Friday, November 9, 2012

All WEEKEND Q&A

I have just realized that it have been a few months since I did my ONE regular feature—the all day Q&A. In penance, I shall now be doing an all WEEKEND Q&A to make up for it. Yup.

So ask me whatever question you want! It doesn't have to be about writing, but of course it can be, too. You can also ask as many as you want (in the past people seem to think they've been limited to one). I promise an answer as soon as I can type it up, and ALL questions will be answered in comments.

*sits and waits*

*twirls pencil*

Bring it on, people.

50 comments:

  1. If you had to eat the same meal every night for a solid week, what would you choose?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can tell you're a foodie because you said "week" and not "entire life." How could one possible choose ONE meal for forever, right?

      Hmm, a week. I'm gonna have to go with Pho. It's light enough not to make me feel heavy all week, but it has all the essentials—meat, veggies, noodles. And it's filling. Plus, you can change the flavor slightly based on what you put in it, so it's harder to get tired of;)

      Delete
    2. Somehow, I knew you'd answer Pho! Wise answer! Don't ask me what I'd choose, because I have no idea. My guess is something Asian ...

      Delete
  2. Thanks for answering questions (I never miss the opportunity to ask)! Have you ever taken a writing class/course (outside of school), especially online? I've been looking at some MediaBistro online YA writing courses... do you have any experience with these, or know anyone who does? Would you recommend them? I'd love to get feedback on my writing from a professional, and this is the only affordable way that seems feasible.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Claire, I haven't taken any online classes. But truth be told, when I was a greener writer these things weren't available online, at least not from reliable sources like MediaBistro, etc. So I can't give much advice there or recommendations.

      Thus, I will give my blanket advice for when people ask me about paying for writing classes in general. Basically, I think if you have the money and really want to try it, it can't hurt. But if you don't have extra cash laying around, I wouldn't break the bank for writing classes.

      Full disclosure: I've only taken one creative writing course in my life. It was in college, for one measly semester. So I don't think training is necessary, but what is is practice. There are so many FREE resources that I didn't feel the need to spend money. Of course, I also don't have the money to spend. Not even now. I might feel differently if I did.

      There are so many ways to learn writing, and if you feel you could benefit from something AND can afford it (both in time and money), I say go for it.

      Delete
  3. What are your essential rules of adding backstory? What do you like to see, hate to see?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Leigh, I really only have one rule—Necessity. If it NEEDS to be there, then I add it. Some stories require much more back story than others, and it can be tricky to learn what is and isn't too much for a certain story (hence revisions).

      When it comes to deciding what is necessary, I ask myself things like:

      Is this immediately relevant? (Back story that doesn't directly pertain to a scene usually bogs it down.)

      Does the reader need to know this for the book to make sense? (If so, I try to find a place in the book to divulge it. If not, I resist the urge to divulge it;P)

      How MUCH do I need to tell? (Sometimes one line is sufficient. Sometimes you need a three-page flash back because the moment is so critical. Either way, I try to make it as brief as possible.)

      Is this repetitive? (Sometimes we think we need backstory to explain, when the characters or plot already makes it clear enough. Being TOO obvious and TOO repetitive often frustrates a reader.)

      As far as what I like to see, it should be pretty clear: Anything that is unnecessary;P

      Delete
  4. How did you find your critique partners?

    ReplyDelete
  5. JUST KIDDING JUST KIDDING. I meant, umm, you write across a lot of genres. If you had to pick ONE to write in for the next few years, what would it be?

    (GIVE ME A CHAPTER, WHIPPLE.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If I HAD to pick, it would actually be Contemporary YA. I have a back log of ideas I really love and would like to explore. Problem is, I'm not sure I could SELL any of them. So it makes me nervous.

      But you already knew that.

      (And yes, I will send you something. It's raining, which means extra writing power.)

      Delete
  6. Thanks so much, as always, for taking questions and answering mine!
    I have such a hard time with back story. In my first drafts I PUT IT ALL IN, because that's part of how I learn the story, but then in revisions I tend to TAKE IT ALL OUT (as you may remember from your extrememly helpful critique). I find it so hard to strike a balance. I'll try hard to keep these tips in mind. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Leigh, it's certainly a trial and error process. You'll figure it out, I'm sure!

      Delete
  7. Do you have any advice on writing villains? (In the traditional sense or not.) I always have trouble finding motivations and making them convincing.

    And a second question, if that’s okay: Do you have any tips on balancing action with inner monologue and description?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Valerie, I'm gonna answer in two comments to get this out faster:) Stay tuned for question #2. Villains can be hard at first because you don't want to "get into their heads," really. But as a writer you have to not think of the "villain" by that name—you have to think of that person as the "antagonist."

      An antagonist is simply a person whose goals directly come into conflict with your protagonist's (MC, or "hero"). So if you were writing from the pov of you antagonist, then your protagonist would magically become the antagonist (or "villain"). Does that make sense?

      When I write a book with a clear antagonist (sometimes contemporary doesn't really have one person or thing that would qualify as a villain), I try to see everything from their pov. What do they want that directly conflicts with my MC's wants/goals?

      Sometimes it's as simple as Harry Potter. He wants to live and not have the world destroyed—Voldemort wants to kill him and destroy the world. Naturally these two would butt heads, no? Hunger Games—Snow wants to maintain order/status quo in Panem, and Katniss (Plus rebels) want it to change.

      Once you have the main reason for the conflict, you have to dig to the deeper WHY? Why do they want different things? It's often easier for us to see why Harry would want to live and protect those he loves, because we are on average good people. But Voldemort has a dark and twisted past—he is self-loathing of his half-muggle identity, which leads him to overcompensate and seek for ultimate power/immortality, becomes self-absored and depraved in this quest, and ultimately out for vengeance against the one person who stopped him from accomplishing his goals.

      No villain starts out "evil." They have reasons—reasons that mean a lot to them. Or at least they did at one point. Sometimes there are antagonists that have gone so far off the deep end that they can manage pure evil, but taking about when they once had dimension can help even that out.

      Hope that helps.

      Delete
    2. Okay, and onto balancing action with inner dialogue, etc!

      This is a hard question to answer because it depends so much on the book and character and plot. Every novel has a different ideal balance—which is why first drafts are first drafts. It's never really easy to find that sweet spot on the first go.

      For me, I tend to focus on plot and characters when I'm drafting, mostly because that is how I build a book's skeleton. (Again, this is different for every writer.) For me, inner dialogue, back story, setting can all be easily shifted and added or removed in revisions. So I don't stress too much over the balance until I'm in revisions.

      Once that is my focus, I rely mostly on my gut for what feels right. Which isn't entirely helpful, but there it is. After that, I rely on my CPs, agent, and editor to tell me where I missed the mark and need more. This is where critique becomes essential because it's really hard to see imbalance yourself, and a new perspective helps immensely.

      This answer is probably wildly unhelpful and vague, but that's all I got. Sorry:(

      Delete
    3. Thank you—this helps a lot! My first drafts (which are so far the only drafts I’ve written, but I hope to change that soon) are always very heavy on dialogue and basic character actions, sometimes to the point where I have scenes with only dialogue and dialogue tags. I’ll try not to worry about that too much for now. And I’ll definitely try to see my stories from my villain’s POV as well. So once again: Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. I really appreciate it. :)

      Delete
    4. I liked your take on the villain!

      Delete
  8. What is your favorite part of your writing journey so far?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hmm, hard to pick just one! I think the friends I've met along the way is my most favorite. It would have been so lonely and hard without them. And I get to keep them! So much of the journey is fleeting, the good moments passing before you can fully savor them.

      But I think another major one was seeing my cover for the first time—that was a moment that really made publishing feel more real.

      Delete
    2. I like that answer. I also love your cover. Having friends who share the same intrest as you and kind of know what it is like going through similar motions is probably very helpful and encouraging.

      Delete
  9. Have you watched any good Kdramas lately? I'd love some recommendations! I just finished Arang and the Magistrate (which is AMAZING, by the way) and now I need something new!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm currently watching Faith and it is *awesome*. Before that, I believe the last I watched was Secret Garden, which I also loved. Other ones off the top of my head: My Princess, My Girl, Shining Inheritance, Stars Falling From The Sky.

      Also, Personal Taste is next on my list of ones to watch. I keep hearing great things about it.

      Delete
  10. I very selfishly have to ask if you have any tips about what your agent likes/dislikes. I write Horror/Dark Fantasy and Ginger Clark is my dream agent. I'll be querying her soon, but I keep putting it off because I'm a chicken! :P

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Truth? I don't really know what Ginger likes. I know, I know. Lame. But I'm still kinda trying to figure out why she offered me rep after my last agent left CB. I mean, clearly because she likes my writing, but when I think about it too hard I'm still gobsmacked at the whole idea of her being my agent now, heh.

      But here's my advice about dream agents—that's kind of like having a "charming prince" fantasy. You see, I've had three agents. THREE. And I'm not even published yet. (They keep leaving the business, I swear I'm not an agent killer.)

      You know what? ALL of them were my dream agent at the time. Nathan Bransford made me a publishable writer with his impeccable editing skills, and I was very sad when he left. Anna Webman sold my first novel, and I miss her too! And Ginger? Well, she's been absolutely fabulous to work with and she rocked at selling my UK rights. I have been so blessed to have such great people on my side, and an agency like CB to take care of me.

      It's totally cheesy, but it's true when they say your dream agent is the one who will love your work and champion it and sell it. Whoever that may be, I promise you will love him or her;)

      Delete
    2. Thinking it over, you're absolutely right. It's like falling for a film star when you don't know what he's like in real life.
      Congrats on your good luck with agents! Yay for you! I hope you can send some good mojo my way because I seem to be stuck in the black-hole of rejection! (And the little feedback I get is so varied I don't know what to fix...)
      I'll keep plugging away, and THANKS for your great input! :-D

      Delete
  11. I see a lot of authors say they sit on news of a book deal for a long time. Is there a reason for that? (Other than to test whether authors can keep a secret, hah!) Why is there a huge lag between the deal and the public announcement?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Tess, it has to do with the contract. A lot of agents don't like to announce a deal until the contract between publisher and author has been officially signed and sent in. That can take MONTHS. My offer happened in end of April, and I didn't sign the contract until July. All that time was spent negotiated terms and getting things settled.

      After that, you sit on stuff because you're told—like the cover. Covers usually go through MANY rounds of revision, just like books. So if we were showing each step of the process it kind of loses impact. Authors see covers comps way before it's final and ready for the public. I think I saw my first comp in March of this year, and I JUST revealed it to you guys.

      Ad for official release dates, those aren't solid until the catalog comes for that season. Release dates are often changed, so they don't want you saying one date just to have it changed a few months later. That's why it's a vague "Summer 2013" until closer to publication. Even authors don't know that one for a long time, usually;)

      Delete
  12. Are you or have you ever participated in nanowrimo?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Erica, I have never officially participated in NaNo. I was seriously considering it this year as a way to kind of let go and get back to free writing. But I ultimately decided to finish my WIP this month instead. I had about 30k+ to write on it (Written 10k so far), so it's kind of a mini NaNo anyway.

      Back when I first started writing, I didn't do NaNo because I didn't exactly have a problem with writing fast. I have written a book in a month. I've written one in 15 days. My problem has always been taking more time to flesh out a story, so I've been making big efforts the last couple years to slow down and really think about what I'm doing. That has been more of a challenge for me than I think NaNo would have been.

      But who knows? I hope to participate one year, just because I love the sense of community that comes from it. I've always enjoy NaNo, even if from the sidelines.

      Delete
  13. When going into submissions or working on a revise-and-resubmit request for an editor, how did you balance being excited and hopeful that your book will sell with not letting yourself get too hopeful in case it didn't sell in the end? (Glad to see yours had a happy ending!)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Whew, Amy, that is the question, isn't it?

      That fact is, going through an R&R with an editor and then still being rejected—that was pretty much where my anxiety went from "kind of bad" to "all out death spiral." So I'm not sure I have a lot of great answers as to how to balance hope and fear.

      But I've learned one thing: Hope is a lot nicer of an emotion. I prefer to hang out with Hope rather than the evil twins Doubt and Fear. Hope pushes me forward. Doubt and Fear hold me back.

      You can't afford to be held back.

      I know what it's like to be tired of hoping, to be so miserable you can't see anything in your life as positive. I've been to dark places that took years to climb out of. All because of trying to publish a book. Which, looking back, feels really stupid.

      Rejection is never easy, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't hope. It sounds cheesy, but there is always hope as long as you keep trying. My 8th novel was the one that got me an agent. My 10th novel was the one that sold. I am writing my 15th novel, and two of those 15 are slated to be published.

      No, it doesn't work out every time. Sometimes it doesn't even work out MOST of the time, but if you keep hoping and working and learning eventually it will happen. Maybe not in the way you dreamed. Maybe not how you expected. But you will find a lot more success in hoping than in doubting.

      So I guess I don't think it should be a balance. I think hope should far, far out weigh doubt. It's okay to believe it will happen, and just because you fail at times doesn't mean it won't. Failure isn't permanent unless you give up. It's a hard truth, but it is true. I've lived it over and over. My failures far out weigh my successes, but when I choose to let my success define me—and not my failures—I am a much happier writer and person.

      Good luck. Submission is the worst, and it never changes (says the girl who's there again herself;P).

      Delete
  14. Thanks! I appreciate your input. Submissions really is crazy hard to deal with. (And swinging between hope and no hope is a frequent thing for me.) But there's nothing to do but try and go forward. Good luck to you too!

    ReplyDelete
  15. Ok-- another question! How did you decide on a title? Did you choose it? Your editor? Was it a team effort? What were some of the other possibilities for titles? (Ok, so maybe it was more than one!) thanks for answering all these!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Erica, TRANSPARENT is actually one of those very rare titles that has never changed! I was fully prepared to change it when it sold, but Harper liked it and so it stayed. I'm glad, because the title has many meanings to me. It both expresses the fact that Fiona is invisible, but also the idea that her understanding of herself and life becomes more transparent throughout the book;)

      Also, HOUSE OF IVY AND SORROW has never changed titles, either. So I guess thus far I've been lucky not to have to stress about that. Lots of my friends have gone through title changes, and it can be really hard to find something that every likes.

      Delete
  16. What's the WIP you're writing right now about?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Zoe, heh, it's kind of complicated since it's a contemporary. But when I was planning things this is what I wrote as a very basic premise:

      Mika Arlington thought her summer would be spent shadowing her marine biologist parents at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. But when they get a grant (and thereby grad students) instead, she's stuck training a sulky guy at her pet store job and dealing with her estranged grandmother who has Alzheimer's. Not exactly best summer ever material—or is it?

      Delete
    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    3. (couldn't edit bad wording so I had to make a new comment)

      It sounds charming! Did you feel like you had to keep writing in one genre since that's what sold?

      I know authors can have their "option" books rejected if the publisher thinks they are too different, so I feel like it must be conflicting to write in a different genre once you've sold a book (or two!) Whereas before you've got an agent, you're more open in that way.

      Delete
    4. I've always written all over the board, which might be easier when you write standalones. TRANSPARENT is kind of a "sci-fi" but not quite, I like to call it bio punk. HOUSE OF IVY AND SORROW is a paranormal—witches and all that. So those two are pretty different and my publisher was happy to take both of them.

      I think these days, what editors most care about is a good, compelling story. I've always written what I want to write, and I plan to stick with that. Of course, I have had those worries that I should keep writing the "same thing." But in the end that's just how I write and I'm happy when I do.

      Hopefully publishers will continue to find my stories interesting;)

      Delete
  17. Natalie, I've been following your blog for awhile, and this is my first comment on it! I've wanted to comment before in the past on some of your posts, but haven't because I thought...well, we haven't officially met... So my name is Cynthia, nice meeting you. Okay, we just met. First, thanks for hosting your Q & A session. Second, I want to say I enjoy reading your blog.

    One. I appreciate your honesty and grace when you talk about experiences from your past that have challenged you. Do you live by any mantras or schools of thought when you reflect back on the unfairness of some of the stuff you've been through?

    Two. Revision can be a real challenge for me when I write. For my last WIP, I went through many many rounds of revisions, and it got to a point where I felt I was probably not doing this very effectively, and I began to resent my WIP very much. Can you tell me how you revise- what you fix and look for in the first round, the second round, and so forth?

    Thank you for your time!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Cynthia! Thank you for commenting—I love when long time lurkers come out of the woodworks:) Never feel afraid to comment! I love comments. A lot.

      1. I'm not sure I have an official mantra that I repeat to myself everyday or anything, but the things that help me the most are as follows:

      • Being myself, both in my writing and interactions with people. This can be hard when people don't like my writing or me, but I've found that pandering to people makes me feel ooky. So I do what I do, and am very happy if people like it. If not, oh well.

      • Keep trying. I hate to fail, and when I was younger a failure would often make me stop doing something. Now I try to keep going and learning. Failing is a big part of the writing process, but we can always try again and make it better and write a new book, etc.

      2. Revision is not fun. At least not for me. There are some people out there who love it like crazy, but it's pretty much torture for me. My process varies a lot based on the book. That's the tricky thing about writing—every book is different. Sometimes I have plot issues. Sometimes the plot is fine but my characters or setting need work.

      I usually save detailed prose revision until I'm sure the novel is in good order, though. Because nitpicking when you might be cutting whole chunks is not productive.

      When I am to the point that I pretty much despise the book, I read it one more time. That's the closest an author can get to an impartial read of their own work. After that I hate the book with a burning passion, but I know the edit is done and good and I send it to my editor:)

      So if you hate your book, you're probably doing it right;P

      Delete
    2. Thanks and a handful of truffles to you for taking the time to answer my questions!

      Delete
  18. Thanks for taking questions!

    How old are your kids, and do they like to read? For any who are reading on their own, is there something they are dying to see in a book, that hasn't been written yet?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My kids are pretty young—6, 4, and 6 months. So I only have one official reader, and he's reading things like Captain Underpants. He finds it hilarious, and I am happy to see him reading well and enjoying it.

      I can't recall any moment thus far where they asked me for a type of book that didn't exist, but again, they are pretty young. They are happy to read what I bring home:)

      Delete
  19. Hi Natalie! Thanks for taking valuable time to do this! My question: How do you balance (or try to balance) being a mom and writer? I've been struggling trying to find time to write w a 2 year old and 3 month-old. My husband will watch them in the evenings when he can but I find myself craving more time to really be able to delve into my brain to write well. Feel a little overloaded trying to "do it all". Thanks for your advice!:)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I used to try and answer this question like I had a clue, but I've finally figured out that there's no such thing as balance. Especially now that I've had a third child.

      But just because I only get 2-3 hours in a day to work doesn't mean I'm not productive. In the 6 months since my third was born, I have finished writing a novel, edited three for various deadlines, and I'm on my way to finishing another WIP this month.

      When you have kids or a day job or both, it's more important to be serious about using the time you do have to its full potential. When I do sit down to work—I work. I don't piddle around online or sit there and waffle (well, most of the time). I write. Or edit. I do as much as I can, and over time that adds up.

      There are a lot of full time writers who don't get as much done in a day as I do in a few hours. That sounds like bragging—and maybe it is—but the necessity of having to cram my writing into 2-3 hours has made me efficient. If I had all day, I would probably take more time and get side tracked and muse and such. Which is also fine, I just don't have time for it right now.

      I don't know if that's helpful, but that's all I got.

      Delete
  20. Oh, and also how do you know when to keep an outline/rough draft of a story and then proceed to polish it, or, when that shiny new idea of what would radically make it better is worth re-writing or even starting all over again? From, a compulsive re-writer. THANKS!

    ReplyDelete
  21. Hmm, I'm gonna have to pull the "every book is different" card again. There have been stories I've completely rewritten. There have been ones I've done major revisions on but not quite a full rewrite. There have been others that didn't need such radical overhauls.

    It might also be part of your process. I do know writers who rewrite A LOT, and that's just how they always work, trying to find the right way to convey the story/scene.

    I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing. There is a point when it can get out of hand, but rewriting in general isn't a sign of being a bad writer or whatever. As I said, many published authors do this frequently.

    So I guess I'm giving you permission to be a compulsive rewriter:)

    ReplyDelete
  22. Natalie,
    i absolutly love this post. it mad me teary. you are my favorite im glad to be your younger sister and favorite. your are also my favorite sister. i love have a sister that is a writer and that is so amazing. im SO SO SO SO excited for you books to come out its driving me insane. i thk that your book will show people that reading is amazing and that its nothing to be afraid of. you are the best! I LOVE YOU.

    LOVE PIKA. AKA McKenna

    ReplyDelete