Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Taking Questions Today

I used to do a Q&A thing where I let people ask questions, and I'd answer them over the week or so. But last time I did an open questions day, where I answered all questions that day in comments. I rather liked that format, and I like to think that readers enjoyed a quicker response.

So, today is the day! Ask a question, and I will answer as swiftly as possible in the comments of this post. You can ask about anything, so long as it's PG-13. I promise to answer, though I can't promise you will be satisfied with my answer.

*sits on couch*



  1. Do you have any guilty pleasures? If so, what are they?

  2. Hehe, Erin, way to start! First, I love me some video games. I play World of Warcraft...sometimes I play A LOT of it.

    As for food, sushi, of course. I'm a big nigiri fan, and my favorite roll is spicy salmon. I really try not to, but every two or three months I MUST have a double cheeseburger and fries. It's weird, I actually don't eat much meat anymore, but I still crave that cheeseburger. Chocolate—dark chocolate—when it comes to sweets.

    And I really like shoes and coats. It seems like I can never have enough.

  3. You may have already answered this, but what genre are you writing in right now? Who are you reading for inspiration?

  4. As a mom (of 4), I have difficulty making firm time to sit and focus on writing. I have a growing mountain of scrap paper notes on plot & characters ALL. OVER. How do you make time for your writing?

  5. Katrina, I've just finished a WIP, so I'm not writing anything right now! BUT, that WIP was contemporary YA, and I've been reading of Maureen Johnson, Sarah Dessen, John Green, Julie Halpern, Gayle Forman, L.K. Madigan, Sherman Alexie, E. Lockhart, Stephanie Perkins, and...more over the past three or so years.

    I actually adore contemporary YA, while simultaneously being completely and utterly intimidated by it. While I loved writing this first draft, I'm not sure I'll ever have the guts to actually share it.

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  7. Do you ever feel like your work is finished? That's my problem...


  8. Suzanne, boy do I feel you! Seems like I have less and less time lately. I used to have a schedule revolving around naptime, but now that my kids don't nap it's kind of a fit-it-in-when-I-can approach.

    My wonderful MIL usually invites my kids over to play once a week, and I use that time to work without fail. So at least I can count on one day!

    Other than that, sometimes I write after bedtime, or when they are playing PBS games, or early in the morning if I can't sleep.

    I think at this point it's important to just try. Of course you won't get as much done as you want, but little by little the book will get done.

    Good luck. And if you invent something to stop time, let me know.

  9. Do you remember the first book (or series) you liked/loved/obsessed over?

  10. Charlee, the closest to done I've ever felt was when my MS was finally ready for submission.

    That's only happened once...out of like 13 novels I've finished. So yeah, not a common feeling, but at some point you have to say "It's enough."

  11. Karli, I absolutely LOVE The Chronicles of Narnia growing up. I think it was the first and almost only series I connected with as a kid.

    As for a single book, it was The Giver. It was school reading, but I fell in love. Hard.

  12. I just completed my first MS and I am now editing,revisiing and doing some rewrites. How do you manage to stay focus through that part of the writing process and not get down about it, being that the editing part of the work can be at times (ok most of the time) so tedious. This is the one part where I more often then none feel like just throwing in the towel.

  13. I read the Giver for a children's lit course in university. It's a good one.

    I know my own WIP has had to mean a lot of research involved. How much does research factor into your own work?

  14. Jessica, editing is a trial for me as well! Some people love it, but it's hard for me to stay positive when I'm picking apart my book!

    I have a bunch of editing advice under my reference tab, but in general I tackle edits in doable chunks. If I look at everything at once, I get so overwhelmed. So I go into each revision with a few goals. I divide the novel into small pieces (like three chapters at a time).

    I set goals, so it feels like I'm making progress (2 chapters a day, for example).

    But really, you have to find what works for you. This is what works for me, so I can't guarantee it'll be right for you.

  15. Sounds like good advise I am going to try that because I often find myself stuck editing the same thing over and over again and very little progress on the rest of the MS.

  16. William, research definitely depends on the book. I have never written a historical, because I KNOW that would be some serious in depth research.

    But research is always a factor, whatever the genre. For many of my contemporary fantasy books, I had to research mythology and fairy tales, etc. I also had to learn about whatever city or town I chose to put them in.

    Even in contemporary, I've often had to research my character's interests. Sometimes they like things I know nothing about! Like surfing. Or motocross. Or 70s era singer/songwriters...

    Research is part of writing. If you don't know, learn! Even in fiction things must be plausible, believable.

  17. I've always wondered how writers communicate with their agents. Is it a daily/weekly "touch base" thing, is it through email, phone, text, tweet? Just wondering. :) Also, how is communication different with Anna as your agent compared to Nathan?

  18. I have a story that could either be children's book or it could be a MG book. Should I try writing them both out and see which one works better? And has this ever happened to you?
    Also, do you know of any writers of children's lit who also have blogs? There seem to be a lot of YA bloggers, but I don't know about children's.
    - oh, and, though I have a blog, it is not a writing blog yet. I kind of just had a realization in the last couple of weeks that a writer I should be. So I would link to something else or go anonymous, but that's not an option.

  19. If you have an agent that you think you'd really like to work with, would you query them very first, or wait and query some other agents first to make sure the query is good enough?

  20. Kathryn, each agent really does have their own style of communication! It has been interesting to work with someone new. We're still kind of in that "We like each other but we're still getting to know each other phase," if that makes sense.

    I think a lot of agents adjust their style to fit their clients if they can. Overall, I guess I'm not a needy writer. I sometimes didn't talk with my agent for a month or more. They let me know when there's news, so unless I have a question or something to send them there's no need (in my mind) to take their time.

    One thing that has been new with Anna is she prefers the phone over email. I'm kind of scared of the phone because I feel like I'm interrupting, but it's cool, too. I've enjoyed talking with her, and that reassurance in her voice is something that might not come off the same in email, you know?

  21. Robyn, I'm not sure what to tell you. Only you can decide what your book should be. I recommend studying both genres to see if that clarifies what your book may be.

    Lots of YA writers blog, for sure, but there are MG writers as well! Of course, I am not well-versed in MG, but I do know Tess Hilmo, who has an MG historical coming out next year. She's wonderful.

  22. Jeigh, I would recommend *knowing* your query is good enough before you send any at all. Test querying is a weird idea to me, but it's not the first time I've heard it. There are so many resources out there to help you put out the best possible query before you ever send one out.

    And also, I'd like to add that sometimes you *think* you want this one agent because they are so cool and no one would be better—but you can't really know that.

    There are so many good agents that have little to no online presence. My agent is one of them, and she's freaking amazing. She just doesn't think her job entails being online—she believes if she does her job right, no one will ever know she was there. That's just how she rolls.

    So even if you have your ideal agent, remember that you don't really know them and there are so many wonderful agents out there to work with!

  23. So...are there any new anime series you're watching now? I'm trying to find some good new ones :)

  24. Natalie,
    My question: If you aren't really sure what genre your MS falls under, (it could be multiple) how should you go about querying for it? Thanks!

  25. Inthewritemind, I must admit I haven't been watching much lately! I go in phases...and I've been so busy lately.

    But before my hiatus I was watching Full Metal Panic! and really enjoyed it. I also watched this really different one called Spice and Wolf. I've been watching Vampire Knight—yeah I love it so sue me;P And there was this crazy funny weird one called My Bride Is A Mermaid—just picture Yakuza merpeople.

  26. Julia, boy have I been there! My books tend to genre bend—probably too much. What I did was query those who seemed to take YA in general or those that took both genres I felt my book fell under.

    After that I would start querying those who took one of the genres, and so on and so forth.

    But here's a strange bit of information: what you find online about agent preferences may not be accurate! It could be out of date, or just straight up inaccurate. For example, everything I've seen online says my agent doesn't want fantasy/sci-fi, but when I first talked with her and asked about that, she said it wasn't true! (Hope she doesn't kill me for the possible jump in queries...) Also, my friend Kiersten White's agent said she wasn't interested in paranormal...and she sold a book named PARANORMALCY.

    So as hard as it is, sometimes you just have to send a query to see, accept that it may be a flat rejection based on genre, but it might not be.

  27. Who do you use as critique partners? I dread the idea of trying to find people online, worrying about someone stealing ideas or plagiarizing, and don't have much confidence in being able to find someone with tact and skill on a forum.

    I've heard it suggested to ask new writers, but this appears to be a big no-no, as many of them have a legal clause saying they can't read unpublished manuscripts now that they're published.

    I'm about to take some creative writing college classes and am hoping to make some contacts with other writers who might be interested in critique exchange.

    What do you suggest?

  28. You are brave! So my question: real tree or artificial? ;)

  29. Martinelli Gold, I have more in depth information on my crit partner experiences and tips under my reference tab, but I'll add a few things here.

    1. Here's a secret: No one is going to steal your ideas. Why? Because they all think their ideas are better. I'm not kidding. Writers are both the most narcissistic and the most self-deprecating people out there.

    New writers think it's their idea that will sell—seasoned writers know it's the execution of that idea that sells. Good ideas are a dime a dozen. Good execution? Not so much.

    Harsh, but true. Trust me, I learned the hard way. AKA: 8 AWESOME ideas that became poorly executed books that never got me past a partial request.

    2. It is true that newly published writers will probably not read your book. I don't know about the clause, but it's more likely they just don't have time and they get A LOT of requests.

    But there are many wonderful writers out there who aren't published.

    None of my writer friends (crit partners) were published when I met them. Most didn't have agents (I made a few more post-agent). Now? Two are published (one an NYT bestseller and another who is getting attention from the likes of John Freaking Green). One is to be published next year. One just got an agent, many have had them for a while.

    We had no idea that any of this would happen. We were green and new once, with wild dreams. We grew together. We learned together. The fruits of all that work are starting to ripen. It's very cool.

    So I wouldn't recommend someone "seasoned," per se. I would recommend a fellow traveler, so to speak, someone you want to travel the publishing road with.

    3. If you are nervous about whether or not someone will be a good fit for you, I recommend the "partial" approach. Basically, you give the potential crit partner 30-50 pages—a test run.

    If you like what they're saying, if you feel that connection, then yay! If not, it's easy to part ways. No big deal.

    I've read for people who I don't think liked my approach. And I've had readers who didn't work for me. I'm still friends with them! It's so not personal. It's just a matter of whose crit method works for you.

    And...that was way longer than I planned.

  30. Janet, artificial. But not exactly your traditional artificial tree either. We live in a small townhouse, and a normal tree is just too wide. So we have one of those decorate fake pine trees, where the trunk is wood and then it has fake branches.

    It's six feet and about half the wideness of a normal tree. I love it. I'm so not an over-the-top holiday kind of person, so it plays to my sensibilities. Modest, cute.

    And yes, I'm also one of those people who sees a real tree inside and feels bad for it. All the dried up trees on the curb after Christmas makes me die inside. It seems like such a waste.

    I'm also the person who doesn't pick flowers and keeps live ones inside and out.

    Bet that was more than you wanted to know:P

  31. Your answer made so much sense I'm giving the critique group adventure the "green light." Sorry I missed your reference page before sending the Q.


  32. No worries, Martinelli! It IS Q&A day. I just wanted to make sure you knew if you wanted more info.

  33. I've got to say that I just stumbled upon your blog and I am inspired to take the plunge and get serious about my story.

    My Question: what is the most recent book you've read that you are obsessing about? I always love a good rec.

  34. Hi Julia! Welcome. Have a cookie.

    As for good books, I am basically a hysterical fangirl of Sarah Dessen's right now. I finally picked up THE TRUTH ABOUT FOREVER after feeling guilty I hadn't read her. I LOVED it. Now I'm reading THIS LULLABY, and, uh, I may have bought a few Dessen books for Christmas.

    I'm also a big time fangirl of Julie Halpern. I've read all her books and I love them all.

    Oh, and FLASH BURNOUT by L.K. Madigan. Whoa. Amazing.

    If you're looking for fantasy/paranormal, my favorite this year (that wasn't PARANORMALCY by my close friend Kiersten White) was WHITE CAT by Holly Black. Suuuper cool and different.

    I also loved the WAKE series by Lisa McMann, which finished up this year.

    Oh! And anything Ally Carter! LOVE ALLY CARTER.

    *disclaimer* These are my personal tastes, and I cannot guarantee that you will like these books. Some may have "content" you aren't in to, so I encourage all to look into the books before deciding to read. Reading is a very personal thing.

  35. Natalie ~ Thanks for answering my question. Great advice to which I hope hope hope to be using ASAP. BTW ~ I know your sister Ariel. She is totally cool and has great taste in clothing. Have a good day!

  36. Thanks for a great answer. So, here's another question, then. How do you *know* your query is good enough? I'm really struggling with mine.

  37. Jeigh, ah, that IS the question, isn't it? For me personally, a query needs to get across two things (yes, only two!):

    1. The heart of your story.
    2. Your voice.

    I think recently the query thing has gone crazy. There is so much out there advice-wise, and people are taking it much more seriously than they used to. Which is good, but also kind of bad.

    Why? A lot of queries are reading "the same." Sure, the queries are solid and interesting, but they seem to be so uniform.

    Don't lose your voice. You don't need 50 people to crit your query. You don't need people leeching out your voice in favor of something pithy but general.

    From what I've seen, agents connect with voice AND story. If a story doesn't have a popping voice, eh, they can find another. If a voicey query doesn't seem to have a solid story, eh, another will come along.

    You gotta find that sweet spot—that letter that screams you and lays out your story perfectly.

    I know, easier said than done. But you'll know when you have it.

  38. Please describe or post a photo of your favorite pair of shoes.

  39. Carrie! How could you make me pick just one? That's like picking between children. I will have to think on this...

  40. My husband found a maternity t-shirt that says, "Rolling and ALT." Now he wants to knock me up. I'm trying to convince him that wearing a hilarious t-shirt shouldn't be the reason behind procreation. He stands behind his joke. Advice?

    (All the above is true, unfortunately. Heh)

  41. Heather, first, the shirt IS funny. Second, you SHOULD NOT have a child just so your husband can put you in that shirt.

    This is what I propose (I'm sure Steven will be totally ON BOARD):

    He should wear the shirt. And when people ask, he can explain that he has signed up for a mentoring program and is awaiting the news of which lucky kid he'll get.

    It's perfect, really. He gets to wear the shirt AND do community service.

  42. LMAO! Best advice EVER! I'm going to tell him you said this. hahahaha

  43. I really should be a marriage counselor, I think. People would make up just to get out of my strange and unusual methods...

  44. Natalie, what are your favorite things about winter in Utah?

    I'm trying to be more positive, all around, and it's all I can do to keep from complaining about the weather all day, so I could use some inspiration! :)

  45. Liz, I think what I like about Utah's weather in general is its complete unpredictability. You just never know what you're going to get!

    I mean, hello? It's been in the 50s this week! What the heck? But I've loved it and I will soak up those few "warm" winter days while I can.

    And watch, blizzard next week, hehe.

    I used to kind of hate that, but I really do love it now. So much of my life is the same thing over and over, and it's nice that at least the weather makes things interesting.

    Like that one time it rained, hailed, and then turned sunny (complete with double rainbow) all within like three hours.

    Or when the summer evening thunderstorms roll in, in all their purple fury.

    Or when it's so cold (and yet not snowy), that the trees look like frosted ice.

    Or how the trees change colors—with the flame colors topping the mountains first and then trickling to the valleys. Then the first snow-topped peaks of winter...and on down. You can literally watch the world change bit by bit.

    And then one day it's all gone, covered in thick snow. Clean slate.

    I love how Spring teases you in Utah. One week so warm you start wearing flip flops. The next week snow. Then rain. One day in the 80s...and then another snowstorm. Such a tug-o-war, between winter and spring.

    And then summer butts in and cuts the rope. Hot hot hot. So hot you can't WAIT for that first snow to come.

    It does, in its own time. Never when you expect it.

    Wow, apparently I really like Utah weather. Heck, the whole state's grown on me over the years.

  46. What's your favorite sushi restaurant?

  47. Thank you so so many great suggestions Natalie. I will be looking into all of them, and they seem to be to my usual tastes

  48. Have any tips on writing a first draft (and living to tell the tale)? :)


  49. Great questions and answers! I just wanted to say my husband plays WOW!

    I ask this a lot, but how do you balance writing, blogging, family and time for yourself?