Monday, May 9, 2011

Q&A Plus Goodies

Announcements First!
1. Don't forget to enter my contest! Ends tomorrow, March 10th, at midnight. I will draw winners on Wednesday. I am VERY close to adding a 4th prize, so enter! Your chances are GOOD.

2. If you're looking for another way to snag a crit, I have donated items to All 4 Alabama. Their auctions will be going live tomorrow, and a FULL MS CRIT from me is among the awesome items that will be up for bid.

3. My former agent, Nathan Bransford, has a book coming out this week! Yay! In honor of this, he's giving away a Kindle. Yes, a Kindle. And it's not even a hard contest. Go. Enter.

Q&A Party
So I'm in the last stretch of my WIP, which basically means I'm USELESS when it comes to blog topics. All the creative juices are going there, and will be going there until I finish this week or next.

That means it's Q&A time! I know we did this recently, but like I said, I got nothing. I will answer any question you have—be it about querying, writing, my war against the cats who poop in my yard, whatever—in the comments of this post. AND you can ask questions until I post again. That may be a day. It may be three. Ask away!

I'll leave out some cookies, too, in hopes to win you over.


  1. Okay, I got one. I just sent out my first round of query letters for my latest project. It's been a while since I've been here and I forgot just how much I loathe this part of the process. How do you not go bonkers while you're waiting to hear back?

  2. Annie, that is an excellent question! I, uh, am not sure I have a good answer. I STILL have my moments, those moments where the waiting feels like a physical weight you carry around. It sucks. I hate it. I wish there were a point in writing that it went away, but it never does. There is ALWAYS something to wait for.

    So, how to deal. Hmm. My plan of attack is usually 3 fold: Distraction, Work, and Communion.

    Distraction: Have other hobbies, other things you like to do or need to do. For me, I try to fill my time as much as possible, so I'm not left to my sometimes-destructive thoughts.

    I exercise (yoga, weights, running, walking). I play video games and watch anime. I garden. I cook. I draw. I try my best to live my life and enjoy it.

    It doesn't always work, but I keep trying because, well, that's what I do.

    Work: They best way to distance yourself from a project in query or sub (a process you have very little control over) is to work on something new. For this round of submission, I specifically planned to have a WIP to focus on. This has helped immensely. I have a new book baby to pour my dreams into, a new story to get lost in.

    Not that I don't love the book that's on sub, but this one is all new and fresh and completely MINE. I am still in control, and this is a phase in writing that you must concentrate on what you can control, otherwise you'll go mad.

    Communion: My writing friends are everything to me at this time. They get it. Some are in the trenches with me. Some have made it through. All of them understand how hard it is to deal with The Waiting.

    So I talk to my friends. I send them rather embarrassing emails about all my fears and frustrations, and they get it. We help each other through it, and I am so grateful for them. I'm pretty sure the waiting would have crushed me without them.

    Distraction, Work, and Communion. Yup, that's about all I can offer. And I wish I could say that doing all this would fix it, but it doesn't. It helps, oh, does it help, but waiting is always hard.

  3. Wow! Yo dude- those are rockin cookies! Hmmmm my question is.... have you read the book Howls Moving Castle? Because if you havent you totally should! Its awesome!
    Oh, BTW your blog is awesome dude! I reallllllyyyy x100000000000000000000 want to read your books! There sound so freakin awesome!!!!
    Hmmm.... i better stop using the word awesome.. teehee xx
    Take care dude!! :D

  4. How do you avoid slumping middles when you're plotting/outlining/writing?

    I know the start and have a good idea of the ending but the middle is feeling really bland/boring/forced.

  5. Katharine, I have not read Howl, but it's one of my favorite Miyazaki movies! It's so on my list:) And I don't mind the overuse of "awesome" at all, hehe.

  6. Steph, middles are hard for me too! I usually have a great first act, and then really struggle after that. But I have learned some things that are really helpful.

    The first is what they call "try/fail" cycles. Things are usually boring if you make it too easy on your character. If they succeed at their goal right off, the reader isn't invested in that success. It wasn't earned.

    When you're structuring a middle, it vaguely goes like this:

    1. Beginning presents a problem to solve.

    2. 1st part of middle is an attempt to solve that problem.

    3. Plot turn in which solving that problem (or failing to) leads to MORE problems/complications/discoveries.

    4. 2nd part of middle attempts to solve the new, bigger problem, or the previous problem that is now DIRE.

    5. Climax/Resolution fixes problem...or doesn't.

    That's my really cheap, vague advice on middle structure. The other thing I would advise is to watch your timeline. The further you spread things out, the less tense. Example: If they have a year to stop a terrorist or a year? Which is scarier?

    Not that you have to have a "ticking clock," but in some stories it really helps to squeeze down that timeline. In others, like in a lot of romantic suspense, it's drawing out the timeline that creates suspense. So yeah, I'm rambling, but those are the things I try to keep in mind as I tackle the middle.

    That, and the fact that I'll probably be revising it a lot later...

  7. The waiting part is awful! I'm waiting to hear back on partials and fulls and it's driving me a little crazy. But life keeps me busy and my new WIP keeps me distracted--most of the time.
    That aside--my question: Did you decorate those cookies???

  8. Nazarea, I did make those cookies:) Homemade frosting, decorating, and all.

  9. Hi Natalie! I'm a long-time reader of your blog but this is my first comment! After several years of slogging, I'm approaching the end of my first ever first draft. What pitfalls should I look out for at the stage and the next (i.e. second draft)? Joe

  10. Okay, so here's my silly technical question. I have this friend who tells me that he writes between 15,000 and 20,000 words a week. A: That seems fast (a novel every month, actually), Is that normal? B: About how many words a week do you write (and I'm talking first draft here, none of that fancy schmancy editing stuff).
    Yes, I know I'm not supposed to compare myself to others, but I'm really curious.

  11. Joe, thanks for commenting! And congrats on approaching the finish line:)

    So, advice for post-first book. Hmm. I think I would have to say the most important thing is to Cut The Apron Strings. I know that sounds horrible, but when I look back on my first book and how I went about editing, querying, etc., I know for certain that I was too attached. I did not look at my work objectively, and I had no idea just how much more I should have done before putting it out there.

    I was really green. Like, spring green, bright-eyed, oblivious. Maybe you're not. Maybe you've been working a long time and you've done your research so this apron-string-cutting isn't an issue.

    The other thing I really wish I'd done was wait. Waiting is hard. Post-draft, you feel like it's just perfect. And it's finally DONE! And you can't wait to share it and to see what people think and to just get on with this publishing process that is FOREVER long.

    Yeah, wait.

    I always think my work is perfect after I finish a first draft. After a week, I realize I could probably fix a few things. After two, I think, "Hmm, that one scene isn't very compelling, and that one could be fleshed out, and that other one HAS TO BE CUT OMG EMBARRASSING CRAP."

    And after a month? I feel like I can see my work more objectively. I know its strength and weaknesses. I know what I want to fix and it's not as emotional. Like I said, no more apron strings.

    The last thing I would suggest is to seek out good crit partners. It's not easy. They can be hiding. But mine are amazing and i wouldn't have improved as quickly as I did without them.

    And when you do get crits, also give yourself time to let them sink in. Going right into edits can be a bad move, because you haven't quite digested and translated what's really being said. It's important to figure out how YOU want to fix the issue. Sometimes crit partners bring up a very valid point, but their solution is off. Don't let that solution suggestion be the focus—you could inadvertently throw out good advice. comments are all really long today. Heh. There you go!

  12. Rena, first, I would definitely suggest ignoring everyone else's words counts. People work differently, and it's more important that you find what works for YOU, rather than focusing on how other people work. There is no "normal" when it comes to someone's writing routine.

    That said, I will tell you I've written a book in 15 days. It was 68k. That's an average of 4.3k a day. I DO NOT recommend this. Bad for the story, for yourself, bad bad bad.

    I've also taken a year to write a book, so yeah.

    I've always been a fairly fast drafter. MUCH slower in edits. I draft books in about 2-3 months. Usually takes me double that (or more) to edit. And I know writers who are the exact opposite. Just do what you do, in exactly the time you need to do it.

  13. love the questions and comments. Thanks. Just the boost I needed. You hit the nail on the head several times!

  14. I'm sure this question has been asked of you before, but are you a pantser or a plotter? How do you figure out where your story's going? Do you like to know how your stories are going? How many projects do you work on at a time? Do you set self imposed deadlines and if so, how do you hold yourself accountable for them? Haha, rapid fire questions.

  15. Najela, sorry it took me so long to answer! Here we go:

    Panster or Plotter: I used to be a hardcore pantser, now I'm kind of in the middle. I've learned that I need SOME direction while drafting, but I don't do a full on outline. If I get stuck, I don't keep writing, I wait until my brain figures out the right direction. I take notes on what needs to how, brainstorm how it could happen, and vague plot outlining.

    Where my story's going: I mostly figure this out by digging into my MC. If I know what he or she needs to learn, what is most scary to them, what they want most, I can usually pinpoint where my story needs to go.

    Do I like to know where the story is going: Not completely. If I've figured it all out, I lose interest in writing. Like right now, actually. I'll stalling on the end because I know what happens already.

    Projects: I usually work on one at a time. If I need to make a deadline or something, I can edit one book while drafting another, but I've never been able to write two at a time or edit two at a time.

    Self-Imposed Deadlines: I set them all the time. I'm not quite sure how I keep them—I've always worked better under deadline. It's when I don't have a deadline that I slack off. Mostly, I try to write every weekday. I take weekends off. And I trust my alpha readers when they says it's good.

  16. Something I have always wanted to ask of an LDS writer... How does being LDS influence/effect your writing?
    I'm LDS and just starting to write, and I guess I'm trying to work out what my goal/aim is. What purpose does my writing have? Just curious as to what your thoughts were on this topic.

    Thanks Melissa

  17. Melissa, this is an interesting question. Like anything central to a person's life, I know that my being LDS impacts my writing. Even if I've never written for the LDS market. Even if I at times write things very NOT within my personal standards. How can it not have an impact?

    I am wondering if you mean, does it influence what I will write about? And to that I say yes and no. Everyone has their own lines, things they will and will not touch in their work. All writers do, not just LDS writers.

    Example: personally, I use a swear word here and there in my work. To me, it's not me who is saying it, which is weird but that's how I feel. I certainly don't go crazy on language, but I'm not against it either. I know some LDS writers who are like me. I know some who don't use any swear words, etc.

    It's up to you to decide your own line in writing, and exploring difficult topics, I think, isn't something to be afraid of.

    But you know what? There is a place for every book. That's what I love about the market right now. There is something for most everyone. Of course there aren't books that are to my taste, but others love them and deserve to have something they enjoy.

    As for purpose, I get what you mean. We're taught to edify and uplift, and sometimes it's hard to see that when writing a book—books are inherently full of challenges, mistakes, and hard decisions. Conflict. But that doesn't mean our work isn't edifying or uplifting. Look at most every good story—even scripture stories—they are made up of people screwing up, over coming trials, and persevering. They are life, in all its beautiful and ugly moments.

    Overall, I would say not to worry about your writing's purpose in the grand scheme of life. Does it make you happy? Does it fill you up and expand your mind? Writing does have to impact the whole world for it to be meaningful.

    In the end, I think one of the greatest purposes of my writing is to learn for myself. Yes, I want to share my stories, but one of the biggest reasons I write is to figure out my own problems, in a way. And I'm grateful for it. Best therapy ever;P

    I have no idea if I've answered your question, but you can always ask more! I'll be here, hehe.

  18. err, "doesn't have to impact." I am really showing off my typo skills in these replies.

  19. Natalie, thanks so much for your advice. I definitely don't see my first draft as perfect- I've been keeping a list of things I know I need to change/add etc when I get to the end. I started writing this book 7-8 years ago (although with long periods where I barely touched it) and I've changed and developed loads as a person and as a writer, so there's a tonne of editing that needs to be done! Now at 132k words and expecting to end at around 150k (I know, marketing issues, but allegedly the UK fantasy market likes longer books than the US market... I hope!). As you say, I'm definitely too attached at the moment, but I feel encouraged by seeing loads of flaws without having really looked for them yet (that can be a good thing, right?!) Thanks again! Joe

  20. Thanks Natalie, you absolutely answered my question!
    It's great getting other writer's opinions on the subject, there isn't too many about where I'm from.
    Still exploring my line of writing, although I'm certain that it won't be specifically LDS. I just don't think that is for me, for lots of varied reasons.
    And I totally agree that the main purpose in writing is more for our own learning and development. The hope is that it will be meanful for others around us along the way.

    Melissa x

  21. Thanks so much for answering my questions!