Tuesday, April 12, 2011

All Day Q&A

It's about that time again, no? Ask away—anything you want. Need advice about querying? I can so make some up. Want some anime recommends? I got your back. Dying to know my recipe for pizza dough? I *might* give it away. If you're nice.

Now that I'm not blogging as much (which I seriously miss, but it's good for me right now), I feel compelled to point you to some of my favorite posts I've read recently. So if you don't have any questions, go enjoy these gems.

The first is from Laini Taylor, some excellent writing advice. It totally helped me breathe new life into a WIP that was slipping away from me. Not only are her books achingly gorgeous, but her blog is constantly full of eye candy. I scroll through her beautiful pictures more than I should admit.

Then you have to check out Kiersten's post about how to become a bestseller. True as true, that one. The more I write, the more I realize it's about the writing. That might sound weird, but I think many people will understand what that means. All the success in the world can't replace a love for the work.

And finally, Sara Zarr wrote an incredible article for Image, about creativity and the battle it sometimes can be to nourish it. Coming from a family with depression, anxiety, and addiction, I so identified and am grateful for her words.


  1. What do you do when you are currently working on writing/revising a project and a sparkling new TOTALLY DISTRACTING idea pops into your head?

  2. Jessica, it depends. If I'm on a deadline to finish something for my agent (these are self-imposed deadlines, btw), then I resist working on the new shiny. If I absolutely must, I will "reward" myself with writing the new idea once I've finished my daily goals for the main project.

    If I'm at a point in my writing where I'm just messing around (like now), then I'll let myself write whatever strikes my fancy. I mean, I have a project on sub, one next in line in revision, and then the WIP I'm currently writing. If a new idea showed up? Yeah, I might take time to explore it.

    I don't think there's anything wrong with that, as long as you don't abandon your current project. I know that new shinies tend to show up when the WIP gets hard. Well guess what? There's always a point when it gets hard, and you can't just put down a project because of that. Hard doesn't equal a bad book. It doesn't equal bad writing. It just gets hard—stories are hard to write!

    Eventually that new shiny will be difficult, too, and that's what keeps me in line, mostly. That middle never stops being though and confusing. I don't want to have more middles than I can stand;)

  3. Ooo! I'm happy to "see" you and love these Q&A days!

    So, my question is: What book are you reading right now? (Or if you aren't reading one, what is the most recent book you read?)

    Have fun answering questions and have a great day!

    Erin @ Quitting My Day Job

  4. How nice does one have to be to get the pizza dough recipe? And do you have a way of making sure it's never raw when cooked on a regular pan, rather than a pizza stone?

  5. Erin, good to "see" you too:) Right now I'm reading SEAN GRISWOLD'S HEAD by Lindsey Levitt. It has been so fun thus far, and I love how she deals with the subject of discovering one of your parents is sick (MS in particular). I think a lot of teens face this, and yet I don't see it that much. Also, Sean is adorable, big head and all.

    After Lindsey's, I have my eye on DEMONGLASS and WHERE SHE WENT. I'm always woefully behind on reading.

    And I must brag, because I have the privilege of reading some seriously coveted books long before publication. Like Kiersten White's final in the PARANORMALCY trilogy. It's amazing. FYI.

  6. I heard anime recommendations? I'm always looking for good anime. Though I prefer the slice-of-life anime rather than the crazy magic adventure anime. Though I do have a couple of those that I love. ;)

  7. Thanks for the glimpse into your current and future reads!

    Sean Griswold is on my to-read list, so it's nice to hear that you're enjoying it. I'm also part-way through WHERE SHE WENT and loving it so far!

    Brag away, my dear. I haven't read any of Kiersten White's work yet, but I know of many readers who would be extremely jealous of you! Enjoy your advance copy. =)

    Erin @ Quitting My Day Job

  8. Sarah, I suppose I can divulge the pizza dough recipe:) The regular pan is tough—I have a pan with holes in the bottom, kind of like a strainer, that cooks the pizza really well.

    Other tips: It helps to have warm ingredients. If you are using cold sauce from the fridge, it'll take longer to get that center cooked.

    I also dress my pizza while it's sitting on the stove, which is warm from the oven being heated, so the bottom gets a tiny bit of a head start.

    And if you don't have a pizza pan like that, I used to cook my crust in the oven for about 5 minutes before putting toppings on it.

    Okay, the recipe! Which is so easy.


    2 tsp dry active yeast
    1 cup warm water
    2 tsp sugar

    2 1/2 cups flour
    2 tbs olive oil
    1 tsp salt

    1. Whisk yeast, water, and sugar together and let sit 10 mins, until yeast is frothy.

    2. Combine olive oil, salt, and flour with the yeast mixture. Knead until combined. Dough should be firm and not very sticky.

    3. Let dough rise until 2x the size, at least 30mins.

    4. On a floured surface, roll out to desired size. Usually makes 1 large pizza or 2 smaller ones.

    5. Add desired toppings.

    6. Bake at 400 for 15-20 mins, until crust is golden and bottom is cooked. (I also like to brush the crust with garlic butter after it comes out, because yum.)

  9. Laura, I am more into the fantasy, so I don't know how much we'll cross, but right now I'm watching Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit and it's beautiful. It's adapted for a novel, and wow. Really cool.

    Spice & Wolf is a more mature series, but I really like its different take on things. It's medieval set, focusing instead on merchants and old commerce than war and nobles. There's a little supernatural, but not a ton.

    Fruits Basket, if you haven't seen it (though I assume most people have), is still one of my faves.

    Oh, and Ouran High School Host Club! That's some good fun.

    I also apologize if you seen all those and my recommends are totally worthless.

  10. I do love fantasy. I haven't seen Moribito or Spice & Wolf. Thanks for the recs!

  11. Hi Natalie

    I wish you could do my synopsis for me!
    Any tips on writing a synopsis very welcome. I keep putting it off!

    warm wishes

  12. Hi Natalie!

    Do you go to writer's conferences very often? I just can't justify the cost or the time away from my family (most of the time). If there was ONE you were going to go to, which would it be?



  13. Bluestocking, I was going to be all "Go to my reference page!", but then I looked and discovered I'd forgotten to put my post on there. So thank you for bringing that to my attention!

    Link: http://betweenfactandfiction.blogspot.com/2008/09/how-to-write-synopsis.html

    Synopsis is your plot, essentially. There is a lot of not-great advice on synopsis because no one really likes to write them. My basic method is as follows:

    1. Determine key plot points of your book: The inciting incident, the more important element of the rising action, the climax, and the denouement.

    2. Write from point to point. Lot's of people say to do chapter outlines, but that totally bogs stuff down and brings up unnecessary detail.

    3. Edit. Of course. You always have to. Clean up prose. Get rid of cliche. Clarify. Etc.

  14. I always struggle with the first few chapters. Is it just me or do other writer's have the same issue? I know the story...the plot and where I want it all to go but it seems like it takes me a week or two, to get the first few chapters down...and make them feel right.

    This time around I am just typing it out..coming back the next day and looking at it with fresh eyes, fixing a few things and moving on to the next. I figure once I get into the groove I can rewrite them if it is necessary.

    Should I spend more time hammering them out? Or do like I am doing now? Please tell me I am not the only one...

  15. Becky, I am strapped for funds as well, and the only conference I've really gone to is LTUE (Life, The Universe, and Everything) at BYU, which is a SF/F conference. It's VERY cheap, as in I paid 25 bucks for three days. And they usually have amazing panelists. James Dashner was the keynote this year, Brandon Sanderson was last year's. Yeah. Awesome.

    If I did have money, I would love to go to a bigger one like the SCBWI semi-annual ones. It always seems cool. Or the big book fairs.

    But all in all, it's fun just to be around writers, and if there is a small conference in your area I highly recommend going at least once, for the experience.

  16. BREA, it's not just you! Every writer has their strengths and weaknesses. I have friends who struggle with beginnings, some who can't find the right ending, etc.

    I happen to be the kind of writer who starts strong and fizzles when I hit the middle, and then I have to wrestle the book until the end. So I'm not sure I have the best advice, save to keep going! If you know it gets easier for you after the beginning, then have faith that that's how you work. Battle it out. It can always be changed. Most beginnings ARE changed in one way or another, just because the story is so new at that point that you don't have the details.

    As for hammering out vs fixing, that's really up to you. I am very much a "keep going don't edit" writer, because editing makes me doubt the story and then I get all scared it sucks which makes me not write and yeah...not a good mentality for first drafting. But some writers edit just fine all the way through. As long as you're going forward, I say it's all good.

  17. Thanks Natalie!! It is good to hear I am not the only one that has hard writes sometimes!! I really enjoy your Q&A!!

  18. Natalie, I am gearing up to start doing my first round of querying in a few weeks. I have a list on querytracker, but I'm not sure how to approach sending them. Should I do a test run first and if its across the board rejections, revise for the next round, or just rip it off like a band-aid and send them all out?

    Thank you! And very jealous you've read all the Paranormalcy books!

  19. Hi Natalie! I'm almost done with my first novel (*squeal*) and I definitely want to take some time off before editing to get my perspective back and all that, and I was wondering if you do that too and if so, how much time you wait between writing a first draft and beginning edits? Thanks!

  20. Gennifer, I would definitely recommend sending queries out in batches. 5-10, depending on your preference. I know it's slower, but you want to gauge the response. If you are getting no requests, it may be an issue with the query. If you're getting requests but no fulls or offers, then there may be an issue with the MS.

    Even though you should have the best possible product before querying, sometimes the process can reveal issues with your MS. It is wise to revise at the point before sending it to more agents.

    And overall, I always tell people not to put too much passion into their "list." Yes, it's good to research agents, but there are so many that are amazing but don't have online presence. Your "dream agent" might be someone you don't know at all. Don't think it's over when you've used up those "top ten" or whatnot.

  21. prplbookworm, I would highly recommend letting it sit. I will confess that I didn't use to. I jumped right into edits and was all around hasty in the revision process. It hurt me. I really needed to get emotional distance from the work to make it shine.

    I usually wait 2 weeks to a month before I do my first edit on a project. The first edit for me consists of fixing any plot and character issues most importantly. After that, I usually have to fill in gaps. For the most part, I write short. And, of course, a good scrub on the prose. Then it's off to betas, which give me a nice breather.

    I actually wait a week or two before I edit from my beta feedback as well. I feel like I need that time to really think about what they said. Sometimes your first reaction will be "No! I can't possibly change that!" But then after time you'll start to see how it could work, and that maybe you should consider it.

  22. Thanks Natalie! :)

  23. Are we going to play our Dwarves tonight?

  24. What's your plan for surprise Ninja attacks?

  25. Nick, if you want. I just need to get in a heroic on my shaman.

  26. Debbie, is that a trick question? Why would I reveal my plans for surprise ninja attacks?

  27. Catherine, I'm not sure! My son loves the How Do Dinosaurs series, so we read a lot of those and I love them. I remember as a kid loving If You Give A Mouse A Cookie. Curious George is also a favorite in this house, as is Dr. Seuss.

  28. If a ninja gets the jump on you I think you're pretty much a gonner. Best bet is to always be prepared.

    Dwarf shadow priest FTW.

    No question. Just stopping by :)

  29. Great links, Natalie! Each and every one. Thank you. :)
    First, I'm so happy you're writing and inspired to write. I saw your tweet yesterday--the one where you sent a crit partner your first chapter & she responded with an "i hate you." (A totally loving I-am-so-blown-away-by-this-how did-she-write-this-OMG-it's-so fracking-good kind-of I hate you.) The tweet made me happy.
    Second, I hope one day you write a graphic novel. I'll buy it. Actually, count me in for any book you write, graphic or not. :)
    Third, what's your thoughts on Backspace Writer's Conference in NYC? I'm pondering going next month. It would be a big investment (mainly in the $$ dept, not to mention coverage for my kiddos). Have you heard anything positive/negative on it? It looks amazing and slightly smaller *cough* *less intimidating* than some of the uber big ones, but with lots of awesomesauce agents and quality time to meet them as well as other writers. I've yet to go to a conference, and am about to query book 2. (Not actually book 2, but second book I'm querying...you know how that goes.:))
    Thanks again! Happy day-

  30. Lynne, I, uh, have never heard of that conference. I am woefully ignorant on conferences, honestly. I've been to a few small ones and enjoyed them, but I don't have the cash to spend on traveling to bigger ones.

    So I guess it depends! I always say it's a good experience, if you have the money.

  31. Natalie,

    Hi. Sorry it's a bit late to be asking for advice, but here I am now and I'm going to blurt it out.

    I'm one of those writers who has this brilliant idea in her head, the plots for the first (and even the second!!) book all planned out perfectly, with the characters imagined perfectly with their ups and downs and quirks and fatalities and tragic twists and fantastic realms with a slice of magic - I've got all of that so well "written out" in my head, but now that I've actually started writing it, I CAN'T DO IT!!! I write a few pages (few meaning A LOT) and then the next day I look at it and there's something in there that I just feel compelled to change and so I change it, and that changes my plans for every other bit of the story, and I keep doing it over and over and never get it done. I've done that quite a few times over the past few months - the biggest being that I once typed up 105 pages and then discarded them.

    What should I do??? I have kind of the similar problem as Jessica did (the first commenter) but it's also more than that because while I'm writing, the critical editing part of me just takes over and I can't finish the plain writing part.

  32. misticalnia, I hope this doesn't come off wrong, but it sounds to me that you may be putting too much stock into your outline. I mean, outlines are good, but stories just aren't set in stone. Sometimes when you're drafting, your characters take you somewhere else. That somewhere else can be really amazing.

    You may also be frustrated with the fact that your first draft writing does not match up to the "ideal" version of your story in your head. That's a hard thing—translating that pure story into words that can be, at times, clunky and so far off what you'd hoped.

    Stories aren't set in stone—and you must know that if you're deleting so many pages!—but let yourself explore. Be forgiving of that first draft. They aren't the prettiest things, but they are important and beautiful for their potential. Not their perfection.

    Revision is when your story starts to look like that pretty shiny thing in your head. And to do that you have to finish the book. It's kind of counterintuitive, but that's what's worked for me at least.

  33. Natalie,
    I love this: "Be forgiving of that first draft. They aren't the prettiest things, but they are important and beautiful for their potential. Not their perfection." Well-said.

    Thanks for your thoughts on the Backspace conference, and for taking the time to answer! Write (and sketch) on. :)

  34. Thanks for your advice. I'll give my hardest, purest effort to follow it, and of course let you know how it goes.


    M. Nia