Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Critique Partners 2.0 Week 2 - What's the Best Critique You've Ever Gotten?

Hey, thanks everyone for your heartily enthusiastic response to the first installment of CPs 2.0!
(Remember, you can keep track of any and all additions to the series on my regularly-updated CPs 2.0 here!

It turns out that, as a whole, we really seem to like vlogging...and SO MANY of my CPs and CPs once removed answered this week's vlogging question, originally asked by Megan:

Jamie vlogged for the FIRST TIME (and I kind of couldn't contain myself.)

Here's my response to Megan, where I also ask Next Week's Question:

Aaaand, some extra treats!

Chessie's surprisingly entertaining intro!

Marieke's super geeky intro! (cool accent alert!)

Jenny's intro, plus a tour of her house!

Maggie's intro, plus cats, writing cave, her natural hair color revealed, and her shopping list!

Jani's intro, where you learn how to pronounce her name! (ANOTHER cool accent alert!)

Angi on why writing is like karaoke! (You'll agree with her when she explains it to you.)

And Sarah with her official intro!

Next week's question is: What inspires your writing??? So check back here next Wednesday for everyone's AMAZING responses!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Critique Partner 2.0 Kickoff! (with Vlogging!)

Sweet readers, the past three weeks have been a whirlwind for several reasons which may or may not turn out to be immediately relevant to this blog. (*raises eyebrows*)

What IS relevant is that I had a FABULOUS time being a member of Team Cupid in The Writer's Voice contest this week! The support and love of the entire Writer's Voice community was INCREDIBLE.

It made me wish I could spend more time with you. Yes, ALL of you. 

I've been a longtime viewer of John and Hank Green's Brotherhood 2.0 series (and subsequent related videos) on YouTube. It made me think that we should do something like that with all our writing buddies - a conversation via video, to make our interactions even more personal than they are now. (but not too personal, I mean my goodness, everyone should have a chance to do their makeup.)

All my critique partners (except Megan) shot back with reasons they "can't vlog."
Thus, the first episode of "CPs 2.0" was born. Enjoy!

(a bunch of my writing buddies jumped on the bandwagon! So you get to see EVEN MORE! Enjoy!)

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Power of Readers

I've had a lot of readers for One. 

No, really. Like...20? Maybe more?

Some of them have served as Megans, some have given beta feedback and reader's reports, others have commented on large-scale issues, and my most dedicated CPs have done in-line comments.

Of course, they didn't all read at once. I did my due diligence before querying, of course - about a dozen people read before I queried.

But even after I started querying, crazy things happened.
People were telling me they were willing to read One.
Sometimes, people even told me they wanted to read it.
Sometimes, they said - get this - they were excited to read it.

You can imagine how I felt sending off a copy to those people.

fanning self

And then? If one of those readers told me she liked it?

Well, something utterly magical happened a couple of weeks ago - one of those readers said she liked the book - actually she said she "LOOOOOVED it" - (*dies*) - and that she had a couple suggestions for how to make it even better - tightening here, ramping up there, a little extra something-or-other somewhere else. Here's the really magical part - I agreed with every one of her suggestions

So, I made the changes. Even though they were just a couple not-huge changes, we all know about the revision house of cards, so of course their effects were manuscript-wide. Guess what you need when you spend dozens of hours making manuscript-wide changes? 

More readers. *gulp*

Amazingly, I managed to find even more people willing to read and give me their thoughts.
Even more astounding than that is that my dear, dear CPs agreed to read One YET AGAIN.

And then? And THEN?

Some of them even told me they loved it even more than they had the first time around.
 (Of course they had notes. They're my CPs. And obviously I'm not perfect. But they still liked it.)

You guys, this is like the first draft high times one hundred.
As hard as I worked for the first draft, there's something about pushing your manuscript over one more hump, about shining it up even more than you thought you could, and people saying, "Well done. Really well done," that is completely and totally overwhelming to me. 

cry gif

It's like circuit overload, honestly. There's so much work and love and emotion that goes into a manuscript, and then to have people VALIDATE that effort, whether by reading, being excited to do so, taking the time to give me critique, or straight-up loving my story? Holy geez. I almost can't handle it.

Seriously. I think that, if I ever became a published author, I'd need to schedule time every day just to respond to every person who said they read my book. My gratitude for that alone, and my shock that someone would even take the time out of their day to do it, is so huge, it's overwhelming.

You know, the good kind of overwhelming. The whole-reason-we-do-this kind of overwhelming.

So, because it's starting to look creepy and maudlin to do so on Twitter and emails,
Thank you. Thank you thank you thank you.
I love you all. I can't thank you enough. You, and your time, and opinions, and reads, and re-reads, and re-re-reads, and enthusiasm, and support, and hugs, and hand-holding, mean the world to me. 

What about you, sweet readers and writerly-types? Does it totally throw you for an emotional loop every time someone reads your stuff? What do you do with All The Gratitude? And, published readers - how do you handle the circuit overload on a daily basis?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Writing Rewards

Well, sweet readers, this is shaping up to be a pretty intense week between some revisions I've been doing on One (I know, I know, I thought it was almost dead too) and The Writer's Voice Contest Agent Round starting tomorrow (GO TEAM CUPID WOOOOO,) so I thought we'd have a bit of a light post today.

So, here's the thing. Writing is my passion, it's exhilarating, it's delightful, yes, yes, all that. OBVIOUSLY.

One of the reasons I love writing, though, is that it's so darn CHALLENGING.

Which means I look like this about half the time I'm working on something (which is, you know, half of All The Time.)

So. Hard work deserves rewards, right?

I don't know many writers who don't reward themselves with chocolate, a stiff drink, a favorite TV show, or similar after a few thousand words drafted or revised...

And when One was ready for queries, I treated myself to this beauty of a poster, which now hangs on the wall of my writing cave:

The Wasp is almost dead center on the poster. Definitely a Sign.

If any other really really good things were to happen with this sweet manuscript about misfit half-superpowered kids *ahem,*
I'd buy myself this sweatshirt. Because, to those of you who have read it, obviously:

I'd give one away on the blog, too. I'M JUST SAYING.

So, writerly types - what are your rewards to yourself for work well done? Anything you'll buy yourself when you hit that next big milestone?

Monday, May 14, 2012

How to Be a Megan - Guest post by Alexa Hirsch

Sweet readers! Today we have yet ANOTHER blog post from the Amazing Alexa (who told us about her literary crushes a few weeks ago, remember?)

Before the post, a bit of background: I read a blog from the amazing Jani Gray on how to find writing support in the obvious places. She has a friend named Megan who is always one of her first readers because she is positive, supportive, and unfailingly loves everything she writes.

This post lead me to adopt the following philosophy: Every Writer Needs a Megan.

(Now, before you get all snippy and accuse me of not wanting to hear or being able to take critique, I'll advise you to read my "crit diaries" posts and think twice about posting that comment, or I'll do a whole terribly boring post highlighting my amazingly scathing army of CPs. Ahem.)

Well, sweet readers, I'm super-duper lucky, because I have a Megan. It's Alexa! She also happens to be a Real Live Teenager and rabid reader of YA, so her opinions matter to me on a number of levels.

She's put together a post on How to Be a Megan. So, without further ado, here's she is:

One day Leigh Ann and I were hanging out in her office, talking about my favorite thing, her books! She told me she read a blog post about another person trying to get published who had a friend named “Megan” who always told her how amazing all of her books were and was just a super awesome peppy cheerleader!

Now don’t misunderstand me, this position is in NO way fake. I honestly ADORE Leigh Ann’s, Chessie’s, and Gina’s books! But if I didn’t, I would have to tell them, but luckily for me, they are all PERFECT. So readers, here’s how to become me in three short steps, minus all the craziness.

1.     Think Positively. If you look at everything with a silver lining it makes everything way more enjoyable.

2.     Fall in love. This is simple when you have such great pieces of work. The number one thing is just engrossing yourself in the novel. Even if it’s only a few minutes a day, don’t get distracted! Allow the beauty of the words to take you in, and don’t ever come out! Even if you have trouble picturing yourself as the main character, picture yourself as a fly on the wall. Having a vivid imagination about other people’s work lets you truly feel the book in your own special way. No two people interpret something the same, so maybe you think Merrin can fly on her own, or that Ryan isn’t such a douche, it’s all up to interpretation!

3.     Don’t worry about being fake and pleasing people. If you really love a book, praising it will be second nature to you! Just state your opinion, and maybe the author won’t have even realized how much their own words affect you! There is nothing more special than realizing that an idea you had is changing someone else’s life.

Now if this sounds like a lot of work to you, then maybe you aren’t supposed to be a Megan, maybe you’re better at Critiquing, or better at Grammar, and that’s AWESOME. Because honestly the more Megan’s there are, the quicker I’m out of a job.

Well here it is folks, my shameless plug! If you have written anything at all and you are looking for a little encouragement, hire a Megan! I come free of charge, all I ask is an ELECTRONIC copy of your awesome novel! Hopefully Gina, Chessie, and Leigh Ann would give me a good recommendation! Thanks for reading, you guys are awesome!

Isn't she fab??? If you're looking for your very own Megan, Alexa's a great one! Leave your comment below and she'll get in touch with you when she's got a free minute to read.

Friday, May 11, 2012

In Which We Do the Happy Dance

Sweet readers!  Happy Happy Friday!!!

It's pretty much the happiest kind of Friday possible.


I'm glad you asked! 

My first ever and super-sweetest critique partner Gina

Yes, that's right. She's off the market!
Read the post and weep, Other Agents. You can't have her!

As for me and the rest of her critique partners?
Well, we've pretty much been doing this on her behalf for the last week.
Join the partayyyyyyyyyy!

The Saturdays - Mollie - Freak Out



Congratulations, G!  You deserve it times a million.
Love you tons!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Writer's Voice Contest Entry - ONE

Hey, Sweet Readers! Well, I was lucky enough to nab a chance to compete for a spot in The Writer's Voice Contest Blogfest, which is being hosted, hand-picked, and coached by the incredible Krista VanDolzer, Brenda Drake, Monica B.W., and Cupid's Literary Connection.

Getting past that first stage was a matter of having the fastest clicky-finger, but getting to the next level depends on one of these amazing ladies choosing ONE for her team. For one of them to say, "I want you!" would mean she's willing to give up some of her precious little free time to help me shine up my query and first page to show to an incredible group of agents a couple of weeks from now. It would be a big deal -  it would be a sign that they believe in ONE, out of all the amazing entries out there

And, sweet readers, you know how much I believe in this MS, and how much I'm hoping the perfect agent will believe in it too. Querying it has been tough, tougher than I ever would have imagined. The truth is, ONE has been querying for months, and it's almost at the end of its road. I'm crossing my fingers that this contest is just the boost it needs to finally land in front of the right pair of eyes.

So. If you all would cross your fingers along with me, and send some good vibes ONE's way, I - and all my darling characters - sure would appreciate it. Thanks. 


Title: One
Genre: YA (superhero) Science Fiction
Word Count: 76,000

Sixteen-year-old Merrin Grey would love to be able to fly, or even drift along like a freaking ghost - too bad all she can do is float up and down. When almost everyone else is a Super, with at least two powers, or a Normal, with none, being a One is the worst kind of in-between.

All Merrin has ever wanted is to land an internship at the Biotech Hub. She busts her butt in AP Chem and salivates over the Hub’s research on the manifestation of superpowers, all to find the key to fixing herself.

Then she meets Elias VanDyne, another One, and all her carefully crafted plans fly out the window. Literally. When the two of them touch, their Ones combine to make them fly, and when they’re not soaring over the Nebraska cornfields, they’re busy falling for each other. Merrin’s over the moon - Elias is as good at kissing as he is at helping her fly. Better yet, her mad chemistry skills land her a spot on the Hub’s internship short list.

But when the Hub kidnaps Elias, Merrin discovers The Hub’s sick experiments don’t heal Ones - they get rid of them. If she stands up to the Hub, she not only risks Elias’s life, she’ll also destroy her chances of ever finding a way to fly solo – of ever being more than a One.

Most nights, and some mornings before sunrise, I sneak to the back of the shed and I practice. I push myself off the ground, telling my body to go weightless, and hover. An inch, two, six, a foot. I stay there for seconds, then minutes.
I can’t generate enough tension between my body and the air to take a step - can’t even make myself drift. I’d give anything to be able to float along like a freaking ghost.
It’s the same for all of us.  Ones start with an ability everyone thinks will turn into a superpower. A really fast runner might have muscles that can’t take the strain. Or a kid who can stretch an arm out really far will wait days for it to pull itself back into place. They put up with getting teased at Superhero High, waiting for their Second – in those cases, enhanced muscle power or elasticity - to show up. While they do, that One power starts to fade. There are still shimmers of it, but after awhile the kid quits trying and the One fizzles into nothingness.
Then their parents ship them off to Normal High, like mine did.
Here’s my secret: I never quit trying.  
For a long time, I tried to move. Once I tried so hard my muscles strained, then burned, then ached, then trembled, and I hovered there behind the shed, weeping and getting eaten alive by mosquitoes, until Dad came looking for me. Then I collapsed on the grass. 

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

One, Two, Three, Four....

I declare a WORD WAR!!!!


I've mentioned before how I need coersion, shaming, and teasing to actually turn out an impressive word count.
Or, more positively, ACCOUNTABILITY.

You know when you're trying buff up, or lose weight, and everyone says, "What you really need is a gym buddy, who will check up on you to make sure you're working out?" The little kid in you rolls your eyes because you will SO TOTALLY go to the gym on your own, you don't need THAT, you don't need SOMEONE CHECKING UP ON YOU.

Except deep down, you know - you're really not going to the gym.

Having a word war opponent is like having that gym buddy.

So. What's a word war? Courtesy of - 

word war

An occurrence in which two or more writers set a time limit, such as ten minutes, or thirty minutes, to write or type as fast as they can on a specific topic or to add onto their current novel. The person with the highest word count at the end of the time limit wins the word war. 

So, you promise Megan or Chessie or Jamie or Gina that you're going to word war with them, probably at 9 PM or so, and it's early afternoon, so you're all PSYCHED and PUMPED UP about the word war, because you're definitely going to beat them, and the words you write will sparkle and shine and they will make agents WEEP.

And then you get stuck in rush hour traffic, and your kids throw their dinner at you, and your husband wants to TALK or something ridiculous once they go to bed, and by that point you're FREAKING EXHAUSTED and all you want to do is fall asleep on the couch watching reruns of Arrested Development.

And then you look at your clock and it's 8:55. You are supposed to bring your A-game to a word war in five minutes. You have PROMISED to be there.

And then you hate Megan. Or Chessie or Jamie or Gina.
Just like you hate that gym buddy when you're lacing up your sneaks at 7 AM.

But you know what? You open up Scrivener anyway, and Chessie throws some trash talk at you on Twitter,
and your creaky exhausted fingers start moving over the keyboard. And then your character says something awesome, or her boyfriend does something cute, and your heart jumps a little. And you get all excited, and your fingers move faster, and oh geez can you believe you just wrote that gorgeous description of the desert at sunrise? You are BRILLIANT!!!

Before you know it, your half hour is up, and you take a look at your word count ticker, and HELL'S BELLS, you've written 1200 words, you genius you!!!

Yeah. That's pretty much how it works for me.

Even pantsing, I can hit 2K an hour. TWO THOUSAND WORDS AN HOUR.

The power of competition works to get me writing. Just writing. Even when I know I won't win.
And sometimes, just getting words down on paper can inspire the brilliance.

To end, I'll ask a favor of you - My sweet new little one is 2 weeks old now, and I've figured out a way to balance both her and my netbook on my lap. Meaning - I'm ready to word war again. Anyone up for a challenge??? *cracks knuckles*
So, what about you, sweet writerly-type readers? Have you word warred? Do you love it, or do you think it's insipid, childish, and pointless? I'd love to hear. And probably CHALLENGE YOU.