Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Going back to what inspires me

As part of the writing process I've discovered a penchant for returning to books that inspired me to daydream and drove my own desire to create stories. The deeper into a writing block I get, the more I turn to classics from my childhood (classics to me, anyway) to rekindle the excitement and remind me what good writing looks like. And maybe to steal a little of that writing magic for myself. There are a few books that leap into my mind immediately when I think of amazing books from my childhood that inspired me and drove me.

I read everything by L'Engle I could get my hands on, but this book set the standard for me. I loved Vicky (the MC) and was super jealous that I couldn't go swimming around with hot boys and playful dolphins. But even beyond that, it was a perfect summer coming of age story, and I was forever disappointed by my lackluster summers watching The Andy Griffith Show and eating microwaveable hamburgers (let's not judge, people). L'Engle had a simplicity of language that felt fresh and clean, the way that looking back at youth should feel. Emotions were simple but felt complex, and her characters reached a maturity level I always hoped to find (still waiting for that to kick in). And I totally blame this book for making me want a summer beach house set high on a craggy bluff in New England.

This book made me laugh, broke my heart, and added chickabiddy to my list of affectionate nicknames. I kid you not I can't read the synopsis of this book without getting choked up even though I haven't read this book since middle school. I would never ruin this book for anyone (although the Amazon reviews and descriptions do a pretty good job of it), but I had NO CLUE what was coming when I got to the climax of the book. Creech perfectly maintained the mystery of Sal's mother's disappearance until the end, a feat that I appreciate on a whole new level now that I have my own mysteries to maintain.

Characterization: Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
I recently reread this favorite and found myself laughing out loud at the early descriptions of Anne's character. From the descriptions of her actions to the run on dialogue that reveals more about her hopes and dreams than just what's happening before her, Anne comes through from the very beginning. The quaint setting and mundane experiences are elevated to an entertaining level when filtered through the eyes of such an entertaining main character. I'm not usually a big fan of setting description, but Montgomery also does a beautiful job of painting Avonlea in vivid purples and luscious greens and snowy whites (see? I'm learning). She tells the story of a place I would almost hesitate to visit because it couldn't possibly measure up to imagination.

World building: The Belgariad series by David Eddings
This series instilled a love of fantasy (GOOD fantasy) in me from an early age. The complicated rules and interplay of wizardry were effortless and invisible. I never felt like I was being told what I needed to know to understand a scene; the information was woven into the storytelling to the point that when you did need to know something, you already learned it several chapters back. Eddings also juggled a large cast of characters but made them stand out on their own terms and I loved and knew every single one of them. This was the series that set me daydreaming about distant planets and unknown powers and epic battles and strong women who could still be feminine. I'm definitely looking forward to revisiting these again soon.

What about you? What inspired (or continues to inspire) you? What books have stuck with you all your life?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Tell the truth, Wednesday

1) I started this post yesterday.

2) I have some great ideas for blog posts but am so swamped by work/holidays/pesky need to sleep that I haven't had a chance to write any of them up (see 1 above). Here's hoping 2011 is a little more organized.

3) I'm risking this coming to fisticuffs, but I'm not a big Sinatra fan. I'll take Bing Crosby over old blue eyes any day.

4) Drinking coffee gives me what my boss calls "crack knee." I secretly like it because someone once told me it helps burn calories faster.

5) I'm kind of dreading the holidays this year. I've heaped the responsibility of a twelve-person dinner on myself and the partner-in-crime ungraciously told me I didn't buy enough food to feed twelve people. I have no way to know and now have nightmares of hungry family members glaring at me balefully.

6) When people ask what I want for Christmas my head says, "Ask for cash or socks or something practical" but my heart says, "Ponies! Dolls! Toys!"

7) Frank Sinatra came on while I was writing this post and I went to Pandora to thumbs down the song without realizing it was him. True story.

8) I don't feel compelled to get to 10 on this post.

9) I love the concept of fantasy and read a lot of it as a child, but I find most of it overwritten with a lot of confusing names and traditions that seem forced and unnecessary.

10) Damn.

This is probably the last time we'll chat before my dinner failure Christmas, so happy holidays everybody!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

What I learned from learning

Oooooh, deep, right? So I've completed my introduction to creative writing class for this semester, and while I wait for the advanced class to start I thought I'd share some of the wisdom I've culled from the class. Some of these I've written about previously, but you'll just have to deal with that, won't you?

How to take criticism
There's more to this topic than I could write in even a full blog post, but there was on overriding lesson I learned about this as part of the workshopping process: be quiet. Whether you're face to face with the person or reading their notes after the fact, just listen. Don't try to argue or explain or disagree or agree. You won't have the chance to do any of those things with any other readers, so just listen to what they're saying from the perspective of a reader. Your writing is the only chance you get to tell your story, and if you're not clearly conveying something your critique partners will let you know.

How to give criticism
I definitely struggled with this one. You guys gave great advice - lots of positives with a few specific improvement areas - but I still had a hard time coming up with some of those positives. I am a critical person by nature and not prone to sugar coating, so I wanted to focus on what they could do better. It was only after hearing the feedback on my own work - the good and the bad - that I realized how important it is to let people know that they're on the right track. Even if it wasn't my cup of tea, even if I thought the grammar was a hot mess, even if I had no idea what they were writing about, they needed the encouragement to go on. Most of us were fledgling writers, and for a lot of the participants this was their first time sharing their work with someone ever. I didn't want the burden of crushing someone's dreams on my conscience.

The basics MATTER
I've been a voracious reader since I was five years old, and I'd been writing seriously for about a year and a half when I first started the class, so I figured I knew what was up. I knew about conflict and plot and sparkly romance (not to be confused with romance between sparkly people). What I didn't realize was how vague my concepts of the basics were. I mean, I knew you had to have characters, but I didn't think about characterization. I knew that people needed to know the scene was taking place in a room, but I didn't think about actually describing that room. I knew that I liked the tone of some books better than others, but I never really thought about how to convey that tone consistently throughout an entire novel.
Deconstructing the basic elements of storytelling, examining them separately, and then putting them back together helped tremendously. Deconstructing the basic elements of your own story - plot, conflict, characterization, tone - and examining them as separate pieces of the puzzle will help identify those nagging areas that need improvement.

What have you learned from your writing journey?

Friday, December 10, 2010

My sweet little Frankenbaby

This makes count number two of times I've talked about Frankenthings on this blog. If anyone's keeping track.

We finished our creative writing class last night and turned in our portfolios of work completed for the class. Part of the portfolio work was to revise the two pieces we workshopped during the semester. Let me tell you, revising the first two chapters of my WIP when I'm only seven chapters into the thing anyway was...bizarre. It messed with my mojo a little, but I think it was a necessary practice. It forced me to do research earlier than I would have, which has helped shape the plot of the rest of the story. It's also saved me a nightmare of revision work trying to incorporate those changes throughout an entire WIP (instead of just seven chapters of it).

Still, it felt a bit like I was turning in a Frankenbaby. I haven't yet extended my revisions through the other existing chapters, and I've cut up a lot, added a lot, moved a lot around, and changed a lot. In my head, as the manuscript creator, the story is a patchwork of plotlines that have evolved over time but haven't necessarily been updated. I've toyed around with revisions before, but I've never shared a revised work with anyone, and frankly I've given up on revisions more than once because I got so fed up with the process (JUDGEMENT FREE ZONE). So handing in something that felt that hacked up was...weird.

Still, the process taught me what is probably the most important lesson I've learned in writing so far: letting go of perfection. What I see/expect in my head and what actually comes out on the paper are two different things, but the reader doesn't know that. This can go both ways (another important lesson I learned) (also, don't be gross), but it can work in your favor - the reader only knows what's on the page. They don't know what you feel like you left out, or what you meant to do with the character but forgot about, or how you wished you could have more accurately captured the clothing descriptions. All they know is what you give them, and they don't know about all the Frankenbaby scars it took to get there.

Although when I think about it, it still sometimes seems like a lawn that someone's done one too many donuts on.

What about you? Does revising make you feel as if your story is falling apart? Do you struggle to keep up with all the loose ends? Or do you thrive on the thrill of the cut?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Beth Revis might be the awesomest person to throw a contest this December

Unless you live under a rock (which, if you do, do you also eat grubs?), you've heard of Beth Revis around the hinterwebs. She's got a little book called Across the Universe coming out soon, and to help promote the release she's throwing an Epic Contest of Epic (and yes, I imagined an echo on that).

Check out these sweet and savory deets, I want one of those freaking watches:

67 Mini Swag Packs
Signed AtU Bookmark
Signed AtU Bookplate

15 Button Swag Packs
Pin-button featuring AtU
Signed AtU Bookmark
Signed AtU Bookplate

15 ARC Packs
Signed ARC
Set of three pin-buttons (1 large, 2 mini)
Set of Bookmarks featuring 
fellow debut 2011 authors (many signed)
Signed AtU Bookmark
Signed AtU Bookplate

2 ARC & Watch Packs
Signed ARC
A super-rare AtU Watch
Set of six pin-buttons (one of each design & size)
Set of Bookmarks featuring 
fellow debut 2011 authors (many signed)
Signed AtU Bookmark
Signed AtU Bookplate

Added into as many of the prize packs as I can stuff in them are collections of bookmarks from fellow debut 2011 authors, many of which are signed. The top three prizes are getting one of each; the rest are getting divvied up wherever I can squeeze them into the packaging. Pictured below are most, but there will be a few more surprises along the way...

To win any of the 99 above prizes, all you have to do is enter your address into the form below. I will pick a random 99 people (open internationally), pop their address on the envelope, and drop it in the mail. By the end of the month, you may open your mailbox and find a neat surprise waiting for you! I'll also be mailing out all the left-over postcards I have until I run out of postcards or funds for postage...

Now, a contest isn't a contest without a big-huge-amazing grand prize, is it? 

The Big-Huge-Amazing Grand Prize
Signed Hard Cover, First Edition of AtU
A super-rare AtU Watch
Set of six pin-buttons (three designs, two sizes)
Set of Bookmarks featuring 
fellow debut 2011 authors (many signed)
Giftbag of swag I'm planning on 
giving out at my launch party in January
Signed AtU Bookmark
Signed AtU Bookplate

Friday, December 3, 2010

This better make me smarter

I made the grave mistake of doing a little "light" research on my current WIP yesterday. My creative writing class  wraps up next week and we owe a portfolio as our final assignment in the class. The portfolio will include, among other things, revised copies of the two pieces we workshopped. One of the major feedback items I received as part of this process was that people wanted to see more setting and time period descriptions to give them a better idea of the environment (so demanding). I've written previously about not meaning this to be a period piece, but I'm coming to the begrudging realization that this probably is a period piece, of sorts.

So yesterday, in my naivete, I thought, "Oh, I'll just look up a couple of things, how the city looked and how people dressed, no biggie."

BIG biggie. MAJOR EPIC biggie.

First things first, there were books out there about what I was writing on. Non-fiction, too, which is even better. Real facts. Things I can build off. Secondly, I had no idea what I was talking about. No idea. I was playing at amateur hour. I thought I had a cute, clever story (I still do), but there was SO MUCH MORE THERE that I would have seen if I'd bothered to ever look up anything. Ever.

Yes, I'm lazy.

My little research foray has now rocked my world. Fifteen books in my Amazon queue later and I'm already reconstructing the story. For the better, of course. And now that I have the missing piece, I realize I knew I was missing it the whole time. I've felt all along that I'm on the edge of something potentially wonderful, but I didn't have the tools to bring it to life. This is what I was missing all along. Context.

BUT now I have to do something with it. Like, read about it and synthesize that into something usable in my story. Siiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiigh. All I have to say is all this research better make me smarter. Like maybe I'll actually learn (and remember) when the Civil War took place (THIS IS A JUDGEMENT FREE ZONE, PEOPLE).

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Yes, this is a gratuitous post

I have some great topics lined up for the blog, but apparently there's some kind of holiday type thing this week and it's sent my schedule into a tailspin, so you'll have to wait for the greatness.

In it's stead I bring you:


Friday, November 12, 2010

Decisions, decisions, decisions

We had our last round of workshopping in class on Wednesday and let me tell you, there were some unexpecteds out of that round. For me personally they mostly pertain to my story, so I won't share specifics, but one thing has come out of all of this workshopping that I wasn't expecting that I can discuss: me vs. research. BATTLE ROYALE!

So my story happens to be set in a different time period, but that was never really my focus. It's more the way the characters and the plot panned out that it made more sense for that time period, but I figured I could take more of a steampunk approach and build my own world. And I thought that would come through in the writing, the dialogue, and the storyline. Instead, I've turned into a research hound. People (at least my writing class) are considering this a historical. Why do I italicize that, you ask? Because it means research. And JEM is allergic to research. I also never intended to make this a historical; I just wanted to tell a story set in a different time period. But now everyone's all like, "What did they wear? What were the buildings like? What kind of food did they eat? Did they really talk that way?" And I'm all like, "How the crap should I know? I didn't LIVE back then, sheesh."

And I've been struggling with the next chapter all week. Every time I want to go somewhere, say something, do something, I sign myself up for a minimum of an hour of research, combing the hinterwebs for an answer to one line of writing. A body can't live like that, gentle reader! It's put me in a paranoid state of fact checking when I should be creativising (creative improvising, literally just made that up. THAT'S creativising, my friends). I had to come to a decision, and that decision is me vs. the research. I have to decide what will be research to help build the setting and the tone of the time period, and what will be me sprinkling my own JEM dust over the thing. And the instructor made a really good point: when in doubt, especially in the first draft, go with "me." After all, this is my story to tell, and it's fiction. If I want an alien life form to land in Victorian England, AN ALIEN LIFE FORM WILL LAND IN VICTORIAN ENGLAND.

So how do you decide me vs. research? What sends you to the research stacks and what sends you to your own creative juices?

P.S. My story is not about aliens landing in Vicotorian England. MAYBE.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Impromptu writer's retreat

Okay, so I'm not retreating anywhere, but the partner-in-crime has officially flown the coop for two weeks. He's got some international thieving to do, and I'm stuck here by my lonesome. I don't like staying by myself, never have, and now I have two loooooooooooong weeks to slog through before he shows up again to shower me with jewels and lost treasures.

So I decided to call the next two weeks my impromptu writer's retreat, or re-treat, since I'm not actually going anywhere. I'm curious to see how much writing I get done in the evenings with nothing but the TV and my faithful sidekick Scout to distract me (formidable foes, make no mistake). I have dreams that I'll have the current rewrite totally done by the time he gets back, but I'm realistic enough now to know that I can't actual bend the laws of time and space to my will (much as I try). I will, however, make a more concerted effort to set aside blocks of time I normally dedicate to family to writing. And who knows, I could have several chapters completed upon his return.

How's the hidey hole going for most of you? I know there are a lot of Nano and Nanorevmo workers out there, are you enjoying your own writer's retreat (by election or force)?

Thursday, November 4, 2010


I'm writing to say I'm...not writing. I'm buried in work for work, creative writing, and sometimes eating and sleeping when I can fit it in. I've got lots of good posts about my writing class and what I've learned, though, so stay tuned for when I actually might be more coherent and less caffeinated (trust me, it's not actually a good thing no matter what I threaten the barista with in the morning).

Hope things are going well for everybody! Let me know what you've got going on, how NaNo is going if you're doing it, and if you (like me) have been treated for Halloween candy addiction (it's a serious thing, y'all).

Friday, October 29, 2010

It's Friday and I'm dressed like a ninja

Or a cat burglar. I can't decide. You have to understand that I own nothing even remotely costume-ish. I haven't dressed up for Halloween since I was 12, but my boss is bringing caramel corn and said she would only share it with people who dressed up. So I'm a cat burgling ninja.

Anybody else dressing up for Halloween today? Happy Friday!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Workshopping: The Revenge of the Adverb

Okay, this post has nothing to do with revenge or adverbs, but I've got movie franchises on the brain. Last night was my first round of workshopping my own piece with my creative writing class, and suffice it to say I was nervous. I had no idea if they would like it or understand it. It didn't help that I was the last one to receive feedback, either. Every once in awhile during the other critiques I felt that familiar pang of nerves in my stomach, knowing that every plot point discussed brought us closer to my own plot points.

The critiques seemed more in-depth and pointed last night, which actually made me happy. I'd been a little discouraged last week when everyone was so positive (I know, I'm masochistic that way); I was worried people were too afraid to give honest feedback, or that they didn't have a trained enough eye to spot problems in the stories. But it was a smaller crowd last night, which allowed for longer focus on each piece and more detailed feedback from each reader. I was really proud of everyone for their great insights, and I found myself nodding along to a lot of the critiques other classmates were sharing. I'd be happy to have any of them as critique partners along the way.

Of course we took a break right before discussing my piece. Just an extra ten minutes of torture for JEM. I got my listening ears on, ready for the piece to get ripped apart, hoping that they would like at least one or two parts of the story. Writing is like cutting your own hair without a mirror - you think you've got the back part right, but it falls right in your blind spot so you're really just hoping you didn't cut an entire chunk of your hair out without even realizing it. When we returned to class I did my best impression of someone who wasn't at all worried about the next thirty minutes of class, but I'm not sure everyone bought it.

The instructor had each person start by reading a piece of their story, and of course she chose a dialogue bit for me. Not to go too in depth on my story, but the dialogue is made up. As in, I'm not really sure how to read it out loud. I gave it my best shot, though, and chalked it up to preparation for all those millions of author events I'll do someday (right). Then I braced myself (I know, I'm building up tension, so sue me) (please don't actually sue me).

They loved it. They loved the characters, they loved the writing, they loved the story arc (or what little they saw of it). And what's more, the feedback they had was so awesome I couldn't even be mad about it. Many of them pointed out weaknesses I already knew I had - I don't describe scenery, I hadn't done enough research for the piece, etc. - and I found myself nodding along to several of the suggestions. Like as soon as they said it I realized how true it was. Although it was surreal to listen to a discussion about my own work and not be allowed to participate. Surreal and fun.

And the best part? They were disappointed when I said I'd be bringing in a different piece for the next round, and they asked that I bring in the next chapter of the story instead.

So last night brought me two great boons - a confirmation that I'm on the right path with my writing, and much needed feedback and insight into the mind of the reader. If you need me, I'll be on cloud nine.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

When to listen to your gut

I've had it set in my head since I started the current WIP that it would be 80,000 words. Don't ask me how I arrived at that number - it's very scientific, you writerly types wouldn't understand -  but that's the word count I've been aiming for. And I was rocking right along until about four days ago, when I wrapped up a mini-plot and  realized I'd hit a dead end. I had No. Where. To. Go.

I took a few days off to let some ideas roll around. I was pretty much waiting for that divine inspiration to strike me as I was grocery shopping/showering/eating a sandwich, but it never came. I even tried going back to the page and forcing myself to write, hoping a plotline would magically jump out of the bushes and ambush my brain (I'm pretty sure that's how creativity works). I had the end, I was about 55K words in, but I had noooooooothing to tie the two together.

And then it did hit me last night. This word count goal that I'd arbitrarily chosen (scientific arbitration, totally different) wasn't the right word count for the story. At least, not for this round. I was beating myself up trying to come up with a new storyline, when in reality that new storyline would only serve to slacken the tension and pacing. I'd set everything up to end well, it just so happens that it will end about 10K words earlier than expected.

Which, if we look at words like a budget, isn't half bad. And since I like money, I like looking at words like a budget. And the nice thing about a budget is that when you don't spend that money, it's there for the spending later. If I want to add a scene, or bulk up a scene, or add a new character, or flesh out a character, I've got the room. And the real odds are I left something unexplained, or I need more foreshadowing, or more description. Some people write too much; apparently I write too little.

Since I've let myself off the hook the words have been flying across the page, tumbling over each other to get to the end. I feel better, they feel better, you feel better (just go with me on this). I had to go with my gut that this story just wasn't meant to be 80K words, at least not on the first draft.

When have you had to go with your gut in a story? Are you glad you did? Do you wish you'd listened sooner? Are you grossed out with all this talk of guts?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Writing is my new wine

So for various reasons rather too boring to explain, I've decided not to drink for a while. I feel good about it and  it's really helped me to focus on priorities in life. I mean, I wasn't a slusher or anything before, and I'm not straight-edge now (hellooooo, holiday eggnog), but I'm making a conscious effort in my life to channel my energy in a different direction.

Cut to yesterday, which I'm convinced was a full moon day based on clients/family members/celebrities going CRAZY. And not the usual, everyday crazy, but full on foaming at the mouth and kicking babies crazy. And at the end of such craziness my coworker says, "I'm going home to drink half a bottle of wine."

Which made me think, what sweet comfort would I turn to now if not a fine glass of Moscato? But when I woke up this morning, too early to get ready for work and too late to get any significant sleep, I decided to get up and write. Coffee in hand and with the partner-in-crime and our trusty sidekick curled up beside me I snuggled under the covers and worked on my WIP. I only had about 30 minutes, but afterward I felt...relaxed. Happy. Content. And I had a wicked caffeine buzz.

All of which made me realize that writing has become my new retreat from the world, my place to go when I need to do something that makes me feel good. A place to drown my sorrows in similes and dialog tags. My new wine.

Although I guess that makes revisions my new hangover.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Author websites: what thinketh you?

Beth Revis has an awesomely informational post today about what to look for in a web designer. In typical Beth fashion she gives helpful pre-publication and post-publication website tips, not that I was furiously scribbling notes or anything...

I toyed around with the idea of a website when I was doing local music a few years ago. I even had a friend design a site for me, but we didn't end up going live with it. I honestly hadn't even given thought to having a website at this stage, but she makes some pretty compelling arguments for reasons why you'd want a website as an unpublished writer, especially during querying. Plus, it's always a good idea to buy your name as a domain. You never know how many Gertrude Sniedelmeyers there are out there.

But I'm not sure about the timing of a website. When is a good time to start one? Some of you have websites in addition to your blog, some of you only have a blog, some of you might have already bought your domain name and are sitting on it waiting for the right time.

So weigh in and tell me, what thinketh you on the topic of author websites?

Friday, October 15, 2010

Workshopping Part Deux (The Sequel)

Wednesday night we OFFICIALLY started workshopping in my creative writing class. Which means people passed out their pieces for the class to review over the next week and return flush with feedback next week. I was actually excited for this exercise; I'd been a beta reader for a couple of friends before this, but this is the first time I'll be involved in a structured feedback session. I curled up with a stack of excerpts last night and dug in, pen poised to give insightful and life changing advice. That's how this works, right?

Uh. So. Wow.

Let's start off by saying I don't want to sound like a total douche. I'm well aware of the limitations in my own writing (and well aware of when I'm NOT well aware of them), and I know I have things to work on. I expect people to rip my stuff apart, hand me the shreds, and say they don't know what I was trying to do but my story made them gag a little. I mean, hopefully not, but I'm prepared if they do. There's no way I can be objective about my own writing, which is precisely why I'm excited for this workshopping bidnizz.

I've known from the beginning that I was probably one of the more advanced students regarding technique. I completely chalk this up to all of the learning I've been doing on the blogs this past year as well as the heaps of writing I've done all throughout my life. A lot of the rookie mistakes I expect - overwriting, info dumping, a love of adverbial dialog tags that I can't seem to get rid of - have already been weeded out of my own writing. Or if they haven't, I'm at least aware of them when someone points them out. So I was fully expecting to see and comment on these things in one form or another in most of the writing. In fact, I was proud of my blog buddies and the information they've instilled in me (that's you guys!). I was only too happy to pass it on.

What I was less expecting, but got a whole heapful of, was a basic lack of proper mechanics. Incorrectly used words, wrong verb tenses, odd sentence structuring, a lack of comma usage. So much so that it frequently interfered with my actual reading. I was so caught up in trying to figure out what they were trying to say that I lost sight of the overall storyline. Eventually I had to put it out of my mind and ignore the grammatical flaws to focus on giving them character/plot/setting feedback. Several of the stories were actually good, but the mechanical issues were very surprising. These are all college level and beyond students, so I was floored that things like choosing the correct verb tense were an issue.

So for those of you out there with more experience than me in workshopping beginning writers' work, have you experienced this same thing? Do you often run into a basic lack of structuring? How do you address these issues with the writer? I'm not looking to act as their English teacher, but I don't want to do them a disservice by not addressing it. What do you do?

Thursday, October 7, 2010


We start workshopping in my creative writing class two weeks from now and I am STOKED. I've had limited feedback on my writing so far, and while it's been extremely helpful I'm looking forward to a very diverse group of opinions in a concentrated setting.

I'm in a bit of a quandry, however, as to what piece to submit. The class is concentrated on children's literature - picture books through YA - and the WIP I'm currently working on is an adult book. I don't want to pull my attention away from the WIP (I've got a daily word count to fulfill, peoples!), but I know the YA novel I wrote a few months ago isn't ready. I also know what's wrong with it and I don't know how helpful it will be to get feedback on it at this point. I know what I need to fix, I just don't know how to fix it yet.

So I'm left wondering: should I write a new piece and pull my attention away from the current WIP, or should I pull from previous manuscripts, dust them off a bit, and get some feedback on those? I want to do whatever's most helpful to me at this stage, but I'm not sure what that is. Blurg.

I'm also a little worried about giving feedback to others in the class. Based on responses from many of the class members, most people in there aren't at the same technical level as me (thanks to all of you guys and your awesome blogs!). I've addressed many of the issues in my writing they're only just now figuring out, so I'm a little worried about the basics. There seems to be a bevy of overwriting and punctuation issues, and I don't know if I even want to get into mechanical constructs. Plus, there are some hardcore fantasy lovers in that class, and while I would NEVER fault someone for their genre of choice, fantasy on that level is definitely not mine. Not sure how useful my feedback will be for those kids.

For those of you with workshopping experience (which is probably most of you), what are your tips for sharing work both ways? What do you wish someone had told you before you went into your first workshopping experience? How do you decide what criticism to share and what not to share? How do you keep from pissing people off with your critiques?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

What happens when you reference Ke$ha in literature

I mean besides the universe imploding in on itself because Tik Tok made it's way into fine literature.

Referencing current cultural phenoms is a habit of mine, probably from watching so much television (thanks a lot, P-i-C). Hollywood is so about the "now" that everything becomes five minutes ago. We're such a satisfy-me-now culture that we need to constantly be fed new entertainment. This has fed into our television shows, movies, and celebrity blogs in the form of ripped from the headlines stories. Jokes about Lindsay Lohan's ankle monitor abound (I may or may not have made a joke about that myself yesterday), TV shows like Law and Order televise episodes about the latest political scandal, and Saturday Night Live continues to amaze me by making skits about stuff I've never even heard of.

And all of that is fine for those mediums because they are instant. TV shows get scripted, revised, shot, and aired in a matter of months. Live shows like SNL happen every week. They can afford to reference the here and now, and in fact they have to if they want to stay current. And I'm as big a sucker as anyone else for a good Britney joke.

But literature doesn't work this way. Books can take several years to write, and several more to get published and out into the market. It doesn't matter if you're writing a YA novel, an adult contemporary, or even a graphic novel - keeping your work current means keeping current references out of it. Slang, celebrity references, and memes will date your work. Sometimes this works, like Brett Easton Ellis novels, but sometimes it doesn't. This is especially true in young adult writing, but it happens in all genres. Any references that tie your work to a specific time/place/decade may make it stale for future readers.

Even popular books suffer from this affliction. For instance, I bought How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie a few years ago. A timeless book, right? Well, not exactly. A note was included in the beginning of the book that many references to popular figures were updated for a current reading market. The book was written in the late 1930's and included examples of well-known businessmen of the time that are not so well-known now. They didn't foresee the success of the book at that time, so they didn't think to make it less referential.

So the key to keeping your book "classic" is to avoid timely references to events, unless that's the specific topic of your book. And if that's the case, you can make all the Britney jokes you want. Don't worry, I'll laugh right along with you. If they're funny.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Um, you dudes need to check this contest out

Angela Ackerman at The Bookshelf Muse is hosting a super way awesome contest for reaching 1,000 followers. She's offering her MENTORSHIP for three months. As someone who doesn't yet have crit partners and would love some feedback on her writing, I am all over this bad boy. Check the deets below:

1,000 Followers Contest and Mentorship Contest
General Drawing:

5-First Page critiques
2-First Chapter critiques

Special Drawing Challenge

It's simple: SPREAD THE WORD about this contest! If you do, I will include you in a special drawing for a three month mentorship with me. 

What the mentorship will entail:

--A three month partnership where I will help you in any manner I can toward stronger writing, publication, increasing your online platform and helping you with agenting questions/search

--I will help you build or improve your query (if needed)

--A full read of your manuscript, offering advice on improvements and helping to brainstorm solutions if desired.

--An in depth look at your web presence and suggestions to hone your blog, increase followings and make suggestions with other social media to strengthen your online exposure

--Emails to answer any questions you have about writing, blogging, getting an agent, leaving an agent or how the agent relationship works

--General support! 

Horrible fortune cookies

Because I'm feeling random and grouchy today.

I got a fortune cookie yesterday with this fortune: "Old dreams never die; they just get filed away."

What the crap is that? It's not inspirational, it's not prophetic, it's not even funny. It's mainly sad with a side of bittersauce. And for the universe to send such a fortune to someone who's trying to be a WRITER? Not cool, universe. Not cool.

So I thought I would take this side of bittersauce and turn it into a whiskey sour! That has bitters in it, right? Whatever, insert whatever drink has bitters in it there, then. I figured I could top that fortune with even more passive-aggressively negative messaging. Feel free to contribute your own in the comments, I know you peeps are hilars.

You will find great love in the wrong place.

A great fortune will befall you. The IRS will get half.

You will look better today than you did yesterday.

Through failure you will find more failure.

Write fortune here.

Sigh, I clearly missed my calling.

Monday, September 27, 2010

What are you worried about?

It was so nice to hear everyone's check points on their WIPs on Friday! I find it encouraging to be in the trenches with all of you :).

Continuing that discussion, what are you worried about in your writing right now? It doesn't matter if you're just getting started, working on revisions, or looking to sub, there's always something niggling us in the back of our minds (or maybe that's just the voices in mine). What's bothering you, keeping you up at night?

For me, I'm worried about repetitive sentence structuring. I think I tend to use the same sentence constructs throughout my writing, but I'm not ready to go back and look at it in edit mode to figure out how to break those up, or if it's even noticeable.

Oh, and I'm worried about losing control of the plot line halfway through :). That's a small one, though. Who pays attention to plot anyway?

So what's weighing on your mind about your writing? Plot, characterization, sentence structure, word choice, genre, lay it on me!

Friday, September 24, 2010

WIP Update

I passed 31K words today and going strong! Gotta love those early morning train rides. I've still been able to hold out against the siren call of sharing my work, too, so I think I've earned a piece of chocolate cake (don't friggin argue with me).

How are your WIPs or edits coming? What are you excited about? What do you dread? Do you wish you also had a piece of my chocolate cake (HANDS OFF)?

Muchos happy Fridays, everybody!

Thursday, September 16, 2010


I'm 20K words deep into my current WIP and feeling good. Characters are talking to me, plotlines are coming together, jokes are keeping me entertained, I'm in the zone. I've fought a fourth of the battle and am looking forward to the next three fourths. Every time I read a joke for the third time and it's still funny, I'm happy.

But now I want to share. It's an impulse that's caught me before, and I've blogged about being careful when you send your work out to readers, but I'm talking about my alpha beta reader - the P-i-C. He's read along chapter by chapter with the last two WIPs and I desperately want to hand it over to him. I want to hear him laugh, have him ask questions, tell me how much he likes XYZ, all the things a good cheerleader does. I also want confirmation that I'm not spinning off into some bizarro world where I think everything is great and rocking along but I'm actually writing about bunnies and communism.

But I'm a little older and a little wiser after the last two WIPs. His encouragement was indispensable in getting over the mid-WIP-blues, but it also affected my vision. Any time he came back with a comment, good or bad, it changed the way I thought about the story. Which is good for improving a book, but not so good when you're still writing it. Different writers function different ways, but I'm experimenting with keeping it to myself until it's complete, even for my alpha beta reader.

To be honest, though, it's getting really difficult. I'm having to fight the idea of handing over a chapter, or just a snippet, or just a funny conversation. I occasionally give in and read an exchange out loud, but I've kept these outbursts to a minimum. Or tried to. But I've still got about 60K words to go. I don't know how long I can hold out.

How do you like to handle your first draft? Do you like to keep it to yourself until it's completely polished, or do you like to hand it over chapter by chapter?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Promise I'm not dead, Lola

I love to see the effect the blogging community can have! Thanks for checking in on me, Lola. I've been meaning to write a blog post lately but my life exploded, and as I'm sure everyone knows when that happens enjoyable things like blogging fall by the wayside.

But I haven't been idle in other areas. I finished up round two of revisions on my last WIP and am letting it settle while I work on another one. I'm also taking a writing class at the local community college here (which is tonight), so both of those activities have been keeping me busy.

I promise to swing back by more often, and I'll be visiting everyone's blogs to catch up on the last couple of weeks. I've got some good stories from my writing adventures, and I hope to have some good advice gleaned from my writing class.

See you all soon!

Monday, August 16, 2010

My other passions

I don't talk much about my other passions on this blog, but I had a momentous weekend that I want to share. And since it's my blog, I will.

I've been studying Tae Kwon Do for about four years now. I stumbled on it by random happenstance in college when the yoga class I wanted to take was full (which now that I know myself a little better, I laugh at the thought that I ever wanted to do yoga). My dad had studied Tae Kwon Do many years ago, so I thought I would take it to make him proud, and to have something to talk shop with him about. I didn't mean to fall in love.

But I did. Oh, I fell in love instantly. It's a sport suited for my personality, and one of the few exercises I can do that doesn't feel like exercise. It's become a way of life for me, and I can't imagine not having it in my life. I found a great school after college with an incredible community and, if I can brag, the best instructors in Texas. They pushed me, challenged me, wore me out, and taught me the true meaning of DON'T QUIT. I am the fighter I am because of everyone I work out with, and I might not have stuck with it if I didn't have such an incredible group around me every day.

Still, I was nervous for the test. Really. Really. Nervous. Like sick to my stomach couldn't eat well or sleep all week nervous. I'm an upper belt, inching closer to black, which means the tests get harder and harder, especially in the August heat of Texas. When I arrived at the dojang for the first part of the test Friday night my nerves had taken hold so strongly that my hands were shaking. I took a few moments to meditate, repeating my usual mantra of "I will be the strongest, fastest, and best fighter I can be" to myself, but the words weren't working. They were just strung together syllables with no meaning, and my stomach was threatening a mutiny.

But then I remembered an argument I'd made earlier that day, an argument I make to myself and the rest of the world on a daily basis: words matter. They mean something, I just hadn't found the right words for myself yet. So I searched in my mind for the right words to face my fears head on, and came up with the following:

I will be nervous, but I will get on the mat
I will sweat, but I will keep fighting
I will get tired, but I will throw one more kick
I will want to quit, but I will throw one more punch
I will mess up, but I will move on
I will be the strongest, fastest, and best fighter I can be

And you know what? It worked.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Waiting is the hardest part

I know what you're thinking. This post is about waiting to hear back from agents, waiting to hear back from editors, waiting for your publication date.

But you're wrong.

This post is about the waiting that comes before that. The hardest waiting, I think.

Waiting to be a good enough writer that you can send your work out.

I remember when I was just going into junior high I went to summer camp for the last time. Several of the girls I made friends with were older than me, and they would all troop off to the showers as a group to shave their legs. So of course the first thing I did when I got home was demand (fine, ASK, I was a polite kid) that my mom take me to the store to get some razors because I needed to start shaving my legs. NEEDED. To which my mom said, "You have to wait six months, and if you still want to start shaving I will let you."

That was a looooooooooong six months. And each week I checked my legs, hairless as they were, and longed for a single or maybe even a double blade so I could join the club. Once my probationary period was over my mom took me to the store and got me my first razor. I started shaving that night, although I'm positive that it was nothing more than peach fuzz. But I was proud of myself; I was a big girl now.

That's how I feel about writing right now. I so desperately want to be a big girl, especially when there are all these shiny tempting contests going on around the blogosphere (ZOMG, have you SEEN the WriteOnCon contest?). But I'm not ready, and neither is my manuscript. I know this, I KNOW, but the waiting is so hard. I'm totally the person who will pull the brownie pan out ten minutes too early because it smells so friggin good. And it's alright until I get to the middle where it's half-baked and gooey and kind of nauseating. I mean, I'm all for brownie batter, but not some Frankenbrownie that can't decide if it wasn't to be goo or mush.

So that's where I'm at. Waiting for my manuscript to get to the point that I can smile proudly and hold it up in public maybe like the Ten Commandments and proclaim it THE GREATEST WORK EVER CREATED (BY ME). It's hard and frustrating and totally based on my own development. Which is sometimes the hardest part.

Where are you in your development? What are your hopes for your future writing?

Friday, August 6, 2010

Blogger might have taken over my life

What does it say about me that I open Blogger before I open anything else, including my email?

We've got a good community going here, blog-o-buddies. I've laughed, I've cried, I've laughed until I cried, I've cried until I've laughed, I've learned, I've forgotten, I've been reminded. I've read posts about how to improve my writing, I've read posts about LOLcats, I've...

Woah, going off on a Dickens tangent. The point is, gentle readers, I appreciate the connections I've forged here, and it's thanks to all of you. So this Friday post is dedicated to you. Give yourself a pat on the back or a high five (but maybe not in public because you might be shunned or ridiculed). And thanks for making this the first site I sign into every morning :).

Happy Friday!

(Don't mind Rihanna's dead eyes, I'm sure she's just sleepy)

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

In which I, bleary-eyed, wax enthusiastic on you

If I seem tetchy or incomprehensible (not always mutually exclusive), it is because of this, gentle readers:

Courtesy of

I gave myself 20 minutes to read last night. That's a chapter, maybe two. Four hours later I was reading the acknowledgements and wishing I worked for people who loved books as much as I do so that when I called to say I'd be in late because I stayed up all night reading a book they would TOTALLY understand.

I'm still processing this book. There were things I liked, things I didn't like, things I believed, things I didn't believe, plot lines that drove the story and plot lines that died halfway through, characters that seemed realistic and characters that didn't. It was not a book without flaws (find me one, I DARE YOU), but it was incredibly compelling. Obviously. I have grand plans to go back and dissect the book from a writer's perspective, but as a reader I enjoyed the story immensely. I'm not even sure if YA weren't so popular right now that this would be YA. I don't say that to take away from YA readers, but I'm not sure I would have understood a lot of the character observations if I were 16 or 17.

I highly recommend this book. As a reader, as a writer, as a lover of the word you'll be very gruntled to have read this.

And don't worry about me, I've started an IV drip of caffeine that should be kicking in aaaaany second now.

Oh, and if you've read this book and would like to discuss with me, say your piece in the comments! I'd love to know what other readers took away from this book.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Reasons why I haven't joined Twitter

I'm on a list kick, I guess.

Although I should clarify that I do have a Twitter account, but only because someone many years ago made me feel like it was going to be the nextgreatawesomegmailthing and if I didn't get my name soon that I would have to be like JEMlovesvolleyballandgrillingandsometimessocks5489. So I made an account, but I don't actually use it. That would be uncouth.

Also: disclaimer. I have nothing against Twitter, nor against the people who use it. These are just my own personal feelings about my own potential Twitter usage. Tweet on, Twitter lovers!

1) I am totally not interesting enough to tweet things, even on a daily basis. Unless you want to know how often I  get up at work to go pee or the amount of sandwiches I eat in a day.

2) I'm kind of like that old guy in Up about technology. Yes, I work with it for a living. Yes, I blog. Yes, I email. But I still sometimes get all "what's this newfangled tag thing?" and "why am I poking this person? it's obscene. in my day we asked a girl out to a nice steak dinner first."

3) I already waste  spend countless hours perusing the lovely blogs I follow, I can't add Twitter accounts to that. Not if I ever want to sleep again.

4) The instant gratification of Twitter gives me way too much leeway to say something really stupid that will be forever immortalized in internet databases everywhere. I really shouldn't be allowed out in public, but certainly not a public where I can write exactly what I'm thinking without any filtering.

5) I can't be contained to 140 characters. I don't care if concise writing would make me a better writer. If I have something important enough to say to put it on the internet, it's going to be longer than 140 characters. Trust me.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Dudes, please don't enter this contest so I can have all the prizes!

Somehow I don't think that will work, but here it is anyway:

Roni over at Fiction Groupie is hosting a contest with Julie Cross (sorry, Julie, but your blog title is way long and my fingers are LAZY). It's kind of awesomely epic, so definitely go check it out here, and the deets are below for your edification:

As a reminder, here are the fabulous prizes up for grabs this week:

  • Hannah Moskowitz's Break
  • Lisa Desrocher's Personal Demons (ARC)
  • A query or first five pages critique from Fine Print Lit's intern, Gemma Cooper
  • A query or first five pages critique from Janet Reid's assistant, Meredith Barnes
  • A query or first five pages critique from agent Suzie Townsend
  • A query or first five pages critique from editor Brendan Deneen

Entries will be accepted until midnight (central time) Sunday night August 8th.  Six winners will be chosen.  First place will get their choice of prizes, then second place will choose, and so on.

Some things that will make your book better

A quick note: I've had some things come up over the weekend that are forcing me to put my super awesome contest on hold. I will hold a contest in the near future, though, and it will be so awesome it will blow your mind (maybe).

A Brief List of Things That Will Make Your Book Better
1) Put me in it (for reals, I've been FDA approved to increase your awesome by 37%)
2) Circus bears. Seriously. Circus bears.
3) Adverbs. Adverbs aren't used nearly enough in writing. Especially the word very. You should probably have at least one very per sentence, and in all dialogue tags.
4) Give all your characters similar names. Even better, give them the same name spelled differently. Catherine, Katherine, Cathryn, Kathrynn, the more creative the spelling the better (P'Cauthevyrn?)
5) Dialogue is so namby-pamby these days. You need to add more realistic ums and ahs and huhs and f-bombs. That's the only way editors will know that you really know what you're talking about. Voice of a generation, people.
6) You need to use bigger words to show off your academic prowess. My suggestion? Spatchcock (and oh PLEASE look up the definition).
7) Werewitchpires. They're all the rage in Germany right now.
8) Lists. Lots and lots of lists. (What? No, this is NOT a filler answer to get to 10, how DARE you accuse me of such things)
9) Extended paragraphs in which you expound on the deteriorating morals of a corrupt modern society and the need to overthrow the system. These work best in children's books. Especially with illustrations.

HELLO, Nobel Prize in literature.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Battling the fear demon

I live a fearful life. I mean, I'm not being gunned down in the streets or anything (thank goodness, too, because I SUCK at lasertag), but I make fear-based decisions. Fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of ridicule, fear of insecurity, they all keep me on a specific path that I've struggled my entire life to break away from. I've gotten better at letting go, at taking risks, but that fear still follows me everywhere I go.

  • Putting a clothing item back on the rack because I don't think I can pull it off
  • Staying quiet at parties because I think I'll say something stupid (which, in all fairness, is usually true)
  • Not entering contests because I know I won't win
  • Not promoting myself as a writer/singer/lover of the arts because I think people won't want to read/listen/appreciate
At some point we have to let go of one trapeze to get to the other, and there's always that horrible airborne moment where you're not sure if you'll make it to the other one (the trapeze metaphor has always horrified me because I'm scared of heights). But we can't move forward in life unless we do let go and take a risk. Most successful people, whatever their calling, failed more times than they succeeded. After all, it only takes the one "yes."

So how do you battle the fear demon?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Oh, right, that contest thing


I've led you astray, kiddies. I've been out this week on a little vacay to see the most amazing show of my life. This lovely lady:

So that whole posting a contest thing on Monday did not happen, obvs. But it's happening NOW, so don't feel too bad. And now, without further ado:

The Rules:
1) You must be a follower. Old followers get +3, new followers get +1. That's right, I'm punishing you for being fashionably late to the party.
2) You must add a comment on this post. The contents of that comment, you ask?
3) You must list the top three reasons why you think you should win this contest over anyone else. Because I like lists, and much like Donald Trump, I like pitting people against each other.
4) Want more chances? If you blog about this contest you get +1, if you post it in your sidebar of contestness I'll give you +2. You can call me Santa. Show me in the comments that you did it because JEM does not operate on the honor system, being a dishonorable thief herself.
5) I will either pick someone based on how awesome their list is, or I will choose randomly. Or I will choose randomly from people with awesome lists. We'll see.

What the Frag Do I Win? (also known as The Prizes):
1) The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Why? Because I am an obsessed fangirl, that's why.
2) The Fame by Lady Gaga. Again, super fangirl.
3) Maybe something else edible and awesome. IF I FEEL LIKE IT DON'T BE PUSHY.

How Long Do I Have to Enter This Awesomeness?
I'm leaving the contest open until midnight CST, 8/13/2010. Which for all you numbers challenged peeps is Friday after next, so you have no excuse for not entering because that is a friggin long time.

I think that's it. Is that it? This is my first contest, so if I've forgotten something just let me know. Have fun, kiddies!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Book Club! Or: how I learned to stop grumbling and love the book

As I mentioned yesterday, I had book club last night for a book that I HATED. I was interested to see how the club would go, since the people in the club all work with books and can sometimes have loftier (*cough*pretentious*cough*) ambitions for their reading materials. It was one of those books that I would classify as "literary," so I knew I would be in the minority of people who didn't enjoy the book.

I went armed for battle, gentle readers, with my weapon store of reasons why I didn't enjoy the book: too many tangents that detracted from the main point, overwriting, no chapters (who DOES that!?! It was sheer madness! Oh, wait. Tangents), a somewhat unlikeable cast of characters, etc. All of these things I happily presented as my reasons for disliking the book. Some people agreed, some people disagreed, some people expounded on my reasoning, others refuted. Good points were made all around (as were dumb ones, you know who you were).

But my take home from the night was this: I enjoyed the book more than I thought I did. Once the discussion started swirling and others in the club made comments that brought new insight, I realized the author had put a great deal more depth into the storyline progression and the main character's motivations than I thought. And while it didn't increase my reading enjoyment (I was done by that time, obviously), it did help me appreciate the work that went into the book and how the author had accomplished what he had accomplished. Without the book club discussion, I wouldn't have achieved the insight and appreciation I have now. And as a writer myself, it's essential to recognize the impact a story has on its reader.

So book club had a positive outcome for me, and added a few more weapons to my writing arsenal. Plus we inevitably fell into talking about The Hunger Games, which made me squee like a fan girl, especially when I read this article this morning.

Is anyone else in a book club? Do you enjoy it? What books are you reading this month?

And as always: a muy happy Friday to the lot of you.

Crap. Now I have to have a contest

I'm in the business of taking the free, gentle readers, have I not made that clear? I don't give the free, I take. Like a bad boyfriend or the IRS.

But then this happened. And you know what? It was AWESOME. FRAWESOME AWESOME. Like the Awesome Blossom, but instead of a half-cooked gooey onion in the middle you get BOOKS!

And I was happy, blog-o-buddies. I was dancing in the street! I was light-hearted and carefree! My weekend was made!

And then I started to feel bad. It's all Halie Joel Osment's fault, really, but now I know I have to pay it forward. I'll think real hard over the weekend to come up with something equally frawesome awesome and post my contest on Monday, but there are few things you can look forward to:

1) I will be grumpy about the giving away of the free
2) The free itself will not be impacted by my grump
3) I'll probably make you do something for it
4) It might involve lists
5) Crap, I don't have a five

Anyway, I'll post on book club later today, but start girding your loins now.

Thursday, July 22, 2010


Not because I had the same joke, no, that would be too cruel. But more because I read her post before thinking of a topic for my own and now all I can think is that I want my book to smell like Stephenie Meyer on a horse. So come back tomorrow, maybe I'll have regained my senses by then.

P.S. I have book club tonight and we're talking about a book I HATED (I won't say which one because I don't want to hurt any feelings but this book made me want to punch an old man in the jaw, so I'm interested to hear the discussion). I'll let you know how it goes. Oh, fun! Book club post tomorrow, natch.

P.P.S. Upon further reading that sounded like I wanted to punch a specific old man in the jaw. Not specific. So watch out, octogenarians of downtown Austin. I'M COMIN ATCHA!

P.P.P.S. No old men were harmed in the making of this post. YET.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Shaking the idea box

I have no idea what that title means. I'm just now getting over a very nasty stomach virus, so I can't be held responsible for the things I write or say today. I'm like the Verve Pipe, only less 1996.

My question for everyone today: what do you do to keep track of your (no doubt brilliant) ideas?

Based on the effort it's taken to get ONE book up and running, I'm pretty sure I've got ideas to last me from here until kingdom come, so I'm not really worried about running out of ideas. I do worry, however, about losing good ideas or losing good scene ideas because I'm somewhere that I can't take good notes. I'd love to say I'm organized and have a neat little folder somewhere with all my brilliant story ideas along with character descriptions, scene ideas, and funny/clever lines. However, I think we all know where I'm going with this.

Let's say Martha wouldn't be proud. I have notes EVERYWHERE (and I mean EVERYWHERE): scribbled in random notebooks, saved as unsent emails, a billion word files across three or four different computers (and floppy disks, people, floppy disks), a few random notes on my phone notepad file. And those are just the ones I can remember. Every once in a while I run across an old song notebook or a file aptly titled "Story" and open them up to see a long forgotten story idea. Some of them are good, most of them are not, but they're hidden gems from my own past (does that make them hidden JEMs?). It's fun to find them and discover what I thought was interesting enough to write about at any given point.

I'd like to go back and write each and every one of these stories one day. The odds of that happening are about the same as me not eating this cookie (you can't see it because it's just crumbs now), but I still have high hopes. And suffice it to say my old boxes of stuff from middle school and high school are veritable treasure troves of JEMs.

So how do you keep track of all the brilliant?

Shaking the idea box

I have no idea what that title means. I'm just now getting over a very nasty stomach virus, so I can't be held responsible for the things I write or say today. I'm like the Verve Pipe, only less 1996.

My question for everyone today: what do you do to keep track of your (no doubt brilliant) ideas?

Based on the effort it's taken to get ONE book up and running, I'm pretty sure I've got ideas to last me from here until kingdom come, so I'm not really worried about running out of ideas. I do worry, however, about losing good ideas or losing good scene ideas because I'm somewhere that I can't take good notes. I'd love to say I'm organized and have a neat little folder somewhere with all my brilliant story ideas along with character descriptions, scene ideas, and funny/clever lines. However, I think we all know where I'm going with this.

Let's say Martha wouldn't be proud. I have notes EVERYWHERE (and I mean EVERYWHERE): scribbled in random notebooks, saved as unsent emails, a billion word files across three or four different computers (and floppy disks, people, floppy disks), a few random notes on my phone notepad file. And those are just the ones I can remember. Every once in a while I run across an old song notebook or a file aptly titled "Story" and open them up to see a long forgotten story idea. Some of them are good, most of them are not, but they're hidden gems from my own past (does that make them hidden JEMs?). It's fun to find them and discover what I thought was interesting enough to write about at any given point.

I'd like to go back and write each and every one of these stories one day. The odds of that happening are about the same as me not eating this cookie (you can't see it because it's just crumbs now), but I still have high hopes. And suffice it to say my old boxes of stuff from middle school and high school are veritable treasure troves of JEMs.

So how do you keep track of all the brilliant?

Friday, July 16, 2010

We now return you to your regularly scheduled random

1) When I swat a fly or a mosquito I feel like King Kong on top of the Empire State Building.

2) I miss my childhood. I don't think I appreciated it enough when I had it, but I want my boring summer days watching The Andy Griffith Show and eating microwaveable burgers. Those were the days.

3) I always get stuck next to the chatty people wherever I go. I think this is cosmic punishment for being so easily distracted.

4) Hallmark commercials make me cry.

5) Reading The Hunger Games has made me aware of how thoroughly I am unprepared for a nuclear apocalypse. Or a regular apocalypse.

6) I'm terrible at multitasking, but I keep trying it like I'll suddenly be a different person who can do it well.

7) When I finish a course in something I tend to think I know everything about that something. It's been long enough since I had a math class that I now think I know how to do all math. This is probably not true.

8) Number seven is definitely not true.

9) I find myself in the same numbers quandry as my last list.

10) Ten! Schmappy Friday, everyone.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Famous first lines, interpreted

And if you don't like them, you can call me Ishmael.

Pride and Prejudice
Look, man, I’m about to lay some truth on you: a single brother P.I.M.P. who be ballin and rollin must be looking for some bitches.

A Tale of Two Cities
Brothers were rollin and brothers were fiendin, cats were making mad moves and cats were getting locked up, homies had faith in the system and homies were breaking the laws, it was black versus white, it was white versus black, it was an east coast/west coast thing.

Catcher in the Rye
You really want to know to know this shit? You probably want to know where I come from, what the streets did to me, how my parents rolled out before I was even kickin around and all that 50 Cent bullshit, but homie don’t play that, for real.

Slaughterhouse Five
This shit was for real.

Fahrenheit 451
Let me tell you, man, I loved blazing it up.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

When slang goes awry

I'm all about the slangination. I like shortening words, elongating words, adding "ness" and "tion" and "tor" to words and names. And I've written about this before, but my dog has learned to just respond to the sound of my voice because I call her so many nicknames she can't possibly keep up. So this comes from a place of love for the art.

A little language lesson. Saying "vaca" when you mean to say "vacay" is detrimental to your health and your odds of me not laughing at you.


Because "vaca" means cow in Spanish. Yeah. Cow.

So when you say "my vaca got approved" or "I'm headed out on my vaca" or My vaca is so awesome!" it mean something TOTALLY different to me. On the other hand, I'm glad you've got such cool livestock.

Monday, July 12, 2010

BACK! in the saddle

It's been a rough couple of weeks, blog-o-buddies. Work, family, holidays, working on holidays, I've had my fill. But this weekend was the first weekend in a long time that I actually didn't have a whirlwind of plans to steal my time away. Which meant...oh, yes, that's right...WRITING TIME!

I'm in a weird writing place right now. I'm editing the current WIP, but doing some pretty major overhauls to the two MCs and their interactions with each other. I got excellent feedback from the P-i-C and my first beta reader, and I'm working to incorporate their suggestions into a bigger, even more awesome manuscript. Which means creating new scenes, completely scrapping the dialogue from existing scenes, and copying and pasting huge chunks of other scenes from one Word doc to another. Fun!

But it felt sooooo good to make some headway again. I even took the train this morning for the first time in two weeks and got a solid hour of uninterrupted writing/editing time. It's like I'm becoming a real girl, lovelies! Plus, if I want to avoid that sophomore syndrome, I better start shaping up my timelines!

What about you? What are you happy about on this blistering Monday morning?