Thursday, July 22, 2010

Answers: The Mostly Useful Edition

You guys were so easy on me yesterday! No weird hypothetical questions. No "which brand of peanut butter is best?" ones. These were mostly, like, useful and thoughtful. It's like you knew I just completed a minor accomplishment (a particular round of revisions complete) and deserved a little love. Thanks for that, though I do miss the random ones! (For the record, I'm a Jiff girl. Skippy sucks, sorry.) I'm also starting to think maybe I don't need to do Q&A so often. *takes note*

So without further ado, on to the answers!

SM Schmidt asked: What book are you currently reading/just finished?
I'm reading a lot of different books right now. If I'm being honest, the revisions I just finished kept me pretty scatter-brained. I couldn't keep my attention on much, so I've been hopping between books.

Currently Reading: Spells, Incarceron, Flash Burnout, and I just started The Good Spy Young, which I'll probably finish first because Ally Carter reads super fast and I am a super huge fan of her books (that and my mom wants to read it too and I stole it from her).

I hope now that I'm coming out of the revision haze that I'll actually finish all of these in the next month or so.

How do you decide which project to work on next if two are really really shiny?
It really depends. When I didn't have an agent, I wrote what called to me the most. I'd start on each idea, and one would usually win out. I would say just go with it, no matter how weird or unmarketable or whatever. You have to enjoy what you write. It might be harder to sell against a trend or whatever, but as a person who hasn't written to trend I can tell you I don't regret staying true to my voice/style. I wouldn't be happy otherwise.

Since having an agent, I've been trying to work on things that have the same "feel" so they'd all kind of fit in the same "brand" or whatever. This, unfortunately, hasn't been working very well. I feel a lot of pressure to deliver, and then, well, I stop myself from working productively. But I AM working on Transparent with the hope to eventually sell it, which is why I'm rewriting the poor thing.

But I've also been cheating on Transparent. I'm not a very nice person when I'm not working on a "pressure free" project. Last year that project was my French steampunk/fantasy thingamabob I dubbed Spork because I couldn't think of a title. (STILL can't think of a title.) I've just chosen a new pressure free project—it's YA contemporary, which is definitely out of my so-called brand and thus I won't be telling myself, "Someday I'll publish this so it has to be perfect."

Because let's face it, I've never written a full contemporary novel and I'm sure to botch it. But it doesn't matter! It's for fun! It's my breather novel when I panic over Transparent.

Favorite anime of all time (or at least the top five)?
All time would have to be Escaflowne. It's the only one I've seen more than once, and I've been dying to see it again. I'm probably going to buy it soon. The animation is on the older side, but I adore the story. It's a classic.

Stephanie asked: How can I find other writers online who are at my level, i.e., "Beginner"? :)
I have written a post about finding crit partners, if that's what you are looking for. Also, I would say just get out there! Explore blogs when you have time. Check to see if there's a local writer's group in your area (you can look up local chapters of SCBWI, RWA, etc, perhaps). Browse through writer forums like Absolute Write.

Also, just because you're a "beginner" doesn't mean you can't talk to/make friends with people who might be further along in the process. I think it's good to have friends at all levels. It doesn't happen overnight, of course, but you will run into people you connect with. Oh, and it'll be awesome:)

Also, for beginners to novel writing, would you recommend reading agents' blogs at this point?
It probably wouldn't hurt, unless you're the sort to rush because of what you're reading. I learned most of what I know about the business from reading agent/editor blogs. But I didn't start reading them until I had my first novel finished—I didn't even know they were out there. I'm not sure how it would have changed my first novel writing process if I had been reading blogs then, but I imagine I would have rushed even more. But on the other hand I would have learned faster and avoided more of the typical early mistakes.

*shrug* Kind of a lame answer, but basically I'm saying it's up to you.

lora96 aksed: Okay I've been wondering about this for a while. Is the wallpaper on your supercute blog just a stock background or is it scanned from your art doodles?
Nope, not mine. If you scroll all the way to the bottom of my blog, you'll notice the template credit there. The header IS my design though, and I do plan on creating my own background at some point. You know, when I have time. I don't know when that will be.

Liz asked: How important do you think it is to establish a "brand" as a writer? If I start out writing YA, will I ever get to write those grown-up book ideas I have in my head?
Personally, I think we freak out about brand a little too much, especially us unpublished writers. If you're gonna worry about it, you should have a book on the way at least. Think about it—as an unpublished writer this might be your only time to really experiment with your writing. Why not mess around some? Not all of your ideas will make it to print, but you learn from each one.

That said, I do think "brand" is important on some level. This is why people write under pen names. Readers tend to expect a certain style when they pick up a book by a familiar author. If they don't get that style, they could get upset just because it wasn't what they expected.

But brand shouldn't be forced. You shouldn't be thinking, "I'm going to write in a witty, yet down to earth, voice. Yeah." It should be your natural voice, themes you are naturally drawn to. Like when I went through my writing frenzy, I noticed I came back to certain ideas and that my voice was still there through each story. There is really only one or two of my books that I feel like are vastly different from my usual voice, even if they are all over the YA genre-sphere.

That's brand. We worry so much about forcing it, but in actuality it's already there. You can try to get it out there, if you want, but in the end people will either like it or not. That, unfortunately, is not within your control.

And if you really, really adore that one book outside your "brand." That's what pen names are for. Let the publishers worry about how they want to treat your changes in genre. If they want to take that risk, yay. If not, write another book. What else can you do?

Victoria Saavedra asked: Where is your writing space?
In the corner of my living room. A picture. But if I'm being honest, I sit on the couch a lot with my laptop. I've also recently been trucking it to the library, in attempts to focus (it works, by the way). Mostly I just need my laptop. I tried to write longhand earlier this year, and it was a joke. I crossed out more words than I kept, so typing is my friend. I don't have to see the mess that is my disjointed writing.

Suzie F. asked: Do you find it easier or harder to write during the summer and why?
Harder! For several reasons. First, my mom is off work in the summers, and I want to spend lots of time with her. I really like my mom. Second, it's warm, which makes me want to be adventurous and take my kids fun places. Third, I seem to have fallen into a rather nasty pattern of doing HUGE EDITS in the summer, and that sucks out all my creativity and makes it harder to write new stuff.

I'm looking forward to Fall for writing—Dino Boy will be in preschool and I'll have three whole hours. Sure, Ninja Girl will still be around, but I'll figure it out. She has an intense obsession with Tinkerbell right now, so I could probably work that.

littlescribbler asked: How do you get inspiration for all your daily blog posts?
Um, I'm not really sure! Sometimes I get good ideas for stuff and have a plan, other days it's just what's been on my mind because of my own writing journey. Sometimes I'll be chatting with a writer friend and realize I have something to rant about. More often than I'd like, I just stare at the empty blogger box going, "Uhhhhh." Then I'll write something lame or link to people cooler than me.

Now that I'm approaching almost 3 years on this blog, I'll admit it's getting harder to think of stuff to talk about. Sometimes I feel like I've covered it all! Of course, I know not everyone has been reading this blog that long, so sometimes I feel like it's okay to repeat myself a little.

Adam Heine asked: Explain the end of Evangelion. And because that was really mean, I offer these links to Cowboy Bebop the series and the (entirely optional) movie on Amazon for only $47, in the hopes you won't yell at me.

That WAS mean. But here's my theory—the series was so awesome, they had so many crazy battles, that they realized there was no possible way the ending would live up to the rest of the series. The pressure drove the creators mad, they drank a lot, and while they were smashed drunk they wrote the end. The next day, all having insane hangovers, they just animated it because "hey, why not?"

That concludes the rather short Q&A. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm gonna go eat more banana bread with nutella. Mmm.


  1. LOL. They did take it easy on you! I would have contributed but I spent my day reading a full MS for Awesome Agent.

    Also, Jiffy totally wins. I've recently discovered the natural Jiffy (I'm not big on peanut butter), and because it's so tasty I can actually eat more than 1 peanut butter and jelly sandwich per 6 months.

    I've only been blogging for a year and I have problems thinking of things to say, I can't even image what it'll be like in another 2. O.O

    Awesome Q&A, Natalie!! Thanks for sharing! :D

  2. Off the wall questions don't always dance around, painted in blue, chanting "Ask me! Ask me! Ask me!" but now I know next time to ask about nerf gun battles of nerdrom & do WoW players have more fun? (I still can't believe you didn't say Bleach was your favorite)

  3. Amanda, I go in peanut butter phases. Sometimes I crave it like crazy, others not.

    SM, I do love me some Bleach! But it has a lot of filler, and I'm not a huge fan of filler. If I read the manga, then maybe:) I really love what I call romaction (romance + action). Escaflowne, Fushigi Yuugi, Inuyasha, etc.

    I like the straight action too, but sometimes the 10 episodes for one battle that's really lasting only two mintues gets tiresome. heh.

  4. Awesome awesome awesome questions. I love an inside look to someone so successful :)

  5. Omigosh, that sounds DELICIOUS! {drools}

    I'm with you on the brand thing: I think we worry about it too much. Maureen Johnson actually did a great post at BlogHer (possibly it was cross-posted from somewhere else) called "I am not a brand" (or something like that).

    Personally, I'd like to be an author whose brand DEFIES the traditional limitations. Like you said, I think there will always be certain themes or a sort of "style" to my writing, regardless of what the plot or intended audience might be. But I don't want to get pigeonholed to a point where someone tells me I can't write a book that I really want to write because it doesn't fit my "brand."

    Also, I think "newbie" writers CAN read agent blogs, but I think it's not necessary until you've finished a book. Before then, it can lead you astray and have you focusing on the wrong things. I definitely feel that way sometimes, and I don't even consider myself a newbie at this point.

  6. Great answers. Thanks for answering my question : )

  7. Hey, I was wondering about your blog background too!

    Also, my favourite anime is Deathnote, but I'm a n00b. :) Thanks for the answers, Natalie!

  8. Oooh, Only the Good Spy Young was amazing! I hope you enjoy it.

    You didn't answer the important peanut butter question, though: chunky or smooth?

  9. I just thought you were getting off easy. So I helped :-) Your answer was spot on, I think.

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