Friday, December 9, 2011

The Official Glossary of Writing Terms for Non-Writers

The holiday season is upon us, and I've been contemplating what to give my extended relatives, friends, and total strangers who scratch their heads each time I post a writing-related update on my social networks. And since I believe in giving thoughtful and useful gifts, I have compiled this list of writing terms and definitions to send to all, so you can stop asking me what I'm talking about. I also figured you writers out there might want to give this list to the non-writers in your life. It’s the perfect gift! You're welcome. Happy holidays, everyone!

NOTE: Please let me know if I’ve missed any writing term you need a definition for. I’ll be happy to add it to the list.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

An Accidental Adventure...

Today I'm plugging my post on my other blog. If you know of a child (preferrably 8-12, since that's the target age) interested in adventure stories, please check out the interview I conducted with C. Alexander London, all about his Accidental Adventure series (it's tres cool, I'll tell you that much here).

Speaking of accidental adventures, I thought today would be a good day to share stories about how we writers got started in the writing business. My first attempt at writing for children was definitely an accident, in case you were wondering how an accident and writing connected in the real world.

Oh, you want to hear that story? Well, okay. But it's dull. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Here's my accidental adventure/how I go started in the business for writing children:

You see, I'd been writing stories for adults for years, but I couldn't ever finish one. Usually I gave up somewhere in the first chapter or two, most often when I'd hit a brick wall with the plot and couldn't figure out a way forward (then, as now, I'm a pantser). So I was pleased when I had made it to the middle of a manuscript. The problem I ran into this time, however, was that main characters kept acting like children. I was so irritated at them that I flung the story right out the metaphorical window and took a break until I could figure out how to fix it.

Not long after, my young son was being silly with rhymes, and he giggled when he came up with "enormous porpoise." I knew there had to be a picture book in there somewhere, so I wrote a (badly-written) 5,000-word rhyming story about a porpoise, Dorcas, and her tiny friend, Jose. The book was terrible, but I enjoyed myself so much that I realized the best way to fix my problem of writing characters that acted like children was to...wait for it...write books where the children were the main characters.

Yes, I was a little slow on that uptake.

So, you see, a rhyme by a 4-year-old and a manuscript that will never see the light of day accidentally helped me find my true calling as an author of children's books.

Okay, now it's your turn. What's your story? Accidental or other-wise, I want to know!

*pulls up a chair and leans forward to listen*

Friday, November 11, 2011

Are You Listening?

You've probably noticed that I'm what you'd call a funny(ish) gal. So it wasn't a big surprise when my first novel (a mystery) turned out to be a humor(ish) book in places. My second novel was a riot--it housed talking geckos and robot pirates and flying space galleons and monkey overlords and a SECRET that could blow up the universe if it got into the wrong hands, which (of course) it did. After that, I threw a funny(ish) sequel to my first novel into the mix, and then attempted a spoof on the Hardy Boys novels of yesteryear.

Yes, funny is my playground.

So it came as quite a surprise when my current WIP wouldn't leave me alone. It's poignant(ish), literary(ish), and completely beautiful. I can feel the main character's longings as if they were my own, and in some ways I guess they are. It's a book about growing up in a dying culture, the culture my mother and grandmother and great-grandmother lived in and passed down to me. It's also about learning to let go. I'm writing this book because it shares the childhood I had but a childhood my kids will never know. I'm writing this book for my grandmother. I'm writing this book for me.

But, as much as I love this book, I realize its genre is a dying culture of its own. You know, one of those quiet books. Today, industry folks use the word as if it was a bad thing. I have serious reservations about ever selling it, but I'm writing it anyway.

Sometimes, there are story ideas that sneak up on you and take up residence on your shoulder. They whisper straight into your ear and don't bother to check and see if you're paying attention. When those kinds of stories start to talk, it's best to listen.

Sometimes those story ideas aren't dressed like the rest of the stories you've written or plotted either. They don't fit your brand or the trends. So what do you do?

You write them anyway.

Don't worry about whether or not you can sell them. Don't worry about whether or not they fit with the rest of the books you've written (or will write). Don't even worry about whether or not they speak to anyone else.

They are speaking to you. Are you listening?

Chances are, once they've finished speaking to you, and you've written them down, they will speak to others, too. Those kinds of story ideas make the best kinds of books. And even if they don't speak to others, you've been transformed by them. That's all that matters, really, because it will make a difference on the next book you write, and the next and the next and the next.

So do the rest of the world a favor and listen. Okay?

Monday, November 7, 2011

Just Do It...Or Take a Class First?

How many of you writers out there have taken one writing course after another in order to learn how to write (or write better)? Or who went to college for a degree in writing?

I'm curious to know who out there has learned through formal courses and who, like me, is mostly self-taught. I've taken one creative writing college course (which focused primarily on writing poems, thanks to an instructor who had a PhD in poetry and no real love of prose), but everything I've learned has been through trial and error.

I ask because, as a self-taught writer, I see what I think is a strange phenomenon in this industry: writers who compartmentalize.

Now, by that I mean that I am often amazed when I hear of other writers asking for information on one very specific and often narrow category in the writing process. These people gather grundles of information from other writers in order to study this very narrow category before they attempt it on their own.

I know there is nothing wrong with this--it's probably a great way to learn--but I taught myself to write. I didn't use textbooks. I didn't study the writing process.

I just did it.

And then I did it again.

And again.

And again.

And again.

Sometimes I wonder if this more organic way of learning actually puts me at a disadvantage. Because I'll admit that sometimes writers talk and I'm at a loss. I have no idea what they are talking about. They talk about things I've never consciously studied or thought about, but some time during my organic self-teaching I must have picked up and perfected without knowing it. And I only know that because others who have read my writing tell me so. It's like carrying on a conversation with someone with a very thick accent. I should understand them but sometimes I have to ask them to slow down and explain themselves.

But other times I think I might be the lucky one. I do think outside the box, mostly because I never learned what the box was to begin with. I also trust myself more, because this whole writing thing really has been intuitive for me.

So, weigh in, folks. I want to hear your thoughts on this. Do you think your schooling (or lack of it) has helped or hurt your own writing process? And give some examples, please!

Monday, September 19, 2011

What I Learned By Watching a Tree

You read that title right.  I have learned something by watching a tree.  And not just a something, but a something that was brilliant enough to make it into a blog post.  A something so fantasmic, so alarmingly insightful, so....

Okay, fine.  I'll stop waxing eloquent and tell you what I learned.

But first, I should explain a few things.  The first is that, yes, I am guilty of being a nature lover.  I do watch trees.  For fun.

The next explanation is this: yes, I'm weird.

Now that we have those basic facts out of the way, let's get to what I learned by watching a tree.  This should delight all of you, unless you are devout tree haters, in which case I don't think we can be friends anymore.

So, today I was watching a tree as it shed the first of its autumn leaves.  It did so in front of a stream of middle-schoolers and their parents, but I doubt anyone (except me) noticed.  It quietly let go of some of its showy canopy and retreated inside.

And I realized how similar I was to this tree.  How all of us who are writing for publication are like this tree.

No, I'm not losing my leaves.  Bear with me here...

You see, being an author, especially one with an online presence to maintain (which, last time I checked, was just about every writerly person on the known planet), is pretty much like a tree in summer.  Our showy canopy glitters in the sunlight for the world to see.  We preen and rustle in the wind, and people see us and say, "Gee.  That tree...uh, PRETTY."  And we like the attention, and we realize how much we love what it is we do.

But then something happens.  It could be that we have a book hitting the shelves, and we realize we are terrified of the reviews.  Or maybe we are in the middle of a first draft and we realize we have written the worst draft ever in the history of the written word.  Or it could be that we receive our one-hundred-and-forty-seventh rejection from an agent--and it was THE agent for us; the one we had placed the last of our hopes and dreams on.  Or it could simply be that we realize we are tired of the business of writing.  Whatever it is, we start to lose a little of the love we had of being a writer.  And, before we know it, we've retreated from the world.

Now, you are probably wondering why on earth I would share such a depressing story.  This isn't my usual  earth-shattering, amazingly inspiring posts, you are thinking to yourself. In fact, you are ready to take the tofu burger and fries that you are eating and squash them into your computer screen in the hopes of forever blotting out the drivel you just read.

But if you did, then you'd miss the other half of this post.

And that is, that I have learned more from watching a tree.

You see, I have learned that a tree is a magnificent, plant.  Because it has learned that, sometimes, the best thing you can do for yourself is to turn inward and focus on what matters most.  In this case, its roots.  And if it does so during those months where being a tree is a difficult thing to do, then soon enough it realizes that the spring sunshine is just around the corner.

So trees don't give up.  They don't wither and die in those cold winter months.  Instead they forget about that showy canopy and focus on the roots.  And if they do, soon enough they are rustling in the summer sunshine once again.

So, the moral of this story is:  there is a season for everything, and sometimes it's not only okay but imperative that we focus on our own roots..our writing (our stories).  If we can leave the worries of this business behind for just a little while, it makes all the difference when it is our time to blossom.

So go ahead.  Be a tree.  I, for one, won't call you crazy, even if I am a little weird.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

She'll be coming to Seattle when she comes...for Kidlit Con!

So, yes, it's true.  The lovely folks at Kidlit Con have graciously extended another invitation for my blogging buddies from that other blog and me to speak to the attendees.  We won't tell them how crazy that idea is, because...SHHH...

...come closer...

...we don't want them to know that I'm just making things up as I go along.


Anyway, This year, it's all about group blogging, and I am thrilled to have some bona fide smart people speaking with me: the very talented Rosanne Parry and the amazing Katherine Schlick Noe.  I think we were invited to speak because of them, quite honestly.

So, for those of you who might be coming, make sure to stop by and say hi.  I'll be the one up on stage, for an hour, at least.

Now, I must pack.  Where are those clear Ziploc bags for my things, anyway?  They are all the rage at aiport terminals, I hear.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Mixed-Up Middle-Grade Skype Tour has left the driveway!

So, many of you know about that other blog I work on. I try to keep the two blogs separate, since I know not all of you are middle-grade authors or have middle-grade kids.

Well, I'm breaking my "never the twain shall meet" rule today. You're just gonna have to deal with it, I guess.

That's because, on rare occasions, we do these really cool, super amazing, lots-of-love-and-work-involved projects to help get books (and their authors) connected with middle-grade readers. And it just so happens that today is one of those days.

Today our Mixed-up Middle-Grade Skype tour begins!

Each season a group of middle-grade authors donate a full-fledged Skype visit to a school, group, or club. And this time around we have the following authors:

Sarah Aronson (BEYOND LUCKY)
Tami Lewis Brown (THE MAP OF ME)
Kathy Erskine* (MOCKINGBIRD)
Erin Moulton (FLUTTER)

*Yes, you'll notice this National Book Award winner has graciously donated a Skype visit. I want to be just like Kathy when I grow up.

So if you know of anyone who might be interested in winning a visit with one of these middle-grade authors, please send them to this blog post about our giveaway.

And please spread the word via Twitter, FB, G+, or your own blog.  You can even link to this cool YouTube video all about our project:

Thanks for sharing if you do.  I really appreciate it!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Tomatoes and Manuscripts

If you follow me on Twitter you might have realized that today was canning day around my house.  This mostly came about because the three ginormous mounds of tomatoes on my kitchen counter were causing just a small space issue in the kitchen, but I'll admit it also had a lot to do with the fact that I have a small amount of freezer space but a large amount of canned food storage space.

Now, before you think I'm some domestic goddess, I should warn you that the last time I canned anything was when I was eight, and then I was just helping my mother.  And my mother's lawyer suggests that I add a disclaimer here about how I didn't do any of the really dangerous work like pouring the boiling water or pulling heated cans out of the pot.


It occurred to me today that canning tomatoes for the first time (or the first time in almost two decades) is EXACTLY like writing a manuscript.  Well, okay, not EXACTLY like it, but there are a few things you can take away from the job of canning tomatoes and use when you are working on a manuscript:

1. Things turn out better if you do your homework.

It's true: I had to look up information on how to can tomatoes.  I went straight to a university agriculture extension and read all about the art (and science) of canning tomatoes.

It turns out that doing your homework is also a good idea when you are writing a novel.  For example, I am currently researching teen adoption for a possible side story in a WIP, but the more I research the more I realize my original story idea would not have worked at all. I would not have know that had I not taken the time to do a little research.

So do your homework.  It can be before you start a manuscript or while you're writing one, but it needs to happen sometime during the process.

2.  Percolating is good for the project.

Because of the elevation where I live, I had to leave the jars of tomatoes in the boiling water bath for 50 minutes.  Letting them percolate in the boiling water killed all the bad stuff and preserved the good stuff.

Letting your stories percolate is a good thing, too.  Percolating before you write helps flesh out your ideas.  Percolating after the manuscript is written helps you find and kill the awful parts but polish the better work.  It's good for the mind, too.  Well, at least it gives it something to think about when you have to wash all those dishes.

3. Sometimes things don't work out.

Most of my bottlesof tomatoes dutifully sealed, but I had one stubborn jar that just kept popping when I pushed on the lid.  (For you non-canners out there, when a bottle is successfully canned, the lid is firm and doesn't move.  If the seal doesn't take, though, the lid will move up and down and make a popping sound.)  But it's not a total loss, thank goodness.  I can empty the jar and try again with a fresh one (or rewash the old one and try again).  It will just take a little more work.

Sometimes manuscript ideas don't work out, either.  You think they are going to be amazing books once you finish them, but the ideas refuse to jell into solid stories.  But don't fret.  Sometimes they just need a fresh, some additional plot points or characters, a new setting or a combination of all three.  Or maybe they just need a good wash, I mean, a do-over.  Starting with a blank screen and trying again may just work.

4. It's hard work, but it's so worth it.

Need I say more?

(Photo: Tomatoes by ajstarks on Flickr)

Friday, August 19, 2011

Getting Back To What Matters (To Me, Anyway)

*pops head out of hole*

Are you still here?


You've been waiting all this time to read another entry from me?

Well, we aren't going to discuss what that may mean about your sanity (because, honestly, I can't imagine why anyone would hang on my every word), but if you insist on reading new entries on my blog, I am pleased to announce that your wait is now over.

*pulls body out of hole, dusts clothes off*

In case you haven't noticed, I've been on a self-imposed hiatus.  And I'd like to share what I've learned during the past 6-7 months.  But first, that requires a little explanation.

I've been gone for quite awhile.  Mainly, it was because of the Cold of the Century, which was actually the Flu of the Century that turned into Complications from the Flu of the Century.  I've been pretty sick, folks.  Not that you knew that.  (Nor did I really want to tell you. I'm a firm believer in keeping the negativity tucked neatly out of site.  I'm also a firm believer in keeping the piles of paperwork at my house tucked neatly out of site, but oddly enough I'm not so good at that one.  Huh.)


I've been sick enough that I haven't been able to write.  Physically I didn't have the strength or stamina to keep up with the act of typing more than an email or two.  Mentally I couldn't wrap my brain around a new story, or an old one for that matter.  Emotionally I was a wreck while health care people tried to figure out what was wrong.  And while I was dealing with that, my husband and I got the unexpected news that one of our children was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome. 


When it rains, it pours, and all that jazz, I suppose.

I realized that I wasn't in any position to pursue publication, so I decided to place the writing aside.  I quietly parted ways with my agent, removed myself from as many online conversations as I could, and prepared to walk away for good.

I tried.  I really did.  Honest.

But oddly enough, the more I didn't write (or talk about writing) the worse I felt physically.  It wasn't until I realized that writing, for me, IS what makes me feel better that I started to see an improvement in my physical health.  So I started writing again.  At first it was just emails to friends telling them  I was getting ready to write again.  Then it was journal entries to myself (with a good old-fashioned pen and paper--ahhh, heaven on earth).  I also tiptoed back into the online conversation.  I picked up the reins I’d dropped as fearless leader at From the Mixed-Up Files...of Middle-Grade Authors, and I started a twitter conversation with MG people which eventually blossomed into the weekly #MGlitchat.

And this week I started writing a new book.  One that I love so much that I cry when I think about the story.  (And I am so not a crier.)

But through all this, I found a balance between who I think I need to be (perfect mother, amazing wife, remarkable Asperger's Syndrome guru, inspiring champion of MG books everywhere, and all-around hero to anyone looking for one) and who I really am (terrible housewife, internet addict, mediocre writer, procrastinator and all-around normal human being).  And I really get what matters to me now. 

And maybe you won't be so surprised to hear that what matters most isn't a book contract or accolades from the industry or even an agent clamoring for my work, or anything that I thought aspiring authors needed.  Instead, it's the love the my husband and children give me, the camaraderie I have with my writing peers and other industry people, and the amazing opportunity I have to make a difference in the life of a child (or a teen or adult, for that matter).

So why am I telling you this, you ask?  Well...

I just wanted you to know I'm back at work.  And that sometimes the sweetest experiences may come from the most difficult of trials.  And that, no matter what happens in your life, there is always a reason for it.  You may not see it at first, but eventually you'll figure it out.  And when you do...that will be a good day.

And that I can't seem to find where I placed that last pile of notes about my WIP.  You haven't seen them, have you?  In times like these a good filing system would really come in handy.

Not that I'd use it or anything.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Skype-ing It for Middle-Grade!

Okay, so I am supposed to be recuperating from the Cold of the Century, but I had to get the word out about the awesome giveaway we are starting on that other blog of mine, From the Mixed-Up Files.

Since Skype is the wave of the future (I'm sure someone recently told me that, anyway), plenty of authors are using it to do virtual school visits these days. And to help bring this new technology to schools, bookclubs, scout groups, and anyone else who might have a gaggle of 8-12yos ready to talk books with an author, we are sponsoring the Mixed-Up Middle-Grade Skype Tour!

Nineteen authors have joined us for this awesome experience! You can read the details here, but basically, for the next year, we will be giving away nineteen full-fledged Skype visits (along with a copy of the author's book, and as much swag as we can load into our virtual bus) to nineteen different winning groups.

We've grouped the authors into tour seasons, and our Spring/Summer tour starts today! And who are the authors on our spring/summer tour, you ask?

Sydney Salter (Jungle Crossing)

Bobbie Pyron (A Dog's Way Home)

Tom Angleberger (The Strange Case of Origami Yoda)

Kate Messner (Sugar and Ice)

Beverly Patt (Best Friends, Forever)

So spread the word about this awesome giveaway! Pretty please? I hope you can Catch the Bus!

Friday, April 1, 2011

March Madness WINNER!

Yes, it's a day late. Better late than never, though, right? I'm not a huge fan of April Fool's Day, anyway, so I'm glad I have some good news to post today.

And the winner is....

Congrats, Karen! (Which is kinda funny, since I won a book at her site last year. Now it's my turn to return the favor.) I'll send you an email, Karen, and you can let me know which book you want me to send.

FYI, I didn't participate in March Madness like I thought I would--illness sidelined me early in the month--so I hope those of you who did participate had a good time. And since I'm still recuperating from the Cold of the Century, I'll be temporarily shutting down here so I can spend my spring drinking orange juice and eating chicken noodle soup. I'll be back online this summer, most likely (maybe earlier).
So have a good spring, everyone!

Monday, February 28, 2011

March Madness 2011--WIN FREE PRIZES!

No, I don't mean this March Madness:

Flickr image by katerha

I mean this March Madness:

Flickr image by Jan Slangen

Well, except we aren't really going to make such a mess. Unless you want to, but then you will be responsible for cleaning it up. I'm not going to do it for you.

My writing friend Denise Jaden (we met through Verla Kay's blueboards, though we are also MSFV Success Stories as well) hosts her own writing version of March Madness each year. And this year is no exception.

In her own words:

"If you’ve been looking for a challenge to get your writing in gear, you’ve come to the right place! Through the month of March we will be cheering each other on to meet challenging goals with our writing."

This year she is opening it up to readers, bloggers, and illustrators as well. So, if you have writing, reading, or illustrating goals you'd like to achieve this month, head on over to her blog and sign up.

Did I mention there are PRIZES?

To keep you motivated, Denise and her March Madness cohorts will be giving prizes away throughout the month. You get an entry each time to check in, so the more you participate the better your chances of winning.

And, as added encouragement, I'm going to add my own prize(s). Each of my followers who sign up on Denise's blog and leave a comment here letting me know they've joined the madness will be entered in my own March Madness contest. The winner will get to choose one of the following books:

  • OTHER by Karen Kincy (ARC)
  • CREEPERS by Joanne Dahme (Hardcover)
  • SWOON AT YOUR OWN RISK by Sydney Salter (Paperback)

If I get five of my followers to join March Madness, I'll pick TWO winners. And if I get ten followers to join, I'll pick THREE WINNERS. And if I get fifteen followers to join, I'll rummage around and find some other books to give away! (I've got them around here somewhere...) That means you have a one-in-five chance of winning. And those are pretty good odds, I dare say. I'll draw the winner(s) on March 31st.

What if you aren't one of my followers, you say? Can you still enter? Well, that's easy enough. Just follow my blog on Blogger (or add me as a friend on LJ), and you're in. Easy peasy. So you are welcome to invite your friends, neighbors, co-workers, family members, random strangers off the street, etc., to join the March Madness here and on the "official" site (aka, at Denise's blog).

Now get thee hence and sign yourself up for March Madness. Then come back here for more chances to win!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

In the Middle of It All

I was going to let today quietly glide past. I certainly didn't want to bring attention to it, because I hate reminders about how I'm not getting any younger.

Yes, today is my birthday.

But it's not just any birthday. It's the birthday that puts me smack dab in the middle of my 30s. My 20-something friends and family love that I'm getting so old, but my 40-something friends and family still think of me as just a baby. I've found a few hairs on my head that aren't as brown as they should be, but I've still got a long ways to go before I need a box of Nice 'n Easy. I certainly don't feel as young as I used to, but I don't feel old, either.

You see, I'm right there. In. The. Middle.

And that is the reason I'm speaking up today. Because I realized that by not celebrating where I am--Right Now--I'm missing out.

This goes for my writing, too.

I'm in The Middle of my journey to publication. And too often I find myself complaining about not celebrating where I am. I'm too focused on the end product (in this case, a published book in my hands) and not enough on the journey.

And it's the journey that matters.

Sure, I know this, but sometimes I forget. Luckily for me, I woke up this morning to my kids fighting over how old I really am (my 7yo stared intently at my face and declared that I didn't look any older, bless his heart). And I realized that I'd rather be here, in The Middle, than anywhere else.

And that goes for my journey to publication, too. Right here, in The Middle, is a pretty good place to be.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Revision Process

It shouldn't come as a big surprise that I am currently revising a manuscript. (Sheesh, when am I not revising a manuscript?) (Like, never.)

Flickr image by Dan PattersonBut I've noticed that often people, probably in order to procrastinate on their own revision, start asking around to find out the best way to revise.

Well, today I am here to tell you the best way to revise. I know you've all be waiting for a definitive answer on this, and I'm brave enough to tell you.

The answer is:

It depends.

It depends on the person revising. It depends on whether or not you outline first, or later, or not at all. It depends on whether you like to choose one particular aspect (such as beefing up your dialogue) and ignore the rest, or if you polish the entire scene before moving to the next. It depends on whether or not you're having a good day or a bad day.

It depends on the manuscript itself. It depends on the genre you've written. It depends on how well the plot came together in the first draft. It depends on whether or not the characters decide to behave and help, or misbehave and take you on a wild goose chase through the story.

The best way to find the best way to revise is to simply revise. (Yeah, go ahead and read that again. I know I had to.) Try different techniques and see if they work for you. If they don't, IT'S OKAY. Even if they work for Mr. or Ms. NYT Bestseller, that DOES NOT MEAN THEY HAVE TO WORK FOR YOU. I've come across plenty of great revision ideas that seem great on paper (someone else's paper, that is), but when I try them on my own, they Do. Not. Work. And that's okay.

Case in point: One day about two years ago I was surfing the internet, hoping to find a great way to revise the book I had almost finished. (For those of you reading between the lines, yes, I was procrastinating. That ending was not working out so well. In fact, that draft still sits there, almost finished.) And I came across this great revision idea from a well-known author in the adult romance field. She had posted her one-pass revision process, which sounded heavenly. I need at least a half-dozen passes before my manuscripts resemble most authors' first drafts, so you can imagine my excitement.

Well, guess what? Yep, once I tried to implement her plan, I was so overwhelmed with the amount of work that I gave up after revising the first page. I'm still trying to recover from that experience. (For those of you still reading between the lines, yes, that is probably part of the reason why that manuscript still sits, unfinished, in a file somewhere on my computer.) On the next manuscript, I had much better success during the revision process by focusing on one aspect first (though that manuscript lies unfinished as well...long story).

So find your own process. Go ahead and ask others (heck, I think I've already shared somewhere on this blog my process), but just remember the best revision process is the one that works for you.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to get back to my revision (aka stop procrastinating)...

Monday, January 24, 2011

Why I Don't Always Keep My Trap Shut

Many of you may have already read agent Jennifer Laughran’s awesome post about When to Keep Your Trap Shut. And, if you already have, you probably had the same panic attack that most of my writing friends have had. (Okay, and me. I’ll admit that I panicked, too.) We've all been bad kitties and have shared TMI online.

But as the week progressed I noticed the mood online (at least in my online circles) had changed, and I wasn’t excited about what I saw. Too afraid they were saying something they shouldn't, people stopped talking about anything important at all. Friends erased blog posts and bios that I had found uplifting, and even private emails I received from writing friends were full of fear and nervousness. It felt like the support structure I have relied upon the last three years had been wiped out by one innocent (and well-argued) entry on an agent’s blog.

This has distressed me. I’m not usually one to argue with those who know better than me, especially those I admire and trust (and I admire and trust Jennifer Laughran immensely), but I’ve thought a lot about this and I’ve decided I needed to say something.

We live in a well-connected world. With a few keystrokes, people can learn more about a topic (or a person) than ever before. So, yes, I agree that we need to be careful about what we share online. My agent advised me on what I should and shouldn’t say online way back when I signed with him. And so I’ve been careful about sharing anything. I never share names and dates and personal correspondence. And I always think twice before I post anything online.

However, and I’m probably killing my career by saying this , I haven't shut my trap completely.

And this is why:

When I first started querying agents, I didn’t know what to expect, and I had no writing friends who could tell me. So I turned to the internet for information.

What I didn’t expect, however, was the support I would need, too. This business is stressful. And no one understands that more than another writer. I was grateful when I found others who were sharing their progress (or lack of it) with the world. I lurked on their blogs or the message boards where they posted, and it gave me the extra strength I needed to push through the difficulties and keep going. Soon I started sharing myself. It wasn’t a lot (I’ve always been a little nervous about sharing too much online anyway), but it helped to join in the conversation with other writers.

And when I signed with my agent, it was a whole lot of fun to share the exciting news with others who really understood what an accomplishment that was.

But now I’m in that place where it’s shadows and whispers. Where I can’t say anything because it might make my agent mad at me, or might turn off an editor, or it might kill a deal.

Yes. I’m on agented submission.

And being on submission means you are supposed to put on a happy face for the world and keep your trap shut.

And I have tried. I promise.

Unfortunately I haven’t always succeeded. I’ll admit that I have sent out more than one poorly disguised plea for others to share their struggles. Because it’s hard when you know you’re struggling, but even harder when you’re feel like you're struggling alone. I’m sure somewhere I have shared what I think are basic, generic thoughts and feelings that some editors or agents would think is too much information.

But I am grateful to those who brave the backlash and publicly share their struggles. For example, about a month ago, I came across this post by someday author Natalie Whipple. I can’t tell you how much her post meant to me. Because I’ve been through some (most) of the things she described. And it helped to know I wasn’t alone.

So today I open my trap to plead for a little more understanding from industry professionals. Yeah, you might find out through Google that my manuscript has been on submission for a million years and you are the 400th editor/agent to read it, but cut me a little slack. A million years is a long time to wait…and after the first hundred-thousand years or so, you start to wonder if it’s just you or the industry in general. And when you find a group of writers going through the exact same thing you are, it helps.

More than you might realize.

Friday, January 21, 2011

How often do you update your sidebar links?

I confess. I haven't updated my links since I put this blog together. And there are a few blogs I adore that you won't find on my sidebar. Why is that, besides the fact that I'm lazy when it comes to updating my blogs?

I wondered if I was alone in this. So I checked my friends' blogs. Not a lot of new blogs showing up there, either. Or a lot of links, period.

(And, I'll admit, my blogs don't show up on most blogrolls. Or any, come to think of it. That is so not good for my plans to take over the world. But I digress...)

I think we're doing each other a disservice. Sure, the only reason I really care right now is because I am basically trying to do anything I can to procrastinate the work on revising my WIP (Curse you, dual first person POV!), but still...shouldn't we fill those blogrolls full of places we love to visit?

So let's all get to work and update those links! Then I'll have more places to go than I could possible visit in this lifetime. And that will help me immensely with this procrastination thing.

Thank you.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Multiple Personalities (aka Dual First Person POV)

Does your book (or manuscript) have multiple personalities?

Mine sure does.

I'm dealing with a fun, popular, talkative but somewhat shallow 12yo boy, and his sullen, ignored, uncommunicative but deep thinking 14yo brother.

Getting these two very different points of view to mesh has been...well, difficult.

Okay. Truth be told, I'm not sure it's any good. I've had to step out of the revision cave for a few days to give my poor, overworked brain a rest.

The biggest problem is that both boys' moods are so different, so the mood of each POV feels different. Almost like each POV is a different book altogether. The 12yo's POV is light and fun and silly (and, I'll admit, it feels just as shallow as he is). And the 14yo's POV is more serious and substantial (but a whole lot less fun). And the story, though it is really is about a mystery the brothers solve together, it also deals with how these two brothers learn from each other and grow. So, by the end of the book, the 12yo is less shallow than he was (and a little more serious about life), and the 14 has learned to lighten up a little.

So I'm trying to start out from two very different places with two very different moods, and slowly move them closer together by the end of the book.

And did I mention that I'm trying to keep this MG, which is hard since one main character is definitely MG, and the other is more YA?

My head hurts just thinking about it.

Though it could be that I'm making this way more complicated that it needs to be. I tend to do that. A lot.

Do you have a multiple POV story you'd like to share with me? Please do. I could use all the advice/support I can get.

*dives back into the revision cave*

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Reinventing Myself

Okay, so not really. But I am thinking about reinventing this poor, neglected blog.

In my defense, I've been really really really really busy with searching for a new house, and then moving into the said new house, but that's no excuse to let this poor, neglected blog become...well, neglected.

And since it's a new year, and I'm in the mood to make resolutions I will most likely not keep past April, I've been thinking about what I can do to make this poor, neglected blog a well-loved, happy place once more.

Yeah. I'm totally drawing a blank.

So please chime in and tell me all the stuff you like (or don't like) about this blog. I expect to hear from all six of you, so don't let me down. And most likely, in the weeks to come, I will do something about this poor, neglected blog based on the feedback I hope to receive from all you readers.

I do miss spewing my odd and slightly insane thoughts about the writing life. I'm hoping there are a few of you out there who miss it, too. And if not, well...I'll probably keep doing it anyway.

So there.

Let's hope that 2011 brings plenty of new and exciting posts to this poor, neglected blog! Here's to Reinventing Myself!