Saturday, July 31, 2010

Saturday Bonus Sketch!

Hello, Miles McClean. How did I not get around to drawing you sooner? I love you and your worthless ability to replicate scents. Miles is one of Fiona's older brothers. Also, her best friend. He might seem easy going—the guy you'd always underestimate. But that's just the way he likes it.

I'm not sure who will be next in The Guys of Transparent, but I sure am having fun. I know I've said it before, but drawing my characters always helps me get to know them better. Just thinking about what they wear, how they might pose, their expression—it adds depth for me.

Should we have a vote on who gets drawn next? You could have:

Graham, Fiona's evil brother who also flies.

Carlos, a slightly pervy boy with night vision.

Or Brady, Seth's super strong (and hot) younger brother.

There are a lot of boys in this book...

What can I say? I like to write boys! Even when my MC is a girl, a lot of boys end up as secondary characters. I never really got girls growing up—the drama and stuff. I was the kid who got shunned from girl groups. Maybe that's why. I hung out with my brother's friends, liked hanging out with guys.

Anyway, rambling. I do that sometimes.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Friday Sketch, Etc.

Of course I love all my characters, but then there are some that I LOVE, if that makes sense. Seth Mitchell from Transparent is one of those characters. I think I've drawn him several times, but here he is again! He's the first of a few character sketches I plan on doing for Transparent. Fiona's brother Miles is up next (which means nothing to you, huh. sorry). I should probably name the series. Like...The Guys of Transparent.

Now if that doesn't sound like an awesome calendar, I don't know what does.

Also, I want to profess my love for Ally Carter. I'm reading Only The Good Spy Young right now, and I'm in awe of her spy girl series. It just gets better and better, and I'm sure that is no simple feat. Her writing is so easy on the eyes, and her characters are fabulous. Sigh. Heist Society was also amazing. Can you tell I'm a huge fan? If she ever came to Utah, I would so be there, fighting to be first in line.

And to round out the news that is only cool to me, I should hit 50k in Transparent this weekend! Woot! I don't know what it is, but I love hitting 50k. For some reason that number means it's a book. It means the end is in sight. I'm guessing I'll finish around 60-65k, so yeah. Close! Then more edits! Yay.


Have a lovely weekend. I will likely have another sketch up tomorrow! So those of you who, like me, aren't at SCBWI LA, you have something to look forward to, right? Okay, it won't be that exciting, but I'll try.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Extreme Makeover: Novel Edition

So you get crits back from your betas, and the news isn't exactly favorable. Phrases like "flat characterization," "troublesome pacing," and "plot problems" are being thrown around like juggling balls. Maybe even the most dreaded word of all comes up—REWRITE.

*Dun dun dun*

The worst thing? You know they're right. You could improve your novel; you missed the mark; you didn't do the story justice. But it'll take a lot of work to fix! Where in the world do you start?

You know, after sobbing in bed for a day and eating nothing but ice cream and double cheeseburgers. That always comes first.

Hi, welcome to Extreme Makeover: Novel Edition. I'll be your host today, kind of like Ty but with less yelling and excitement. I'm also not giving away a free novel to a very deserving family/individual, but hopefully with these tips you'll be able to makeover that novel needing more changes than the typical line edit.

Huge edits can be pretty overwhelming. It's hard to take a story you thought you knew and try to see it as something potentially very different.

Tip #1: Don't Start Right Away
You have the crits. You know you want to take the jump and do massive edits. You have some ideas. This is when you might have the urge to dig right in—the faster you finish the faster you can move on to the next stage, right? Wrong.

Don't get too hasty. I'm not the planning type, but this is the time to plan. When you do renovations on a house, you don't knock down walls before you have a plan, do you? No—you figure out how much it'll cost, what materials you'll need, how long it'll take to finish.

You must have a plan of attack, otherwise you could end up with more crooked walls and cruddy foundations, so to speak. Then you'll only have more work on your hands. So let yourself mull it over. Think. Don't think. Work on other things. Get some time away.

Tip #2: Work Out The Problems
I get a notebook, but I'm sure a Word Doc or Scrivner file or whatever works just great too. Without looking back at crits, write down what changes you want to make to your story. Whether it be character revisions, plot changes, world building alterations, get them all down. Once you have those—write out how you can fix it in as much detail as you'd like.

Example: Betsy needs to be more motivated—if I raise the stakes, put something she really loves in jeopardy, that might help increase her drive. Or maybe she needs to be spunkier from the beginning. Did I misrepresent her character? Oh wait, THIS is it.

Explore lots of options. It's true that sometimes your first ideas aren't the strongest. Allow yourself to take the story/characters in various directions until you settle on the one you feel is the strongest.

Tip #3: Draw Up Plans
Once you know the answers to your manuscript's big issues, it's time to create your plan of attack. Every plan looks different—it's largely based on how much work you have to do. This is where you decide that, by the way. Are you doing a very heavy edit? Are you rewriting the whole thing? Just the back half? Now's the time to commit.

Step 1: Figure Out What You're Keeping. With my big rewrite on Transparent, I decided beforehand which chapters were salvageable: 5 of 34. And even those needed heavy editing. So yeah, a little overwhelming. But it's good to know upfront what you're keeping, so you're not tempted to get lazy and keep stuff you shouldn't.

Step 2: Decide What's Going. As in not making it into the new draft in any form. This is where it can get a little scary, since it might be a good chunk. You might have decided to take a new path with the plot, so the old ending just won't work at all. You might be chopping a character, or a certain plot arc. These are the parts that you have to put away so they don't get in the way of the new stuff.

Step 3: Determine What's Getting Rewritten. So you have what's staying and going, now it's time to fill in the holes. Those holes might be tiny or the size of the Grand Canyon, but map them out.

Step 4: Outline The New Draft. It doesn't have to be in detail, but it's nice to kind of know where you're going with revisions, especially if you're changing a lot. The most challenging thing about my rewrite so far is the old and new versions of the story fighting in my head. I get really turned around at times (wait, is that the right time line? am I doing this right? did I forget something? was that old stuff supposed to be in this version or totally cut?). My notes and outline keep me straight.

Tip #4: Make A Schedule
I know some people edit their brains out until it's done, but mine melts if I just go go go. And with extensive edits, there's a risk of burn out like no other. So I plan out exactly what I will be doing each day and how long it will take to finish.

I often take it by chapter. If the edits aren't as intense, I'll do a few chapters a day or something. But you could also do it by scene, by what needs to be rewritten, etc.

Sometimes life gets in the way and I get behind schedule, but that's okay. The goals keep me going forward. I never do more than I have scheduled though because I really don't like burning out. Revision is a marathon-type game—save your stamina.

Tip #5: Work.
This is the part where you actually have to open that document (or a new one) and start working. This is also when it gets scary, discouraging, and hard. But stick to that schedule! Even when it feels like the whole thing is junk. Sometimes our feelings aren't the truth, and that is never more true than in revising.

You are making your book better. It might be hard to see that, what with the walls torn out and the carpet pulled up, but you are. Step by step you will realize that your novel is really coming together, and then one day you'll be staring at it in awe. It's so pretty! I couldn't have imagined such a book, and yet it's exactly what I wanted!

And then Ty will be all "Lowe's is gonna pay your utilities for a whole year, and here's a new car!"

I wish. Finishing a big revision is great and all, but I'm afraid there's no free car. Sorry.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Inside My Brain Wednesday

Sometimes my brain goes out of control. Instead of having like one major idea for a post, it's just all over the place. Hey, my brain can't be awesome everyday. It's tiring, frankly. So, a peek into what's going on in there today:

• SCBWI LA is happening this week. I am not in LA. Kiersten and Steph and a bunch of other cool people ARE in LA/will be. *insert copious whining here* That's the blessing/curse of the internet, folks. Sometimes it's so cool to see what other people are doing, but then sometimes you just want to be there too! Gah. Better stop there.

• At least I'm going to San Francisco next Friday! This soothes the envy monster very well. I am probably meeting a certain agent, and I get to spend the whole long weekend with Kasie. Woot. ALSO, The Dread Pirate Sara is coming to visit ME in September! So I have plenty to be happy about. Take that, SCBWI LA.

• The Ninja Girl has become a Tinkerbell nazi. If it's not on, things get ugly. I have taken to rewriting it in my head as YA to quell the insanity. Terrance, Bobble, Tinkerbell love triangle FTW! Yeah, that's how many times I've watched Tinkerbell and the sequel in the past month. (And yet I'm secretly excited for the third one to come out.)

• I now have about 10 chapters until the rewrite of Transparent is finished. Three of those chapters will be lifted/edited from the old draft. That means I'm so freaking close to done! I can hardly believe it. Something else I can't believe? This book is good. Of course there's still a lot of work to do, but it's so much better than it was before.

• Being an adult sucks. It's all the little stuff that adds up—calling insurance companies, scheduling appointments, cleaning up barf, taxes, shopping. When you're a kid, if you don't do it you can count on someone else covering your back (i.e. Mom). Now? Freaking crap, I AM the mom, the maid, the cook, the gardener, etc. Go hug your moms for all that stuff they did for you.

• My hair is taking forever to grow. If you didn't know, I'm growing it out for Locks of Love. I've come a long way (about 6 inches), but I need at least 4 inches more. It's driving me crazy. My hair hasn't been this long since like 7th grade. I was never really taught how to deal with long hair! I keep getting it caught on stuff. Or it falls in my food. Or I smack someone with it when I flip it over my shoulder. I need training—I missed this section of girl school.

• I wish I could write right now. But at the same time waiting until nap time gets me so antsy that I think I work harder with the time I have. Working on a timer really lights a fire under my butt. It's weird. If I don't have some kind of deadline or goal, I just don't write at all and I get really depressed and stuff. It's like I'm an over achiever or something.

This concludes Inside My Brain Wednesday, the non-series that sounds like one. (I promise I will not torture you by doing this weekly, don't worry.)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Advice That Makes Me Twitch

(This post was spurned on by a video I saw on Kristan's blog. I highly recommend watching it, even though it's a little long.)

Write what you know.

It's probably the first piece of advice the average person hears about writing. In movies, there's always some writer who is struggling with writer's block or writing genre fiction. A wise, older writer or teacher or dude on the street will come up to that writer and be all, "Write what you know. Just write what you know."

Then the writer will nod, knowingly, and run off to write their best-selling novel based on real events from their life. *Cough* See Little Women or Anne of Green Gables *Cough*

I'm gonna be honest with you here—I pretty much loathe "Write what you know." Like, just typing it makes me twitch. The reasons are many. I think a list is in order.

1. Hi, it's FICTION.
If writers really just wrote what they knew (taking the literal meaning of this phrase, which many an average non-writer does), then that would mean writers only write autobiographies, memoir, and non-fiction. Where does that put the rest of genre fiction?

Are we really going to argue that C.S. Lewis actually had a hidden portal to Narnia? Or perhaps that J.K. Rowling knows exactly what it's like to be a teenage boy wizard? Or that Charles Dickens was secretly an old miser who got visited by the ghosts of Christmas? Or that Stephanie Meyer actually knows what it's like to fall in love with a vampire?

Of course they didn't. Of course they made it up. That would be why it's called fiction. Despite how real it feels, writers make their stories up. We could even say this of many realistic writers. Jane Austen—did she know exactly what it was like to be a wealthy, oblivious heiress with horrible matchmaking skills? And yet she wrote a very convincing Emma.

Writers don't write what they know in the literal sense, at least not all the time. And I actually think this little piece of advice is quite dangerous.

2. It Creates Assumptions Both in Readers AND Writers.
I am white. I am a woman. I am American. I am young(ish). I am Mormon. This means I am only allowed to write about girls who are white Mormon Americans, right? Or not. But I have felt that pressure. I have felt the expectation that for some reason I am not allowed to explore other people, places, and cultures within my writing. That when a reader sees my face, they will expect a certain story from me.

I hate that, and I think part of this expectation comes from this false idea that writers always write what they know.

Let's look at the book I hope to sell: It's about a Japanese-American boy ninja living in San Francisco.

I know I'll be judged for writing this book, and worse, my book will be judged for who I am. People will look for flaws intentionally, try to find where I messed up. And there's nothing I can do about it. Some will think "What right does she have to write that? How can she understand her character?" Others might think "That takes guts." Some might not be able to suspend their disbelief just based on my name on the cover (if it ever ends up there).

It's sad, but it's true. And as bad as it is for me, it's worse for others. Why is there an expectation, for example, that all multicultural writers should write about their lives (or their grandparents' immigration, or their countries of origin)? If we know someone is Muslim or Jewish or Hindu, do we expect them to stick to issues only in their own religions?

How much do we judge a work of fiction just based on the author? Is it right to do that? Just because an author is gay or Mormon or atheist, etc., does that mean they only write about that? And if they don't, are they somehow trying to indoctrinate us with subliminal messages in their books? Can I come up with more silly rhetorical questions to emphasize my point? (Yes, but I won't.)

I don't think my own creativity and storytelling should be boxed in like that—I don't think anyone's creativity should be limited to their own sphere. Fiction is a chance to reach outside ourselves, to learn, study, and imagine what it's like to be other people. If we only write what we know, I believe we're totally missing the point.

3. It's Almost Right, But Not Quite.
There has to be a better way to say what I think is at the heart of "Write what you know." Something more like:

Write what you feel. Or Feel what you write.

Or maybe Write what you want to know. Write what you want to learn?

Or perhaps Make sure the emotions in your work are authentic for your character and that you research the setting, history, and culture of your story so that it comes to life and is believable even though it's fiction.

Yeah, I like that last one.

Think about it—as diverse as this world is, as different as people are—every human experiences the same emotions. The triggers for emotion are different for every person, but we do feel them. We all know fear and love and hate and sadness. We can empathize. We can imagine. And from this writers make their stories feel real, even if they've never been a half demon with a succubus for a mom.

And when I don't know something? Hello, research. I love research. I love constantly learning about new things and places and people. Whether it's reading up on the different neighborhoods in San Francisco or studying Japanese mythology, there's always some hole to fill in my knowledge when writing. I don't care if you write contemporary or historical—research is part of a writer's life.


Writing, like any art, is a chance to get outside ourselves. Yes, art can also be created by making sense of your own experiences, but really it can be both. So don't feel like you have to lock yourself in your own little reading/writing box. You really don't have to write what you know.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Crit Partner Arsenal

Oh, crit partners. Of all the questions I get asked, I think this is the most frequent. Perhaps it's because I happen to have amazing crit partners, ones I like to praise often. I've written a big post on finding crit partners, but today I want to add another post to the discussion.

I have a fairly wide variety of crit partners, an arsenal of different styles, you could say. Each one is important to me, and I want to highly recommend gathering partners with various strengths if you can. I'll be talking about mine as examples:

The Plotter
Kiersten is my go-to girl on plot problems. She is The Plot Queen, after all. I know she'll point out any hole or lull in pacing or unnecessary passage. That's not to say that I don't work on my plots, I just mean that she will, without fail, pick up on any major issues I miss.

The Cheerleader
I have a few, really: my husband Nick, Kiersten, and Kasie. These people keep me going when I want to give up, and that role is not to be underestimated. I'd probably get nothing done without their encouragement. Getting things done is important.

The Mechanic
I can always count on Carrie and Renee to pick up on the technicalities. They'll be like, "Yeah, that's not medically possible." Or something like, "That hold would be way easy for a ninja to escape, how about this one?" And even, "Um, you have your MC sitting on the bed four times in this scene."

I love my mechanics. They force me to solidify my world. They make sure to pick out all the things that might take readers out of the story.

The Developer
Since she's so busy, I haven't had Steph read a lot of my stuff, but her comments on character development opened up my story, made it more real, and propelled me into a fuller realization of the book. She also has an amazing ability to get me to dig around and explore the world of my book, to make it more three-dimensional.

The Copy Editor
I'm a typo queen. My fingers don't listen to my brain, so I have all these wonky typos I constantly miss. Sara, Kiersten, and Kasie usually pick these up for me, the poor dears. They're also really good at picking up when I go out of voice or use confusing sentence structure. Seriously, sometimes it's like I don't even know English, which is sad, seeing as I graduated in English linguistics. But that's how it goes—after spending so much time with a project you just stop seeing, and I'm grateful for the fresh eyes.

The Critic
Warning: American Idol Comparison Ahead. So you know how everyone "hates" Simon, but in reality they actually value his opinion most and do what he says?

As uncomfortable as it is, I would highly recommend finding a "Simon" for your writing, too. Someone that pushes you further than you think you can go. Someone who is honest, even when the news isn't pleasant. Someone who gets what you're trying to do, but at the same time sees where you're missing the mark. (Disclaimer: I don't think ALL of your readers should be true critics, though. It's hard to wade through their disagreements that way. One or two is plenty.)

For me, that would be my agent. (Note: That doesn't mean your agent should be your critic. It's different for everyone. I have friends whose agents are not in any way The Critic, and they get on just peachy. This happens to be how it turned out for me.)

Now, don't get me wrong, Nathan is far, far politer than Simon. If there was an Olympic sport for politeness, Nathan would win gold. But he is my critic—he looks at my work and points out every flaw (very politely, but he still does). Why? Because he knows I can do better.

This is the most important part of the critic relationship: Trust. If you do not trust your critic, then you will fight the sometimes hard things they have to say. You will think they're picking on you. You won't take their advice. But if you DO trust your critic, you'll understand that they believe in your potential. You will take their advice, and when the revisions are done you will be intensely proud of the work. You might even be shocked that your writing could be that...good.

Then, somehow, your trust in your critic will grow. You will be glad they said all those hard things because the story is better for it—you're a better writer for it.


It really does take a village, doesn't it? Well, at least it does for me. I'm so grateful to all the people who help make my writing better. I'm grateful for their strengths, for their positive, helpful feedback. I'd be a mess without them.

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Flutters

It's been almost two months since I worked on Transparent, and you might remember the letter I wrote to the book. I've been reading through the 37k I had in order to get back into Fiona's mindset, and something happened yesterday.

I fell in love again.

It didn't happen right away. At first I kept getting these icky editing feelings like "Oh, that'll need to be smoothed out" and "I should probably flesh out those feelings better." But I didn't touch it—this is still a first-ish draft, afterall, even if it's a rewrite.

And then I hit page 101, and I got all mushy inside. My heart warmed. I knew for the first time in a while that this story was worth it, no matter what came of it.

It wasn't a life-changing scene. In fact, it was actually quite simple (as you'll see), one that could probably be cut if I needed. But it made me remember something—I love these characters. I love them so, so much. I love building friendships with big groups of friends, and this was one of those moments. Not only that, but this scene wasn't in the original draft, making me feel like the rewrite has been worth it in many ways.

So I'm going to share today (though this will probably make zero sense without any context, mwahaha). A rare thing, I know. It won't be up long. But this moment was so important to me—I want to hold on to this feeling forever. After all I've been through with the book...finally, I love it again.

From Transparent:

After Hector and Tony both finish their tenth, Seth clears his throat. “Would you hand me another one?”

He’s not exactly out of reach, but I’m so taken back by the civility that I comply.

“Thanks.” He glances at me, almost meeting my eyes. “Aren’t you going to eat?”

I bite my lip, wondering if this is some kind of joke. “I had a couple tacos before you guys got here. The burritos gross me out.”

“They are kind of gross.” He takes another bite.

I hold in my laugh. “Then why are you eating it?”

He shrugs, and it’s so like Miles I’m temporarily thrown off balance. “I’m starving. Free food.”

“True.” I take a long sip of my drink. What the hell is up with him? I think this is the first normal conversation I’ve had with Seth, and it’s so…well, normal.

I glance at him, and for a second it seems like all the tension in his face is gone. Just like Brady changed yesterday. I don’t understand.

“Hey.” Miles snaps me out of my daze, but when I look up I realize he’s not looking at me. He’s looking at Bea and Brady, who’re whispering to each other. “You guys look like you’re plotting.”

Bea laughs, her Trixy grin firmly in place. “Oh, we are. We thought some night games were in order after dinner.”

“Night games?” I say.

Brady’s face lights up like a five-year-old about to tell a cool story. “Yeah, you go to a park after dark and play. I call Fifi for my team.”

“Hey!” Carlos cries. “No fair! She has way too much advantage.”

“You’re the one with night vision!” Hector says.

“That doesn’t mean I can see through invisibility, stupid.”

So there you go, the scene that made me fall in love again. I still don't know exactly why, but I'm so happy it did. Rewriting is much easier when you're happy to do it.

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.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

It's That Time Again...

Question & Answer Time!

I usually do this about every other month, so it's time to open the blog up to questions. What can you ask? Well, just about anything as long as it's PG-13. Need an example, perhaps?

Christine H read my mind yesterday and asked a great question in comments: What type of training did you invest in? What about it was so helpful? Are there any courses that you would personally recommend?

I didn't invest in much, if you mean paying for writing classes, etc. My knowledge comes more from trial and error, getting lots of feedback, and reading.

In college I took all of one creative writing class. I didn't have to take freshman English because I scored high on my AP English test in high school, so the only other writing class I took was the required advanced course. I picked technical writing. Since I graduated in English linguistics with a minor in editing, I had a lot of language expertise, but not exactly in creative writing.

I also worked for BYU's multicultural magazine,
Eagle's Eye. I wrote, edited, and designed for them my entire time at school. I loved it.

When I started up writing stories again, I jumped into the online community and got lots of feedback, read agent blogs, made a lot of mistakes, fixed my mistakes, read a lot of books, worked my butt off, etc. Rinse and repeat.

So I guess I'm not the one to be recommending courses or whatever. If I'm being honest, the two I took weren't super helpful overall. What was more helpful was actually writing a whole book, realizing it sucked, and doing it again. And again. What also helped was reading a lot of stories, learning what worked. My agent was also a huge help in teaching me how to really dig into edits and improve a story.

Training can come from anywhere, I think. It's all helpful. So don't worry about spending a ton of money if you don't have it.

See how fun that was? You could have your question answered too! All you have to do is ask.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Honing Talent

Thank you so much for your comments yesterday! I had so much to say that I thought I would just throw it all into one post. I want to talk about how I've changed as an artist/writer over the years.

First off, I'd like to clarify that I'm not sad about this whole wanting-to-create-a-masterpiece-and-not-being-able-to business. I totally get that every artist, big and small, goes through this. That's why it's the artist's battle. An unending, internal battle that propels you forward if you don't admit defeat.

I also want to thank all of you who said I was talented. I really appreciate that—let's face it, hearing that someone thinks you have potential never gets old. But I've learned that talent isn't, well, enough. It's a great start, but it won't get you "there" in the end.

Wait, don't panic. I have a story! (Several, really.)

I've always been naturally inclined to write and draw. Even when I was little (like 5), I could see that my drawings were a cut above the kids in my class. I won a young writer's award for a book I wrote and illustrated when I was 6.

I rode on my talent for a long time. I didn't really need to work or improve because in my little world I was already one of the best.

Then I moved, and I met a girl named Cherise. This girl made my drawings look elementary. She drew anime like a professional, at least to my eye. At first it made me feel stupid—why did I ever think I was a good artist? But then I realized something.

Cherise always had a pencil in her hand. She hardly stopped practicing. She'd taken what was probably a natural talent and put in hard work.

I'd never really, honestly tried to improve. I drew for fun, and fairly often, but it wasn't like I was studying. Cherise had art books. She studied other artists. She took it seriously. (Note: At least this is what I saw in my 7th grader head, I can't remember the specifics.)

I could have given up. I could have accepted that she would always be better than me and that was okay. But I didn't. I got my own notebook, and I drew and drew. My left hand was basically dirty with pencil, charcoal, chalk, paint, etc. for the next six years.

I haven't seen Cherise in more than a decade—I don't know if I ever "surpassed" her. But that's not the point. That was never the point. I've surpassed myself over and over. I wouldn't have been able to do that if I didn't put in the work to hone my natural talent. And I wouldn't have done that if Cherise didn't inspire me to improve.

I know I'm still not as incredible an artist as some, but trying to be incredible has brought me closer to that dream! Recognizing that there are people out there who draw or dance or write better than you isn't necessarily a bad thing. In fact, I think it's the beginning of the path to improvement. Of course you shouldn't spend your whole life comparing and feeling like crap, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with acknowledging that you're an apprentice and choosing to learn from a master!

Actually, it's been the way of artists for centuries.

You'd think I'd have learned my lesson from this experience with Cherise, but I didn't. I in no way applied this newfound diligence to writing.

I wrote a lot for fun. Angsty teen poetry. Journal rants. Even a book/regurgitation of every anime I'd seen up to that point. I printed the "book" off for my friends in chapters. And they would tell me how awesome it was and beg for more. I thought I was some Big Shot writer. I laugh at the thought now. Oh, I was so cute.

But then I met Ms. Woolsey. You know how there's always that cool English teacher everyone likes? Well, she was the one. I was very excited to be in her class, to show off how awesome my writing was.

Our first big paper was on Macbeth. I pretty much thought I rocked it. I had all these good points and was so original. She was hardcore, but she'd see my talent right away just like everyone else.

She gave me a C-.

My first C-. Ever.

I bawled. Because of that C-, I got an A- that term and my 4.0 was ruined. I felt so stupid. Here I thought I was some amazing writer. I don't remember the exact words of her crit, but it was something like "good ideas, but the writing is sloppy and raw."

I'd relied on my talent, once again, without taking the time to hone my skills. And by 11th grade my writing talent wasn't enough anymore. I had to work, and I did work even though I really wanted to crawl under the desk every time I looked at Ms. Woolsey.

I didn't quite learn the lesson like I did with drawing, though. After that C-, I stopped writing creatively. Sure, I learned to rock the literary analysis thing, but I gave up on my dreams of a book. Decided I wasn't cut out for it. That was pretty much the worst mistake of my life.

I hate thinking how much better a writer I could be if I'd just practiced for the five years I didn't write stories. I could have been honing my talent, getting closer to that masterpiece.

Anyway, lesson learned.

Some of the comments yesterday said stuff like "just write it." And maybe a couple years ago I would have agreed with that. But now I know better. Just writing—just getting those words on the paper—isn't quite enough. I wrote a lot of books that are basically at the same crappy level. Yes, every word helps you improve, but I promise you will improve even more if you push harder.

It wasn't until I sought real, technical training that I improved. It wasn't until I treated my story like a potential masterpiece that it got better. It wasn't until I trained under a few "masters" that I really started to understand this story-telling business.

Talent is only a starting point. No matter how much you have, hard work and goals will always get you more of it. Sure, there may be people who are always better or worse, but that is no reason to stay still, to not try to get where you personally want to be.

So yes, I still ache to write my own definition of a masterpiece. And I don't think that's such a bad thing.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Artist's Battle

Lately I've been wanting to write something spectacular—the kind of book that blows people away, leaves them in shock not only of how good the story is, but the writing as well. Yes, I want to birth a masterpiece, basically.

And of course because this is the way I'm feeling, absolutely none of my writing can possible live up to it. Some of my ideas might have potential, but then I realize I just don't have the skill yet to write them the way I want. I've grown a lot as a writer, but not enough.

Please don't think I'm depressed. I guess I've just been thinking a lot about the path of an artist in general. It's always this battle—the battle to improve and create that image in your head on paper.

I feel like I'm in yet another growing phase, where I just have to push out a lot of crap in order to learn. Both in writing and drawing. I went through this a few years ago with writing. Thousands of crappy words, just so I could figure out which ones were good. I've gone through this several times as an artist as well—lots of horrible sketches to figure out the right place to put the lines and shadows and light.

Sadly, having gone through it before doesn't make it any easier this time. It's always frustrating to feel like you've gone backwards, to feel like you're a greenie all over again.

But the only way to get through it is to push forward. I know, I'm a broken record, but I'm mostly reminding myself. My natural impulse is to give up, to accept that I'll be at this level forever and that's okay. I've learned, though, that when you push forward you really do get better.

I have thousands of horrible drawings and hundreds of thousands of awful words to prove it.

So maybe someday I will write that masterpiece, but it sure as heck won't be anytime soon. And though that sometimes makes me restless, I'm also okay with it.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Sunday Sketch

I love pencil. Don't get me wrong, my drawing tablet is a lot of fun, but pencil will always be my first love. I'm confident drawing in pencil. I feel like I can do things I can't in other mediums. I like the sketchy look in general. Simple, soft, raw.

Anyway, this is for Cindy Pon! She recently won 3rd place in my Bring On The Funny contest. Cindy, I hope you're squealing right now:) I'm so happy with how it turned out. It was a great excuse to try my hand at your characters again.

This is Ai Ling and Chen Yong from her novel Silver Phoenix and the upcoming sequel Fury of the Phoenix. I really enjoyed her book and look forward to the next. If you're an Asian fantasy fan in particular, you'll probably enjoy these. The first had such an old folklore feel. Very cool.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

I'm A Big Kid Now

This morning I was all, "Man, I wish I had some of my mom's raspberry peach jam. That, plus some Nutella on toast? Dude."

Then I was like, "She never makes it anymore! Ugh! I bet even if I drove up there to steal some, there wouldn't be any..."

And THEN I thought, "Wait, I could, like, MAKE some myself. Whoa. I could so do that!"

So I went to the store and bought fresh raspberries and peaches and lemons. I got canning jars and pectin. And all the while I couldn't help thinking about how long it took me to realize I could make the dang jam myself.

Even now sometimes I still act like a child—"Mom! Make me some jam! Gosh!"—and I have to step back and remember that I am, shockingly, a grown up now. If I want homemade jam, I have two hands completely capable of peeling peaches and stirring in an alarming amount of sugar.

It was scary at first. I'd helped my mom but never done it myself. I might have messed it up. I admit I forgot to grab a few ingredients and ran out to the store...three times. I fumbled over the slippery peaches. I felt like a wuss when my arms burned from stirring and stirring.

But I made jam! And I did it by myself. Self-sufficiency feels good. Tastes good, too.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Social Media: What To Do

(Part two in a two part series: What Not To Do was yesterday. Wait, if it only has two parts, can it BE a series? Do I have to figure out a third post for a trilogy? Maybe this should be called, Social Media: The More Positive Sequel.)

Warning: This will be long. Like, LONG.

So yesterday I probably made a lot of people nervous. I went to a writers' gathering yesterday, and even got asked if I thought people were boring. Then I felt really bad and worried if I sounded mean. THEN I got home and Adam Heine was all:
You know what sucks though? It's like that funny contest you had. If you tell me I have to be entertaining and funny, I can't do it.

That's your whole plan, isn't it? To paralyze your readers, leaving you the only funny one left on the internet!
It's like he knows...No! That was not my intention, I swear. I totally understand the pressure that comes with networking, with essentially being on display. Some days I stare at Blogger's little text box thinking, "Holy crap, I have absolutely nothing interesting to say."

So today I'm going to talk about what to do, and I hope it doesn't come off overwhemling or impossible, etc. It's actually really simple. I've talked about networking before (but in more general terms), I think this will kind of expound on that post.

1. Be Yourself
I say this a lot, I know, but it's really that important. I am always flabbergasted when people say I'm funny, because I would give up my favorite pair of nunchaku to be as funny as Kiersten or Steph or Carrie. I feel like the UNfunny one.

But in the end, all I can be is myself. If I tried to force my funny to be Kiersten's funny, it soooo wouldn't work. I know this because I've tried. And then I've deleted those posts. (But seriously! The household memos! Why can't I DO that?)

Okay, so I can hear some of you saying, "How do I be myself?" or "But myself is boring!" Well, it's not, promise. Every person on this planet is interesting—not all the time—but they are. Some tips:

• Find Your Online Voice
The me you see on this blog? Well, it's mostly me. If you've met me in person, you probably realized I wasn't nearly as funny, and I was rather shy and possibly awkward...I'm really bad at small talk. The real me is, sadly, more dull.

Actually, I'm probably more open on my blog than in person. When I started my blog, I decided I wanted to be honest about the writing venture. Not whiny, but honest. I didn't want to leave out the hard parts—I wanted to think about them, laugh about them, face them head on.

So my blog basically is my voice, but tailored to a specific part of it: honest, with a sprinkling of humor and, I hope, a healthy dose of encouragement.

Because really, you do NOT want to see the whiny, desperate part of my voice. Ask Kiersten. It's not pretty.

• Share Your Interests
If you've been here more than a week, you might have noticed I like anime, Code Red, good food, video games, yoga, and drawing. I share this stuff because I love it, but also because I love to connect with others who like what I do. I adore when people give me anime recs or get excited over Final Fantasy like I do.

Yeah, this is mostly a writing blog, but showing a bit of yourself outside the writing gig is good too.

• Don't Care So Much
I know, counter intuitive. Here I am telling you what to do in Social Media, and yet I'm telling you to stop caring. But seriously—chill out. My voice gets so stifled when I start worrying about what other people think of me, if I'm doing a good enough job, if I'm building a big enough "platform," if I'm even important out there at all...

*Deep breath*

Loosen up. Have fun. Be yourself! You know how you can just feel the awkwardness when you meet someone who's trying to act right because they're worried they won't be liked? Yeah, that comes out in type, too.

I've said it before, but it's not about making people like you—it's about finding the people who naturally do.

2. Consider Your Audience First
I think a lot of people worry about being boring. If you are one of those, this is the section for you.

When I first started blogging, I really just blogged for myself. And that was just fine! I don't feel bad about that at all. I, uh, didn't have an audience. But then I started making friends. Things changed. I started writing posts for them, talking about things that interested us, etc.

Then my following kind of exploded (a large part due to my getting an agent), and things changed again. Where I used to know each person who read my blog, I didn't anymore. Where I used to visit all their blogs and comment, I now literally do not have the time to meet all the wonderful people who follow me. I really wish I did—I often feel super guilty that so many people take time out of their day to read my words, and yet I can't return the gesture.

Wow, insert massive-guilty-pit-in-the-stomach here.

But I promise I think about you guys everyday. When I think of what to blog about, the first thing I think of is all of you! My blog isn't about me anymore—it's about you, the readers.

I imagine you as these awesome writers, all at different phases but trucking along just like me. I think about what you guys might want to or need to read, and then I try to write it. Sometimes I probably miss the mark (and of course there's a selfish post here and there), but I hope that sometimes I say just what you need. That's my goal.

So, after that long story, some tips on audience:

• Pick One Audience
Obviously I have chosen writers. I write a blog about writing. While many of you probably find my blog entertaining, someone who has no interest in writing probably couldn't care less about my blog. In turn, I do not follow blogs about the NFL. Shocking, I know.

There are mommy bloggers, quilting bloggers (my mom is has a fabulous quilting blog), cooking bloggers, political bloggers, etc. and so forth.

• Know That Audience Backwards and Forwards
I mean, let's face it, unless you're legitimately famous, no one's coming to your blog for YOU. They are coming for what you have to offer them—most likely entertainment or information. Maybe both. Ideally both.

I'll use my ever-awesome agent, Nathan Bransford, as an example. He has probably one of the most popular writing/publishing-focused blogs out there. Yes, he is an agent, but there are lots of agents with blogs that do not get nearly as much attention.

What's the deal? Basically, Nathan has his audience pegged, and he delivers exactly what they want and more. He is helpful, full of information, and he presents it in an approachable, funny way. He makes publishing look less intimidating. He encourages writers while also giving advice.

Also, the space monkeys.

• Establish Your Audience
Once you've decided what you want to write about and to whom (Cooking blog for newbie cooks! Music blog dedicated to 80s rock! Ninja blog for the serious shinobi!), it's time to build your audience. This takes time and patience. It doesn't happen overnight.

You have to get out there, comment, and be real. You have to hit the mark with your posts, figure out what resonates and what falls flat. In the beginning, I'd write a lot of posts no one seemed to care about. Then I'd hit something that everyone would comment on and think I'd made it. The next day? Nothing.

Sometimes I get on streaks, where it seems like my posts are doing their job and people are talking about them and tweeting them, etc. I try to keep that going, but I'll admit it's hit and miss. I don't have a magic formula, but I do try and I always try to be as responsive as I can to people who comment and tweet and email me.

It's about interaction, communication. The internet is one giant conversation, and people respond when you acknowledge them.

3. Know Your Medium
If you decide to blog, learn the standards for blogging. If you decide you want to take over YouTube with the coolest vlogs since the Vlogbrothers, know what makes a good vlog. Insert Twitter, conferences, livestreaming, podcasts, and whatever else here.

This is why you shouldn't pick up every single social medium out there. You just can't be good at everything, and being so-so at a bunch won't really get you anywhere.

The tips:

• Study The Best In Your Chosen Medium
Figure out what they're doing right. What is it about their videos or post or tweets that have people signing up constantly? It's like reading within your genre—you do it to learn what's already being done and where you could make room for yourself on that shelf.

• Learn Basic Design For You Medium
People are more swayed by appearance than we let on. If your blog looks amateur, people will probably think you are that way too. If your videos have scratchy sound and bounce all over, regular vlog watchers will just turn it off.

Essentially, look professional! Walk the walk, talk the talk, so to speak. It makes a difference.

• Practice Practice Practice
Yeah, you can't get out of it here, either. Everyone starts out green. That's just the way it goes. Don't expect to figure it all out in a week or so. It takes time to find your groove and learn the rules and your style, etc. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that.


Okay, I think I've talked at you long enough, haven't I? Wow, epic post. I hope it helps. Just remember: be yourself, know your audience, and know your medium. Simple, right? Kinda?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Social Media: What Not To Do

(Part One of a two-part series. Tomorrow will be "What To Do.")

Everyone seems to be jumping on the social media bandwagon lately. Supposedly it's a great way to build an audience and stuff like that—if you do it the right way. But let's face it, networking isn't always done right, and I'm starting to wonder if "online presence" is really beneficial for everyone. Or maybe some people don't realize they're doing it wrong.

So today I'm going to list some things I think should be avoided at all costs, both in blogging and on Twitter, since that's where I hang out.

1. Don't Be Mean
It's pretty simple, and for the most part people are great at following this. People don't really like mean people. Of course you are entitled to your opinions, but remember that when you post them on the internet everyone can see them forever.

Say you post a less than fair review of a book, and the editor sees that review (you'd be surprised how many have their authors on Google Alert—I have gotten hits from publishers when I mention books). THEN let's say your agent sends your MS to that want to think it doesn't matter, but what if it does?

Professionalism comes first online. I know it might sound like I'm telling you to be fake or something, but I'm not. I telling you to remember the internet is an online community—not a small circle of your best friends.

2. Don't Be Boring
More than anything, I'm positive being dull is the kiss of death online. Being mean will at least get the flamers reading you, I suppose. Being boring means you'll just be ignored, which in turn means you're putting in effort for nothing. Wow, that sounds harsh, sorry.

But the Internet is really about two things—entertainment and information. If you aren't providing one or the other, you can bet you'll get skipped in people's Google reader or glanced over on the Twitter feed, for the most part. And what good is that?

Of course "boring" is audience sensitive: your mother will love all those pictures of your newborn...the random stranger? Maybe not so much. A few examples of boring (I am sometimes guilty myself): Reporting word counts, telling all of Twitter goodnight, documenting every meal, blogging about vegetables.

3. Don't Be Annoying
This includes spamming in any form, posts filled with inside jokes you don't explain, extremely long conversations on twitter (as if you're instant messaging in your own world), drunk posts/tweets, an excess of all caps, etc.

I'm surprised by the people who are guilty of this, because it's a lot of published authors. I hate to say it—that's mean—but when one person fills up my feed with a lengthy RT session of every question readers ask them, filled with book spoilers and questions I don't care about, I get a little peeved. That's what hashtags are for! If I'm interested in your Q&A, I will click on the hashtag and read through. You don't have to pummel me with hundreds of tweets.

Basically, don't go overboard. Online networking is really fun, but when it gets out of hand it runs the risk of being super annoying. And when that happens? Yeah, the unfollow button comes next.

4. Don't Be (Too) Whiny
A little Pity Party now and then won't kill your readership. We all have our tough days and you guys know I'm not shy about addressing that, but here's the key:

You have to spin it positively. It has to be, "Yes, I'm struggling, but I'm pushing forward and working and not giving up." Otherwise you sound like you're whining about how unfair this business is, and no one needs to hear that. We already know, hehe.

Being whiny is also like being mean—it's just not professional. Say an agent happens to visit your blog the day you bemoan how unfair querying is and how all agents are stupid for not snapping you up. Perhaps that agent loved you, but maybe now they're thinking, "If she can't handle querying, then there's no way she'd make it through the rigors of submissions."

Yeah, that would suck.

Also, no one likes a beggar. I kind of hate that blogs have the "follow" function now. Did you know they didn't have that like a year ago? I feel so uncomfortable when people complain about not having a lot of followers. I squirm thinking I'm judged by that number and often consider taking it down. Blog followings take time—three years ago my mom was the only one reading my blog. Everything in this business takes time.

5. Don't Do Everything
Do you know anyone who's an artist/singer/writer/dancer/actor? Um, and if you do, are they GOOD at all of them? My guess is no. You don't have to be everywhere online—pick one or two, be good at them, and put up blinders to the rest. Otherwise you'll be spread way too thin. (Let's face it, my FB account is a joke at this point.)


Basically, think before you click. If your post is something that might fit better in a diary, perhaps you should reconsider. If your tweet makes wet paint look exciting, maybe it's better not to say anything at all.

Don't be afraid to be silent once in while—sometimes that's better than putting something lame out there. Save your words for when you really have something to say.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Some Promises

Sorry for the late post, I was kind of working all morning. I finished yet another round of edits today. You'd think I'd get tired of this, that it wouldn't be exciting anymore (especially when I'm going on like round 19 or something like that), but each time actually feels more triumphant. I can't believe I read it again. I can't believe how close it's getting. I can't believe it's...good.

I took myself to lunch in celebration. A bento box seemed appropriate.

But while I was out, I realized how soon these edits could be done, and of course my mind drifted to the next task. What is up with that? Writers really never stop working, do they?

I'm all fluttery nervous to get back to Transparent, the WIP I'm rewriting. I wanted to finish it before this other edit, but it just wasn't in the cards. And so I have to jump back in, about half way through.

If I'm being honest, I've struggled a lot with that book. I've loved it, hated it, doubted it, hoped for it, and everything in between. I've beaten it up, and in turn it beat me up. I've considered many times that maybe this story, this character, is too big for a n00b writer like me. Anything bad you can think about your writing, I promise you I've thought it about Transparent.

But I don't want to go back to the book with this mentality. I remember how hard it was to write thinking every second how much I was wasting my time. During lunch today, I did something really dorky: I decided I needed to write a letter to my book. I had stuff to say to it. So here goes...

Dear Transparent,

I know things got ugly there at the end, before I took this break, and I want to apologize for treating you like crap. I blamed a lot of stuff on you, told you daily how awful you were, threatened to throw you out when I didn't know what to do or how to fix things.

It was wrong of me. I mean, how could I expect you to show up for writing time when I treated you like that? I wouldn't want to be written either after all the mean things I did. I don't even blame you for not flowing out of my fingers.

It was my fault—I put my own feelings on you. I felt like I wasn't a good enough writer to create you. I felt awful for not being strong enough to push through. I feared I'd never be able to fix you. I'm still afraid I won't be able to make you what you deserve to be, that I'll always fail your plot and characters and prose.

I know I've been a jerk, but I still want to write you. I still love how quirky and cool you are. I know I've treated you with disrespect when I should have nurtured you. I know I've been intolerant when I should have had patience. But when we start this again, I promise it'll be different. I have lots of promises for you, ones I intend to keep.

1. I promise to love you.
From page one, I knew you were special. You scared me because you were so different and challenging, but I fell in love quick. Maybe too much love because I never wanted to hurt you. Anyway, I promise to remember that love, even when things get rough.

2. I promise to separate my feelings from you.
When I feel like a bad writer, I promise I won't take it out on you. It's not your fault—you are the good idea and I'm the clumsy artist. If I doubt my ability, I promise to keep working because you deserve to be finished. I will remember that what I feel isn't always true.

3. I promise to treat your characters with respect.
I will be true to their feelings. I will admit when I've painted them wrong and fix it. I will love them, even if I have to hurt them. I promise to portray them as the flawed, strange people that they are. I will not get upset when they don't cooperate with me—instead I will ask them what the problem is. And finally...

4. I promise to treat your plot with respect.
If I mess it up, I will fix it. If I don't hit the right notes the first time, I will try again. I promise to write your plot as compelling as I possibly can, and I promise to admit when I've failed and should do better. And if I do get it right, I promise not to panic and wonder if I didn't.

I know it won't be easy, but I hope we can get along the next time I open your Word Doc. I meant it when I said you deserve to be written, and I'm sorry that I made you feel otherwise. I know a better writer could probably handle you just fine, but I hope you'll stick with me. We can do this. It will be better this time. I promise.


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Link Party

First things first: Have you seen Carrie Harris' new website? Man, I don't think I've ever had such intense website envy. Also, check out her blog for her very first ARC contest (she doesn't have them yet, but she's already promising the lucky winner her first born! [uh, I mean first ARC!]).

In other news, winner of my contest, Angela A, has interviewed me over at her lovely blog. If you would like to know more about my current projects, who inspires me as a writer, and how I'd survive a zombie invasion, head on over.

As for a real, I'm blank. Basically, this is what it looks like in my head:

Must edit. Must edit. MUST EDIT NOW.

It's practically the only thing on my mind. I don't know about you, but when I get like this I have no creativity. None. It's like the right side of my brain has shut down entirely, so that my flaky left side can actually concentrate on the task at hand.

So, um, maybe I'll send you to more of my cool friends? I like to rely on their awesomeness like that.

Kiersten has had some good posts lately. Have seen her brilliant post on paranormal romance yet? You need to read it if you missed it. And today she's talking about how writers are not their characters. So true. I am not, in fact, a 16-year-old boy ninja. Unfortunately.

I really enjoyed Kristan's post about her magic fridge. Oh, and there's some great writing stuff in there too. I've been through the same epiphanies, sans fridge, sadly.

The Dread Pirate Sara has been on a rant streak lately, and I particularly loved her one about people saying "There's no rush. You're young. You have plenty of time." Been. There. I was almost 22 when I decided to take writing seriously. People said I was still young. But some things take a long time to happen and if you want it you should reach for it no matter your age! Hi, here I am almost five years later and I'm still reaching. Whew, I guess I could rant about that too.

And finally, Heather Hansen talked about her personal writing rules a few days back. I found them very powerful—things I need to remember myself.

Okay, there we go. Have fun with those. *Charges back into Editland*

Monday, July 12, 2010

Winners: Bring On The Funny

Thanks to all who entered my contest! You guys are just fabulous. I always worry no one will enter and then I'm surprised by the enthusiasm. I've been smiling all week at the entries, which has certainly taken the edge off editing.

As I read through these to decide on winners, I realized just how hard funny is to write. Humor is such a personal thing! What's funny to one person may go over another's head, or they might think it's lame, or it brings a smile but not a chuckle.

I could see how each entry had the element of humor, but I was surprised how much my own tastes and current life experiences affected what made me laugh and what only brought a smile. So please know that I'm not saying your entries aren't funny—because they all were! But there were some that resonated more with me than others.

And I guess that's why humor is so difficult. Angst and sadness and fear are largely derived from the sames things—you can count on unrequited love being angsty, a death being sad, a serial killer being scary, for the most part. But humor is always changing, and you have to keep close tabs on the things that matter to your target audience.

Okay, enough of me rambling. Time for winners!

Third Place: Cindy Pon!
natalie whipple
sat by a thimble
filled with jam and wasabi
she dipped her dainty finger
into the mixture
and called the cabana boy
for some curry
then cindy pon entered
in a string bikini
with no stretchmarks or anything!
hello darling gorgeous thing
cindy blows kisses
is it saturday have you posted a drawing?
with an eloquent wave of her hand
natalie said: sit down, i'm about to brunch.
and lunch? cindy replied, with hope in her eyes
natalie nodded, and sup and tea!
cindy wiggled
clapping with glee
her bikini top nearly fell off
but it's okay, there's nothing to see
as natalie clanged silver cymbals
in filed an endless string of #cuteasianboys
bearing trays of delicious delectables
from sushi to thai curry
bulgogi to udon
mapo tofu, cold soba, hot tea!
natalie and cindy dined in a bliss
but made sure they left room for
something sweet

See, Cindy used what she knew about me to create something that would be particularly funny TO ME. It might not be funny to anyone else, but it had me rolling. This is a perfect example of considering your audience.

Second Place: Lynsey Newton
My boyfriend Chris took me out to our favourite restaurant for my birthday. It was a busy night and the restaurant was packed! Unbeknownst to me, Chris had arranged a birthday surprise but unfortunately, the waiter got the timing wrong. Chris had just gone to find the bathroom when the cheesy happy birthday music started and I was presented with a small desert with a candle.

The entire restaurant turned to look at me sitting all on my own. I even heard a “awww, she’s all on her own”. I had to address the entire restaurant by saying “No, it’s ok, he’s just gone to the bathroom”. When Chris came back, the waiter realised what had happened and apologised profusely. He took my desert away and then proceeded to play the music AGAIN. Thankfully I got my desert back but I died of embarrassment. Not once but twice that night.

Lynsey may have not known this would be so freaking funny to me, but this one hit home and had me giggling the rest of the day. I even had to tell Nick about it. Why? Well, I happen to HATE getting the birthday treatment at a restaurant. It's so embarrassing to me, free dessert or not. It was the perfect real life funny story for me.

First Place: Angela A!

I had an idea
late last night
and I jotted it down
so that maybe I might
turn it into a novel
and get a sweet book deal
with no strings attached.

It's got zombies and ninjas
(all those awesome things)
and death traps and werewolves
and magical rings.
So I got out my laptop
and started to type
to get this idea out
while it was still ripe.

But then I saw ice cream
and started to eat
and then I saw Twitter
and just had to tweet.
Ice cream's not healthy
so I went for a jog
and then I was sidetracked
by an author's blog.

"Start writing!" I told myself
okay, ready, set...
Hey wait! Is that an episode
of The Bachelorette?

Apparently I think poetry is funny, but Angela's poem was absolutely perfect for not only me, but I bet many writers. She got me with ninjas, etc, and yet she also appealed to a wider audience of writers in general. She nailed it, and rhymed too!

Winners, please contact me at to discuss prizes. Thanks for making me laugh!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Get Ready For the Apocalypse Now

I can't help myself. I want this video to be true. Now excuse me, I have to go practice gathering morning dew in human skulls.

Friday, July 9, 2010

On the Brink of Harvest

Well, I'm back to edits. Yes, I just finished them last week, but let's just say I'm not the ONLY person who might be a cyborg. *Ahem* So no drawing today. I only have a few sketches that aren't worth scanning. But I have a few pictures, is that okay? Once again any spare moment I have goes to work, and sadly there are not many spare moments! Where did all my time go?

One sec...Ninja Girl's screaming to get out of her chair. Oh, and Dino Boy needs a juice refill. (Note to self: Must ration the juice so we can make it to tomorrow. Also, register Dino Boy for preschool.)

Wait, where was I? Oh yeah, I can't seem to find any time! It just magically disappears into the nether. But I squeak in a little work here and there. I might have to bribe Nick to let me go to the library tomorrow so I can make some real progress.

Anyway, as I'm heading into yet another edit on this project, I can't help but feel a little antsy. It reminds me of waiting for the vegetables in my garden to ripen. I'm so eager to pick them—and yet they're not quite ready.

I mean, it was easier to wait when the peas looked like this:
There was nothing to pick! Sure, I knew it would be a while until there were peas, that there'd be lots of watering and weeding and such. But the fruits of my labors were still a ways off. I could live with that, had to, really.

But now they look like this:

The cherry tomatoes are also taunting me:
But see how some of those pea pods aren't quite plumped yet? And notice how the tomatoes, even the red ones, aren't quite ripened. Almost, but not quite.

I can't tell you how hard it is not to pick them! I know they'll taste better in a few days. I know that if I keep watering and tending and waiting, they'll be ready. And yet I want to pluck them off the plants and eat them now. They'd be good—but they wouldn't be just right.

That's how I feel about my edits right now. I feel so close. Like, so close it hurts. Just a few more tweaks. Just a couple more changes. And honestly? I don't really want to do them. I want it to be done right now, but at the same time I know it's not. I know that if I pluck my manuscript off the symbolic vine, it won't be the best possible fruit. It'll be good, but it won't be quite as sweet and ripe as it should be.

How is it that time seems to slow down the closer we get? I swear the same thing happens in the last month of pregnancy, too. As far as we've come, at the same time we haven't quite made it and that's incredibly angst-inducing. There's nothing quite like being on the brink of done.

But word to the wise? Wait.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Shiny Things Everywhere!

(Note: I have a guest post up about "What I Wish I Knew While Querying" over at Sara Larson's blog, if you're interested in that kind of stuff.)

Have you noticed? Does it call to the miser in you like it does to me? Maybe these lines sound familiar:

Just leave a comment.

Just answer one question in comments

Just tweet, FB, blog, etc. about it and leave a link in comments.

Make a video.

Draw a Picture.

Write a Poem.

Make me laugh.

There are contests everywhere these days! Free books. Crits. Swag. Every time I hit a blog and see a contest, there's this little niggling in the back of my head. I could win. I like free stuff.

I mean, how do you pass up a free book? And a FREE BOOK just for commenting? It's like gambling, except you're spending time and not money. And seriously, with how many contests there are these days you could spend all day everyday entering them.

I've had to turn the other way for many, because I have, like, kids and work to do. I hear that's more important than winning free stuff. (I'm still skeptical.)

But then sometimes there are contests I just can't ignore. I mean, ignoring one free book is hard, but a whole STACK? Yeah, right. So I'm totally hocking some contests today, ones you might want to jump in on as well.

1. Kiersten White's ARC Extravaganza
Not only is she giving away her last ARC of Paranormalcy, but she also sweetening the prize with some of the most coveted ARCs out there: Matched and Firelight. It's already out, but she's also throwing a Before I Fall ARC in there too. Um, yeah. *Drool*

Your job? Create something to celebrate Paranormalcy. Not too much to ask for all that awesome. Really, her book is worth it.

2. Cindy Pon's Ultimate Multicultural Bonanza

In celebration of multicultural lit, Cindy is giving away SEVEN books featuring characters of color. Obviously, I'm a huge fan of this, and she happened to pick several books that are way up there on my To Buy list. Man, I want to win. So. Bad.

3. Bree Despain's Video Viewing Challenge
Bree has a fabulous trailer up for her book The Dark Divine. It played in movie theaters all over Utah I know for sure, and maybe more places. But anyway, she's throwing fabulous books into the giveaway basket based on the number of views her trailer gets. I think we're almost to SIX books off a crazy good list of awesome. I can't help myself, so I'm doing my part. Watch the video and bump up that pool.

Okay, I feel better now. I could win some free stuff. I probably won't, but I COULD. And you could too!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A Little Thing Called Catastrophizing

Anxiety runs in my family, and while I certainly don't have the most severe case, I do have some and I've learned a few things about it through my family's experiences. Today I want to talk about Catastrophizing, because I think many writers face it in their struggles to get published.

At least I hope I'm not the only one.

You can read more about Catastrophizing here, but basically it's a form of anxiety in which a person immediately jumps to the worst case scenario. It can manifest itself in two ways—present and future—and can severely limit one's ability to succeed. Why? Because you get in a cycle of negative thought process, one that you may then carry out to prove your worries right.

Present Catastrophizing:
This type is kind of along the lines of "making mountains out of molehills." For example, say you check your inbox first thing in the morning and you find two query rejections. Catasrophizing this event would look a little like this:

"If these agents rejected me, then every single one on the planet will hate my book!"

I've never thought that before...*cough*

Here's a few more that you may be familiar with:

"I can't believe I still had 308 'just's in this MS! I'll never, ever be able to make this book perfect. I'm a failure."

"If I don't write this perfectly, my agent will be embarrassed to have me as a client and DUMP me."

"If my editor saw that lame metaphor, he'd nullify the contract immediately."

"ONE STAR REVIEW? Everyone is going to hate my book. It will never sell. I'm doomed."

Future Catastrophizing:
This type is related to the first, but has more roots in mentality and the future. It's a pattern of negative thinking, in which a person begins to believe everything will always go wrong. This type of Catastrophizing is forecasting negative events before they even happen, whereas Present is spurned on by some kind of bad thing that we think is worse than it is.

Some examples:
"I can't go to that conference—no one will talk to me and I won't make friends like everyone else. And besides, even if I sign up for a pitch session, I'll just bomb it and the editor/agent will laugh in my face."

"I can't edit more. That would just be more work for nothing. They obviously didn't like the idea enough to get on board, why waste my time with it when I have other better ideas?"

"I can't really be an author. That's for really good writers and I'm just a hack. People will see through me if I try."

"I can't put 100% in this. If I fail, it'll hurt more than anything. I won't be able to go on if I really try and nothing comes of it."

Quelling Catastrophizing:
I think we all Catastrophize to some degree. People with low anxiety levels can easily recognize the falsehood of these negative thought processes and snuff them out quickly. But people with higher anxiety can sometimes have a harder time talking themselves out of Catastrophizing. It can be a constant battle.

The most important thing in combating this is to recognize when you are doing it, and to talk yourself out of it.

"I will never get published...No, that's not true. I don't know that for sure, but if I don't try then I definitely won't. Trying is scary, but if I want publication that's the only route."

If you think you're experiencing Catastrophizing, try keeping a journal of your thoughts through the day for a week or so. This can help you identify triggers to your negative thinking. Once you have that figured out, it's time to talk yourself out of the thoughts. This can be harder than it sounds.

I personally have found a lot of comfort in friends. When I talk about my triggers and what I'm feeling, I realize how silly they sound. When I type them out in an email, I realize I really do sound like I'm overreacting. This is a very important realization—it removes the doom and despair and anxiety that comes with Catastrophizing.

The worst thing you can do is keep it to yourself, as in not even writing it down. The feelings build inside, and if you're not able to talk yourself out of them you can develop a very negative way of thinking that will limit your experiences.

Catastrophizing and Writing:
Hope is basically a requirement for pursuing a career in writing. Believing you can make it keeps you going when things get tough—and they will get tough. Catastrophizing can severely damage your mentality, which will get in the way of your work. Trust me, I've been there.

But the I-will-never-make-it-why-am-I-doing-this-to-myself feelings will come. Unless you're some kind of cyborg or grinch without a heart, both of which probably won't make you a very good writer.

When they do come, it's important to realize that these feelings are false. That's the weird thing about emotions; they can trick you into thinking things that are very far from reality. I guess it's lucky we humans have logic too, just for these types of scenarios when we have to battle ourselves.

When it comes to writing and publishing, the best is advice is usually the simplest:

Keep going.