or the Kindle?" I kind of sussed it out), and my immediate reaction was "yay....oh. Wait. Let me do some research." Why, you ask? With it's Whispernet access to Amazon's arguably largest collection of e-books and it's new and improved features, why wouldn't I be all over that like bachelor parties on strippers?

This article is why. I had been told things about the first generation of Kindle - you can't save your books to another location, it's not friendly to other file formats - but I figured they were fixed when Kindle 2 came out. The debacle of delete 1984 (yes, yes, we're all aware of the irony) off of thousands of Kindles in the middle of the night like some kind of book burglar was creepy, to say the least. I don't like the idea that I could wake up one morning and my books could all be gone, with a polite "Sorry, we didn't think you should have these anymore" resting on my e-reader screen.

That's not to say I don't want a Kindle. Just that I'll be more cautious about my choice now. And I figured, if I'm doing all this research why not share my findings? So I'll be doing some sporadic posting (because I'm lazy and can't be kept to schedules (unless you are an agent then I am totally awesome with all things time related!)) about my findings, and I'll let you know which reader I decide on (hint: it's probably gonna be a Sony).

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Done and Done!

Just joined NaNoWriMo, holla at ya boi if you want to be my writing buddy: JEM5.

Forget about March Madness, this is November Madness!


Word of the Day: gaucherie - 1.A socially awkward or tactless act. 2.Lack of tact; boorishness; awkwardness.

Found a fun new blog today: InkyGirl. Cute book-related cartoon strips, fun updates on the industry, good times were had by all. But I'm mentioning it here because her latest post introduced me to National Novel Writing Month. Which sounds: AWESOME. You can read all about what it is and why you should do it here, but basically you write a 50K word novel during the month of Nov. You can join the site, create support groups, partake in the general awesomeness.

I am soooooooo doing this. I haven't read the specifics yet, but it sounds like fun. I'm about a third of the way through my current WIP but I had a cool idea for another storythe other day and this could be a fun way to light a fire under my cush tush to finish the current one and blast out the next! I'll need to do some equations: words per day, hours to complete said words, amount of intravenous coffee necessary to stay awake for said hours, etc. It's all very technical stuff, I won't bore you with the details, but suffice it to say I'm in.

Is 60K words too ambitious for one month?

P.S. Just made a cheese and cracker sandwich and it was delicious.

Oh Editing, you sweet siren of defeat!

Word of the Day: ameliorate - to make better; to improve.

Editorial Ass had a great blog last week on the excrutiating pains joys of editing a book for publishing. Many of the subsequent comments on the post were from the published and unpublished alike re: their own experiences with editing. Some of the commenters were editors, many were the writers themselves. I think this is a problem that is (mostly) unique to the publishing industry. There are very few industries out there that require their employees to endlessly revise 200+ pages of documents, line by line, word by word, looking for the imperfections large and small. A character underdeveloped here, a period out of place there, a word misspelled here, a plot hole the size of the Grand Canyon there. Round and round (and round and round and round) they go, editor to author to editor to copy editor to wonder it takes so long to get the durn thing published.

Nevermind getting it written. I am in stage one of my second manuscript (meaning I'm still writing it), and while I was doing editing on the first one I got so sick of it I had to walk away. I'm glad I did, now, because the improvements my writing skills have seen on this second WIP made me realize how imperfect my first one was (not bad, let's not hate, just imperfect). But I'm dreading the editing stage of WIP 2.0. My partner in crime bravely reads each chapter as I finish it, and he seems to enjoy it for the most part, but because I know I have an audience I go back and edit each chapter as it's done. Mostly I'm looking for things that will embarrass me, like typing there when I mean their or the when I mean they (I do that more times than I'd like to admit), but I'm also looking to see if the last 3,000 words or so that I've written sound like monkey crap. Which sometimes they do, and I laugh and I rewrite them. But even on those brief forays into my previous writing (and this is fresh writing!) I am dragging. I was never that kid who double checked their answers on a test, although I probably should have, and I kind of feel that way about editing a WIP.

I'm worried I'll get bogged down in the editing stage on this next one, too, once I get to it. Perhaps I should chance the ridicule of typing "tha tits" when I mean "that it's" and just hand it over to the shredding crew.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Totally seeing this

Word of the day: sinuous - Characterized by many curves or turns; winding.

I love to see a word of the day that I just used in my WIP, especially such a fun word.

As a lover of fantasy fiction, I am totally seeing thisanous.

EDIT: Adventures in Writing posted today about stealing plots, and how just changing character names of famous stories isn't a good idea. It fit so well with the movie that I had to include a link to the article here.

Friday, September 25, 2009

No, you can't be JD Salinger because you're not JD Salinger

Word of the Day: cavort - 1. To bound or prance about. 2. To have lively or boisterous fun; to behave in a high-spirited, festive manner.

What a fun word for a Friday! I hope to be doing some cavorting myself. This morning I cavorted over to Rachelle Gardner's blog, where she was posing an interesting question about this Washington Post article: does self-promotion affect your desires to be published?

Well, no. I know the old methodology of writers was to slink around behind the scenes, creating the masterpieces, while the marketing machines of the publishers cranked out all the materials necessary to make their book a hit. I know many authors today still fantasize about this, claiming they are shy and not very good at talking about themselves. To which I politely cry "pants on fire!" 99% of people love to talk about themselves and their books, they just don't like to look like they like to talk about themselves and their books.

Most importantly, you need to look at your book like a business. If you owned a restaurant, would you not create a website, seek out local reviews, offer special deals to entice people into your joint, or shack up with some online groups like Groupon and local favorite Austin Tidbits? The answer to that is a resounding yes, I would do all of the above and more, because this is how I make my money and I'm going to do everything possible to make sure it's a success so I can pay my bills. A book is the exact same thing. If you were just doing this to entertain yourself you would never query. But you do, so clearly you want to make this thing your bread and butter. Which is great, but if you're not willing to do everything humanly possible to make it a success, what makes you think anyone else will?

Just because something is a creative endeavor doesn't mean you have to take it so personally. This is not your baby; or rather, this is your baby but you've entered her in a beauty contest for money. So your little Jon Benet (what, still too soon?) is out there working her moneymaker. Are you going to put her up on that stage in her footie pjs and rat's nest beehive? Uh, no. You're going to slap some bright red lipstick on, her, curl those baby fines and pack as many sequins into one tiny dress as possible. Same with your book. If you don't give people a reason to look, they won't. Act as shy as you like, but that won't put food on the table or paperbacks in people's hands.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

A reading quota for writers

Word of the day: assiduous - constant in application or effort; working diligently at a task; persevering; industrious; attentive

 Nathan Bransford, agent extraordinare, had a good post on his blog yesterday about being a well-read writer. As in, do you need to be well-read if you want to be well read? I expected there to be quite a bit of dissension in the ranks, but I should have known the target audience of the blog better. The resounding answer was yes, you need to know what the heck you're talking about to talk about it, and being well-read in your genre is even better. We're a bunch of book-loving literary types, of course we would say such things. There was the occasional "I don't want other people influencing my writing and accidentally causing me to plagiarize all over the place," but it was a pretty weak devil's advocate argument.

And to be fair, my answer was the same. You need to know the rules to break them, and knowing the rules means lots of reading. But there is also the argument that fresh voices can come out of not overexposing yourself to certain mores of a genre. There's a reason why little kids have the most vivid imaginations amongst our population; they're not overexposed yet, fighting a hopeless battle against the "there are only seven original plots in the world" concept. So where does Waiting for Godot fit into that?

I've been writing almost daily for the last five or six months now, and I have found that when I'm writing I don't like to read as much. If I take a break for a few days to ferret out a plot point I might pick up a book, but I like for it to be in the same vein as the story I'm writing. Right now I'm reading Carter Beats the Devil, a great book so far. It's pretty huge, though, from the ancient times of debut books being more than 300 pages. Reading other books while I'm writing does seem to pull me out of my story world, so I don't like to do it.

It's difficult for me to argue on this point, though, because I have been a vociferous reader since the time I could string more than three words together. I would choose a book over television any day, and usually do. So the whole well-read concept was unavoidable for me. Do I think it's helped my writing? Definitely. But I also consider writing to be a natural talent to a certain extent. I can watch Dirty Dancing until the cows come home but I'm never going to get that leap. I feel the same way about writing. You can study up on the greats all you want, but if you don't have that original seed of talent, your plant's not going to grow.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Word of the Day: eldritch - Strange; unearthly; weird; eerie.

In my daily readings of the blogs I ran across this one from The Intern about how publishing your book (or making your movie or finding that $20 you lost last week) won't make you any happier than you already are. It's called the hedonic treadmill and basically says everyone has a preset internal happiness state, or in theme park terms every time you look at a map it will say "you are here" right next to the snack stands and the ladies bathroom. More specifically, it says that as achievements are accomplished, expectations arise for the next set of goals to accomplish and the happiness you feel is brought back down to normal levels.

If that's true, then balls. I don't think I entirely agree because I've read any number of books/magazine articles/community college commercials by people who say "I was in a dead end job that I hated but then I went back to school/got my dream job/married a rich old man and now I'm totally happy all the time!" And I believe those people. Maybe it's because I want to, maybe it's because it's true, but I believe they believe they are happier. And that's what really matters there. I also believe that if I had a buttload of money, a big awesome house with a big awesome view, all the shopping trips I wanted, and more free time to pursue things like writing (instead of sitting at my kitchen table until 3 am and stumbling into work bleary-eyed at 8:30 am), I think I'd be a little happier. At least more relaxed.

Of course, in order to achieve anything in life you have to experience a strong enough dissatisfaction with your current situation to reach for something more. If Thomas Edison had been perfectly happy chilling out by candlelight he never would have tried to invent the lightbulb. And that guy must have been really ticked at candles, because it took him a long time to get it right. So perhaps the pursuit is not happiness after all, but rather the pursuit of something greater. You can be happy when you're dead, right?


Because I like lists

Word of the day: cognoscente - a person with special knowledge of a subject; a connoisseur.

 What makes one an expert in their field? Sure, I can claim that I am an expert at snark and sarcasm, but where are my credentials? There's no degree on my wall from Harvard that says "Highest Honors in Making Fun of Stuff," although that would be pretty sweet. However, there are some people out there who do actually know what the deuce they're talking about, and luckily many of them have refused time with their loved ones to share such knowledge as they have gathered in this world with us. The blogosphere. Since I like books, and publishing, and the publishing of books, I thought I would share some links to blogs that I find particularly helpful. I'll link to agents today and include other blogs later on, including some wonderfully entertaining editorial blogs (leave it to the book nerds to snark about fonts in submissions).


I like the agent blogs because the info comes straight from the horses mouth. The editorial blogs are fun and usually lighthearted, and while they do have good info they're coming from a much more literary perspective and sometimes seem to lack the business aspect of it. Coming from a background in publishing myself I am all about the business, and I want to know what sells. If you are looking to make your living as a writer, perhaps your 150,000 word dissection of the state of modern man is best left under your bed in favor of the CIA thriller with the curmudgeonly but lovable protagonist. These agent blogs will help you balance the creative with the realistic, and since getting an agent is the first step in the process of publishing, these blogs are a good place to start. These are the top three I make sure to read every day.

Nathan Bransford - This guy is definitely le cool. He gives helpful feedback to reader comments, posts frequently, and has some really interesting looking clients. I especially want to pick up a copy of The Secret Year, I loves me the YA. Boo for not coming out until 2010.

Rachelle Gardner - She specializes in Christian books, especially Christian fiction, but her blog posts are good for a wide range of authors. I find her blog especially uplifting for unpublished authors; she's very encouraging.

Janet Reid - She is also the mastermind behind Query Shark, a blog that I adore and wish was updated more often because it has such specific feedback on writing query letters. I definitely plan to feed myself to the shark as soon as the current version of my book is done.

If you know of any other essential agent blogs, please send them my way! I'll make updated posts as necessary.

Friday, September 18, 2009

I don't need a map, honey, I know where we're going

Word of the day: alacrity - A cheerful or eager readiness or willingness, often manifested by brisk, lively action or promptness in response.'s word of the day appears in my inbox every morning, a little treat for me to remind myself why I love the English language so much (although some words remind me why I hate it). The word of the day today seemed particularly apropo for me, mainly because I've been feeling nothing but the opposite the past week or two.

I've been working on writing for the past few months now, and although I finished up a YA novel a few weeks back, I knew it wasn't good enough to pass onto anyone else yet. My aunt, a very good editor and published author herself, gave me the best and hardest piece of advice: don't let anyone else see your writing until you think it's perfect. You can't go back and make them unread the bad, and even when you change it they'll still have that old version rattling around in their head somewhere, influencing their opinion of the current manuscript.

So yes, good advice. Except that as a young, burgeoining, impatient writer, I want to share my craft with someone. I want someone to look at it and say "wow, this is incredible, I need to know more RIGHT NOW" or "this makes me want to scratch my eyes out." I need to know I'm generally headed in a direction, whether good or bad, so I can clearly map it out for myself. I'm sure those writers who have been in the trenches and worked the field for ages now can do as they like; they have the experience and control to know where their story is headed at all times, and they have the good sense to stop and take a breather when they hit a snag in their storyline.

Me? Not so much. Everything I read says to plow through as many words as possible, and even the venerable Stephen King said the first million words are just practice. Which makes sense, because what I'm working on now and what I wrote for my first manuscript are miles away from each other, so I can't imagine how my writing will improve over the years. I also read vociferously now (when I worked for a book publisher I didn't so much as want to read a menu when I got home), which helps me learn how to craft little details of characters and scenery that I usually skip with impatience.

But still, sometimes I need reaffirmation of direction that can only come from having someone else look at it and say "awesome!" or "quoi?" I certainly do not feel alacritous about anything I write; at this stage in my writing, it's a painful venture. Each line spoken by each character, each turn of phrase, is an agonizing wringing of cleverness I'm not really sure I have, and there are about a million ways I can end any scene and I'm never really sure which of them is the most interesting. So I pass my work on, chapter by chapter, to my one current loyal reader to get his feedback. Is it cheating? Maybe. Am I still doing it? Totally. It helps give me deadlines and keep the steamer rolling along. Which is hard to do in general, but even harder to do when you feel adrift in a sea of possible storylines and not one of them throws you a lifesaver.

Rachelle Gardner has some unique and wonderful tips for helping make you (and me) a better writer, and I think I'll take her up on her suggestions. I love the idea of putting one of my main characters in a situation where aliens have landed in their backyard. Natch! Priceless.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Oh boy.

Pretty sure I'm related to at least three people on this site. If hot neon pants and inappropriate bumper stickers are present, we're there.

On the real, though? Hilarious.

Word of the Day

The word of the day is efficacious.

As in, how efficacious is a blog, really?