Friday, April 30, 2010

Sorcerer Sketch

Well, I'm still messing around in Photoshop. It's like having a whole Art Warehouse at your disposal! There's so much to explore, but every time I go in I feel like I have more control and understanding.

Remember how last week I posted a rough sketch of characters from The Assistant? Well, this would be a more detailed sketch of Geoff. I know. He's nice looking.

I'll give the ladies a second to swoon.

Okay, we good? Good. Going more in depth like this helps me get to know a character better. I think about personality/backstory a lot while I draw, so that's basically a good five hours of character development right there. Huh, perhaps a picture IS worth a thousand words...

I know not everyone can draw or likes anime (which makes me sad), so this method of character development is fairly personal. But it just goes to show that there are many ways to write, and some of them might not even involve words.

That's it for me this week, but get ready for next week! I am hereby dubbing it The Week of Contests, Games, and PRIZES.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

When The Honeymoon Ends

There was a point in my writing where I was madly in love with it. I could write all day if I was allowed. Sometimes I did, and my fingers would bruise and cramp and rebel. Still I would write. I just couldn't get enough. I knew this was what I wanted to do forever.

Well, that phase is over, quite frankly.

It came as quite a shock, when the intensity of my passion began to wane. I felt like I'd lost something. I wondered if I'd ever get it back. I doubted my choice—was this really what I wanted to do? Am I even good at it?

Before it didn't matter if I was good or not. I loved it and that was enough. But suddenly it was...hard. I didn't love it like I used to. I questioned everything—my ideas, my style, my skill, my talent, etc. And all the questioning made it even harder. I was paralyzed. Just looking at a Word document made me ill. I had gotten in so deep and accomplished a lot, and yet at the same time I felt like I'd gotten nowhere.

It was a scary time for me. Some of my closest friends know just how bad it got. I honestly, truly considered walking away. It was the only time on this journey when it just didn't seem worth it anymore. I was tearing myself apart, and I didn't think I had any more to give.

This was March. And I'm telling you this so you know that it's not all roses after you get an agent. Not to say I'm ungrateful or unaware of how amazing having an agent is—because it's truly a wonderful thing I'm still trying to believe is real—I'm just saying this doubt and fear can hit any writer at any time.

Sometimes our own inner struggles are the hardest to defeat.

I tried to hide it, but I think it was probably obvious to anyone who knew me even just a little. Part of me was broken, and I didn't know how to fix it. I was beyond burned out, overwhelmed, and just plain done.

I felt like a failure for not being emotionally strong enough to handle things. I knew I was overreacting, and yet I couldn't seem to stop myself from thinking it was the end of my little world.

So I walked away from my writing. I closed down Word, put away all my notebooks, and told myself I wasn't going to do this if it turned me into this awful ball of mess I was.

I played Warcraft. I planted flowers and herbs and a beautiful Japanese Maple. I cooked. And cleaned a little. I talked with friends. I exercised. I did some soul searching.

I didn't read. Or write. Or take notes. I didn't even critique others' work because I couldn't bring the icky stuff inside me to their words. The only thing I did was think about writing, and even that I tried to do as little as possible.

During all this doing and not doing, I realized something. My love for writing hadn't disappeared—it had changed. I have changed.

It's not passion and obsession and fire anymore, but it's still there, like a dear old friend I can't imagine my life without. I knew deep down I still wanted to write; I just had to believe in my love for it. Even if that love has become quieter outwardly, it's grown deeper and stronger inwardly. I don't have to prove it with crazy writing mania anymore. I know it.

I remember once hearing a story about Mother Teresa, how she was overcome with inspiration that told her to serve. It was so intense and strong that she gave up everything to serve others.

Then she never felt that intense inspiration again. Yet she continued her mission. She never stopped serving.

Sometimes I wonder how I would have reacted in her shoes. I wonder if I would have been angry that God never visited me again. Or maybe I would have questioned that one moment of inspiration, convinced myself it wasn't real. All I know is that I wouldn't have been that strong, that's for sure.

But that story always helps me remember that you don't have to feel passionate every moment to keep going forward. A good thing never stops being good.

So I'm still here, and I'm not going anywhere no matter how hard my relationship with writing gets. We've grown too much together to stop now.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

What Makes An Idea Worth Rewriting?

I pretty much have enough existing projects to last me a lifetime. While there are some that are firmly in the vault or graveyard or whatever, there are others I still love and sometimes think about pulling out. I wonder if I can breathe new life into them, since I've grown a lot as a writer since the first attempts.

And now that I'm actually rewriting a project, that urge has hit even stronger. I had NO IDEA how enjoyable rewriting would be. Yes, I'm fully aware that previous statement sounds insane, but it's amazing! I would have rewritten much sooner if I'd known how well it would work for me. It combines my favorite aspects of first drafting and revisions into one uber writing activity.

It's official—I'm a huge fan of rewrites. (It's okay if you're cursing me right now. I would be too.)

This leads to a dilemma, though. If you are willing to rewrite—nay, excited by the very idea of completely overhauling an MS from scratch—then what is worthy of that much time and effort? Which ideas should be revisited? Which weren't strong enough and might still be weak?

Do you rewrite what you love most? Or the one that may be more popular in the current market?

Or should you just suppress the rewrite urge entirely? Should you move forward with brand new ideas and let those old flames die?

These aren't hypothetical questions, by the way. I really want to know what you think.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Networking, Blogging, Etc.

I don't know if you've noticed, but I seem to have a rather huge following for an unpublished writer person. I get asked about it a lot now—how to build a following, etc. I even got asked to teach a workshop on it, since I'm apparently knowledgeable in this area.

To which I answer: Huh?

To be honest, I don't really know why people keep coming back to my blog. (Feel free to tell me in comments, if you'd like.) It baffles me that anyone would like what I have to say enough to sign up and get my frequent updates emailed to them or whatever.

But I have learned a few things from blogging these past few years, and it's time to share:

1. It's Not An Overnight Thing
I've been blogging for about three years. It started with a family blog, and then when my writing took over that one I made a writing blog. It wasn't anything special—I just wanted a place where I could report about my writing. Having it public made me feel more accountable to my goals.

I was blogging before the whole followers thing, but I know I got maybe 10 hits a day. Those hits were from me. Or my mom. Maybe an occasional friend who came over from the family blog. I was fine with that—I never intended my blog to be popular.

Then I started finding other bloggers I liked and commenting on their posts. Then they came to comment on mine. Then we became friends. Links started happening. I got an agent. And somehow a few years later here I am. Magic!

Or, you know, a lot of time and dedication.

2. Network Because You Like It
Not that you have to air your dirty laundry or anything, but people can smell phonies from a mile away. Lately it seems like everyone is getting on blogs, Facebook, Twitter, etc. just because they're supposed to.

But here's the thing—networking outlets like these don't work if you don't genuinely like them. Who cares if you have a Facebook page if you're never on there? (Yes, I'm guilty there). You actually have to network for it to be effective.

I blog a lot because I honestly enjoy blogging. I'm on Twitter because I love the atmosphere and quick response times. And I hope it shows.

Of course, I'm a tad embarrassed that my lack of Facebook excitement also shows...

3. You Can't Do Everything
No, really. If you spent all your time on networking sites, you'd never get anything done. You can't just say you're a writer—you actually have to write.

It's a fine balance, and networking is a distraction that is easily justified. "I'm building contacts!" "I'm connecting with people in my field!" Yeah, I'm not guilty of that at all...

You have to choose a few outlets and be good at updating those. Take John Green for example—he mostly Tweets and vlogs. He's GREAT at it. Occasionally he blogs, but I don't think he has to. His presence on Twitter and YouTube is more than enough. He puts a ton of work into his videos, and they are freaking awesome. Which leads me to...

4. Do What You're Good At
Play to your strengths, not what you're supposed to be doing. If you don't know how to make an engaging vlog, don't spend your time doing that when you already have a great blog presence. If you don't enjoy blogging, don't waste your time. If you are amazing at face-to-face networking, do it!

And then leave all the rest for someone else to do.

5. Be Yourself
Or at least as close as you can be. Networking, like most everything in writing, isn't about getting people to like you. It's about finding and connecting with people who already like you and don't know it. It's about finding your existing audience, not making an audience. That probably sounds like a small difference in mentality, but it's huge. Promise.

It's the difference between selling yourself and just being yourself. One turns people off. The other draws the right people in.

So go forth—network. Just do it wisely.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Query

This week I thought I'd write about a few of the workshops I taught at a conference this weekend, since I've never addressed them on my blog.

Yes, that's right, guys. I've never written a post on how to write queries.

I know, that's like a stock post for every writing blog out there, but I've never felt qualified to offer up my querying advice. I never thought I was a very good querier, and I relied heavily on feedback from others to steer me in the right direction.

Then I got asked to teach a workshop on writing queries and synopses, so I had to figure out how to present some half way decent advice. (It only JUST occurred to me that I could have said no instead. Huh.)

Okay, let's get this show on the road.

Query Basics
The query is a one page document a writer sends to agent when seeking representation for a novel. It should contain basic information about the novel (title, word count, genre), a description of the novel, and a short, relevant bio. As for word count, stick around 250-400 words.

Novel Description
For the most part, this is where a query gets stressful. Condensing a novel into an enticing 3-paragraph (the standard) blurb is no small feat. It takes practice, lots of drafts, and feedback from others, but I hope these tips can help you get started in the right direction.

Your query's novel description should mimic the typical arc of every story—beginning, middle, end—and what happens in them. You must introduce the problem, explain the complications, and lay out the stakes if the problem isn't solved.

1st Paragraph: Problem/Stakes. Every novel has a problem, a premise. Your first paragraph should hook an agent with this. It should also get across why this problem is important or interesting at all.

2nd Paragraph: Complications. A novel is basically about a person with a problem who tries to solve it, but things get in the way. The complications are the middle of your book and the middle of your query. Focus on those that most impede your protagonist, whether they be people or events or whatever.

3rd Paragraph: Raised Stakes/Resolution. Once a person has messed up their problem, it's usually much worse than it was initially. Re-establish the stakes and what the protagonist must do to save the day.

Simple, right? Oh, no crying. It's not that bad. This is only a guideline, really. Rules waiting to be broken.

I guess it's only right for me to post my old queries as examples. These are my queries (not edited *cringe*) for my two most successful times in the query trenches: Allure and Relax, I'm a Ninja.

Allure: Keira Connelly didn't think becoming a dragon would be such a big deal. But so far, her gradual change from human to wyrm has only been trouble—the allure of eating gemstones and kissing that forbidden rogue dragon in school are too strong to ignore. And when her dragon family realizes her keen nose is beyond average, they wonder if her complete transformation will make her a fabled Blood Dragon.

Becoming a Blood Dragon will give her leverage, which she wants to use to get out of her arranged marriage. Maybe even persuade the Council to let her marry, Rune, the rogue dragon she loves. But the price for this privilege would be steep. Keira would be bound to hunt and kill the evil of her kind—powerful black dragons consumed with greed and rage.

Before she can fully transform and explore her new power, a black dragon discovers Keira's potential and determines to kill her before she can defend herself. Still in her weakened human state, she must rely on her Clan and Rune for protection until she can fight for her own future—and the fate of the dragon world.

I hope you will consider Allure, a YA urban fantasy finished at 67,000 words.

Relax, I'm a Ninja: Toshiro Ito is a pro at secrets—that's what ninjas do best. He thought no one did it better until he discovered a ninja in the unlikeliest place: a cheerleader's bedroom. Spying on super hot Courtney Petersen was supposed to provide a peek at her bra strap. Instead, Tosh finds his neck at the edge of her blade.

When teenagers start turning up dead around the city, Tosh is certain Courtney's somehow involved. But she isn't exactly interested in spilling information. After several failed attempts to break Courtney, Tosh enlists Amy Sato (new ninja recruit and his best friend's crush) to help. They are determined to make her talk—not an easy task when their covers are role-playing, calculator-toting, uber nerds and Courtney can use her meathead boyfriend as a shield.

After a run-in with the murderer and no luck with Courtney, Tosh worries he and Amy are next on the list. Together they decode the strange events, and Amy's charm steals his heart in the process. Who knew their first kiss would unlock not only Courtney's secrets, but those of an ancient ninja battle raging around them? All he wanted was a girlfriend.

I hope you will consider Relax, I’m a Ninja, a YA novel finished at 76,000 words.

Pep Talk
I wish I could tell you exactly how to write the perfect query, but I don't believe it's possible, actually. It's not a science. What works for one agent doesn't work for another. The most important thing is to be YOU in your query. You don't want a query that will get you just any agent—you want a query that will connect you with an agent who gets your voice and style. That's why you and only you should write your query.

That's not to say you shouldn't get opinions, though. I relied most on the opinions of those who have read my work, which I think is opposite to what many advise. Why? Because my betas know my voice. They know if I'm getting that voice across in my query. Yes, get feedback from strangers to double check for understanding, but I believe having your personality in the query is most important.

Experiment. You don't have to get it all right on the first try. Or even the second. Just like writing novels, your best work often surfaces in later drafts. It's not a long document—write one from scratch if you feel like yours has lost something or isn't doing your story justice.

Also, try not to worry too much. The more time I've spent in this business, the more I've learned that querying and submission are more about connecting than being perfect. Try your best. Do everything you can to improve and be professional. But then remember that you can't control how people receive your work. Sometimes there just isn't a spark and that's not your fault. It's far too comparable to dating. Feel free to concoct whatever analogy you will.

Take deep, cleansing breaths and know it'll happen if you keep trying. Like I've said before, it's only game over if you put down the controller.

(Yes, I totally just quoted myself.)

So that's my official and obligatory post on querying. Now I never have to do one again, right?

Friday, April 23, 2010

Character Sketches

Sometimes I draw quick character sketches for my stories to get a better feel for my characters. This would be an example of that.

This is Kitty, Geoff, and Cal from the Five Words story you guys have helped me create, The Assistant.

These are very rough, just like a first draft is. As I get to know characters, I tend to draw them in more detail as well. I have a lovely picture of Geoff I want to try now, since he's got more of a face. We'll have to see.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Plot Genius

My brother got married today! I'm busy! But this leaves me the prefect opportunity to point you all to Laini Taylor's series on Plot.

Listen to her—she's not a National Book Award Finalist for nothing. Lips Touch simultaneously made me want to be a better writer and weep that I've got so far to go.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Five Words: Results!

You guys gave me some tough words, and I managed to piece together more of Kitty's story using them. Hurrah! If you care to catch up, there are now three whole episode before this one. Wow, I can't believe we've done this four times already. Thanks for playing! You guys are awesome.

1.0 When To Forego Suspicions
1.1 A New Task
1.2 Into The Peacock's Den

1.3 Pack Your Bags
When Geoff stands in front of the TV, Madame lets out an childish whine. “Geoffrey! You’re in the way, dear! It is just getting good.”

I roll my eyes and press pause. “How’s that?”

“C’est magnifique! It is fascinating how you people mimic sorcery.” She sets down her bowl of ice cream and stands in all her svelte glory. Then she comes over just to pat me on the head. I hold back my cringe.

“Kitty informed me of your problem, Madame,” Geoff says. “As your apprentice and assistant, we feel it’s our duty to retrieve your powers.”

Madame puts a hand to her ample chest, feigning tears. “You are too kind. You know I cannot accompany you, yes? I am not without enemies, and they will surely kill me if I leave this protected house and vineyard. You must come back here if you ever find yourselves in great danger.”

It’s like she expected us to go find her powers. I sigh. Of course she expected it. She didn’t ask me to fetch Geoff so she could cuss him out—this is what she planned all along.

“We’ll be as careful as we can, Madame.” Geoff folds his arms and leans against a bookcase. “One guess—Arielle?”

Arielle Richard is not an unfamiliar name. She’s a powerful sorceress living in France, and her rivalry with Madame runs deeper and darker than I understand. Henry The Manservant? Yeah, that was once Arielle’s husband.

Oh, and she and Madame are sisters. Makes me glad I’m an only child.

Madame’s face crinkles into a prune. “She’s going to pay for this! That little narcissist actually said she was better than me. Me! She is not better; she tricked me. I could beat her in a fair battle anytime I wanted.”

“Of course you could, Madame.” Geoff smirks. “You are the finest sorceress alive. How did she trick you?”

Madame sinks back into the couch. “A simple binding spell. She must have found out I had my eye on this lovely panda bear from the Ming Dynasty. The moment I touched it, I was drained of all my abilities. She bottled them up right in front of me.”

Geoff and I exchange glances. He joked about a panda bear earlier. How did he know? It could be nothing. Madame has a thing for collecting rare animals, and panda bear is an obvious choice.

“How did you get back then?” I ask.

She frowns, as if saying it is physically painful. “She teleported me. She knew how much I’d despise relying on her powers.” She kicks the ice cream bowl, making a mess I’ll have to clean up later. “Ugh! I wish she’d have left me there.”

The idea of Madame helpless in Ming Dynasty China…I stifle a laugh. She can’t possibly mean that.

“What would you have us do?” Geoff asks.

“We need to trap her, which means we need a peek at what she’s up to.” Madame puts a finger to her lips as she thinks. “Visit Magda The Old Crone, convince her to help.”

The command wraps around my neck. “Where is she?”

“Last I heard, she retired somewhere in Hawaii. It won’t be easy to convince her to work again, but she is a fantastic seer,” Geoff says.

Hawaii? The land of hula and beaches and hot surfer guys? Here I was thinking we’d have to wade through a dank swamp, fighting off alligators and trying to survive various enchanted traps.

There’s just one problem. I kind of have a real life outside all this sorcery crap. I can’t just disappear without Mom calling the cops. “Madame, how long do you think it will take to convince her?”

She nods. “I see what you mean, Kitty. Geoff, take her home so she can explain to her parents that I must take her to Hawaii with me. We shouldn’t be gone more than a week.”

“As you wish, Madame.” He grabs me around the waist before I can react, and then a second later we’re in my room.

“Get off!” I push him back, stumbling over my numb legs. Teleportation has that effect.

He sits on my bed, cringes as he plucks one of my long hairs off the comforter. “I didn’t have a choice, you know. I wasn’t about to drive in your dingy car.”

I bristle. “Just stay there and practice pulling rabbits out of hats or something. I’ll be right back.”

He shakes his head, smirk firmly in place. “You know I’m not a fan of prestidigitation.”

I answer by slamming my door and heading down the stairs. I don’t think it’ll be too hard to convince my parents that Madame Beaumont needs to take me to Hawaii, though they might not be happy about me missing school.

I freeze when I hit the bottom of the staircase. Cal stands in the lobby, dirty from working in our vineyard. Dad took him on kind of as an apprentice. That’s how we met, actually. He was here so often we became friends, and then more than friends. I thought he might quit after we broke up, but here he is. Still.

His eyebrows rise when he turns. “Hey! I thought you were working.”

“Uh, I was. But…” I search for an excuse, praying that Geoff actually listens for once and stays put. “Madame sent me home to pack.”


“Yeah, she’s taking me to Hawaii with her.”

“She is? Really?”

I tilt my head. “What do you mean by that?”

He shrugs. “I don’t know. When it comes to you, she’s…”

“What, Cal?”

“Well, she’s all about…” He winces.

I put my hands on my hips. “Will you just spit it out?”


I stare at him, trying not to smile and sure I’m failing. “Bless you.”

“It’s a word.”

I roll my eyes. “I know, Spelling Bee Finalist, I was just reminding you that normal people will think you’re insane if you say that on a regular basis.”

He laughs. “Fine, point taken. It means she treats you like you’re worthless, by the way.”

My smile fades. Does he think I don’t know that? It’s not like I can do anything about it. But before I can say anything, I hear footsteps coming down the stairs behind me. Cal’s eyes widen, so I know it’s not Mom or Dad. No, it has to be the one person Cal hates more than anyone.

Geoff stands next to me, looking between us like nothing’s wrong. “Are you ready to go, Kitty? We’re kind of on a tight schedule here.”

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

I Require Five Words!

It's that time again, everyone. I need five words to continue poor Kitty's story. We can't leave her stuck in blue-haired Geoff's laboratory, can we? It does still smell like Comet/bananas...yum.

The Rules: Give me a word—any PG word—and I will incorporate it into a short fiction piece, which will be posted at some point. Only one word per person, and I will take the first five words offered. The story must continue where it left off.

Do your worst. Gulp.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Two Hats

If you didn't know, I've written a lot of books. Like, 14 or something ridiculous number like that. What can I say? I needed the practice—I still need the practice. I was really just that bad. You name a writing faux pas, and I can guarantee you I once used it far too liberally.

But there's one good thing about having written such an obscene amount: You learn your process. You start to see the patterns in the way you create, both good and bad. Which in turn helps you improve/streamline that process.

One thing I've noticed about myself lately is something I'm calling the Two Hat Effect.

Hat One: Writing (as in rough drafting)
My rough drafting process is so creatively charged that my analytical side takes a back seat. I let myself experiment, break rules, and discover my character's story. No plotting. No real plan save a vague idea of what could happen.

Hat Two: Editing
Despite my extremely organic rough drafting process, I'm kind of a ruthless editor. I'm extremely critical of my own work—so critical that I can tear myself to pieces if I'm not careful.

Living With The Hats
I think every writer wears these hats to some effect. If you're more of a planner in first draft, your process may not be as juxtaposed as mine, but I imagine you still take on a more critical eye for editing.

It seems like such a strange process, this writing thing. We are both the creator and the critic of our own work. We spend months and months just trying to put the dang story together. And for what? So we can tear it apart and start all over. Several times.

The emotional roller coaster never ceases to knock me off my feet. You'd think after so many projects that I would be used to it by now, but it feels brand new every time.

And that's the thing about writing. You can learn and learn—but those lessons may not apply to the next project. In a way, you have to RElearn the craft for every book. You have to go back and forth between those hats over and over, which is easier said than done.

Switching Hats
Maybe some of you have experienced that mental paralysis I get when I finish a project and start thinking edits. My whole body tenses. My stomach knots. I have to, what? EDIT? But it's my baby! It'll be so much work. I can't wrap my brain around that! Can't the story just be perfect? Please?

I've been in creative writing mode for so long that editing seems like a monster, one I'd rather not face.

Conversely, perhaps some of you have experienced that mental paralysis I get when I finalize edits and think about starting a NEW project. My whole body tenses. My stomach knots. I have to, what? WRITE? But I can't have another baby! It'll be so much work. I can't wrap my brain around that! It won't be perfect! Can't I just edit forever? please?

I've been in editing mode for so long that first drafting seems like a monster, one I'd rather not face.

Huh, weird how that works.

Having gone back and forth between these hats several times, I've learned something about myself. It's not writing or editing that I hate—it's that time it takes to adjust to the freaking hat. At first, it feels...wrong. So I take off the hat and try to put it on my head differently, and it still feels weird. Then I panic because it doesn't fit! What if it never fits? Sure, people say it'll stretch out, but they're probably lying so I don't regret my purchase.

At some point, I stop panicking and just wear the stupid hat. It feels too tight—and surely looks stupid—but I just keep wearing it until it doesn't seem so strange.

Insert continuation of metaphor here.

Once I get comfortable with either writing or editing, I enjoy it. I honestly do. But it's that switch between the two that has me constantly questioning myself. That's the period of time when I worry I suck as a writer, when I think about giving up, when I curl up in a ball and eat way too many brownies.

But I'm finally realizing that the fastest way to get over that period of doubt and panic is to stop fiddling with the stupid hat. Just wear it until it doesn't feel so stupid anymore.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Photoshop Friday! With High School!

(In honor of Renee, who is the original Photoshop Friday-er.)

Some of you may have heard that Kiersten and I visited our old high school yesterday. It was MAGICAL, guys. You can go read Kierst's thoughtful post about the duality of high school life. I'm gonna try and be the funny one today.

Let me introduce you to the wonder that is Lone Peak:
*cue angelic music* Oh Lone Pear, uh, Peak.

Truth be told, my high school experience wasn't all that bad. Sure, there were tough times, angst, and many a night spent alone, but I genuinely liked myself and knew who I was. I didn't care what people thought (most of the time). And when I did, it was more "What's wrong with THEM?" and not "What's wrong with ME?"

I might have been a tad over-confident.

The problem with that was not everyone knows/likes themselves in high school, and I think I freaked people out with my self-confidence. So I was a rather content loner/nerd/artist/techie teen.

I found high school fairly amusing. I felt like an observer more than a participant. Most of my observations were sarcastic/snarky.

Like the Sword in the Stone:

Or on The Commons:

And then there were the inspirational sayings, which constantly filled me with motivation and drive:

These weren't here when I was in school, but man would I have made fun of these flags! They were everywhere! As if we couldn't tell it was the "Cafeteria" or the "Copy Center or the "Main Office." How pretentious are those babies?

You know that Kiersten and I went to high school together, but I have this feeling that you guys have a very different picture of what that actually entailed.

We had A CLASS together—like, a whole year-long class. It was AP Art, and this is kind of how it went:

Then there was this:

That's not to say I didn't have zero interaction with Kiersten. If you've read her blog today, you'll see she mentioned making fun of Prom.

I was on Prom Committee that year, and she made my best friend cry (who was in charge). That said—Prom utterly and completely DESERVED to be made fun of. We had to have it at school, thanks to some hooligans who got our school banned from every party venue for a few years. Let me recreate this for you.

First, we wanted to make it "not look like school." We had this brilliant idea to cover the lockers in black butcher paper:

Originally, we planed to lower the gym ceiling with chiffon and lights to mimic a night sky. But the chick in charge of that decided to buy a discount, 200 ft wide, Army PARACHUTE instead.

She bought it without the committee seeing it. It was not even close to as dark as she claimed ("It'll look black in the dark!"). It was non-returnable. We hung it on our gym ceiling, dying inside of embarrassment:

But it all turned out for the best. If I'm being honest, I'm not sure Kiersten and I could have been friends in high school. We might have even been nemeses, since I was horribly intimidated by smart, pretty, opinionated people back then. (Now I'm just mildly intimidated.)

Besides, if we'd been friends in high school, our lives would have been perfect and then we'd have no horrible/funny/sweet experiences to inspire our books. That would have been a crying shame.

See how we're not hugging? That's cuz Kiersten gets my bubble issues. True friends.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Operation Teen Book Drop

I know, double post! But it's quick, I promise. It's Operation Teen Book Drop Day—and I wanted to post my contribution here in case some of you don't do Twitter. For more info on TBD, see Kiersten's post or this website.

And you still have time to drop a book! Hurry!

Why yes, this happens to be my old high school. I figured it might be a good place to leave a book. (My art teacher made that knight out of papier maché. It went up my senior year.)

I left Mari Mancusi's Gamer Girl, which is an adorable YA contemporary about an anime drawing, online game playing, girl. What? You're shocked I loved it? Perhaps you don't know me very well.

Why I Love Writing: REcreating

It's no secret that editing and I don't exactly get along, but there are some things I do love about editing. Or recreating, as I sometimes like to call it. That tricks my brain into thinking it's less horrible.

I love writing out my plan for revisions. Before I have a plan, I'm more panicky than a chihuahua on caffeine. I get so, so easily overwhelmed by the big picture. But once I break it down into manageable chunks it's like, "Okay, I can do this! It's not so bad. Just one step at a time."

As hard as it is sometimes, I love making my book better. I love seeing my initial idea grow and change into something stronger, cooler than I thought it could ever be. I love adding scenes—ones that I can't believe I didn't think of before, ones that give new life to the story.

Yes, I even love cutting, once I get used to it. I love pruning the bad branches so the good ones are stronger. I never miss the words as much as I think I will.

I love finding the right words, the right descriptions for things. I love when I come up with just the right phrase, or cut an awkward one. I love seeing my prose get cleaner and cleaner with each draft.

I particularly love how entertaining it is to comb through my draft for repetition. I can't help but laugh at how many times I use a certain word or how many times my character sighs or groans or shakes their head. Oh, the melodrama. It's really funny.

I love the feeling of getting something right. It might not be as electric as the first draft, but it's oh-so-satisfying. I love getting to the end of revisions and knowing I did my best. I love the sense of accomplishment. It's this quiet peace in your gut, saying, "Yeah, that's what I meant."

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Why I Love Writing: Creating

Note: The wonderful Sherry has interviewed me over at her blog. She asked great questions—go check it out.

I know for some writers opening a new blank Word doc is kind of freaky, but I love it! I love starting a new project, creating something that's never been made before (at least by me). I've always loved creating things—drawings, stories, quilts, gardens, outfits, recipes, etc. It just makes me happy, plain and simple.

So I love opening that fresh Word document. That blank slate is like an empty canvas, waiting to get painted on. I love typing in my tentative title, my name, and Chapter 1. I love when that first sentence comes to me.

I love love love the sound of my fingers tap tapping at the keyboard, watching the words fill that blank white page.

I always get nervous when I send that first little chapter off to my alphas, but their excited feedback propels me forward (or helps me know how to start over). I love how supportive they are about my new baby creation.

I love watching the word count grow as I build the world, plot, and characters. I absolutely LOVE when I hit 100 pages—it never stops feeling like an accomplishment. Nor does 200 pages. I also love hitting 50k, which seems like some official novel number. That's the part where I'm like, "Holy crap, I'm writing a BOOK."

I love being in creative mode, when I can do no wrong (though in the back of my head I already know things will need reworking). I love being free to just make a story. I love that I CAN make a story. Good or bad can wait—I'M CREATING HERE. Don't mess with my groove. I'm feeling the words. I'm letting this piece flow organically from my SOUL.

I probably would have made an awesome hippie.

I love finding awesome music that fits the mood of what I'm creating. I love cranking it up and feeling connected to something outside myself, and yet within me at the same time. I love feeling like the most creative person EVER, even if it's not true.

I love getting to The End. I love typing up the resolution to a story, sitting back, and looking at my new baby. Sure, she might be a little wrinkled, and her head's a bit wonky, but my goodness, she's ADORABLE. And I made her.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Why I Love Writing: Community

Writing is both a solitary and joint venture. Only you can write your book, but you're not the only one out there trying to get words on the page. I love the writing community. I've never felt like I belonged anywhere until now. Reaching out to other writers was one of the best things I did for myself and my writing.

The internet has opened up the writing world. I wasn't sure how to find writers locally, but it was easy to find writing blogs online. I love bloggers! I love that I can read the stories of so many aspriring/successful writers. It helps me feel less alone—I'm not the only person struggling or succeeding or working hard to make it.

I love the true friends I've made in the writing community. I never expected to have so many wonderful people in my life, and I feel blessed everyday for having people who get me and my writing, who've been "there," who are facing the same things I am. I would never have made it this far without their support and critiques.

I love the writers I've had a chance to meet locally. They've all been so kind and positive and smart. I can't wait to meet more of you guys. There's nothing like the energy at a writer's event. Even for this introvert, it's electrifying.

I love everyone who takes the time to visit my blog, and I constantly wish I had the time to visit everyone's like I used to. But I try to keep up, and it really does make my day when your comments pop up in my inbox.

The editors and agents out there are fabulous too! I love how so many take the time to help aspiring writers. They are there for writers—they really are. They aren't our enemies; they're our advocates. They love books, and I love that we have partners in this business, because I can't imagine trying to do it all on my own.

I love how helpful writers are in general. Sure, there's a few sour grapes out there, but I haven't run across many at all. Most writers have been more than kind—they go out of their way to give back. They're so hopeful, even through all the hard work and tough times. When I'm feeling down, there are so many people willing to help me back up. I can't express how grateful I am for that. You guys are freaking awesome.

I just love love love being part of this amazing community.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Why I Love Writing: Discovery

I promised I would make up for admitting the usefulness of character sheets. So here we go—a week of Why I Love Writing! This is good for me. I need to remember this stuff right now. Sometimes I forget.

I love writing because I get to discover things—new people, worlds, words, feelings, choices, etc. Yes, I write to escape. I've always written to escape. Most of my life I haven't had the chance to see all the things I want to. Right now, I spend most of my time in a small townhome with my two munchkins. Which is great, but doesn't exactly have a view, you know?

In my head I can explore. It's the cheapest vacation ever. For a few hours I can hang out with my ninjas in San Francisco or immerse myself in a world where everyone has super powers. I can live with Victorian wizards or cyborgs. I love using my imagination. It makes me smile.

I love discovering the story in my first draft, which is why outlines don't work for me. My motivation is not knowing what comes next, wanting to find out. That moment when the next scene clicks? Heavenly. My head buzzes with excitement—I can't wait to write it out.

With editing it's the same thing. Even though editing is hard on me, when I discover the solution to my story's problems, I can't help but get excited. I can fix it! I can make it better. (Don't ask about the time before I find the answers. It's ugly.) That moment is such an overwhelming relief.

I adore getting to know my characters, spending a few moments outside myself to learn how other people see the world and react to it. I adore how different and wonderful people are.

I also love discovering things about myself (okay, usually in hindsight). Like how much harder I can work than I thought. Just when I think I can't do anymore, I've learned that I can push myself further. I've discovered that I can overcome my own fears and reservations. I can do this, even if I fail a lot more than I'd like. I've discovered I really am a writer, for better or worse.

Enough from me. What are your favorite writing discoveries?

Friday, April 9, 2010

If I Were A Designer

A bit of housekeeping: I've decided to move Saturday Sketch to Friday Sketch, which is less alliterative but otherwise the same. The reason is simple—I'm going completely dark on weekends. Not even email. I know, wish me luck. I think it'll be really good for me, actually, to have a couple days away from this world to remember why I like it so much. So if you email me on a weekend, know I won't be seeing it until Monday.

Now, on the the silly stuff.

I did something last night that I swore I'd never do. I designed my own cover, and then felt really lame about it.

Though I do have design/art experience, my reasons for not designing a cover were many:

1) I didn't have Photoshop or Quark and couldn't do it properly anyway. That excuse was remedied a couple months ago.

2) Whatever I designed would never ever ever be the actual cover, and I didn't want to get attached to something.

3) What I envision for my cover is probably not at all what you expect, and I worry about what people think, despite my best efforts. It seems like people think it'll be way more "artsy" than it is.

4) I didn't want to admit that I think about my cover as much as I do. Curse you, wild imagination/lofty dreams!

5) I'm not THAT good. You guys are horribly kind about my art, but in the grand scheme of things I am an amateur.

But last night I designed my cover anyway. I've had this idea for a long time, and I just wanted to see what the concept would look like. If I were actually designing this, I'd do a few different word placements to see what looked best, but I'll just show you the prototype:
Not what you expected, huh. It's a verrrrry simple design, but I've always liked minimalist covers, and there's no doubt this would pop on a shelf. If you don't recognize the symbol, take a look:
I thought playing on street signs would be a cool thing to do if it ever turned into a series. Yes, because I'm THAT deluded. Plus, every time I see a Do Not Enter sign I picture ninja eyes in it. I can't help myself.

Also, this cover is fairly gender neutral, which is something I ultimately hope for in my cover. And according to me, it's FUNNY, which alludes to aspects of the book. Not only that, but it's slightly reminiscent of the Japanese flag. Oh, the layers of implication:)

So yeah, if I were a designer, this is what I'd do with my own cover. But I am completely aware that I won't have much say and I'm okay with that. Very okay. I mean, this is a pretty silly cover anyway. I bet real designers would come up with something way better.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Pros and Cons of Character Sheets

If you've been following my Twitter feed, you know I've been trying out character sheets and whining a lot about it. But despite the whining, I have learned a lot from this experience. Sharing Time!

(Oh, for those of you who may not know what a character sheet is, it's essentially a questionnaire/interview about a character. I have been using this one, which is very thorough.)

Because I like to go negative first and finish positively, we'll be starting with Cons and then Pros.

CON: Takes MUCH Longer Than I Anticipated
When I first started, I thought that long character sheet wouldn't take me more than an hour or two. WRONG. My MC's took about 4-5 hours to finish! The secondary characters have been shorter, but still more than an hour.

That's a lot of time just for a character sheet, you know? I keep thinking I could be spending this time writing or outlining or playing Warcraft. Important things like that. And not even half this stuff will make it into the book! It easily feels like a "waste of time."

PRO: Character Revelations
I'll admit it—I've learned things! I already knew a lot about my characters individually, but the most unexpected aspect of this character sheet is how much it's revealed about how my characters relate to each other. Filling it out for my MC's mother, for example, taught me a lot about my MC that I hadn't thought in depth about.

The sheet has also helped me define my characters' key motivations. I feel like I understand better how they're connected, and I hope this will make my rewrite cleaner.

CON: Tedious...Okay, Down Right Boring
Filling out this character sheet four times (with at least four more to go) has not at all been fun. Maybe it's fun for some writers (and if so, lucky!), but I've had to force myself to get through these. It's like filling out doctor forms—you already know most of the information and you're just regurgitating it. Snore.

PRO: Plot Ideas
You know how ideas always show up when you're doing menial things like showers and dishes? Yeah, turns out that happens with character sheets too! I've had several plot ideas arise from the dullness, which I didn't expect to happen when focusing on characters. Maybe I should have known that, but I'm slow sometimes.

CON: Not For First Drafting (in my opinion)
I never filled out character sheets because I thought it was something you were supposed to do before you started writing a book. I'd tried, but I'd stare at the sheet and think, "I don't know! I haven't met them yet!"

If I'd filled out a sheet before I started writing this book, I know I would have gotten it all wrong. I would have just been making up answers. It would be like meeting a guy at the coffee shop and deciding you know everything about him just from one conversation.

What good is that?

The sheet has only been useful because I know my characters already, and this is helping me fill in the gaps/define them more. The character sheet, to me, is about revealing nuances, not creating a character.

PRO: Good Revision Tool
I think from now on I'll be filling out character sheets post rough draft. The extra boost in understanding has shown me where I went off track the first time when I was getting to know my book. And having it all written down will make a nice reference if I ever find myself forgetting.

CON: Still Could Be Wrong
Even knowing my characters so well, I'm aware that I could have gotten things wrong on this sheet. If I try and stick to the sheet, I could mess up my book again. It's not a sure thing, and I think one could risk being TOO faithful to it once you've taken the time to write it all down. I hope that I'll still be open to changes when I start rewriting.

PRO: Looking Outside Your MC
I think especially if you're writing in first person, a character sheet (even a short version) would be very helpful in making your secondary characters more 3-D. I've found I usually see people how my MC sees them when I write in first (which is most of the time), but my MC is often wrong! I learn as my MC learns that people aren't always who they seem. Being more clear on your supporting cast is never a bad thing—they need to be people with their own motives and drive, not just there to serve the MC's story.

PRO: Gets You Thinking
I think the most important thing I've taken away from the character sheet is just how much it's made me THINK. The questions are kind of lame, yes, and sometimes you know immediately the answer. But then you have to think about WHY, and that has been so helpful.

Just like crit partners help you see your book from a different perspective, character sheets seem to do the same thing for me.

If you'll notice, character sheets squeaked out one more Pro than Con, so I'm reluctantly declaring them useful despite being annoying. Further proof that this whole writing thing is, like, work. Dang it. I think I'm going to have to do a whole week on why writing is fun to make up for this concession.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Five Words: Results

Results! Thanks again for five fun words to play with. Also, please let me know if at any point this gets boring. I will stop if I'm just entertaining myself. For the last installment, go here (which also leads to the one before that).

The Assisstant

1.2 Into The Peacock’s Den
It’s just as I had feared. Madame Beaumont wanted to watch a romance movie like a “regular human” does when they’re sad. I came back from the store to her pressing various buttons on the TV—somehow she’d managed to turn on picture-in-picture and Spanish captions, but couldn’t find the movies in the drawer right under the screen. I’ve spent the last hour teaching her how to work the remote to her entertainment system.

“What would I do without you, Kitty?” she says as I hand her another giant bowl of ice cream. She takes a bite, not speaking again until she swallows. “Get me a blanket.”

“Yes, Madame.” I grit my teeth as I grab the throw on the chair right next to her. She doesn’t need conjuring when she has me.

She smiles wide when I put it over her long legs. “Helpless, indeed. I am not helpless.”

“Excuse me, Madame?”

She waves her hand, dismissing my question. “Fetch Geoff. I must speak with him.”

Oh, I bet she does. That little snake won’t get away with this, no matter how much she fawns over him. Even though I want to see him in trouble, my feet still slow the closer I get to his wing of the mansion. I haven’t been here since the spring, and just the thought of going to his suite makes me uneasy.

There isn’t a handle on his door, but instead a glass parrot perched where a knocker would be. It’s kind of like a sorcerer’s version of an intercom. I tug its tail and it squawks, letting me know it’s ready to record.

“Madame would like to speak with you.” I tug the tail again and the parrot squawks once more. Then it melts into the door, off to deliver the message.

The door dissolves not twenty seconds later, but there’s no Geoff in sight. I stand there, waiting for him to come out because there is no way I’m going in. The air is hazy and yellow. A strange smell assaults my nose, like a cross between Comet cleaner and bananas. I try not to breathe much, worried what this gas could do to me. You never know with sorcerers in the house.

He doesn’t come, and the command to fetch him tugs at my neck. I resist the urge to go in and find him. I won’t have his knobless door shutting on me ever again.

The parrot returns, landing on the perch beside the open door. “I’m in the middle of something, Kitty. Feel free to come in and wait, or tell Madame I’ll be there in half an hour.”

I tug the bird’s tail, probably too hard by the sound of its screech. “You know I won’t do the first and can’t do the second. This is really important. You have to come right now.”

The bird flies back into the yellow haze and returns without that stupid apprentice. It laughs his laugh before speaking. “Did she bring a panda bear back from her latest excursion? No, I must finish this first or it’ll be ruined. Tell her I’ll come when I’m ready.”

I want to scream. He’s doing it on purpose. He knows that the invisible leash around my neck won’t let me wait that long without suffocating me. It already burns. I force myself to step into his room, squinting through the putrid mist.

The place still looks the same, his trinkets and potions and parchment in their exact right places. It might be organized, but there is so much stuff it feels combustible. One wrong step, and the place would explode.

He’s obviously not in the front room of his suite, which leaves the lab, the library, or the bedroom. From the Comet/banana smell, I decide the lab’s my best bet.

I head for the open door, and can barely make out his figure through the much thicker yellow. He stands over a glass bowl filled with a liquid the same color. “Aw, Kitty, you didn’t have to come in. I know how much my chambers bother you.”

“Shut up. You need to come right now.”

“What I need to do is finish this dream potion. If I leave now it’ll be ruined.” He slowly pours a green liquid from a vial, and the yellow turns a bright gooseberry orange. The haze fades. “Whatever Madame needs can wait. I’m sure it’s as silly as usual.”

“I don’t think losing her powers is very silly.”

His head snaps up. “What?”

I fold my arms. “Don’t give me that look—I know you had something to do with it. She might think you’re perfect, but this is the last straw, Geoff. She won’t ignore this.”

His eyes narrow. “Tell me, Kitty, how a lowly apprentice could take his Master’s powers.”

“You got someone else to do it for you.” There are plenty of sorcerers out there. Geoff has friends—I’ve met a few of them. He could have struck a deal with someone more powerful.

He takes a few steps closer, running a hand through his sapphire hair. “I suppose, but why on earth would I even want to take her powers?”

My face burns. “So I’d be stuck here doing her bidding twenty-four seven. So I’d always be around. That’s what you’ve wanted since I first came here, isn’t it?”

He smirks. “Not exactly.”

He lets the words hang there without explaining, so I must be on to something. “Well, it’s not going to work.”

He shakes his head. “You flatter yourself, my dear Kitty. You’ve got it all wrong.”

“Do I?”

“Without Madame’s powers, I can’t be promoted to a full-fledged sorcerer. Do you really think I’d sacrifice that just to keep you around?"

My throat tightens, and I look away. “Well, you better go find them, then.”

He comes closer, too close, but I force myself to stay put. I won’t give him the satisfaction of the reaction he’s looking for. “And what if I can’t?”

“I’ll find her powers myself if I have to.”

“You will, eh? How will you do that?”

I purse my lips. “I don’t exactly have a plan. This only happened a few hours ago—you can’t expect me to have it all figured out yet.”

He walks past me, pausing for a moment at the door. “Whether you want it or not, it seems you’ll need my help. Shall we go to Madame, now? We need to know how she lost them.”

“What about your precious potion?”

His eyes meet mine, and for a second it feels like he was lying about not wanting me here forever. “You were right about one thing—it can wait.”

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Five Words and an Interview

I got all of half a character sheet done yesterday. I have a feeling my kids are going to make this revision rather hard on me. Ninja Girl is resisting nap time, so I'll have to seriously rethink my writing schedule when I lose those few precious hours.

But anyway, on to other things!

The lovely Amanda interviewed me. Go check it out, because I'm sure you really want to know about my Cup o' Noodle eating habits, among other things.

Also, it's time for FIVE WORDS. We last left Kitty with a cart full of ice cream and a mission to restore her boss's powers of sorcery. Can't leave her hanging, can we?

The Rules: Give me a word—any PG word—and I will incorporate it into a flash fiction piece, which will be posted at some point. Only one word per person, and I will take the first five words offered. The story must continue where it left off.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Whistle While You Work

Or, you know, whine. Whichever.

So I'm starting the long and tedious process of reworking a book today. I'm not gonna lie—it's a tad overwhelming, like standing at the bottom of a mountain and knowing you have to climb to the top. It's not that I don't think I CAN do it. It's just so. much. work. And having climbed a mountain fairly similar to this one before, I have the disadvantage of knowing just how hard it'll be.

But on the bright side, I also know how great the payoff is for a job well done. How pretty the view is from the top, if you will. I know that someday I'll be proud of this stinking book. Someday I'll feel good about it. Writing is quite the lesson in delayed gratification.

Well, I better get started...

Wait. Let me just watch this one more time:

That video reminds me to laugh at myself and this whole crazy writing/feedback process.

Okay, a few last preparations:


Best Pens Ever:

Code Red:
Alrighty, NOW I'm ready. Time to start the hike.

UPDATE: Ack! How could I forget Mood Music? AND Chocolate! *runs off to store*

UPDATE: Okay, NOW I can get to work...if the kids will let me.

Friday, April 2, 2010

A Character. A Conference. A Contest.

1. A Character
I got in an artsy mood yesterday and decided I had to draw a certain character. I can't tell you who this character is, but she's freaking cool and I love her so much and I think about her way more than I should. Mostly, I wish I could pull off a faux hawk:

Hi, I'm a really cool character you're not allowed to know about. I like your hair like that—did you just wake up?

2. A Conference
So a funny thing happened—I agreed to present at a local conference! I know. What sane introvert who's had a public speaking fainting episode would do this? Well, I'm not sane. Also, Ally Condie will be there. I really want to meet her. Paramedics please stand by.

So if you're in the area and not attending Storymakers (which is the same day, gah!), come to the American Fork Arts Council Writers Conference. It might be small, but it packs a good bang for your buck!

American Fork Arts Council Conference for Writers
Saturday, April 24, 2010
9 a.m. - 4 p.m.

Location: American Fork Historic City Hall, 31 North Church Street (50 East)
To register call Lori at 801-763-3081.

PRICE: $29 or $40 after April 12. (If you register before April 12th, you are invited to a free Plot Shop the Friday night before. Also, there's a book included in that price.)

Lunch catered by Flour Girls & Dough Boys, $9 per person payable at morning registration.

Keynote Speakers:
Ginger Churchill, "What I Wish I had Known as a Beginning Writer"
Ally Condie, "My Journey to National Publication"
John D. Brown, "Aiming for National Publication"

Local Publishers: Deseret Book and Granite Publishing

There will be some great workshops for writers getting ready to put their work out there. I'll be presenting these: Crafting the Novel, Is Your Story Ready for Publication? How Do You Know?, Querying Agents and Publishers, Writing the Synopsis and Query, Marketing Yourself with a Blog.

If you're really lucky and my blood sugar is low, you might even get to see me faint, too. So. Exciting.

3. A Contest
My dear friend Michelle is having a rather fabulous short story contest. The prizes are great, and you have TWO months to enter! Go check it out. Man, for a $50 dollar gift card to the store of my choice, I may enter myself.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

How To Wallow

Today I'm going to impart vital information about something I do very, very well: wallowing.

I am a PRO at wallowing. In fact, I recommend learning proper wallowing technique. It's the most useful skill you'll ever acquire. These nine easy steps will guarantee intense misery, which is what we're all looking for, right? So without further ado:

Step 1: Stay In Bed As Much As Possible
You can't be a good wallower if you're up and about! Of course, you might have work and stuff, but don't get up until you absolutely have to. Forget the shower—a little Febreze and deodorant will cover that stench right up.

While in bed, be sure to cry into your pillow and blow the entire situation out of proportion. Use LOTS of over exaggeration. "I will NEVER EVER be happy AGAIN!" "This ALWAYS happens to ME!" If possible, have really horrible anxiety dreams and clench your jaw the entire night so you wake unrested and in miserable pain. Then you will have more to wallow about.

Step 2: Do Not, Under ANY Circumstances, Get Dressed
Pajamas are mandatory, preferably old ones with holes. It's ideal if you haven't washed them for a few days either. If you're a girl, don't wear makeup. Then you will feel and look appropriately crappy. You can't look nice when you wallow—then you might FEEL nice, which is way out of line. If people come over, they will immediately understand how horrible your life is and leave you alone.

If you absolutely must dress, at least make sure your hair is unkempt and you slump and frown a lot to convey the proper level of gloom.

Step 3: Eat Horrible, Fatty Food
You can't be properly miserable if you don't gain at least a few pounds while you wallow. Don't eat anything green—unless it's jellybeans. All your food should be fried, high in cholesterol, salty, covered in gravy, drenched in chocolate, 70% sugar, or glazed. Or all of the above.

Step 4: Read Into Everything That Happens To You
You're not wallowing properly if you see the silver lining. Spin everything around so you KNOW the world is out to get you.

You show up at the doctor's and find they lost your appointment—"I can't even schedule appointments right! I'm a FAILURE." They're out of your favorite frozen pizza at the store—"I'm such a LOSER! Why didn't I get here faster? I'm slow and worthless." Hit a red light—"I'm going NO WHERE with my life!"

These are just examples. I swear.

Clean houses are way too nice for wallowing. You might actually feel peaceful and accomplished if your dishes are done and your laundry is folded. Your house should PROVE how wretched and woeful your life is (and thus you). There should be stuff all over the floor and at least three trash bags waiting to be taken out. There should be nothing clean to wear. That way you can wallow about how you're so lazy you can't even do menial tasks.

Step 6: Tell Yourself Everyone's a Liar
The people who love and know you are WRONG. They're only saying you're smart and talented and funny because they love you. They don't actually know. They're just being polite. All those people who say you suck? Yeah, they're right. They've somehow seen all those moments in your head when you're a horrible person—they know the real you and aren't blinded by stupid love and respect.

Step 7: Blame Other People For Your Problems/Feelings
Preferably people who have absolutely no connection with you. Like JK Rowling or Nicholas Sparks. Perhaps The President. Oh, and Paris Hilton. Oprah! Yeah, it's all THEIR fault. They made you have wild expectations! Or they shattered your dreams. Or they're everything that's wrong with everything. You can't do anything about it.

Step 8: Waste Time
You're going to need a lot of distractions, because if you solve your problem the wallowing will end and you might actually have to work and fix it. The internet is a good place to start. Wasting time works especially well if you can convince yourself it's "research" or "networking" or something else that kind of sounds important but isn't.

Step 9: Compare Yourself to Others
Everyone will be better than you, so it doesn't really matter who you pick. Just make sure to compare and compare often. And if people talk about how hard they worked and struggled, ignore it. They're only saying that to make you feel better, not because it actually happened that way.

Oh, and Happy April Fool's Day.