Friday, June 29, 2012

Friday Obsessions: Doggone Voice, Rainy Mood, and Cake

Happy Friday, sweet readers!

I've had a heckuva week - I was home alone (!!!) with all four of my monsters for the first three days of it, and I am 

So! Quick obsessions rundown, shall we?

1. THAT DOGGONE VOICE Workshop over at Brenda Drake's!
Yes! I am famous! Brenda asked me to be part of The Voice Team in her latest workshop, along with my CP Marieke. Some of these entries are STELLAR, you guys, and it was all I could do to not ask to read their manuscripts. Come visit and tell them what you think when it opens to comments next week!

2. RainyMood 

Raise your hand if you like to read, write, or just generally BE inside with a thunderstorm happening outside.

Yeah, I thought so.

Navigate to for a summer thunderstorm any time, any place. You can play your music over top of it, too. Writing bliss!

3. Cake

I want cake. Just some cake. Any cake. So badly. *sigh*

Yeah, I know it was short. The workshop wore me out!
What about you, sweet readers? What were YOU obsessed with this week?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Adventures in Reduxes, Step 1: Deconstruction

Hey, sweet readers.

Either we've known each other for awhile or we're planning on the sticking it out for the long haul, yes? So I might as well be honest with you. I need to tell you three things right now:

1. I'm a pantser, (which you might have known.)
2.  But I hate that about myself, (which you probably didn't know.)
3. I am LAZY. (which, if you've been paying attention at all, you definitely knew.)

So, what does a lazy pantser do when she wants to write with an outline but doesn't actually want to write an outline?

She writes a redux.

It makes perfect sense! You can just take a story you love, change some details to put it in a different setting, or a different universe, or add some aliens, or change someone's gender, and BAM! Awesome story! Outlined for you! Just write it! SO EASY.


So very very not even close to right.

I'm currently working on a Bible story redux and an Austen redux, and the first thing I'm learning is that the first step in any redux is perhaps the most counterintuitive -

Separate yourself from the story.

This was so, so tough. I'm doing this redux because I love the story. LOVE it. But in order to do this redux right, I had to first tear myself away from making gaga eyes at it so that I could completely critically rip that sucker apart.

These are all issues I'll be exploring in subsequent posts, but questions like:

  • What was the original pacing of the story? How does it need to be changed for a contemporary reading audience?
  • Where - and what - are the themes? 
  • What did the settings, characters, and individual events symbolize and accomplish plot-wise? 
  • Are there too many characters? Too few? Do I have to change any? How much? Why? 
  • How do the character triumphs and flaws translate into my new setting and/or plot? Do I need to change any of those?
  • How do the character relationships translate into my new setting/plot? Do I need to change any of those? 
  • What am I trying to communicate with this story, and to what extent does the original story serve that purpose? What needs to be fundamentally the same, and what can I change without ruining that message? What must I change to get that message across to a contemporary audience?

Now that I'm typing this all out, I'm realizing that the question I should have been asking myself when I started these reduxes is not what I wanted to change about the original, and why, but what I could reasonably keep, and why. 

(The important part being WHY. I can't let flaws in the original story and/or how it translates to be an excuse for lazy writing. No deus ex machinas, telling instead of showing, or stock characters allowed.)

In other words? I thought writing a redux would be easier, but it's actually way, way, way harder.
I guess it's a good thing I love the story.

What about you, sweet readers? Have you had experiences with reduxes, either reading them, watching them (yay Clueless and Ten Things!) or writing them? Tell us in the comments!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Friday Obsessions! Interview at Becks's Place, Twitter, and Taylor's "Enchanted."

Hey sweet readers!

I'll bet you thought Friday Obsessions were dead.

Nope! It's just that I have an eight-week-old in the house, and it turns out that when I'm physically/mentally exhausted, my obsessive personality calms down just a tad. But I can feel it coming back readers, slowly, surely, wonderfully-obsessively, creeping into the exhausted recesses of my heart.

So. Enough sentimentality. FRIDAY OBSESSIONS!!!!

1. Becca interviewing me!

So apparently people think it's hilarious that I have so many critique partners (really?) and are inspired by my querying stats (which, really, really, really?) so Becca thought it would be a good laugh to interview me. And whaddya know? She was right. We had an awesome time.

Check us out right here!

2. Twitter.

You guys, Twitter was down yesterday, and I think it highlighted just how obsessed we all (yes, ALL, don't deny it) are. Yes, we resorted to Facebook. Yes, we texted each other. Yes, we all lived. Don't worry.

3. Taylor Swift's "Enchanted."

Each of my WiPs' playlists has had one song from my girl Taylor on it. Solving for Ex's didn't have one, and I put out a call on Twitter for help. 

Wouldn't you know it? The amazing Amanda Olivieri gave me this song and it is HOLY CRUD SO PERFECT. *sigh*

(Also I kind of really love how Taylor writes like half her songs about real boys that she met/dated. Amazing.)

That's it for me for this week! What about you guys? What were you obsessed with this week?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

How to Build the Best Crit Group on the Planet

Hey sweet readers!

A week ago, I made a blog post about my amazingly supportive and encouraging team of critique partners. A lot of you marveled at how wonderful and tight-knit our group is. Some of you asked me how I got such great writing besties.

So, I'm going to tell you my secret for building the best, closest-knit, most helpful, honest, and supportive writing group in town. 

But first, I'm looking for some help.

 I've got this house I need someone to clean up.  It's very cluttered,  has some grime in the carpet,  and the walls need a bit of scrubbing. Also,  there might a leak in the roof,  so could you just climb up there and patch it up? And if the walls buckle,  don't mind that - I'm sure they won't fall on you. Probably they won't.
It's really not all that much work at all,  considering that I'd let you into my house - I built it myself, you see,  and I'm very proud of it. I'm sure you'll love it!  While you're in there taking care of things,  you might even get to talk to me. No promises, of course - I'm very busy - but it could happen.

Sound like fun? No, I didn't think so. Alright, well, how about this?

You look so nice today! In fact, I've noticed that you have really lovely clothing, and you pay such close attention to how you dress.

 What's that, you say? You're worried your closet is a bit of a mess? You know, people say I'm good at organizing closets. I have a couple of hours. I'd love to help out, that is, if you could use the extra hand.
How does each offer make you feel? 
Which one are you most likely to take up?

Now, here's the story of my critique group. One year minus eleven days ago, Gina commented on this here blog (when it was just a baby!) offering to critique my manuscript.

The key part of that paragraph? "Offering."

She must have known from reading the blog what a hot mess the MS in question was. She didn't care. Something she saw over here made her want to hang out with me (God help her) and she offered her help.

Well, I followed her example, and started stalking the Dickens out of contests and blogs. I scoped out plot lines that interested me, writing I loved, people who seemed dedicated to their work. I asked them (begged them) to read their manuscripts. That's how we found Maggie, Chessie, Jenny, and Jamie, in pretty short order. Not long after that, we snagged Marieke, MarcyKate, Megan, and the whole rest of the crew. (I have a list of my CPs and their blogs on my "Resources for Writers" page. - go visit them!) I read, critiqued, and raved about their manuscripts.

And, wouldn't you know it? All of them offered to read my MSs, too.

We became friends over email and Twitter. We dragged each other through the mud and muck of revisions and/or the query trenches. We probably would be lost without each other.
So, instead of getting people to read your stuff and give you their amazing input by asking them to do something for you (i.e. "Who wants to beta read for me?!?!",) try asking people if you can do something for them. I'll bet that not only will they give a lot more care to your work, but critiquing their work will make you a better writer, too.

And if things work out, you'll have a friend for life. 
Which is the best part, really.

(If you made it this far and still don't hate me, heads up - I'm going live with a new site in the next few days, and the blog address will change to If you follow through Google or just clicked the "follow" button, it should still show up in your feed, but if it doesn't, now you know why. THANK YOU for following and for staying with me while I'm under construction!)

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

It Takes a Village to Raise a Writer (Or: Agented!)

My dear sweet readers,

A couple of months ago, I made a blog post called "Belief," about having written a manuscript that I truly believed in with all my heart, even though it wasn't getting a great - or really any - response from my carefully planned and strategized querying efforts.

To be honest, I almost didn't post it. I thought it made me sound like an entitled, maudlin jerk.

But you all came on over and expressed your love and support, your "it's normal"s and your "ONE is fabulous"s, and your "keep on truckin'"s, and I felt better.

Your comments, and your love and support, pushed me to put it in just one more contest before I officially called querying quits - The Writer's Voice Contest. I was lucky enough to get plucked from the contest slush by Cupid, and my amazing teammates helped me polish ONE's query and first page to an even higher shine.

Three weeks later, I got this email:

I LOVED ONE. Merrin Grey is complicated, she's not waiting to be saved (THANK YOU SO MUCH for writing a heroine like this) and Elias is complicated and intriguing and the entire premise freaks me out in a good way...

You guys. This agent THANKED ME for writing Merrin. (Um, what do you even say to that? "You're welcome?") I figured I'd died and gone to heaven. 

Well, it got better. We talked on the phone, and the way she talked about my characters, it was like she'd crawled into their brains and stayed in there awhile, taking notes. She said she felt like she could fly with Merrin and Elias (cue copious tears.) But wait ! It gets better! She wanted to talk about TWO (sequel to One, if we ever got that far) and all the other projects I'm cooking up. (I mean, seriously. So surreal.) 

Tonight, I was delighted and honored to sign with Tricia Lawrence of Erin Murphy Literary. Tomorrow, the paper contract goes in the mail, and we're officially super official.

There could not possibly be a better fit for this manuscript or for me, for so many reasons. Her excitement for ONE is palpable. She's squealing-excited, and we haven't even gotten to work yet. But I can tell she has big plans, and will do just about anything to see ONE and maybe some other things I dream up succeed. She gets the story, you guys. She gets it. She gets me. She's a truly amazing agent, part of an incredible team, and I can't believe my luck.


But that's not the real "How I Got My Agent" Story. Because, after all, in order for all that to happen, I had to have two things:
1) An Insane Amount of Luck and
2) a finished and polished manuscript that would catch Tricia's eye.

To get to that manuscript, I had to have the strength and perseverance to keep writing, keep working my butt off, even when my own better judgement told me that ONE was destined for a life in The Drawer.

How did I keep myself standing, and wading through the muckiness of Query Hell?
 You. Each and every one of you, who ever:
  • read a horribly messy draft and cheered it on anyway,
  • helped me tear my MS apart and reassemble it time after time after time
  • dragged me through the mud and muck of the query trenches
  • grabbed my bootstraps and pulled me up 
  • made me feel ashamed of wallowing in self pity
  • inspired me to write more
  • challenged me to keep going
  • guilted me when I said I would give up
  • made me feel ashamed about feeling sorry for myself
  • hugged me when I thought I couldn't take any more
  • loved my writing
  • loved me, especially when I whined and complained and really, really, REALLY didn't deserve it.
  • Who gave me chance after chance after chance at success.
Most especially, and never, ever to be taken for granted, my critique partners.
The sweet Gina, the energetic Maggie, the understanding Jamie, the reflective Jenny, the hilarious Megan, the cantankerously brilliant Chessie, the encouraging MarcyKate, the painstakingly proof-reading A.K., the fangirling Amber, the levelheaded Cait, the enthusiastic Kat, the supportive Rachael, the industry-insightful Jessica, the loving Jani, the ruthless Marieke.

You gave me exactly what I needed at exactly the right time to make ONE the best it could be before going out into the world, to survive the query trenches, and to come out having signed with exactly the right agent, in a way I never expected, never planned for.

That's how I got my agent. I leaned on all those people, I loved them the best way I knew how, and they gave back to me in spades. They carried me through all the writer's toughness and helped me come out on the other side intact, alive, and kicking. With a manuscript that's now, happily, doing the same.

Thank you. I owe you everything

Lastly, since I know you're wondering, some (terrifyingly abysmal) stats:

Queries sent: 127
Rejections: 89
No-response: 38
Requests from queries: 6
Requests from (three) contests: 4
Informal requests (AKA "ninjas"): 2
Offers: 2 (You never know how the offers will come. YOU NEVER KNOW.)

Last, my (hopefully) non-condescending, non-platitude advice to aspiring authors like me:

Keep writing as long as it makes you happy.
Surround yourself with loving, supportive, encouraging people.
Keep sending your work out, if you believe in it.
Remember:You never know what's around the corner. NEVER. (Even though, if you're a control freak like me, that thought makes you CRAZY.)

Please wish me, Tricia, and ONE, the little manuscript that could, tons of luck as we send it even further out into the world! (We sure could use it, and appreciate it more than I can say.)

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Critique Partners 2.0 - Inspiration for our Work, and Book Recommendations!

Hey, sweet readers!

I am just over the moon that my CPs and I are vlogging now. I mean, I'm seriously psyched. We're getting comfortable with a new tool in self-marketing - which we'll all need for book promos verrrrry soon obviously - and most importantly, we get to hang out without leaving our houses! (Or, um, changing out of our pajama pants.)

Last week, I asked the crew where they got their inspiration for their work. Jenny answered, and asked us a new question for this week: (also her cutie little boy is in here, *smoosh*)

Do we have some book recommendations?

Uh, yeah. Obviously.

Here's my answer, and next week's question (plus! All four of my monsters cuties! *smoosh smoosh*)

Megan's book recs, including one book she DEFINITELY DOESN'T OWN. And neither do I. *ahem* And the inspiration for her fabulous querying MS, BETWEEN.

Chessie's inspiration for ALL OF EVERYTHING, and her pre-emptive answer to next week's question.

Marieke tells us all about the BEAUTIFUL inspiration for her about-to-query-MS, and makes her CATS NARRATE THE VIDEO.

The inspiration for Gina's AMAZING ROMANCES, featuring the now-famous "bitch face."

Maggie shares her inspiration for her YA international thriller, The Elite, and also HER HAIR CONTROLS THE LIGHT OMG.

Also! Angi shares all about her first published work. It's AMAZING.

Stef shares LIVE FROM HER CAR about the ever-painful experience of SHELVING A MANUSCRIPT (been there. It is ALL THE PAIN.)

And meet my sweet Ohio State writing friend Abbey, who responded during a study break.

Wheeeeee! Isn't this fun?

Do you have a vlog this week?  Link up, loves!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Sometimes You Need Some Mac and Cheese

Happy Monday, sweet readers!

There's a reason I love writing Young Adult Science Fiction. I'm a geek, first of all, and besides that, it gets me excited. I like thinking about the future, I like thinking about what scientific advances mean for the future of humanity. I like to think about, and write about, what the changes of the future will make people do - what will remain the same and what will change forever.

So, I wrote a YA Sci-Fi book I LOVE - One - and I'm currently clutching it to my poor beaten-down bosom while wading through a particularly horrific portion of Querying Hell - the WAITING. This is the fun part when your manuscript is on the desks and/or e-readers of some really, truly, fantastic agents, and you've been waiting for an ETERNITY (or, okay, a week and a half, whatever, that's not really the point, okay?) for them to respond to you with their thoughts. And the fact that they didn't respond within 24 hours could mean that they HATED it (probably that's what it means,) or that they're giving it careful consideration, or it could mean that they're ultra-busy and just haven't even clicked the darn file open.

(But probably they hated it.)

D'you see where I'm going with this? Querying Hell isn't called "Hell" for nothing, folks. The only hope for a writer's addled mind at this stage is to GET BUSY.

Luckily for me, CampNaNoWriMo is happening in June, and is the perfect kick-in-the-rear challenge I need. I tried to get psyched to finish up Chrome, my futuristic Sci-Fi retelling of the Exodus, but every time I thought about it, my brain went on strike. A big, foot-stamping, whining strike. All my brain wanted to do was write a Young Adult recasting of Mansfield Park.


I've never written straight-up romance before, though like 99% of my critiquers for One very helpfully contributed, "So, this is a sci-fi...romance?" (Uh, yeah. Probably. Maybe. Whatever agents want it to be.)

Anyway. I loooooove YA SF (sci-fi or speculative fic, either-or and both.) When I think of all my favorite books from the last three or so years, all but a couple were YA SF.

But THEN, I think about my comfort reads. The ones that make me want to curl up on the couch with a blanket and completely lose myself in them. The ones that don't require too much thought, or prompt any Big Revelations About The Nature of Humanity.

One of them is MG Sci-Fi Romance (A Wrinkle in Time, duh.)
And the rest are classics. Mostly Austen, a little Bronte, Alcott. Which, if you think about it? Are all YA (about 18-20-year-old girls) and ROMANCE.

So...if YA Romance is my comfort reading...
why wouldn't it be my comfort writing, too?

After my customary agonizing over this on Twitter, my dear, sweet, wise writing buddy Jenny said, "Sometimes you just need the writing equivalent of Mac and Cheese."


And you know what? She was right. Four days later, I'm 8K into SOLVING FOR EX, a YA recasting of Mansfield Park with Mathletes instead of snobby rich people.  I don't know if it's any good, and it's highly possible I'll never query it. But it IS good for my soul - I'm pretty damn happy writing it. And right now, in the depths of Query Hell, that's really all that matters.

What about you, sweet readers? What's your Mac and Cheese, for reading or for writing?

Friday, June 1, 2012

"What Else Are You Working On?"

It's been happening kind of a lot lately. 
Not all over the place, but enough for me to sit up and take notice.
 Whether it's me or one of my writer buddies, a lot of agents have been asking,
"What else are you working on?"

Sometimes it's after an agent has read requested material.
Sometimes, it's before she'll request material at all.

I don't know how you would feel, but the first time I heard this question I had a tiny moment of freak-out.

"I'm a pantser. That's how I approach my art. I can barely write a pitch for a book I've finished, and you expect me to throw one out for a book that's being drafted, or outlined, or is just an idea flitting around in my head? Are you crazy?"
Um...excuse me?

But after a few seconds, it started to make sense. Agents want writers for a career, not just for that one book they're signing on. They want to know that writers have potential to be more than a one-hit wonder, and rightfully so. More than that, agents want to know that an author can be enthusiastic and articulate about something besides that one shined-up book baby that happens to be sitting in their inbox.

After a minute or so, though, I started to feel appreciative of the question. Grateful, even. For a couple of reasons.

1. For a professional author, it's always about the next book. By the time your book is being shined up by editors at a publishing house (please God,) your next draft probably should be finished, at the very least. By the time your book appears on a shelf (please please please God,) your next one is in the final stages of production.

2. "What I'm Working On" is what keeps me sane. My life has been so crazy lately, between having a new baby six weeks ago and riding a little wave of querying/revision/contesting excitement, that I totally forgot about how important it is to have The Next Book in the works.

Yesterday, I was reminded how, the week after I started querying my first manuscript, I started writing ONE, and didn't stop for eight weeks. That's probably the only way I survived the emotional trauma of putting my first manuscript in a drawer. I should probably be ready for another round of that. I need a new draft, one into which I can pour all my optimism and hope, now that I'm at the end of my second tour through the query trenches (sigh.)

So! Thank you, literary agents, for asking questions that kick me in the butt and remind me of all the above. And please, ask me what else I'm working on. Because now, I can confidently, articulately, and excitedly tell you all about it. (And, if you don't actually want to talk to me, click here to read my blurbs.)

What about you, sweet querying-writerly types? What else are you working on?