Wednesday, March 2, 2011

All Day Q&A

It's about time for another Q&A, right? That, and I'm sick and can't think for the life of me about a blog topic.

So if you have a question—any question—I will answer asap in comments today.


  1. Sorry you aren't well. I hope you get a chance to wrap up and take it easy today!

    And in the meantime, my question... you mentioned you completely rewrote a project (and maybe more than one). Did you/were you tempted to cut and paste passages from the old into the new, saying to yourself "I know I've already written that once..."? Or did you just chuck out the old project completely and write 100% new material?

  2. I have a full out right now, but since submitting it I've come across yet more changes. My question is, do I go ahead and make the changes, or wait for word back on the full?

  3. Jenna, I did rewrite Transparent. I would say about 95% of it is completely new stuff. I did take a few scenes from the old manuscript that I felt were still good and important, but that was maybe 5 chapters of 38, so not that much.

    It wasn't just a lazy thing—it was a conscious decision to transfer those over. When I was re-plotting the book, I outlined what was staying, going, and being rewritten, and that how it went.

  4. Jamie, it depends on the magnitude of the changes. If you're talking a bunch of little things, it might be good to wait. If you're talking a substantial change that you would make regardless of the agent's feedback, then by all means go for it now. Really it's up to you, but if you feel there's something you want to improve, I personally go with that instinct in my own revisions.

  5. Thanks Natalie, excellent advice...and you rock for offering your time!

  6. Have you read any books you really liked recently? Do you usually read YA?

  7. What's your favorite sushi restaurant? And what's your favorite Anime show?

    You did say ANY question. :)

  8. Illiadfan, I finished THIS LULLABY by Sarah Dessen just yesterday, and really enjoyed it. I like her stuff. But other than that, I haven't been able to read much published stuff lately. I'm still working on beta reading, etc.

    And yes, I usually read YA.

  9. Jenilyn, the best sushi in Utah Valley can be found at Koi in American Fork. Seriously. Best Japanese restaurant in the area.

    As for anime, picking one favorite is practically impossible! But I most recently watched: Full Metal Panic, Fruits Basket, Spice and Wolf, and Vampire Knight. I liked them all for different reasons. Right now I'm trying to decide what to watch next. Hulu's list keeps getting better and better!

  10. Oh, I loved Fruits Basket (both the books and the show). I'll have to try the others. I'm watching Darker than Black right now, which has a lot of things I like.

  11. I'm going to join in on this anime discussion if you don't mind. I started watching Darker Than Black a few months ago and ended up getting distracted and not coming back to it for some odd reason. I think I got 8 episodes in? I remember it being really dark and possibly disturbing. Code Geass is probably my fav anime. Have either of you (or any other commentators out there) enjoyed it?

    My question for Natalie is: when you set out to write a new story, do you plan out a general outline beforehand or just wing it as you go? If you plan an outline, when do you know that you've planned as much as you can and it's time to take the plunge into Chapter One?

  12. Do you stick with just one genre when writing YA, or do you do a little of everything? What is your favorite to write? Contemp? Fantasy? :)

  13. What's your feedback process like on early drafts? Do you have a local writing group/online betas/generous family members and friends/a magical beta reading goldfish you've been keeping a secret from the internet lest writers storm your house?

  14. What should you have ready and waiting when you start to query, besides a polished manuscript and an awesomesocks query letter? Do you need to have the synopsis already written? When exactly does the synopsis come into play? (That was a really roundabout way to ask about a synopsis, I guess, but on the plus side, I said "awesomesocks." Which I think is cool. But maybe isn't.)

  15. Julia, I haven't seen that one, but I'm adding it to my list. There are just so many, aren't there? I have a TBW (to be watched) list about as long as my TBR list!

    As for the writing question, I'm kind of in the middle. I don't plan out the whole story before starting a first draft, but sometimes I will take notes on what I think happens in the near future from whatever part of the MS I'm writing. Does that make sense?

    My first drafts are really discovery drafts. I lose interest fast when I know the ending. My WIP right now? Man, I have no idea how it ends or even who the villain is—that keeps me going! I want to find out.

    Not everyone works like that, but it's the best fit for me. I just have to be sure and do lots of editing after.

  16. Chantele, I've done just about everything within YA—contemp, sci-fi, post-apoc, steam punk, bio punk (my fancy word for superhuman stories), contemp fantasy, and I even have a fairytale retelling. So...yeah. I'm all over. I like experimenting, so I couldn't say that I have a favorite. I just write the stories that interest me.

  17. Nicole, I have a couple crit partners who read as I go, chapter at a time. I also have people read the full thing after I edit the first draft. I probably do around 4 or 5 revisions before I think about sending to my agent.

    So no secrets here, just a wonderful set of crit partners.

  18. Jeigh, the query and MS are definitely the must-haves. Synopsis are a little frustrating, because not everyone wants them, but some do and you should have it ready for them. They are certainly not fun to write, but you gotta do what you gotta do. And sometimes they end up coming into play later on. An editor may ask for synopses for a series, and it's nice to have one done at least. In the end, it's up to you, but having it ready never hurts.

    Other things I would recommend to have ready for querying: Chocolate, a line-up of mind-numbing TV/movies, sleeping pills (so you don't get up and check your email in the middle of the night), and a pillow (to wrap around while you're in fetal position).

  19. It sucks when the mom is sick. Does your house go to pot like mine does?

    So do you happen to know the best times during the year to query? I've heard holiday time is wasteful, but that's about it.

  20. You've talked a lot about the difficulties of being on I was just wondering, what are some good things that have come out of being on sub, if any? :-)

  21. Thanks, Natalie! I'll start stockpiling supplies now :)

  22. RSJ, my house is never very clean, but yes, it's worse when I'm sick. And we're ALL sick, so it's pretty bad...

    As for querying, I'm not sure there is a best time. There's always a reason not to. The holidays is definitely dead air, but other than that agents are always busy. And when they aren't busy, they're on vacation, so...yeah.

    Ultimately, the best time to query is when your book is ready.

  23. Ashley, I do have a post about what I learned on sub (see reference) that is a bit more positive, but other than that...ack, I'm having a hard time thinking! I mean, of course sub CAN be a positive experience. Heck, it'd be GREAT if it turned into a deal, right?

    I guess ultimately that's the best thing about being on sub—you're close. Just one more hurdle to jump. That means there is at least some merit to your work, which is a good feeling. But being close is a two-edged sword. Sometimes it's awesome and sometimes it's not.

    Being on sub has also taught me a lot about the business, which is knowledge I'm glad I have. If it ever happens, I don't feel like I'm going in completely naive, just slightly naive:)

  24. This is totally not writing related. I want to know how you got to that very rocky spot in your profile picture wearing super cute peep toe pumps! Tennis shoes in?

  25. Becky, HA! Actually, that's a pretty good story. My friend Michelle Argyle (Lady Glamis in many online places), took those, and for that particular shot we were in a riverbed. Yes, a riverbed.

    We were taking pics near there, and Michelle is all, "Oh, that's pretty right there. You think you could get down there?"

    "Sure!" I said, because despite my love of pretty shoes I'm pretty adventurous.

    So I took off my shoes and climbed down there, holding my shoes in one hand and using the other for balance. And I'm glad I did, because those ended up being my favorite shots.

    Oh, the things we do for good pictures.

  26. Good thing you didn't fall! My dad fell into a river bed in Provo Canyon (someone let their baby and three-year-old wander away...idiots). He has this huge lump on his shin that never healed! It's gross!

    Anyway, I love the juxtaposition of fancy wear and rugged background. It's lovely!

  27. I love your Q&As, especially when you answer in the comments!

    My question is, how do you (personally) know when to give up on your story? Does it have to be more than "I just really hate this right now?" I'm trying to decide if it's time to move on with my WIP or if I just really don't want to revise it right now.

  28. How do you deal with "Moldy Foundation Aggravation?"

    Meaning - Everyone always tells you to just write the first draft. It stinks anyway. You'll revise later. Finish it first. Bla bla bla.

    But if I keep moving forward and later realize there's a whole section of manuscript that is just WRONG and not where the book or character is supposed to be going and I based the continuation on what happened in that part and now it all falls apart because the foundation was moldy and I DON'T HAVE TIME to waste on stupid mistakes... ::Deep breath::

    Yeah. So whattya do :)?

  29. Debbie, that's hard to say! I think choosing to move on is a personal decision, and you know it when you feel it, if that makes any sense.

    Like, sometimes when I start in on a project and don't make it too far, I feel like I'm not ready to tackle it, so I tuck it away for later. Or sometimes it's just not working, and I need to let it sit so I can figure out what I'm missing. And, yes, sometimes I don't like it as much as I thought I would and move on. But those projects? I inevitably come back. I just know I need time. Saying goodbye to something for good is different.

    You'll always have to be making that decision, over and over. Why did I stay on sub with Ninja for 15 months? I don't know. It felt right. And then one day I woke up didn't feel right anymore. Not just an "I hate this" feeling, but a "it's time to move on" feeling.

    In general, I'd say hating an MS isn't a good indicator for needing to move on. I hate my stuff all the time. And I love it too. That's just the nature of trying to get the massive beast known as the novel to cooperate.

    For me, it's a very quiet emotion. A strange sense of peace, like, "You, dear manuscript, have taught me what I needed to learn. Thank you. Let us part as friends."

  30. Frustrated, it depends (it always depends, heh). If it's truly a significant, book-changing thing, I will go back and fix stuff. If it's not too big a deal, I'll write the rest as if I'd already changed the beginning and go back later. Or sometimes I'll just see where the story takes me, and discover I wasn't so off course after all. My characters just had other, often better, plans.

    But all in all, I would say do what makes you feel comfortable. If those changes are going to drive you crazy, then go fix them. If not, don't. I know there's a ton of advice out there, but if it's not working for you find another way. For every writer who doesn't outline the first draft, there's one that takes copious notes and researches for hours before ever writing a word. There's no wrong; there's only what does and doesn't work for you.

  31. When a beta reader or crit partner makes suggestions for your story that you don't agree with, how can you know if you should listen or not? On the one hand there are suggestions I don't agree with and that don't seem in line with my view of the novel, but on the other hand I really really don't want to be stubborn and dismiss something that might be a great edit or suggestion... where is the line and how do you know?

  32. My problem (one of them) is that mostly I'm an outrageously optimistic person. I truly believe that good things will happen, even if it doesn't seem like it right now. With my writing though, I'm the exact opposite of that. Though I know I'm a good writer and I believe in my novel, it's really difficult for me to think that I'll end up with an agent for it. Or really, it's hard to imagine myself getting an agent at all. Part of this, I think, is that I feel like I've been working at it for so long and if it didn't happen with the first couple of books, why would it happen this time? I see other writers that I know getting agents and book deals and though I want that to be ME someday, it's hard to imagine that it will be, especially the further I get into querying a specific project. Do you have any advice for staying optimistic in the face of rejection and not being totally discouraged?

  33. Jordyn, for me it's a gut thing. Usually an edit I should make will "resonate." Even if it's a lot of work, it'll be something where I go, "Oh, yeah, that makes sense. That's what I was trying to do in the first place, but fell short."

    I have had way out there crits, even from an agent, where it was just like, "WHA...?" I usually don't follow those! But here's the thing about these—you have to read between the lines. Usually there is something there that isn't getting across right.

    Like, say a reader is like "All these supernatural elements suck and you should take them out." Um, that's a big change! But what are they really saying? Maybe your world building could be tighter. Maybe that one part of the lore needs to change.

    Or say someone is all, "Cut that character she's worthless." And you don't think so. Well, investigate why they say that. Does she not fill a strong enough role? Are you not making it clear that she is important? Maybe. That's fixable without cutting a character.

    I guess what I'm saying is that all crits need to be considered, but it's up to you to decide how you want to, or if you want to, fix it. Sometimes crit people know there's a problem, but they have trouble putting it in words. It's definitely a translation game.

  34. Anon 5:24, boy, do I feel you. It's hard to keep a bright outlook when you can't seem to get over the hill. But if it makes you feel better, I wrote 8 books before getting an agent. My 10th will be on sub in the near future. And I'm working on my 13th WIP now.

    And I'm still not published.

    So, yeah. I don't know why it's harder for some people, or why it seems others get published really fast.

    My dear friend Kiersten put it best. One day when I was bemoaning my situation, she said it's like the lines at Disneyland. You know how there's always one line that moves faster than the other, even if they're the same length to start? It's maddening when you get in the slow line (which I swear I am cursed to do every. time.), but in the end, you're gonna get on the ride.

    What has helped me most in all this is focusing on my own stuff, my own journey. Is it fair that some people get the Fast Pass and walk ahead of you? Not really, but there's nothing you can do about it, and it's not worth being bitter about it. It's not like they'll close down the ride.

    No, they won't. Publishing won't die no matter what the internet says.

    So get comfortable in line. Chat with the people next to you. Pull out your Kindle and read. Being in line doesn't have to be a horrible thing. It's all in how you decide to handle it.

  35. A question? Will you come clean my house. Cause it's really messy. And I don't wanna do it.
    Well then, how do you feel about posting about a friend's awesome book that's coming out this fall.(I ask this for no reason in particular. No alterior motives. No hidden agendas. Nothing like that).

  36. I love the Disneyland analogy! I read recently (in Tom Vanderbilt's Traffic, I think) that the Disneyland people exaggerate the estimated wait times on purpose so that the people in line won't ever become annoyed by having to wait longer than projected. I feel like the publishing world is often the opposite: the speedy, blockbuster deals get all the publicity and make it seem like the process is supposed to be fast and relatively painless. So THANK YOU for being one of the honest voices of reason who point out that the lines are often long, but still bearable and populated by other great people and ultimately worth it in the end.
    Here's hoping (and believing!!) that you'll get on the awesome ride very soon.

  37. I've been going back to read your very early posts on this blog - when you used to get just 1 or 0 comments ;) - because I take inspiration in other writer's journeys. So for now I only have one question: when did you know your first critique partner was THE one?

  38. Ignore that question. I didn't realize I was a day late.

  39. Amber, I can't even clean my own house. It's pretty sad. I'm cleaning impaired.

    And as for talking about books, I must admit I have kind of a weirdo policy. I talk about what I like when I feel like it, but I'm a super slow reader, so I don't commit to reading and promoting books because it's a lot of pressure on my limited time.

    So basically, everything that shows up on my blog reading/book-wise is my own idea. No one is asking, and I talk about it when I really want to share.

    Hope that makes sense and doesn't make me sound like a jerk.