Archive | January, 2011

Massive Update Like Whoa!

31 Jan

Dear Blogosphere (and Twitterverse, while I’m at it)—

I’m so not ignoring you. I know it must look that way, as it’s been FOR.EV.ER since I last posted. But, seriously: I have a good reason.

It’s called morning sickness. I’ll spare you the details.

Since I’m feeling well enough to type out a little update this morning, here goes. Yes, it’ll be mostly pictures, but whatevs—who doesn’t love pictures, right?

The past two weeks have been full of things like the following:

Yes, that is an ARC of Elana Johnson’s not-soon-enough-to-be-released novel, Possession, which debuts in early June! Yes, it was a page-turner! Yes, you want to put it on your to-read list. Here’s a link to the Goodreads page.

Thanks to the lovely Liza Kane—and the rest of the Internet, who simultaneously and inexplicably exploded their love for Veronica Mars one day last week—I proceeded to get myself hooked on the series. I am only, like, seven episodes in to the series, and I know I’m ridiculously behind the rest of the world. That said? DO NOT SPOIL IT FOR ME. Or else.

I have joined the ranks of e-reader readers. Thanks to this post by the fabulous Natalie Whipple, I decided to devote a good chunk of my birthday money to a sleek gray Kindle like the one you see here. Before Natalie’s post, I wasn’t sold on how useful it would be to me, but since I do a fair amount of beta reading (and, let’s face it, regular reading) I decided to take the plunge. The verdict? AMAZING.

These Jamba Juice Sorbet & Yogurt Bars are INCREDIBLE. I’ve been eating the Vanilla Strawberry Jubilation flavor, but while looking for a photo to use—the one pictured above—I stumbled across a whole blog post that informed me of four other incredibly incredible looking flavors. Want…neeeeeeeeed…

And, finally, we have Seryn. This band is fantastic. I posted a shout-out about them on Twitter last week, and I’ll say it again—check out their music. They’re wicked talented and their sound is chill in a really refreshing way. PS: I am not just saying that because I’m friends with three-fifths of the band. (The bass player, the awesome dread-headed girl, and the one with the banjo, FYI.) They just released their first album last week—it’s called This is Where We Are, and you can find it on iTunes or listen to a sample here. [UPDATE! Paste Magazine posted a video of the title track from Seryn's new ablum—you can watch it here.]

Okay, that’s it for now. Must get back to watching Veronica Mars. I’ll post again soon, but disclaimer: my MWF posting schedule may be a bit erratic for a while.

Your Words are NOT a Waste!

17 Jan

Last week, I had a conversation with one of my critique partners about first drafts—her in-progress first draft, my feels-like-forever-ago first draft.

Every now and then, she finds herself stuck writing this first draft, afraid of taking a detour that will end up being a mistake, a major waste of time.  As seems wise and logical, she’s trying to be efficient.  Efficiency is, by NO means, a bad thing.  But…in the first draft?  It can be paralyzing.  Same with perfectionism, which we both know all too well.

This got me thinking (and confessing) about how drastically my novel has changed over the course of four drafts.  I actually cracked open that first draft to see how it compared to what I remembered about it.

Oh.  Man.

It was, like, a completely bare-bones version of what I have today.  My minor characters are mere shadows of who they eventually became, my main character isn’t fully developed yet, it’s complicated but oversimplified at the same time (I know, that doesn’t make total sense, but trust me), two important minor characters don’t even exist yet, one character is WAY important in this draft but eventually became background fodder in later drafts, several plot points existed then but have morphed over time, the ending has changed completely.  I used way too many words to communicate things.  My paragraphs?  OY VEY, my paragraphs…some of them are, like, half a page long.

Basically, it was like an 85,000-word long extremely rough draft.  Which is why I scrapped most of those words and started over from a blank page for the second draft.  And then, on the third draft, though the story was mostly in place and I kept a lot of the ideas in tact, I knew I could write it better.  I started over from a blank page again.  I rewrote the beginning for this fourth draft, but mostly, this is the first time I’m actually editing words on a draft instead of rewriting them all.

All of that to say: I cut a LOT throughout that whole process.  That which I didn’t cut, morphed into better stuff.  It’s taken a while to get here.  But, hey, it’s my first attempt at writing a novel—I would have been delusional if I had thought it would turn out perfect on the first draft.  It was coherent, yes—but it’s gotten SO MUCH BETTER, much more complex, much tighter, much deeper, since then.  And, there are no more half-page-long paragraphs. *cringes*

I can say, 100% without a doubt, that it would have been a very, very pale imitation of itself had I merely tried to be efficient early on.  It’s taken all that work, and all those words, to chisel away at this story, to really know my characters, to learn how to write tight but effective prose, to spin and weave my novel’s various threads.

My words, my thousands and thousands of words, were not a waste.  Neither are yours.  Be patient with your story.  There are upsides and downsides to efficiency—don’t worry if you take detours.  You can always edit them out later, and the detours will probably spark better ideas you wouldn’t have thought of otherwise!

Happy writing, my friends!

Marathon Day of Edits…

12 Jan

…coming up right after I finish this blog post.

As you may or may not remember, I made an ambitious deadline for finishing this draft of my novel.  Well…the problem with ambitious deadlines is that they are, by nature, ambitious.

Translation: ohmygoodnessihaveSOmuchworktodo.

I’m determined to leave my deadline firmly where I carved it into stone set it.

Therefore: today. Lots of peppermint tea. Focus turned all the way up to eleven. Twitter on in the background—for sanity breaks, of course, so I don’t go crazy.  And, of course, my cat.  Most importantly: perseverance.

So.  Here I go.

*Deep breath.*

UPDATE! Thank you all—SO MUCH!—for encouraging me today, both here in the comments and on Twitter!  It helped a lot, and brightened my (very analytical, very focused) day.  In case you’re wondering about my progress, it was pretty fantastic!  I didn’t get through everything I’d hoped to, but that’s okay.  I got through most of it, then decided a) it would be good to move around, so I took a walk, and b) I can get back to work tomorrow with fresh eyes!  Again, thank you all for being awesome.  :)

Want to Win (the FABULOUS) Across the Universe?

10 Jan

Last week, I wrote a (very long) blog post about three of the best books I read last year.  One of them—Beth Revis’s fabulous debut, Across the Universe—comes out TOMORROW, 1-11-11!

If you’re still unsure about this book, no matter how much people have hyped it—or, possibly, because people have hyped it—I have ideas for you.

one:

First, you might want to learn a little bit more about it.  If so, here is a link to The League of Extraordinary Writers, a blog featuring posts by five debut authors who write YA dystopians.  The link above will take you to a post with a gorgeous trailer for the book, a summary about it, ISBN numbers for both hardcover and audio versions, and a list of other noteworthy links you might want to check out.

two:

After you check that out, and you’re STILL not convinced you want to run out to the store tomorrow, buy it, and read for the rest of the day, you can enter to win it on Liza Kane’s blog!  In honor of her birthday (and mine, really, since it IS Birthday Season this month), she’s holding her first contest—and, yes, it’s open internationally—so, go check it out here! (Contest open until January 17, 2011)

three:

If you already plan to buy the book in stores, and haven’t heard of Beth Revis’s Epic Launch Giveaway Extravaganza (not its official title, but it totally should be…), you must check it out.  There are a TON of chances to win, and the prizes are awesome—sweet looking water bottles, signed hardcover copies of the book, buttons, an iPod touch nano, for example.  For official information on how to win, click here.  (Contest open until January 25, 2011)

Good luck and happy reading to you all!

Everyone’s a Star

7 Jan

I spent the first morning of this year at Melissa‘s new house, in what will eventually become her library (and, I assume, writing room).

We talked for hours.  Naturally, the subject of our novels-in-progress came up.  I blathered on about how difficult revision can be, how it sometimes feels like a huge puzzle.  Being the awesome critique partner she is, though, she’s great at feeling out whether I need her to challenge me, or whether I need simple encouragement.

Well, that morning was all about encouragement.  She mentioned one of the things she loved about my WIP was that I was able to weave a lot of threads together and not drop them (specifically, she remembered this post I wrote about spider legs).  I so enjoy complicated, well-woven books/TV shows/movies—it’s only natural that I would attempt to write one.

However.

This got me thinking about how long it took to actually spin the threads, not to mention how long it’s taken to weave them together without dropping them.  (Answer: I’m on my fourth draft.  One of those drafts was a total rewrite, another was a partial rewrite.  A long time.)

I thought I’d share my secret today.  Alas, there is no secret to the weaving of the threads—just diligence, patience, perseverance, and faith that it will all pay off.  No, the secret I want to share is about how to spin the threads in the first place.

The number one thing that has given my novel depth and decent subplots is this:

Treat every character like the star of the show, even if they’re only on stage for two seconds.

Here’s what I mean by that.

My first draft fell flat because I only knew my main character.  He was vibrant against a background of half-drawn people whose motivations were no more than what I needed them to be in the moments they were on stage.

The second draft became a total rewrite because I got to know my minor characters.  Period.

I remember sitting in my favorite Starbucks, looking at all the people I knew well, and all the people who were strangers.  It occurred to me: I feel like the center of my world, because I come complete with 27 years of memories, opinions, experiences, and relationships.  But: that stranger over there?  To him, I’m a minor character, and HE’S the star of his own world.  Just because I’m on the stage of his life for two seconds, it doesn’t mean I’m any less real of a person.  And just because I’ve never seen him before, it doesn’t mean he doesn’t have several decades of opinions, experiences, etc.

THAT, my friends, revolutionized my writing.

I started thinking of my minor characters in that way: who are they, behind the scenes?  What do they want, what do they feel, what emotions are they experiencing?  How do they live and breathe and speak, even when we don’t see them?

After thinking about these things, my story changed.  Not the main plot—but all the subplots.  There were lots of things going on behind the central story, believable things that enhanced the main plot.

When Lexie, one of my favorite characters, walks on stage, she is 100% Lexie—not some cardboard cliché who merely does what I need her to do.  Every piece of dialogue, every movement she makes, every decision, ALL of these are completely in line with who I know she is.  She’s one of the more major minor characters (got that? ha!).  I’ve done my best to get to know most of my characters in this way.

This might sound like a lot of work.  I hope it does, because, um, it IS.  But, it comes in handy when you’re trying to weave the threads later.  When you know your characters and their lives so well, you don’t have to guess about whether or not they would act a certain way—things just start to fall into place. You start to remember the threads you spun like you remember things going on in your friends’ lives (at least, I do), which makes it much easier to weave them together without forgetting you started them in the first place.

So, moral of the story: minor characters are just as real as your major characters.  They’re flesh and bone and experience, not cardboard.  Everyone feels like a star in their own lives—write them that way, whether it’s their story or not.

I ♥ Books

5 Jan

The holidays are over, and the New Year is here.  What does that mean?¹

Well, many of you are writerly types.  Which, by necessity, means you are also readerly types.  And, being writerly-readerly types, your stockings may have been filled with gift cards to Barnes and Noble (because they’re cheaper than the infinitely more dreamy MacBook Air, which—not coincidentally—wouldn’t fit into a stocking, anyway).

So, what is a writer/reader to DO with all those gift cards?

Buy AWESOME books.  Like these:

Anna and the French Kiss, by Stephanie Perkins

This book came out in December.  I had HUGE expectations (and slight hesitation), because everyone was buzzing on Twitter about how much they adored it.

Well…it lived up to the hype.  This story—about Anna, who attends boarding school in Paris and meets the übercharming Étienne St. Clair—looks simple on the surface.  BUT.  Stephanie Perkins is a fabulous writer.  Her work is so subtly woven together, and it has depth.

I am a fan of depth.  And charm.

This has both.  Read it, love it.

Across the Universeby Beth Revis

(out in LESS THAN A WEEEEEEK!) (Specifically, out on 1-11-11)

I read this book back in October, around the time I wrote this post (the one with my cover of the Beatles’ song of the same name).

OH MY WORD.  It’s finally, finally, FINALLY (almost) in bookstores.

This book was so good, it inspired me to scour Goodreads for a few hours just to track down a copy for Melissa to read.

Why was it so good, you ask?

Well.  First of all, the entire story intrigued me.  Cryogenically frozen people?  Check.  Spaceship?  Check.  Girl unfrozen and woken up fifty years early—before her parents, and before they land on the new planet?  Check.  As if those elements weren’t enough to make me go, “Huh.  This seems different…and interesting…and awesome…” Beth‘s first chapter was online.  It’s amazing, and it hooked me, and I read the whole book as soon as I could get my hands on it.

Also, I loved the way this book was written.  Even now, three months after I read it, it STILL resonates with me.  It was a beautiful, satisfying read, from the first page to the last.  It made me look at life, and the world in which we live, with newfound appreciation.

(I pulled this picture of the cover from Natalie Whipple's blog…)Don’t Stop Now, by Julie Halpern

(out on June 7, 2011)

I was lucky enough to read this ARC in December.  There is so much to love about this book.

It’s quirky and fun in all the right ways, with so many memorable, creative scenes. Lillian and Josh, the main characters, are likable and relatable—they have PERSONALITY, and lots of it. Their chemistry is so…real, if that makes sense. Funny, too.

The author, Julie Halpern, is pretty much a master at the are-we-just-friends-or-are-we-more? dynamic; along with that, the emotional pacing felt perfect. I hate spoilers, so I won’t say anything about the ending except that I felt quite satisfied when I closed the book.

In closing, I just want to say: even if you didn’t get a gift card in your Christmas stocking, these three books will be well worth your money.

Happy reading!

¹OTHER than the fact that it is Birthday Season, I mean. (FYI, Birthday Season = January. My grandmother and I have always celebrated the whole month, and now, I’m including lovelies Liza Kane and Anna Caro in this celebration, too…)

 

New Year, New Goals…

3 Jan

2011 has only just started, but I can feel it: it’s going to be a big year.

A lot happened in 2010.  I made major progress on my novel, started a second novel, participated in Merrilee’s Creativity Workshop over the summer, joined Twitter, made new friendships and deepened others, and blogged more regularly (until, um, the move to Austin).

2010 was the year I really settled into a disciplined groove with writing, the year I learned how to cultivate new ideas (and therefore, the year I learned how to choose which new ideas to focus on as they came flooding in), the year I grew a spine and shared my novel with beta readers for the first time.

All that to say, I think 2011 will be just as amazing—maybe even more amazing.

The week before Christmas, I made a huge list of goals.  I’m talking HUGE.  (This is because I make extremely specific—and therefore, extremely measurable—goals.)

Perhaps the biggest, most exciting, goal is this:

This year, I will finish this novel to the point where I am satisfied enough with it to begin querying agents.

I’ve set myself a pretty ambitious, specific schedule (because, yes! I did set a goal date…and it’s soon…).  The novel’s close to being ready, but it’s not there yet.  Still: YAY.  This is the first year where “finish my WIP,” “send query letters to agents,” and “finish first draft of Shiny New Novel” have been actual, possible, achievable goals.

AND I’M SO EXCITED.

The other goal I’ll share with you guys is this: I plan a return to more regular blogging, and plan to write on a MWF schedule (plus any and all other random spurts of blogginess that just beg to be written!) from now on.¹

Happy 2011 to everyone!  I wish you all motivation, inspiration, and dedication in abundance!

xoxo ❤

 

¹On that note, if you happen to have any requests or suggestions for things you’d like to read about, let me know in the comments!
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