Archive | October, 2010

November Eve Eve

30 Oct

It’s that time of year again—November Eve Eve!

The day before the day before November starts, and crazy hopeful writers everywhere pick up their pens (oh, who am I kidding, they take to their keyboards) and write like mad for a month.

It’s the day before the day before the day outlines will be shelved in favor of that One Magnetic Idea, the Hugely Huge One that requires a ton of planning but who cares?! I can totally write a zillion-word (50K is for wimps, yo!) epic masterpiece trilogy in a month with no prior thought whatsoever—it’s November, and that means my brain and fingers and keyboard are infused with MAGIC!

It’s also the last day where sleep is an option, because Halloween?  Pretty much backs up to November.  Bubble-clad Lady GaGas, sparkly-sexy vampires, Princess Leias, Voldemorts, and Pippi Longstockings everywhere will flock from parties to coffee houses, bust out their laptops at midnight, and FALL ASLEEP IN THEIR BOTTOMLESS CUPS OF COFFEE WRITE!

So…am I doing NaNoWriMo?

Heck no.

I’m a NaNo cheerleader, which is every bit as important!  This is a PSA to everyone who’s tempted to think November is only for participants.  No, my friends!  The participants need cheerleaders!

Who else is going to remind them to eat?  Reassure them that it’s TOTALLY OKAY if they actually heed the Inner Editor (not to be confused with the Inner Critic) when she speaks her mind?  That doing the Halloween-party-to-coffee-shop thing at midnight, dressed in bubbles, is a bad idea in more ways than one?  That sacrificing quality for mere quantity only leads to editing misery?  To be their Harry Potters when they are Dumbledores in Voldemort’s horcrux cave (“Make me finish this no matter how much I protest!”)?

No, friends—November Eve Eve (and the rest of November, for that matter) is not the time to sit back.

November Eve Eve is the day to adopt a NaNo Participant, whip out your cute little cheerleading outfits, and prepare to ENCOURAGE!

Here are some suggested adoptees to get you started:

@melissaiswrite / @LizaKane / @KristenYard / @jamieharrington / @LauraJMoss / @Anna_Dawes / @betherann / @mercedesmy / @Simone7304 / @WeronikaJanczuk

Disclaimer: these extreme examples of crazy people in no way resemble the awesome participants listed here.  These ladies have good heads on their shoulders, and I have every confidence they’ll whip November into shape and wield it to their advantage (as opposed to, uh, getting whipped by November).  All the more reason you should cheer them on!  :)

Oh! And PS: I listed their Twitter handles because it’s easiest to follow that way.  If you prefer to follow blogs, not Tweets, click over anyway.  Links are included with their profile sections.

PPS: If any listed participants would rather be cheerleaderless, shoot me an email [olsonkayla (at) gmail (dot) com] or a comment and I’ll remove you from this post.  And, conversely, if you’re NOT on the list—and can’t face November without pompoms and pyramids—just let me know!

You Say You Want To Edit?

28 Oct

"You say you want to edit? Oh, human – what am I going to do with you? You'll have to get through me, first. And, PS: this is payback for all those hugs you give me. Only villains give hugs."


25 Oct

Unless you have eyes like an…um…something that can see really well and is not a cliché, you might want to click on this to make it bigger.  The whole blog post is on that beautiful orange index card, yo.

PS: Special thanks to @bethrevis and @LizaKane who totally talked me into this software. (Not that I needed much convincing. Just a little nudge.)

PPS: You can check Scrivener out here.  Be warned: if you don’t have a Mac, you might be investing in one once you see this software. (UPDATE! Don’t despair or go broke just yet!  Check out the comments – the ever-awesome @melissaiswrite has provided a link for the soon-to-be-released version for PCs!)


23 Oct

Today is my favorite kind of day:

Latte + stormy weather + time + ideas to write + novels to read = AWESOME.

This has been a total I-want-to-do-everything-RIGHT-NOW sort of week, so it’s nice to have a day open where I can get some stuff done.  Still, though, merely having time doesn’t mean the decision of what to work on will be an easy one.

On one hand, I could buckle down with this fourth draft.  The mulling-things-over phase is coming to an end, and I’m on the brink of actually making changes.

On the other hand, I’m writing a first draft of something completely different.  I have a ton of ideas with where to take it, and today might be the perfect day to lay down a couple of chapters.  Rain tends to make me feel particularly inspired, which would work well for some shiny new words.

On my third hand, there’s that lovely stack of novels on my bookshelf…beautiful, beautiful novels…taunting me…and it is raining, and I am in comfy pants…what better way to enjoy the rain than listening to it while I read?


Guess I’ll just have to do everything.

Out of the Machine

18 Oct

Over the weekend, I was helping a friend out with one of her creative writing assignments.  She was supposed to write a fable, but couldn’t come up with any ideas.

So, I asked, “What do you care about?  Writing is much more powerful when you care about your topic.”

Blank stare.  Crickets.  “I guess I don’t know what I care about,” she said.

Now, I know this girl, and know that there are a LOT of things she cares about.  I can tell by her actions, how she listens to people, how she spends her time.  What surprised me is that she’d never really thought about the reasons she does those things.  She didn’t know how to articulate them.

When I told my husband later, he wasn’t surprised at all.

“I bet there are a lot of people who just go through the motions of life without ever thinking about WHY they do what they do,” he said.  “They go to school, work, church, hang out with friends, because it’s what they think they’re supposed to be doing.”


I guess that’s true.  When I think back to late high school and early college, I can even remember being that way.  A lot has changed over the past decade, though.

This got me thinking about writing.  About how amazing it is that so many people out there are writing novels.  About the fact that in order to write something effective — or, to write something at all — you have to jump out of that go-through-the-motions machine, look at it for what it is, and evaluate.

Is the go-through-the-motions machine taking you where you want to go?  Do you even KNOW where you want to go?  So many people are stuck in that machine and don’t even know it exists.

I don’t think many (if any) of you writer friends are stuck there, though.  There’s not a neat little place in that machine for writers.  We don’t fit.

At some point, you looked at life and thought, “Someone writes those (books/newspaper articles/screenplays/etc.) — why can’t I?” rather than sitting back and watching them like they just materialized out of nowhere.  At some point, you thought, “This needs to be said.  People need to know this.  I can say it, and I should.”  At some point, you denied yourself sleep or entertainment or time with friends because there is something you BELIEVE is worth your time.

Something you care deeply about.

Something only YOU can say.

Here’s to caring about things, taking initiative, and being inspired.  Here’s to having dreams, working toward them, and making them a reality.  And here’s to you, writer friends, for believing you have something worthwhile to say — because you absolutely do — and for being committed to sharing your words with the world.

Your words matter.  And so do you.

Across the Universe

14 Oct

I’m taking a brief break from all things reading and writing in order to jump on a bandwagon.

Yep.  You read that right.

This bandwagon is called the HECK-YEAH-I’m-excited-about-Beth-Revis’s-ACROSS-THE-UNIVERSE! bandwagon.  It comes complete with a theme song (uh, also known as the Beatles song by the same name…) and a GORGEOUS picture to ogle.  (See also: the gorgeous, ogle-worthy picture of her book’s cover right next to this very paragraph.  I know.  You’re probably ogling already.)

The book itself won’t be out until January, but you can get a sneak peak at the first chapter.  And trust me, if you haven’t already?  You totally want to.

You might be wondering why I’m blabbering on about this, so I’m going to direct you to four places right now.

ONE: Melissa’s blog post about how awesome this book looks, based on the first chapter and the cover.

TWO: The first chapter itself, which is online.  You can either click over from Melissa’s blog (which I would recommend, because her enthusiasm is both warranted and fun to read) or just click here.

THREE: This fantastic post about first chapters, written by Beth Revis herself.


FOUR: If you’ve checked out all the other links and find yourself looking for more ways to pass the months until January rolls around, feel free to click here for my You-Tube cover of “Across the Universe.”

Hope you enjoy the links!  What other books you guys are looking forward to reading?

It’s Time.

11 Oct

My don’t-touch-that-manuscript-lest-it-burn-you break is over.  It’s finally cool enough to handle.

This afternoon, at precisely 3:30pm, I will pick it up again.

There will be coffee, comfy sweatshirts and pants, note-taking devices of all sorts.  Fresh eyes.  Peace and quiet.

I will read.  Think.  Focus.  Evaluate.

Today, I am buzzing with quiet anticipation.  To finish a draft feels exhilarating, but to start the process of making it even better?  Well, that’s both exciting and scary.  Mostly exciting.

Deep breath.

It’s time.

Never Underestimate the Power of Books.

7 Oct

The cover of Sophie Jordan's Firelight.

Over the past few days, I’ve been pondering something deep.


Okay, okay, not deep at all, but it is FUN!  Here’s a little question to start your day:

What do Katniss Everdeen, The Baby-Sitters Club series, and Sophie Jordan’s Firelight have in common?

Other than being fantastic?  Uh, not much.

Except for this: they’ve all inspired me in unusual ways the authors probably didn’t intend.  That’s not to say I wasn’t blown away in the usual ways — I was, for sure.  But…let me explain.

I don’t know about you, but when I try to think of books that have inspired me, what comes to mind are the thought-provoking ones, the ones with vivid settings and characters, the epic ones.  I think about books that are seamlessly woven, rich in detail.  The Hunger Games trilogy definitely fell into this category, and so far I’m loving Firelight.

What I don’t tend to think about are all the books that have affected me in much, much smaller ways.  Extraordinarily mundane ways.  The books I mentioned also fall into this category.

Even in early elementary school, books affected me.  I loved The Baby-Sitters Club series, and started reading it when I was about seven years old.  Those books taught me more than I give them credit for, more than I can write about right now.  One major thing comes to mind, though: family vacations, and how I sort of knew what to expect because I had read about those places.

The baby-sitters visited New York City, California, Disney World, and went on a cruise.  When it was time for family vacations to those spots, I was, like, Little Miss Tour Guide.  I knew that New York was busy and full of culture (and I knew where to find said culture), and that California was sunny, beachy, and laid-back.  I knew that we just had to ride Space Mountain and Splash Mountain when we visited Disney World.  Even last month, when we were on the cruise (and when riding Mountains Space and Splash), I found myself thinking about those books.

Clunky transition to Katniss Everdeen.  What does she have to do with anything? You may laugh at me here, but I don’t care.

I want to take up archery.

Not just in a what-if-we-someday-have-to-hunt-and-kill-our-own-food-like-Katniss?! sort of way (though, admittedly, that is part of it).  I just think it would be really awesome to do some target practice with a bow and arrow.  To be able to consistently shoot a bullseye.

I’ve already warned my dad, and plan to warn my brother-in-law: they’re so teaching me how to shoot like the Mockingjay next time I visit the ranch.  Watch out, squirrels.  I won’t be aiming for you, but that is irrelevant.  You will want to avoid me until I’m awesome.

Transition clunkily with me once again to Sophie Jordan’s Firelight.  I’m still reading it (and it is GOOD), but take a look at that cover.  One question: is that lip gloss not gorgeous?!

I now own it.  Or, at least, one that looks exactly like it.  It’s Sonia Kashuk No. 60 (called “Precious”), and it is fantastic.  That beautiful cover kept staring at me.  I had to have it.  I gave in.  And I don’t regret it.  (Side note: given its magnetic allure, perhaps I will start referring to it as “My Precious.” Hmm…)

All this to say: never underestimate the power of books.  They can shift your world-view, and they can make you buy lip gloss.

Have you ever been inspired to do or buy anything unusual based on a book you read?  If not, surely you’ve been inspired in the meaningful traditional way by a book or two.  Which books have inspired you, and in what ways?

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, this post was 100% inspired by the lip gloss.

So Much For Normal

2 Oct

Do I even need to site a reference for that quote?

By now, surely you’ve at least heard of Kiersten White’s PARANORMALCY, which is where the title quote comes from.  (If you’ve only heard of the book, and have not yet bought it and/or read it?  Please do so.  Now-ish.)

Borders in Allen, Texas


Last night was anything but normal.  Sophie Jordan (author of the equally beautiful FIRELIGHT, which I am currently reading) and Kiersten White visited the Borders bookstore in Allen, Texas.  I live within driving distance, so, YAY.  My sweet husband and I braved the Texas-OU traffic (which, trust me, is daunting) and headed to the event.

Both authors took questions, answered them, and proceeded to throw York peppermint patties at those who asked.  Only one guy was seriously injured.

(Correction: I think Kiersten was the only one doing the throwing.  Sophie must have been exempt from athletic duties since it was her birthday.)(Oh, and by seriously injured, I mean lightly-pelted-in-his-shoulder-and-no-actual-injuries-occurred.)

There's Kiersten! (…and the line where we waited.)

Sophie and Kiersten were adorable.

Andrew and I waited in the long-enough-to-be-a-great-turnout-but-not-so-long-our-feet-started-hurting line.  We then chatted (briefly, but not in a rushed sort of way) with Sophie and Kiersten, both of whom were utterly natural, totally fun, and completely worthy of the adverb over-usage in this sentence.  They signed our books, we took pictures, yada yada yada.  Then it was over.

Short, but sweet.  (The event, I mean.  Not just Kiersten.)

The fabulous Sophie Jordan…

Among many other encouraging snippets of awesome I took away from the night, I think the main thing is this: both authors worked their you-know-whats off to get there.  And by work, I mean both actual writing work AND the difficult work of being patient with the business itself.

For example, did you know PARANORMALCY was Kiersten’s third novel?  Her first was a “mind-numbingly boring MG book,” (her words, not mine) and her next featured an 18-year-old main character (In YA, “18 is the new 80,” apparently. Also according to Kiersten.)  PARANORMALCY, the third written, was the first to sell.  Of course I’m inspired that PARANORMALCY turned out so well for Kiersten.  But: I’m equally inspired by the fact that she invested heart and time into two prior novels, patiently (Or not-so-patiently. I’m not sure on this one.) waited for the YA book to sell, and kept right on writing.  Not only that, but she wrote something she liked — yes, it fit in with commercial expectations, but by and large?  It was for her own fun.  A three-week, no-pressure project to take her mind off of everything that comes with being on submission.

…and the adorable Kiersten White. (Along with some Dublin Dr Pepper, because every Dr Pepper fan should try the original.)

That just-for-fun book was the one that sold, debuted at #7 on the NYT Bestsellers List, and brought her all the way to a bookstore full of fans in Allen, Texas.

Hard work, patience, determination, and heart.

I’m proud to have met two (NYT best-selling!) authors who demonstrate these things so well, and am excited to see their hard work pay off.

Thanks, Kiersten and Sophie, for being adorable and inspiring.

Oktoberzest, Revisited.

1 Oct

So, uh, wow.

I have it on good authority that October has arrived.  How is this possible?  This year has flown by.  FLOWN, I tell you.

Last year at this time, I was in the early phases of rewriting my first draft.  Now, I’m about to start actively crafting a fourth draft.  (As opposed to the past few weeks, where I’ve taken no concrete action on it, but have been mulling over crits received and changes to be made.)

  • Somewhere along the way, I developed two systems that worked well for my writing habits.  One was for adding meat to a WIP and re-writing it from a blank page, the other was for tightening a WIP based on the basic structure already in place.  (Here and here.  Both links are for the tightening phase, not the total re-write.)
  • I entered the beta-reading world, both as reader and as writer.
  • Over the summer, I participated in Merrilee Faber’s creativity workshop, which sharpened my coming-up-with-ideas skills, produced several ideas for new novels, and even resulted in two YouTube videos where I covered songs by Patty Griffin and Lennon/McCartney.  (Here and here.)
  • I read a tall stack of novels.
  • I figured out how to use Twitter to my advantage (as opposed to letting it rule my day and destroy my writing time).
  • At the end of the summer, I finished the third draft.
  • In the interim between finishing and starting the fourth draft, I started writing a pressure-free first draft for a totally different novel.


That brings us to now.  Sorry to get all I did this, I did that on you.  It can be easy to forget just how far we’ve come, especially when we’re focused on how far we still have to go.

Where have you been, and where are you going? Specifically, where are you going this October?

Personally, I’m headed into somewhat uncharted territory: the wow-my-betas-have-given-me-some-awesome-feedback-now-how-on-earth-do-I-deal-with-it? territory.  This territory, I hear, is sharpening.  And by sharpening, I’m thinking it’s like an arrow: you have to whittle away at it so it has a sharp point, and will therefore pierce the target with precision.  Unfortunately, the whittling may be painful. That said, precision seems to be worth a bit of temporary pain.


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