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 Many of the subsequent comments on the post were from the published and unpublished alike re: their own experiences with editing.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?