December 31, 2009

New Year Resolutions for Writers

We're all determined to write THE book this year. THIS will be the one. (And I genuinely hope it is, for all of us!)

So this post is for all of you who need a little motivation or help setting goals.

Here are 7 Weekly tasks for Authors that I think is excellent ground work for setting your own personal goals.

And here's a post by author Devon Monk called Why I Write. It's more of a reflective piece, but I found it to be motivating.

And finally, posted Setting, Keeping, and Achieving Your Writing Goals in the New Year. A few basics, with the writer in mind :)

My goals for this next year:
edit Shadow Bound for the 569th time
Get a clean, polished copy of Song of the Muse out on submission
Write a book that is better than all my previous work
Read at least 5 books that I can learn from as a writer (and love as a reader)

What about you?

December 29, 2009

Wait! Don't Sign that Contract!

Most writers would do anything to get published. (Sometimes for the wrong reasons, but that's another post.) Aprilynne Pike, author of Wings, posted about her Firsts -- the book that got her an agent and the book that got her published. And no, they weren't the same book.

In this post, she discusses the importance of landing the right publisher, not just the first publisher who likes your book. Signing with a smaller publishing house can hurt your career.

So here are some Tips to Avoid a Publishing Dilemma that I thought might be equally helpful. :)

December 26, 2009

Masters of Storytelling

This is just plain fascinating, from a story-teller's point of veiw. The Secret of Pixar Storytelling. Of course, they have a whole team of people working on these stories ;)

December 24, 2009

I finished The Ruby Key and Wow!

If you haven't entered the contest to win a copy of The Ruby Key, do it now!

I finished it last night and it's amazing! The ending is just so beatifully crafted, everything fit together. The world building is fantastic, of course. And Holly Lisle has mastered the art of putting emotion on paper.

Seriously, even if you don't win the contest, this is a must-read for fantasy lovers (and fantasy writers).

Oh, and have a great holiday!

December 22, 2009

Revising a Rough Draft (Really Rough) Part 4

Okay, I found one more link to help with revising. It's actually ten links wrapped all into one. Ten authors give their tips for revising. Some say to start small and then do big revisions, others say the opposite. They're all good tips, if for different reasons. I think you just have to find what works for you.

Right now, I'm struggling with big stuff in Shadow Bound--reworking the voice mostly-- and EVERYTHING in Song of the Muse. Man, NaNo's are hard to edit!

December 19, 2009

Writing the Perfect Scene

A while back, I read one of the best articles on craft I have ever read. Seriously, you have no idea. I was absolutely blown away. The post is called Writing the Perfect Scene by Randy Ingermanson.
The post is based on Dwight Swain's book Techniques of the Selling Writer. I bought this book based on this post. The book is even more phenomenal than I expected. I'm going to add it to my reading list (bottom of the left sidebar) so you can have a direct link to the Amazon page.

As I read Techniques of the Selling Writer, I'm writing down some basic principles that I've found in other places. I'll make sure to post it when I finish the book.

Read this post. If you find it at all helpful, buy the book.

December 17, 2009

Deeper Character Insight

You know all those fun/annoying quizzes you see floating around Facebook and LiveJournal? Well, I found a fantastic post by KidLit an What Makes a Character. At first, I thought this was going to be like every other article you see about character development--basically, someone in the industry telling you that your character needs a "good personality" and "individual voice". Not super helpful.

She even went and posted a list of basic questions you should answer about your main character. Just for fun, I started answering the questions for my main characters for Shadow Bound (Rachel) and Song of the Muse (Gwen). I was amazed at how much insight came from these simple questions!

If you're interested, I've posted the questions below, along with the answers for both of these characters. I highly recommend you do the same for yours!

  • What is your character’s nature? Are they shy? Gregarious? A homebody? A great girlfriend? A backstabber? (Examples of personality and nature are endless…)

  • Rachel is a pretty private person. She's a good student, shy, a homebody, and has a few really close friends. She has an inner strength that she doesn't yet know about.

    Gwen is quick-witted, sarcastic, outgoing, strong-willed, and passionate. She has a bit of a temper.

  • What is your character’s physicality? Are they fat? Thin? Awkward? Do they have some kind of physical issue? Are they a slouch? (Also endless…)

  • Rachel has a soft but slim physique with red hair and pale skin.

    Gwen is a runner and is pretty fit with a pixie haircut. She's beautiful.

  • What is your character’s self-esteem? Is there something about themselves they want to change? Why?

  • Rachel second-guesses her decisions, but I don't think she feels down about herself because of them unless it causes someone else to suffer.

    Gwen knows she's not the best, but works her butt off to get better. She feels inadequate when she compares herself to the masters and worries that her ADHD will hold her back in life. Other than that, she's super confident and no one would know she has any insecurities.

  • What are your character’s secrets? Are there things they’ve never told anyone? Do they wish they can tell someone? Why?

  • Rachel can see ghosts. She helps the dead to move on to the next life. Also, she has a past that she keeps hidden. Only her mom knows about these secrets. She feels she needs to keep these secrets in order to stay safe and to be liked.

    Gwen is being coached in secret by a man she's never met. She wants to keep this secret because he obviously doesn't want anyone to know and she would hate to betray him.

  • What does everyone else know (or think they know) about your character? Is it true? What does your character wish everyone knew about them? Why?

  • Everyone sees Rachel as the smart, trustworthy, girl-next-door. They don't know that she communicates with the dead, which kind of taints that image.

    Everyone knows Gwen is obsessed with music, especially singing. What they don't know is that music is the only respite she gets from the nearly constant bombardment of thoughts (caused by ADHD).

  • What are your characters goals in life and moment to moment? Their wants in life and moment to moment? Their needs in life and moment to moment? Their frustrations in life and moment to moment? Why, for all of the above?

  • Rachel dreams of going to a good college where she plans to study social work. She wants to help battered women most of all. She wants to keep herself and her mom safe and protect her secrets. She also wants to be loved, since she's never really had a boyfriend.

    Gwen needs peace of mind. Not only immediately, through music, but long-term. She wants to have a career that allows her to be free of her disability. She wants to eliminate anything that keeps her from progressing in her music because it could steal away the peace and quiet that the music gives her.

  • What is their motivation in life and moment to moment? Why?

  • Rachel just wants a normal, quiet life. It's why she keeps her gifts a secret, why she wants to go to college, why she chooses her friends so carefully, and why she spends so much time making sure her life stays safe and quiet.

    Gwen's motivation comes from her ADHD. She struggles to keep it under control, and right now music provides the best escape from it.

  • What is their “normal” baseline? What is life usually like? (This usually gets disturbed pretty early on in the story.)

  • Rachel goes to school, gets good grades, and helps out the dead when she can.

    Gwen struggles in school, struggles with her music, and tries to progress as much as she can on her own.

  • What are your character’s relationships with other characters? What is the most important relationship? The best? The worst? The most fulfilling? The most frustrating? The one the character most wants to change? The one that will never change? Why?

  • Rachel's relationship with her mom is huge. Her mom is the only one that shares her secrets. They've been through a lot together. The worst part about her relationships is that, aside from her best friend Lisa and her mom, Rachel doesn't really have anyone to talk to. She has a very small circle.

    Gwen has a group of friends. Things are awkward with Dylan ever since he asked her out and she turned him down. His current girlfriend is cool toward her at best. Mark keeps distracting her from her rehearsals, so she gets pretty frustrated with him. Caroline, her roommate and best friend, is a fantastic listener. They share everything together.

  • What is the character’s unique perspective on life? (I will talk more about this when I talk about voice.)

  • Rachel sees the afterlife as a place of rest and comfort. She's not afraid of death, only of leaving her loved ones behind.

    Gwen sees the world through a performer's eyes. She feels a song when she walks on stage and is guided by an inner creativity that's only present when she works on performing arts.

  • What is the character’s past? What is their present? What is their future?

  • Rachel had a tough childhood and lives in fear because of it. Her gift gives her something to do. Hopefully one day she'll be a social worker and a boyfriend.

    Gwen had a dark period when her mom died, but seeing the way her dad pulled through gave her a personal relationship with God. Her future has to have something to do with music or she'll go insane.

    December 15, 2009

    Easy Revising - How to Fix a Novel Before Submission

    I've had a request to post about revision. As I progress in the editing process, I'm finding that I can't possibly remember all those tips and tricks at the same time. If I remember to show, I forget to build character. If I remember to use strong verbs, my dialogue fall apart. Anyone else having this problem?

    But I'll continue to post the most helpful advice I can, and just hope that the right words reach you at the right time.

    I'm not sure if I've posted this one or not, but it's pretty darn helpful. I use cliches all the time and cringe every time I spot one. It takes real thought to push past cliches and come up with something that 1) is original and 2) still conveys the message I want to send and 3) doesn't jerk the reader out of the story--all while maintaining voice and character! Anyway, here's an article on Cliches and Description.

    And I may have also shared this one too (Let me know if these look familiar.) but again, it's fantastic and I needed to be reminded. More on Show Don't Tell and how specificty is your greatest weapon.

    And finally, Holt Uncensored has put together a lovely post on the 10 Mistakes Writers Don't See (but Can Easily Fix When They Do). Like every author I know of, I have a few favorite words. They pop up all over my manuscript. For Shadow Bound, one of those words was "moment". I used it more than 20 times! Little things like this can ruin a story for a reader, and these are the kinds of mistakes covered in this article. This would be particularly good if you have finished a story, edited it, and you THINK it's ready for submission.

    December 12, 2009

    Contest: Book Give Away!

    I have a confession to make:

    I'm a really slow reader. A big problem is that I don't set aside large chunks of time to read, but even when I do, I'm lucky to finish a book in two weeks.

    As a result, I have a HUGE pile of books next to my bed. My immediate to-read pile. (Some of them are on the reading list scrolling in the bottom left corner of the blog.)

    So, to get my butt into gear, I'm going to hold a contest. I'm about to finish The Ruby Key by Holly Lisle.
    If you would like to have my copy, fill out the form below. COMMENTS DON'T COUNT. You have to fill in the form to be counted.

    You get points for...

    Twitting about the contest (+2)

    Posting about the contest on Facebook (+2)

    Blogging about the contest (+4)

    Follwing this blog (+2 for old followers, +1 if you join now)

    Putting this contest on blog roll/side bar of your blog (+5)

    For being referred (+1)

    Each person who says they referred you (+2)

    Remember, if you use twitter or facebook or a blog, please include the URL in the space provided. Otherwise, I can't verify and it won't be counted.

    Enter by January 21, 2010.
    I'd like to hold a lot of contests like these. We're planning on moving in the spring, so it would be nice to get rid of a bunch of books that I've already read.

    December 10, 2009

    Revising a Rough Draft (Really Rough) Part 3

    How do you know if your book has one of those dreaded sagging middles? A place where nothing seems to happen for pages and PAGES. Tons of NaNoers have this problem. Well, I found some advice from published author Scott Westerfeld. He says to make Pace Charts. (Brilliant! I'll definitely do this.)

    And to get some perspective on revising, here's a post by my favorite children's author, Gail Carson Levine, on how she revises. She has some things that are the same and a few things that are different from the way I do things.

    Here's a link back to Revising a Rough Draft Part 2 and Part 1.

    December 8, 2009

    Revising a Rough Draft (Really Rough) Part 2

    What's a common word that does little to enhance your story?


    So, Get Rid of It and replace it with something useful. Remember, every word in your book needs to pull double or even triple duty if you can manage it.

    For example, an easy way to do this is through dialogue. With good dialogue, you can 1) further the plot, 2) increase tension, and 3) show character. Here's an excerpt from a draft of Shadow Bound (you may have seen this before):

    "Rachel?" Lisa raised an eyebrow. "What are you staring at?" She turned, dragging one leg over so she straddled the bench. "Ooh, he’s cute."

    I braved another look. He was attractive, but his stare made me uncomfortable.

    "Too bad he’s taken," she added, twisting back around.

    "What do you mean?"

    She snorted and gave a sarcastic half-smile. "Well, I don’t think that’s his sister."

    I peeked at him again. There was no one with him. On the next bench though, a couple was making out. "No, not him."

    Lisa scanned the park again, this time pointing to a man walking his dog. "That old guy?" Her eyes narrowed. "Rachel, are you okay?"

    Here, we have dialogue. It pushes the plot forward by showing that Lisa isn't able to see what Rachel sees. (Trust me. It does.) This snippet is needed in order to move the story in the right direction. But what else does it do?

    We see that Lisa is curious (nosy), and we here her voice. We see her wry sense of humor. There's also conflict here for Rachel. She has to decide to either explain what she sees, lie, or come up with a way to change the subject. We also get a little bit of setting (which I hadn't intended, but hey, I'll take it.)

    See what I mean by double duty? Any time you can get two (or six) birds with one stone, do it. Look for opportunities like this. It makes for a page-turner.

    Here's a link back to Revising a Rough Draf Part 1 and Part 3.

    December 5, 2009

    Revising a Rough Draft (Really Rough) Part 1

    (Just a quick note: new followers may notice that my posts are a little longer. I tried to keep all my blog posts short and to the point, spending little time on my personal journal, caviats, or explanations. This was so you could procrastinate during November and not feel guilty. Now, we're back up to normal-sized posts.)

    I still haven't decided what to work on. I'm enjoying this break, even if the waiting can be a little mind-numbing. So, to distract myself, I've been searching for helpful tips which, of course I will share with you!

    Right now, I'm focusing on little things to be aware of as you go through revising a novel. We've been through a crazy first draft, not even looking back to check for spelling and grammar. There are bound to be mistakes. But what about craft? What about those little things that every young writer does wrong unless they're careful and meticulously trying NOT to? (And let's be honest: I don't think ANY of us were being meticulous in November!)

    A little tip that I picked up in a writing class was Eliminating Your Filter. I found a good article explaining what it is and how to get rid of it. Basically, you want to help the reader live the experiences, rather than tell your reader that the character was living the experience.

    Also, here's a fantastic article by author Caro Clark on Beginners' Four Faults. These are some really easy fixes, but they're things that we all do. Especially during NaNo when we're just trying to move forward.

    On Tuesday, I'll share some tips on giving each word the weight it deserves in Revising a Rough Draft Part 2 and then, on to Part 3.

    December 3, 2009

    Extra Post: My Swift Kick in the Pants

    Okay, I needed this. Olivia, my friend, thank you for your perspective. I think you're right. She wrote:

    seriously, you keep talking about Shadow Bound like it's dead! RIP THE THING APART! Every time you edit it will get better, I promise you. Having an agent say they'll look at it again if you edit it some more is a BIG DEAL, especially now. I don't understand why you haven't started editing it yet. Seriously, if an agent told me that, I'd chain myself to the computer until certain that every word was golden and ready for resubmission. Take your two weeks (or more) and get that first book ready and back out there. Give it a pass, then send it to two or three readers, then take that feedback and give it another pass, then send. That's my advise for you.

    My reply:

    I appreciate you getting onto me. I don't think Shadow Bound is dead, but it still feels... raw. I've torn it apart two or three times and part of me thinks it still needs some healing time before I dig in again. But you're right. I really need to get on that.

    I'm signed up for Holly's How to Revise Your Novel, so it'll be 5 months before I finish that. >:(

    But I don't think that should hold me back. You're right. I should go with Shadow Bound. I need to work on the voice, flesh out the scenes, build up realistic characters, and even out the tone. Shadow Bound deserves it. I'll do another edit, starting next week, then dig into Song of the Muse.

    Thanks Olivia!

    She's absolutely right. I've been too afraid to delve into Shadow Bound again. The little voice in the back of my head keeps telling me that I only have one more shot at making this book perfect. But there is no perfect. I need to make Shadow Bound the best I can make it. And then do it again.

    After the Frenzy

    Now that NaNoWriMo is over, we can get back into regular posts.

    I have a finished draft right now. I went back and wrote down everything I loved about my story and everything that went wrong, just to help keep things in perspective. I was surprised to find that what I had wasn't all that bad. In fact, with some tweaking, this could be a really great book!

    As usual, I'm taking a "two-week" break from my book (working title: Song of the Muse). I think last time I lasted a week before I started cheating. Maybe not even that long.

    Today I realized I had a choice. I could wait two weeks, catch up on my reading, and be bored for an hour or two a day, or I can start tearing apart Shadow Bound. Yes, I'm still determined to make something of that story. I love it too much to cast it aside (and usually I have no problem doing that, once a book has been finished, edited, and rejected my every agent in the country). I'm hoping that Shadow Bound will someday reach the shelves. It may not be the book that breaks me in, but I want it to be published.

    So, the question: Edit Shadow Bound now, or take a break and then work on Song of the Muse? (I'm not really the kind of person that likes to work on multiple things at once, so both isn't very appealing.)

    December 1, 2009

    END!: What to Do After NaNoWriMo

    Congratulations! You lived through November!

    So where are you now? Do you still have 10,000-50,000 words left to write in your first draft? If you've finished your first draft, are you moving on to revising? Or are you ready to collapse in a heap and breathe for the next few days?

    Once you finish your first draft, you should choose the latter. Seriously. The best thing you can do as a writer is put your completed first draft aside and not look at it--that's right, don't think, look, touch, or peek--for two weeks (give or take). Enjoy some time off and forget about your book. Like a good roast, it needs to settle before you start slicing into it.

    So, for the next two weeks, I'll be hunting for articles that help you 1) revise and 2) write beautifully. Because we all know first drafts are ugly.

    So let's start of with an article from this writer's life on getting the hook. A simple concept, but one you should keep in mind while you go through your manuscript in a couple weeks.

    By the way, if you haven't signed up to receive updates about Holly Lisle's How to Revise Your Novel class, now would be a good time for that. It's going to start soon.

    November 30, 2009

    With 11 Hours to Spare...

    Taking off weekends and Thanksgiving day, I managed to finish over 50,000 words in the month of November.

    Congrats to all the other NaNoWriMo winners out there!

    Now... about those edits...

    November 28, 2009

    Give Yourself a Break

    It's that time of the month... no, I mean the part of November when you sit at your computer all day, trying to make up for lost time. It's crunch time for NaNo-ers. But don't forget to take care of yourself. Rotting on the couch is bad juju on your writing and your word count.

    So take a few pointers from this article on how to keep your sparkle when you're writing. Ten things you can do to make sure you take care of yourself, so you can take care of reaching your goals!

    November 26, 2009

    Looking Back Before the Home Stretch

    This being my first official NaNo, I'm not as familiar with the ups and downs of it all. Now that we're up to the home stretch, what does NaNo look like as you glance over your shoulder?
    Where were the high points and low points? What helped you get over that hump?

    For me, the biggest help I got was while I was trying to fall asleep. (Darn inconvenient, I tell ya.) That's when my creative mind buzzes. As I've said before, I struggle to find a really great voice for my characters, especially my main characters. I think that's what I was pondering when some things clicked for me.

    I realized that my blog posts are closer to the kind of voice than the one I use when writing fiction. When I sit in front of my story, my writing gets so... formal and stiff. (I blame the years and years of school.) So, I told myself that my main character is blogging about what happened to her, but is going to show, rather than tell. It was a simple concept, but it made my head hurt at first. I got used to it. My voice isn't perfect yet, but I pointed myself in the right direction.

    What about you? Any breakthroughs?

    November 25, 2009

    How To Revise Your Novel Sign Up

    Just a last minute message: If you are at all interested in taking the How to Revise Your Novel class, now is the time to sign up for updates. There is limited space, so if you think you may be interested, but you're not sure, then you should at least sign up for the mailing list.

    Hopefully I'll see you there! :)

    November 24, 2009

    Extra Post: Can't We Relate?

    I stumbled on this quote today.

    Writing a book is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy and an amusement. Then it becomes a mistress, then it becomes a master, then it becomes a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster, and fling him to the public.

    --Sir Winston Churchill

    And... a contest! We all love to win books, right? :)

    Funny Break!

    Stolen from WillWorkforChocolate:

    November 19, 2009

    Revising Your NaNo Novel

    I know it's still a little early to think about this, but I found a course called How To Revise Your Novel. The teacher, Holly Lisle, has published over 30 novels, including a couple of young adult books, and several fantasy (though she has covered other genres, too). I've taken some of her other courses and she's very thorough.

    The course doesn't start until the end of November, but if this is something you may be interested in, you can sign up for the priority list so you know when it's available.

    Your NaNo tip for the day comes from this article tha gives some techniques for reaching your writing goals faster. I use some of these. They're awesome.
    (I break up my writing into 20 min-1 hr segments and can get 1600 words for an hour of writing!)

    November 17, 2009

    Check-In - How's Your NaNo Coming?

    We're past the halfway point.

    My book is slowly developing. The day before I started writing, I discovered that I'd lost ALL the planning I'd done in October. Everything. So I had to start from memory. (I lost everything because I got a computer virus and had to reformat my hard drive. Both of my backups fell through. Sometimes you just can't win.)

    This loss has been both a curse and a blessing. I'm sure I've left out some scenes that I'd planned, but on the other hand, I'm allowing myself to flesh out each scene a little more. I tend to write short and choppy, so this is a huge advantage for me.

    On top of this, my husband had a root canal, I'm trying to get my computer back up to speed, and I'm getting used to waking up an hour and a half early so I can get some words in before my daughter wakes up. (I tend to get about 500 words in the first hour and my daughter has kindly decided to wake up half an hour earlier to bless me with her smiles a little sooner.)

    How's your journey been so far? What obstacles have you faced? Are you burnt out yet?

    November 14, 2009

    Something to Think About While You're Writing

    One thing you need to pay attention to while you write is Foreshadowing vs. Telegraphing. I wasn't familiar with the term telegraphing, but it's important to remember how intelligent your readers are.

    November 10, 2009

    Got Titles?

    In the midst of this flurry of words and writing, start thinking about a title. If you already have one, try plugging it into Lulu's Titlescorer.

    Using the information you give it about your title, it will compare it to books that have been published in the past, their titles, and how well they sold and it will tell you how likely it is that your title is best-seller material.

    But remember: it takes more than a great title to make a best-seller.

    November 8, 2009

    November 7, 2009

    Is Your NaNo stuck?

    Okay, so we’re about a week into NaNoWriMo. Stuck yet? Here are a few ideas to get you going and/or motivated.

    1) Mind Map. Have a problem? Can’t figure out why a cat keeps popping up in your scenes? Maybe your character received a letter in the mail and you don’t know what it is. (Been there.) Try putting whatever “it” is in the middle of a piece of paper (or a program like and ask yourself questions about it. Write whatever comes to mind. It’s worked for me countless times.

    2) Try a Timer. Set it for 10-20 minutes and write NON-STOP until the timer goes off. Write about your problem or whatever comes to mind. Just make sure you don’t censor yourself or edit. When you’re done, look back at what you wrote. Do you understand your problem a little better? Did you discover a new angle or viewpoint or solution?

    Did it work?

    November 5, 2009

    Tools for Tracking Your Word Counts

    I've posted these before, but I thought they were worth sharing again.

    Using the NaNoWriMo Report Card by Eric Benson, I adapted a spreadsheet that will track your word count goals and progress. This is a helpful motivation tool, especially if you're goal-oriented or like a visual representation of your progress.Click Here to Download.

    Cameron Matthews has a much more high-tech version, found here.

    November 3, 2009

    Gentlemen: Start Your Computers!

    And the games begin!

    Okay, as promised, a short post to help you stay sane as we begin National Novel Writing Month.

    This is taken from Brandon Sanderson's Alcatraz versus The Scrivener's Bones:

    Writers-- particularly storytellers like myself-- write about people. That
    is ironic, since we actually know nothing about them.

    Think about it. Why does someone become a writer? Is it because they like
    people? Of course not. Why else would we seek out a job where we get to spend
    all day, every day, cooped up in our basement with no company besides paper, a
    pencil, and our imaginary friends?

    Writers hate people. If you've ever met a writer, you know that they're
    generally awkward, slovenly individuals who live beneath stairwells, hiss at
    those who pass, and forget to bathe for weeklong periods. And those are the
    socially competent ones.

    I thought this quote would be fitting for our big November send-off. Now go hole yourselves up in a secluded room somewhere and get writing!

    By the way, I would love to hear about your projects and how your first day went. Feel free to leave comments. :)

    October 31, 2009

    Odds and Ends

    Extra Saturday post:

    If you’re doing NaNoWriMo, make sure to sign up with your region so you can participate in Write-Ins. Tallahassee has a Write-In nearly every weekend in November. Basically, NaNoers in Tallahassee meet together with our laptops and/or paper at the library or a bookstore or coffee and try to get our word count in for the day in the company of fellow writers. Different locales are chosen for different environments. (For example, one branch of the library allows us to bring snacks! We have other places that are more for quiet writing.)

    Also, this is semi-writing related: I just got Windows 7 and so far so good. It has some nice features, though it took a while for us to figure out how to get our wireless connection to work. There are parental controls that allow me to limit my online time. I don’t know about you, but the internet is a HUGE distraction from writing, so I think I may test out those parental controls.

    Now if only I could get my email set up…

    Switching Gears for NaNoWriMo

    Happy Halloween! Dress up, get sugared-up, and have fun!

    Now, back to writing.

    I know many of you are participating in NaNoWriMo this year. Me too. :) So, in theory, no one's going to have time for this blog any more, right? Haha... right...

    So for the month of November, Musings will be switching gears. This will be a place to procrastinote and waste time three times a week :D Don't you love me?

    My plan is to post fun stuff instead of linking to (sometimes lengthy) articles and going on and on about my own personal writing experiences. (You'll probably still get some of that, but in smaller quantities. And it should be NaNo related, too.) I'll keep my posts short so you don't have to feel guilty for checking things out.

    NaNo's supposed to fun, after all, isn't it? :)

    October 29, 2009

    A Little History Lesson/Keeping Rejection in Perspective

    First of all, I'm starting to think that a MWF posting schedule isn't going to work out. Let's try Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, shall we?

    I know you're not supposed to post about rejections, but I'd like to share some perspective.

    First, some history: The first manuscript I ever wrote was ... how shall I put this?... it was lacking. I sent it out to as many agents as I could find using my limited experience. (Looking back I realize how little I understood about writing and publishing back then.) I got all rejections. All of them form letters.

    Shadow Bound is out in the world now. It has a chance, but I realize there's a possibility that it won't be the work that gets me published. And that's okay. I can wait. I can get better in he meantime.

    I'm going to focus on how much better it is than my first manuscript. (And it's WAY better.) Some day, (if I don't get an agent for it this time) I'd like to come back to Shadow Bound and tear it apart editing. (Once I'm a better writer and tearing it apart will do it some good.) This novel has a great premise with great plot twists. (Every personalized rejection I've gotten so far has said something to this effect.)

    Until then, I'd like to focus on the good. Shadow Bound has received 4 partial requests and 1 full. That's exciting for a new writer! It means that my second novel is that much better than my first. It means I'm a fast learner and it means my third novel should be considerably better still.

    Have your rejections made you stronger?

    October 27, 2009

    Good Story Ideas and Great Characters

    Here are a couple of articles about getting started--getting ideas and getting good characters. I know it's a little late to post this (for those of you doing NaNoWriMo), but the articles are good and I think they're worth a look. If you are writing a novel in November, consider this a checklist.

    First, You Need a Good Idea. gives a great checklist for what a good story idea is. One thing writers need to realize is this: even if you have the BEST idea for a book, if it's not a story that gets you pumped, if it's not a story that gives you chills or makes you giddy, it's not a good book for you to write.
    I could never have written Dan Brown's books, even if I had had the ideas first. I just wouldn't have done as good a job.
    I think this is why we as writers probably shouldn't worry too much about people stealing our story ideas. There are exceptions, of course. Don't be careless ;)

    Second: Show Some Character! This article focuses more on characters of YA fantasy, but I think the advice can be applied across the board. Make sure that your characters work hard for their happy endings. It's important that your readers connect with your main character. This is a great article that analyzes a common problem that doesn't get addressed very often.

    October 23, 2009

    To Quote a Famous Blogger: "You Tell Me"

    I've read a little here and there about what blogs need. THEY say I need a more consistent posting schedule. Does MWF work? :)

    My #1 goal is to provide something useful and/or entertaining to my readers. Otherwise, what's the point?

    I'd like to hear from you. What are you struggling with in your writing? What would you like to research and read articles about, but just don't have the time or means to seek out? What would you like to read?

    October 20, 2009

    Best Post Ever (Not Mine)

    Wow. Just wow.

    10 Things I've Learned by Toni McGee Causey is probably the best single article I've read this year. I could just give you the bullet points, the 10 "things" she's learned, but that would take away from the journey.

    If you're serious about writing and craft, read this article. It's long and it's worth it.

    October 19, 2009

    How to Get Great Ideas and What to Do With Them

    Each of us has a creative side. You wouldn't be reading this if you didn't. It's that little voice in the back of your head that throws out ideas. I call mine my Muse and I've talked about her before. (Yes, my Muse is a she.)

    I was thinking about what makes my Muse "sing". Typically, if your creative voice is on, your cognitive, logical voice has to be turned off. If you're familiar with right-brain, left-brain research, this is exactly what I'm talking about. Your left brain has to take a back seat if your right brain is going to have any say. (Sometimes transition is pretty quick. There are exercises you can do to help with this.)

    So how do you hand the microphone to your Muse? How do you turn off the left brain?
    By doing something mundane, everyday, or mind-numbing. Sounds fun, right?

    My Muse hates to be bored, so when the left-brain turns off, she steps forward and tries to make things interesting. (This is why TV usually isn't a great way for me to brainstorm. My Muse is already entertained.)

    So if I need some good ideas, I have to do something like fold laundry, go for a walk, rake leaves, stare at a blank computer screen, or try to fall asleep. (Unsuccessfully. Usually. I do get some awesome dreams on occasion.)
    It's darn inconvenient, but I get my best ideas as I'm drifting off to sleep. (A great reason to keep a notebook handy on my nightstand.) For example, last night I was trying to sleep while my husband was reading with the light on. And a voice came into my head. Not a literal voice, just words that had personality. And the personality wasn't mine. I had struck gold!

    Unfortunately, my daughter had run off with my notebook. I didn't go and look for it and of course, I don't remember the whole thing. But I'd like to share my train of thought and the words that I do remember.

    I was thinking about how to begin my story. I have a premise in mind and several scenes planned out, so I wasn't starting from nothing. My mind drifted to books that I love. Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine is my favorite and it's young adult fantasy, just like Phantom. Ella Enchanted started just outside the story with the first-person narrator talking about something that happened before the story actually begins.

    The other book I thought of was The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan. I loved this series. It was the series I wish I had written. Anyway, the book starts with Percy (the main character, also in first person) talking directly to the reader. He tells us something about the main theme of the book and beautifully melds his world with ours.

    So then I moved back to my book. I'm pretty sure I want to do first person. I write better characters and cleverer detail that way. I wanted to begin my books like Riordan and Levine did.

    That's when my Muse sang. (Not literally. I'm not crazy.)

    The words for the beginning of my story popped into my head. My memory only recalls bits and pieces, but here's what I have:

    My school is haunted. They should have seen it coming, building a boarding school where a prison used to be.
    That's all I remember. Sad, huh?

    So let that be a lesson to you. It's always worth getting out of your nice warm bed to go get a pen and pad when an idea hits you. Make yourself do it. You won't be sorry.

    October 18, 2009

    Dialogue Part 3

    Some people go overboard with dialogue. Kate from Author2Author lists a few things to be aware of when writing dialogue including the big one: Dialogue slows pacing!

    I recently posted on the Functions of Dialogue. While this post from The Blood-Red Pencil is similar, I love the delivery of this information and the fresh perspective. I think it's worth a read, even if you know the functions of dialogue.

    And a few last minute tips:
    To use dialogue to create conflict, you can list what each character in the scene wants and try to find two things that don't match up. For example, Penny wants to wear red, but her husband wants her to wear black. This can also help you throw in some interesting situational conflict. For example, maybe Penny's red and black dresses are dirty or stolen or not warm enough for the weather. Suddenly, the two of them are scrambling to make their preferred color dress wearable. (Penny throws her red dress in the wash, while her husband looks for a black shawl to put over the sleeveless dress.)
    ...Or something. This is just an example off the top of my head. :)

    If you find your dialogue is stiff or unnatural sounding, put yourself or your best friend in the character's shoes. What would you say if someone told you XYZ?
    If that doesn't work, try listening in on other people's conversation. As politely and discretely as possible. (Note: ONLY do this if your dialogue is too formal. It's not ideal if your dialogue lacks conflict.)

    Any other tips? What do you do when your dialogue is stuck?

    More on Dialogue

    October 17, 2009

    The Basics of Dialogue (and Non-Dialogue)

    Writers know about basic dialogue punctuation. Right?

    I was shocked to find that in my advanced fiction workshop, several students consistently failed to use proper punctuation and capitalization. I almost cried. I know everyone has to start somewhere, but I had higher expectations for an advanced writing class at a university with such a great writing program.

    So, I feel obligated to include this link from Fiction Factor. Aside from punctuation, definitions, tags, and simple dos and don'ts, it includes a few simple tips for avoiding repetitive tags and a few other things.

    If you think you have these basics down, I'd recommend you skip straight to Fiction Factor's post, which has several reminders that I thought were helpful. One tip they mention (that I tend to forget) is:

    Unspoken dialogue can, at times, be the most powerful dialogue of all. When a character says the opposite of what she means, or says nothing at all, just looks away. This too is effective dialogue.

    There's also an invaluable list of body language cues, divided by emotion, that I have to include. It's too good not to.

    • Angry? Fisted hands. Narrowed eyes. Stiff posture. Clenched jaw. Slashed mouth. Jerky movements. Rough handling of objects.
    • Happy? Smile. Wink. Twinkle in eyes.
    • Relaxed? Sprawl. Loose-limbed.
    • Crowded? Back up. Create distance.
    • Interested? Lean forward, draw closer.
    • Questioning? Cock head. Widen eye. Elevate voice. Hands lifted, palm up. Hiked shoulders.
    • Nurturing? Clip a loose thread. Pat.
    • Tender? Stroke, touch, lips parted.
    • Nervous? Pace, scratch, rub your arms.
    • Stunned? Wide-eyed. Stone still. Hand to chest, fingers spread. Gaping jaw.
    • Sad? Tears. Listless. Hand curled to chest. Shoulders slumped. Fetal position.
    • Trusting? Palm open.
    • Lying? Avoid eye contact. Dipped chin.

    More on Dialogue

    October 16, 2009

    Dialogue: Make it Matter

    Dialogue is difficult for a number of reasons. Some people struggle with making dialogue sound realistic. Others struggle with voice. Still others (myself included) have trouble making dialogue mean something.

    I recently had some of my work critiqued. I mean nit-picked. And the biggest problem with my opening scene? Sure, the dialogue was realistic, but it had nothing to do with the conflict that was happening. My two characters were talking about pretty much nothing while something important was going on. Basically, one character was unaware of anything unusual and the other was trying to keep it that way.

    I really struggled with that one. To fix it, I put the two characters against each other, one on either side of an imaginary line. (That line: knowing what was going on.) Character A knew there was a ghost nearby, Character B didn't. So, how does that affect dialogue? Character B wanted to know what Character A was staring at, what made her facial expression change, why she was acting different all of a sudden. She wanted to know why Character A kept looking at an "empty" bench.

    With these changes, and a few others, I was able to make the dialogue relevant to the scene. The dialogue was tied to the conflict, and was actually useful, because it built tension. That's the key to fiction, isn't it? Tension and conflict.

    So, my advice? Figure out what your scene is about. What are you trying to accomplish? What is the main conflict for that particular scene? Make sure your dialogue supports your scene's purpose.

    More on Dialogue

    October 10, 2009

    Link: 6 Functions of Dialogue

    I found a new website (new for me anyway) belonging to author Ellen Jackson. The particular article I found was so straight-forward and refreshing, I had to share. You can read the entire article here.

    This article discusses the SIX FUNCTIONS OF DIALOGUE (she gives more detail and examples in the article, if you're interested.)
    Dialogue reveals character.
    Dialogue gives necessary information.
    Dialogue moves the plot along.
    Dialogue can show what one character thinks of another character.
    Dialogue can reveal conflict and build tension
    Dialogue can show how someone feels

    I had no idea, but it makes total sense. Dialogue serves these purposes. Knowing this will help add variety to my conversation, while maintaining conflict. I'm excited!

    October 9, 2009

    How to Motivate Yourself by Changing Your Thinking

    I found this great video on how to change your way of thinking in order to achieve your goals. Interesting stuff.

    October 6, 2009

    Making Time to Write

    This month, I've had to give myself a good swift kick in the pants about sitting down and writing. Apparently, I'm not the only one. Usually, I would get on the computer, thinking I would write, but of course I had to check my email. And Facebook. And my writing blogs of course. And my critique group forums. And...

    Yeah. Before I knew it, the baby was awake again and I hadn't done any writing. (Shameful, I know.)

    So my new policiy is: I check email and all that in between getting breakfast for Rebecca, prepping for dinner, and if she watches a movie quietly I'll do it then. I also get chores done during this time. (I do the dishes while she eats breakfast. It works out nicely.) Also, if she sleeps in, I can get a lot done in that first hour of my day.

    But when she takes a nap, that's it. Put everything else aside, it's writing time. I got a lot done today. I worked on my book for an hour and a half, which I thought was pretty good, then I ate some lunch. Cause I was hungry. :)

    October 5, 2009

    Idea for a Contest Prize

    I've been brainstorming some ideas. The holidays are right around the corner and I was thinking -- and this is just a thought -- that maybe I could offer the first two months of Think Sideways as a prize for a contest. I know some people that read this blog are already members, but for the rest of you, would that interest you?

    I don't know what the contest would be yet, and I'd have to work out the logistics of how to get the course to the winner, but it could be fun.
    What do you think?

    Just so you all know, How to Think Sideways is going through some changes. If you want to take the course this year, you'll need to sign up before October 9. Otherwise, you'll need to wait until some time in 2010. Holly's only going to offer the course once every six months.

    Prepping for NaNoWriMo

    This past week, I've been working through Think Sideways from the beginning. I'm currently working through the (numerous) modules that come with lesson 7. I already have some good stuff brewing: characters with needs, I'm beginning to see some depth in my characters, I have a handful of scenes in mind, there's already a lot of conflict, and a ton of cause and effect.

    One module has you take the main conflict and find "organic conflict" that sprout from the planned stuff. You match up characters' wants and actions and find the effects of those wants as they clash to create new conflict and new scenes. It's really fun to see what pops up from my Muse.

    If I work hard, I think I can get through all the planning stages of Think Sideways before NaNoWriMo starts.

    Are you going to do NaNoWriMo? Look me up! My username is jollygreen23.

    October 1, 2009

    Dealing with Rejection, Part 2

    Just a couple of links today, but they're goodies.

    The Blood-Red Pencil comes through again, giving some great advice on dealing with rejection. Lauri covers the reasons for rejection, too.

    When in doubt, Nathan Bransford is a great go-to guy. He has posts on everything, including this guest blog on rejection and It's Not You, It's the Odds (and the Resonance Factor)

    Dealing with Rejection, Part 1

    Dealing with Rejection - This article is the best I've found on rejection. He covers how to look at rejections, how to keep moving forward, and how to push through the odds in order to get to publication. The second half of the article is written with short fiction in mind, but the principle is still the same: the more you submit, the better your chances.

    You can't submit your work to three or four agents, get rejected by all of them, and then think that's the end. Submit to anybody who could be interested. (Don't submit if the agent doesn't want to see your genre. I think this goes without saying, but... it happens.)

    Fiction Factor has an article that covers the basics. It has some answers to some simple questions, and it puts rejection into perspective.

    Coping with Rejection as a Writer

    The rejections are coming in. Some are more helpful than others. Each rejection tells me one of two things: either the story isn't a good fit for the agent, or my writing needs some improvement.

    And I'm okay with that. No agent has told me, "Please never send me any more of your material. You'll never get good enough." I will get better. It may be that Shadow Bound is the book that will get me published. It may be the next book. Or maybe not. As long as each book is better than the last, I'm happy. For now. ;)

    Whether I get an agent for Shadow Bound or not, I'm starting the early planning stages of my next project: Phantom. I'm so excited about this book. I've already worked through lesson 6 of How to Think Sideways, using whatever I can apply to this new project. I'm really pumped about this one. I'm really going to focus on voice and character with this one. There's always room for improvement with voice and character.

    Anyway, I know some of you are dealing with rejection, so over the next couple of days I thought I'd share some posts that I've found helpful.

    September 26, 2009

    More Plot and Structure - 34 events

    I know I already did a piece (or three) on Plot and Structure, but I couldn't keep this website to myself. Gerhi (who is taking How to Think Sideways) was analyzing some novels. (This is one of the HtTS lessons, and it's very extensive.) Anyway, Gerhi found 34 events you can use to write your novel. Pretty cool stuff.

    September 24, 2009

    Give Me Five Stars!

    I entered a writing-related video contest. It's called The Worst Mistakes You Can Make on First Drafts. I chose #14: Fast Pacing. I get points for every time someone watches it and for how many stars it gets. Hope you like it!

    **Special thanks to Rachel, Anna, and Sydney. You're so photogenic! :)

    Writing Characters that Drive the Story

    I'd highly recommend an article from QueryTracker called Plot vs. Character. It discusses the difference between a story that is driven by its characters and the way they change through the story and a plot-driven story, where action drives the story. This is my Achilles heel. I love for terrible things to happen to my characters. I have to really work hard to get them to act, rather than have things happen to them. If you like this article, and think it touches on something you need to work on, try this one by Jane Friedman.

    Today, Rachelle Gardner hit this right on the head with her post: Is Your MC Proactive or Reactive? This is vital to any good story, and something a lot of us miss (especially in genre fiction).

    September 23, 2009

    Writing Characters that Have Depth

    Jeff Colburn wrote an article on character development that mentions some things you need to know about your characters. I totally agree that you need to know these things. But that's not what gives your characters character. Character comes through decisions, needs, and hardship. If your protagonist grew up in a trailer park, that's fine. But if he resents his parents, hates his neighbors, and is stuck in a grade F school because of it, even better. But still dig deeper. Show the struggle. Live the conflict. That's how you can get real characters.

    So how do you dig deeper? Funny you should ask, because QueryTracker has a terrific article on that as well. Character Development with a Theatrical Approach discusses techniques actors use to make their characters (and the lines they give) believable. This is a great article to read if your characters lack depth and emotion.

    And for all you YA and middle grade writers out there, here's a must-read: Writing the Middle-Grade Novel By Kristi Holl. Seriously. It's brilliant. There are links that help you understand how being a kid is different now than it was 5, 10, or 50 years ago. It tells you what kids like in a book, what they're looking for, what's important to them. It covers dialogue, conflict, and setting. If you write for anyone younger than 18, or think you may want to in the future, this should go at the top of your list.

    September 21, 2009

    Writing Characters that You Care About

    I figured I'd go back and hit a basic: Characters. How do you make them believable? Likable? Despicable? How do you make them matter? I think I'll turn to the experts on this one.

    First, let's assume you have no idea what you're doing. You want to write a story with killer characters, but you don't know where to start. Holly Lisle (of course) covers this extensively in How to Think Sideways and her Create a Character Clinic. But if you're not into that, Holly did a great Blog Talk Radio episode where she goes through a (fairly lengthy but very detailed) exercise which will take you from ground zero into creating characters with need, a scene with sensory details, and conflict. Yes, it's that good. Here's the link. I recommend you download this as a podcast and pause it to do the writing parts. It took me an entire day to do the whole thing, just to warn you.

    My personal recommendation is this: do not write your novel until you can breathe as your character. Do exercises, practice scenes, fill out charts, whatever you have to. But you're not ready to write your novel until you can be your character.

    My own personal example:
    For Shadow, the first character that lived for me wasn't my main character. It was her best friend, Lisa. I wrote out a couple of scenes between Lisa and Rachel to try and get a better feel for Rachel. One of those scenes had some nice dialogue between the two of them. Through that conversation, I was able to understand their relationship, and through that, Rachel. I really got to know Rachel and I found her through Lisa. That's when the story came alive. Incidently, that scene became the rough draft's opening scene. (That scene has been totally revamped, by the way. But the essence is still there.)

    Anyway, the scene breathed because of Lisa. She doesn't play a huge role in the book, but without her, I wouldn't have given a hoot about anyone else. Lisa had needs. She was a regular teenager, but she lived in front of me.

    Next Posts: Writing Characters that Have Depth and Writing Characters that Drive the Story

    September 19, 2009

    Killing Time Between Projects

    I'm itching to get started on my next project: Phantom. But I'm making myself wait until October. As much as I want to buckle down and plan, I feel like I should let my brain rest a little from writing. I'm always amazed by how much good can come from breaks.

    My main character is starting to take shape, though. An eighteen-year-old girl with a fiery personality. Not at all like Christine. (I always thought she was a bit of a wuss in the book.)

    Waiting is tough. I focus on querying agents instead. And reading. Always lots of reading.

    Which reminds me... look me up on It's a great website. You can use it to see what I'm currently reading. (Okay, I'll tell you. I'm reading The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan. It's fantastic.) I use Goodreads to keep track of my to-read list (which is constantly growing).

    What are you reading?

    September 18, 2009

    Query Letters: How Much is Too Much?

    As I query agents, I wonder what I should include and what is too much information. For example, I research the market. I wouldn't say I'm an expert, but I know things. I know:

    --That YA sales haven't suffered from the falling market like other genres have. Neither has fantasy. (Or romance, if that's what you write.)
    --I know that the market is saturated with vampire novels. Although they're still selling well, their sales are predicted to drop.
    --Werewolves are in the same boat.

    I want to tell agents what I know, but I don't want to come off as desperately clamoring for attention. I want agents to know that I'm aiming to reach fans of Stephenie Meyer and Patrcia Briggs (and I've included that in some of my queries), but I don't want to sound like, "Look, I'm just as good as Stephenie Meyer and Patricia Briggs."
    Because let's face it--I'm not. Stephenie Meyer is a young writer, but her characters are amazingly real. Their dialogue, the voice, it's all there. Patricia Briggs also has a great voice and characters. And her stories have such depth, so many layers... No, I don't think I'm that good yet. But I hope to be.

    Shadow has avoided vampires and werewolves and has a (relatively) new kind of paranormal: ghosts. Okay, ghosts aren't new, but my story uses ghosts as a medium for original ideas. The premise is, as far as I know, original. I've looked for books like mine. Either it's a relatively new idea, or I suck at looking.

    So how does one say, "I know the market. I'm avoiding trends. I want to be as good as the best someday." ?

    September 16, 2009

    Your Story Needs to Change Your Characters

    My writing class is going well. My first story was critiqued by the class on Monday. I think everyone liked it, but I need to go back and work on character development and setting.

    This week's short story is a struggle. I think it's the deadline that's getting to me. The story is due on Friday and I've got an idea churning that's based (loosely) on someone else's memory. As I started plotting, the story turned into a retelling of the Twelve Dancing Princesses. Unfortunately, I don't know how to end it and I'm still going to struggle with character development.

    I think one thing a lot of beginning fantasy writers struggle with is their characters' personal development over the course of the novel. Typically (like in my first novel), things just happen to the character and the character has to solve a mystery and/or survive. A good story has characters with needs. A good story changes the characters in some way as they fight to meet those needs. I think a lot of us forget that sometimes.

    September 15, 2009

    How to Submit and Query Agents, Part 4

    Since I'm really focusing on this at the moment, I've found a few extra tidbits on querying and finding an agent. (If you're interested in this, you can go back to Part 1 of this series.) Since I've already given you all I know on the subject, I'll just post what I've found during the last couple weeks or so.

    Get Published Now has a mailing list you can sign up for. Several, in fact. You can choose what areas you're most interested in.

    Molli Nickell does a lot for rising authors, especially when it comes to breaking in. Her blog, The Query Letter Wizard, focuses on--you guessed it--query letters. Everything from when to submit to how to craft and polish your letter.

    Hope these help! I'm still submitting, but haven't heard back. The world of publishing works on a different clock. It could be several weeks before I even get a reply. I may start planning my next book a little early. :)

    September 14, 2009

    What Now? Life after the manuscript.

    I think the manuscript is ready for submission. So right now, I'm nervous. I don't want to get my hopes up and then be let down, but I really think this one has a shot. It's ten times better than my last novel.

    I've already sent 7 queries--my top picks. I'm on edge, expecting a reply any day, though it could take months. I'm still researching queries and agents and all that good stuff. I think I'll write another post on the subject, since I've found some good stuff.

    So for the rest of the month, I'll submit my story to a few agents a day until I've exhausted my list of potentials. Starting October 1, I'll begin planning my phantom novel :) I'm excited about that. I may not be able to wait.

    September 9, 2009

    Breakneck Speed: Finish a Novel in Four Months?

    I did it! I finished Shadow Bound. Don't get me wrong, I worked hard for those four months, but consistency is key. Writing every day, 5 days a week gets results. This novel has made me realize the importance of setting goals. Some of mine?
    Edit 15 pages a day (not including new scenes)
    Write 500 words a day/2500 words a week (I wound up going way over this, by the way, but setting smaller goals encouraged me to at least sit down and get something done. )
    Query at least 5 agents a week (still working on this one)

    50,000 words is a little shorter than I would have liked, but for the genre, it fits the range. Now, all I need to do is submit to agents and gracefully handle rejections until I get an offer. Keep your fingers crossed!

    September 7, 2009

    Most Productive Day. Ever.

    Sometimes, the Muse sings. Sometimes, you have a really good work day and you get a lot done. Sometimes they both happen at once and you get a massive amount of genius. Yeah, I don't mean to brag, but today was a massive amount of genius.

    As I edited my first draft today, I found that a few scenes were missing. So I added those. I typed up the pages I had marked from my hard copy pass, too. Overall, I edited 36 pages of manuscript and added nearly 4,200 words to the original work!
    Thanks to Liquid Story Binder, I know that it took me all of six hours of actual work to do it.

    I have never written that many words in one day before. Ever. Not in first drafts, not during NaNoWriMo. 4,200 words is a lot. To put it in perspective, if I wrote this many words every day, I could finish a novel in 12 days.

    So, bear with me as I bask in my own glory. **sigh** ;)

    **Just a side note, I'm not that into myself. It's supposed to be funny

    September 3, 2009

    Question & Answer: Where are you in the process?

    I thought I'd do a short update post in response to a comment on my post How to Submit and Query Agents, Part 3:

    Wow, Emily. I like your blog. It has a lot of useful information. I have a question for you: Have you actually started the Query process? Or are you working on your Query letter? Have you gotten any bites? I'm interested to know what you are going through right now with your novel and if you think you spent enough time revising it or not.

    Thanks, I'm glad to hear my blog is helpful! I queried for my last manuscript (a lot). No bites on that one.
    For my current project, I'm compiling a list of possibilites (I have about 20 so far). I'm also working on my query letter in between editing sessions. I think it's pretty polished up at this point and may be done.
    I think Holly's one-pass is working really well, but I think I'll print it out when I'm done and read through it (maybe out loud) to catch any little things I may have missed.

    September 2, 2009

    How to Submit and Query Agents, Part 3

    First, Authorial, Agently and Personal Ramblings has a list of Query Dos and Don'ts that provides an excellent segue from Part 2 to Part 3.

    So you know what agents you'd like to query. The big question: How do you query?
    There's so much advice out there, I don't know where to begin.

    Okay, first: be polite.
    Second, get the agent's name right.
    Third, make sure to include your contact information.
    Fourth, include your book's title, genre, and word count.
    Without these, you may as well bang your head against a wall.

    Then try How to Get An Agent. Robert Gregory Browne gives a breakdown of the "logline". If you have a good logline (or The Sentence, as Holly Lisle calls it), you'll at least get your foot in the door.

    Dame Devon from Deadline Dames says, "The most important thing is that it makes your book sound exciting, interesting, engaging. It’s a sales tool, not a dictionary entry." This is so true! I know it may seem obvious, but your job is to make the book sound interesting. Your job is NOT to list plot points. It's like the hook that you might read on the back cover of a book. They give you just enough that you know what kind of book it's going to be, and hopefully, the hook makes you ask enough questions that you want to read the book.

    17 Reasons Manuscripts are Rejected is a list of what not to do. It has some pretty good tips.

    And then you get to worry about all the other stuff, as listed in: What you can do: Twelve Easy Steps. Yeah, it's a long road. Hope you love what you do!

    Dame Jackie of Deadline Dames wrote three articles about submitting to agents. The first is here.

    Part 1 of Querying Agents here.
    The next part, Querying Agents Part 4, is here.

    September 1, 2009

    How to Submit and Query Agents, Part 2

    Now that you know the basics, how do you know who to submit to?

    Honestly, a huge part is personality, which I can't help you with. Sorry.
    I can help you narrow it down. Hopefully, you've done your research and have gone to the websites I gave you in Part 1. If not, I'd highly recommend you go back and do that.

    After that, what I do is start pulling up the websites of literary agencies. That's right. One. At. A. Time. It's tedious. It takes forever. But I like to be thorough. Like I said before, I use QueryTracker to do this. I search their database for any and all agencies that take the genre of my current book (in this case, young adult fantasy) and I get a handful of pages of agencies.

    I'll go to each agency's website. First impression: Is the website professional looking? Do they publish books similar to mine (at least somewhat)? If so, I keep going.

    Usually, they have a page that lists the agents that work at that particular literary agency. Go there. I read each bio and try to get a feel for which agent is the best fit for my book. Things I consider: what genres they take, how much experience they have, what authors they've worked with, and overall gut feeling.

    DO NOT submit to more than one agent at the same agency. Find the best one for you and if you think it's a good fit, query him or her. If it's not a good fit, move on to the next agency.

    Here's why: Let's say you have the next Twilight novel and you go to Good Publishing Literary Agency. (not a great name, but hey--I'm winging it.) Agent A represents paranormal romance and Agent B at the same agency represents young adult urban fantasy (most likely, there'll be some overlap). If you submit to agent A at Good Publishing Literary Agency and they decide it's not right for them, but that the book has great publishing potential, they'll forward it to agent B. (Maybe Agent A has a full plate or doesn't connect to your character's voice or whatever.)

    Next, try to find Submission Guidelines. Each agency has its own preferences. Some may want you to include the first five pages posted at the bottom of your query. Others may want you to have something specific in the subject line. If you don't do this, your query may be deleted without anyone reading it. And that's bad.

    Part 3: Query Letters and other fun stuff to send to agents

    August 31, 2009

    How to Submit and Query Agents, Part 1

    So, when you've written the best novel you possibly can, all tweaked to perfection, what do you do next? You submit.
    My recommendation: query agents. You can query publishers, but it takes forever and you're less likely to get a sale. You can self-publish, but you lose a lot of credibility that way. (Quite frankly, I don't have enough knowledge to help you in these areas anyway.)

    So this next series of articles is going to be about submitting your manuscript to agents.

    First, an agent is someone who works with you, the writer, and publishers. They can negotiate contracts, they know all about what rights you're selling, they know editors, they know marketing. So where do you find a reputable agent?

    The Association of Authors' Representatives (AAR) has a (very long) list of agents that are most likely reputable. Check to see if an agent is on their list before you sign anything. (If an agent asks for money from you, s/he's probably not reputable. Check out Writer Beware, a website that closely follows scam artists that target rising authors. This site in particular has a list of red flags to watch out for. ) AAR has a fantastic FAQ. Read it.

    There are a number of sites that list good agents. Some more helpful than others. I use QueryTracker. This site has a slew of agents that you can search by genre, but better than that, it lets you tag agents you'd like to query in the future. You'll have your own list of agents you want to query, agents you have queried, and agents that have replied. QueryTracker also has a blog that posts useful information.

    Similar sites include Query Shark and AgentQuery.

    Seriously, if you haven't already, spend a couple of days on these sites. Get familiar with the basics of a good query letter and what an agent does. The next part of this series will cover how you find the right agent for your book.

    August 27, 2009

    Moving Right Along in the Novel-Writing Process

    I'm done with my hard edit (scribbling in my printed out first draft)! It took me two and a half weeks. The biggest ploblem I had was that there was too much to add. I couldn't write it all in. My muse hates longhand, but she sings when I'm at a keyboard. I have references, hints, action, entire scenes that I want to add to my book, but didn't write in. (Not in any detail, anyway.) So I ask myself: How do I make sure I get everything in?

    One thing on my to-do list is to type up a synopsis. Preferably one page, since then I can send that to agents upon request. So, since I've stolen about four days from my work schedule, I'm going to write up that synopsis this weekend (AFTER I get my homework done, of course). I'll type up everything that happens in my book, and in another color, type in everything that I want to happen that's not in my book. (I'll trim it down to one page next month.)

    Then, starting September 1, I'll edit my novel on the computer using all the marks and changes I wrote in the hard copy as well as all the additions I put into the synopsis.

    Keeping a writing journal has been so helpful. I never realized how many steps are actually involved in writing a novel. So far I'm done with the planning, first draft, and hard edit. Then I have the synopsis, soft edit, quick read-over, query letter, and submitions to agents. And then I'm dependent upon other people to progress much further than that.

    It's a tough gig. I only do it because I have to :) (My muse is making me!)

    August 25, 2009

    How to Cope with a Writing Workshop

    I had my first Advanced Fiction Workshop this week, and I think I'll keep going. Our first assignment is people-watching, which I need to do more of. This class will be good for me. Looking at the assignments, I can see that there's a lot that I would never do on my own.

    We'll be writing a short short story (2-3 pages--yikes!) every WEEK for the first half of the semester.

    I'm intimidated. Getting a full story in three pages is just plain scary. Not to mention the fact that I need to come up with a new story idea on a weekly basis...

    ON TOP OF revising and rewriting Shadow Bound AND planning and writing my phantom novel.

    Our last day of class is November 30th. How inconvenient. This means crunch time falls right in line with NaNoWriMo. I'll definitely have my hands full.

    But it's worth it. I'll grow as a writer and I'll get to use some techniques from Think Sideways. In the first month of the course, we're taught to "summon lightning", or a story idea. I did it, but I wasn't looking for a new story idea at the time. Now I'll get to put it to good use. :)

    There's also a later lesson on using "spies" -- basically, people who know more about what you're writing than you do. For example, I ask a doctor about hospital procedures so my writing is more authentic. Well, guess what? One of our assignments is to write a story that requires research and an interview. Nice how that works out.

    Revising and Editing Part 3: Fun Quotes from the Masters

    Great advice on editing your novel (more or less) from people who know what they're talking about:

    I try to leave out the parts that people skip. ~Elmore Leonard

    To get the right word in the right place is a rare achievement. To condense the diffused light of a page of thought into the luminous flash of a single sentence, is worthy to rank as a prize composition just by itself...Anybody can have ideas--the difficulty is to express them without squandering a quire of paper on an idea that ought to be reduced to one glittering paragraph. ~Mark Twain

    The personages in a tale, both dead and alive, shall exhibit a sufficient excuse for being there. ~Mark Twain

    An author should
    ... Say what he is proposing to say, not merely come near it
    ... Use the right word, not its second cousin.
    ~Mark Twain

    Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass. ~Anton Chekhov

    Substitute “d***” every time you’re inclined to write “very;” your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be. ~Mark Twain

    Quantity produces quality. If you only write a few things, you’re doomed. ~Ray Bradbury

    You have to know how to accept rejection and reject acceptance. ~Ray Bradbury

    Vigorous writing is concise. ~William Strunk Jr.

    Parts 1 and 2 on Revising and Editing have more practical resources, if you're interested.

    August 24, 2009

    Editing and Revising: Part 2

    Here are some articles I've found that may help you on your journey through your rough draft:

    First and foremost, Holly's one-pass revision. I edit using this method, and tweak it to fit my current project, whatever it may be. I use the articles below to help with specifics, but you may find they're a better fit than Holly's.
    (If you like this one, Holly's talking about creating an entire course devoted to revising.)

    First, The Blood-Red Pencil has an article on how to see if there are problems with your manuscript without even reading anything. This is a great technique you can use before digging in. I scan each page for the problems listed here, then I get my hands dirty :)

    On the same blog, there's a guest post called Top Ten Things I Know About Editing. I can say from personal experience that reading your work aloud is an excellent way to catch pacing problems and echoes.

    Deadline Dames is one of my favorite blogs. They have a great article on revising that's entertaining to read. At the bottom, they have a thorough checklist that I use all the time.

    Be wary of clichés. They're so easy to use and so difficult to catch and weed out, but if you can find a unique way of describing something, your story will sing. Clichés and Descriptions has a number of examples.

    Rachelle Gardner, a well-known literary agent, put together another nice little checklist on things you should cut in order to Tighten Up Your Manuscript.

    One of the most important things you can do when you edit is to use powerful verbs. Too often, we as writers litter our work with "to be" verbs, when there's an excellent verb that not only provides the same meaning, but paints a specific picture using fewer words. This article is also from the Blood-Red Pencil.

    And finally, if you want a thorough, descriptive list, here's The Ten Mistakes by Holt Uncensored. Like I said, it's thorough.

    The first part of this article can be found here.
    The third section on editing is really just for fun. I'll post some amusing quotes :)

    August 22, 2009

    Revising Tips - Everything A Writer Needs to Know About Editing

    Revising a manuscript is both fun and tedious. It's fun because you get to transform your manuscript, your baby, into something wonderful. Your story becomes a creative work.

    Besides that, going back and editing your manuscript before submission is necessary.

    It's mandatory. Trust me.

    When an agent says they want a polished, complete novel, they mean it. This means you go through your book (that you've printed out!) and check grammar, spelling, and punctuation ON TOP OF making sure your characters develop nicely, and your secondary characters are really needed, your pacing is spot on, your plot doesn't sag, your story progresses logically.... the list seems endless.

    And that's why it's tedious. There's so much you need to worry about.
    Some writers go through the manuscript eight or nine times or MORE. Each time, they edit for something different. It works for some people. Not for me. By the time I've read the same story twice, I want to be done with it, and every edit after that point is nearly useless.

    I've tried the "edit as you go" method, but I got so sick of reading my first two chapters that I wasn't able to look at them with a critical eye any more. (That's another reason why you don't want to edit more times than you have to -- you tend to read over more mistakes when you know what's coming.)

    The fewer times you have to read a paragraph, the more ideas will come and the more mistakes you'll see. I know it doesn't make sense, but it's proven true in my writing countless times. If I read chapter 1 for the first time after writing it (and I haven't seen it for at least a couple of weeks), I catch maybe 85-90% of the mistakes in it. My muse throws out a couple of ideas for better character development and subplots, which I may or may not use. It's also easier for me to step back from the story and see it from a reader's perspective, rather than the creator's perspective.

    If I read that same chapter a second time, I may catch 50-60% of the remaining mistakes. After that, I'll be lucky to find any problems with the manuscript. I'm no longer an objective reader. That's where the help comes in. Writing groups, friends, anyone you trust who would be good at editing should find 85-90% of the remaining problems with your work. (Note: they may find "problems" with things that are just fine. Use discretion when accepting help.)

    In the second part of my series on revising, I'll give you a variety of opinions on the subject -- a list of articles that I've found helpful.

    August 21, 2009

    How to Get More Writing Done

    I'm back from my little experiment. I took off nearly a week from the internet in order to get more writing done.

    First, if you think you might want to do this, you need to realize that if you shut down your internet access (and, as I did, your computer access) that a bunch of other things will try to fill in your time gap. I had no idea how many things I wasn't doing. Seriously.

    But, not having the distraction of the computer did help my writing. No question. I revised a huge chunk of my book and wasn't pressured by my goal of fifteen pages a day. I hit the mark with ease :)

    I was more focused when I wasn't working, too. If I was doing something else, my mind was a little clearer and I could think about my writing and what I wanted to change, and all that good stuff, so I was more efficient when I did sit down to work.

    And when I came back? I turned on my computer and sorted through emails, checked (and read) the blogs I follow, checked and replied to a slew of forum posts, checked facebook, etc... all in about three and a half hours! Over the course of five days, I usually spend closer to ten hours doing all that stuff. An amazing time saver, though I may have missed some stuff.

    So, I'm halfway done with the hard copy edit of my ghost novel. My goal is to finish by the end of the month, then do my soft copy edit. (Basically, going back and typing in all the edits and notes I made on the hard copy.) That leaves me with querying agents. I should be done with plenty of time to plan my phantom novel for November.

    So, my next post will be on revising a manuscript. I've searched for different methods in preparation for what I'm doing now, and I'll share the best of it with you.

    Tomorrow. I'm exhausted.

    Hope all is going well with your writing!

    August 14, 2009

    Finding Time to Write

    How much time do you spend on the computer? If you're reading this, odds are quite a bit. I'm guilty of spending hours (yes hours) a day on my computer -- on facebook, following blogs (mostly on writing), reading articles on writing and publishing, and reading and posting on a few writing forums. Then there's email and other everyday stuff.

    If I took even half of that computer time and put it toward writing (or in my current case, revising), think how much more work I could get done!

    So, I'm going to take the next 5 days off from my computer. I shudder to think of what will be waiting for me when I come back -- piles of emails, alerts, messages, posts, articles... but I think it'll be worth it.

    August 12, 2009

    Great Place to Revise: Bookstores

    Revising is exciting. I keep telling myself that anyway. The first thirty minutes or so are enjoyable, but then I get bogged down in a character issue or weak dialog. I can't seem to keep myself editing for more than an hour and a half straight.

    Yesterday I went to Barnes & Noble in the mall to do my revisions. The change of scenery was just what I needed! I browsed some books to get myself in the right place mentally, then sat down at a little table and spread my work out in front of me. I worked for an hour and a half straight. There are a couple of fun little things about doing my work in the bookstore, rather than at home:

    1) I'm surrounded by people who love books. I love hearing people comment on what they see on the shelves, or watch how they move from subject to subject. This lady came to collect her husband, telling him she was done and they could go, but when she saw the bookshelf next to him, she became interested in some craft books.

    2) The music can be inspiring. When I first arrived, some teeny-pop songs I had never heard before were playing. This is great, since I'm writing young adult.
    Then, it gradually changed to some very old-fashioned music. An older gentleman who sat nearby hummed quietly along with "You Are My Sunshine". It was so cute! What's particularly wonderful about this is that the guy was right around the age of a couple of characters I was editing. (Talk about coincidence.) I added "You Are My Sunshine" to my book because of this. I think it adds nice detail to the characters.

    3) I can test the markets while I work. A girl (maybe 15 years old) came in with her mom and began sifting through some books on display. She said, "I'm so tired of vampire novels."
    Seriously. She said that.

    Now, I do my share of research. Not a lot of marketing, but I get bits and pieces. Vampires are still (surprisingly) very popular. I've been under the impression that they'll soon be on the decline. (There are SO many vampire books out right now, the market is flooded.) But, hearing it from a potential future customer was so cool! Think of all the things I might pick up on if I go there regularly. I'll definitely hang out in the teen section more often.

    By the way, according to my sources, zombies are going to be the next big thing in teen fiction. (Who knew?) I'll probably shy away from this trend, but it's good to know.

    Other conveniences:
    It's close, there's food and hot chocolate if I need a break but I'm not ready to go home, I have the whole mall at my disposal, and I can pick up a book if I feel so inclined. (That last one may be a little dangerous to my pocketbook.) :)

    August 5, 2009

    Preparing to Revise My Novel (aka: Cramming)

    This week I'm preparing for my big edit. Yes, the once-over. This involves printing out all my note cards, chapter notes-to-self, and advice from my critique group. I'm also flying through my Think Sideways lessons as fast as I can so I have as much stuffed into my head before I dive in.

    The process makes me feel like I'm cramming for a final exam. I have that fuzzy, tired feeling behind my eyes that demands that I stop staring at words on my computer screen.

    But it's worth it. I'll get into my manuscript, tear it apart, and come out with a polished draft that's ready for submission.

    My biggest problem right now is trying to remember everything I need to edit. Grammar, character, scene, plot, sensory details -- and that's not even half of it. I'm probably forgetting the other half.

    I'm guessing it'll take three weeks. We'll see.
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