Thursday, December 31, 2009

Hello, 2010

2010 is here! (By the way, do you guys say twenty-ten or two-thousand ten? Just wondering...)

Here are my goals for this year!

1 Write everyday
Last year one of my goals was to 'write more'. Yeah. Vague, I know. Since I have accomplished that (and because vagueness doesn't help the accomplishment of goals) this year I want to write steadily. Ideally, I will be writing 1K/day everyday. But things could come up, and that may be difficult to stick to, so my goal is to write everyday. If all I can manage is a paragraph, then good, at least I got that paragraph. If I can get a chapter or two in, even better. I just want to keep writing.

2 Blog several times per week
My posting habits are sporadic and spotty at best, so this coming year I want to blog more. Why? I'll claim that it's a wonderful way to keep in touch with the publishing world and network with other aspiring authors. But really, it's a fun way to procrastinate. Also, I love reading all of your comments! I'm going to try to comment more on other's blogs, because I'm not very good at that. I do read all the blogs I follow everyday in my Google Reader. I mean, I do follow 150+ blogs, so on any given day there's upwards of 70 new posts. Yikes! But I love staying in the loop of things. I can't promise daily blogs (I don't have that many interesting things to say!) But I will try to post at least 2 times a week.

3 Set monthly goals
Each month I'm going to set word count and story progress goals for myself. I'll do this at the beginning of the month after reviewing my word count and progress from the previous month so each set of goals is customized by how much work I am willing/able to do at that particular time. This adds two posts per month to my 'blog more' goal: the monthly goals at the beginning of the month, and the wrap up at the end of the month. (Yay, blog filler!)

4 Finish Blood Ties and two other drafts
This should not be that hard. Blood Ties only has 10-15K left, so finishing it up (when I get around to it, anyway) will not take that long. I was going to aim for Blood Ties plus three or four drafts, but two drafts will be challenging yet totally attainable. Plus, it's always awesome to exceed the goals you set for yourself, so if I do manage to write three or four drafts, I'll just be that much happier.

5 Revise two manuscripts
Because I'm planning to finish three drafts, I'd like to set another goal to revise/edit/polish two of those drafts. I'd like to query a project (most likely BT) by spring.

6 Reading Challenges and Book Reviews
I signed up for several reading challenges this year (check the sidebar) and I would like to complete them! I'll be posting reviews of some (but not all) of the books. Most likely when a book is extremely awesome, depressingly horrid, or if I have nothing else to say. (Woo, more blog filler!)

7 The usuals
Eat less crappy food, spend less money on frivolous unnecessary things, (thankfully books do not fall under this category!) exercise more, (or, you know, at all) read more, keep the apartment cleaner (my boyfriend requested this one of me) and finally, I'd like to save more money for the future.

Woo. That's a lot! I'm gonna be busy.

Next week I will be posting my January goals, the best books I read in 2009 and the ones I'm most looking forward to in 2010, Hunger Game theories and why I am Team Peeta all the way, and I'll be participating in the No Kiss Blogfest!

See ya next year :)

Monday, December 28, 2009

2009: The End

Hello all! I hope your holidays went well!

Did you guys know my blog is a year old? Wow. A whole year of blogging. Though the good posts didn't really start until January-- there are only two posts from the year 2008. One is poetry (Ack.) The other is me claiming that winter had frozen my brain, hence I could not write.

How far I've come. :)

The following is a semi-coherent list of things I've done in 2009.

* Made a vague resolution to "write more"
* Entered a query contest for 140 characters or less on agent Colleen Lindsay's blog. I entered the log line for Untouched, which at that point was only an outline. I didn't win, but I did get an honorable mention. Awesome!
* Got my first follower! (Then followed my own blog so I had two followers)
* Wrote about 15K on Untouched

* Set goals for myself (among them the very helpful 1K/day goal)
* Wrote a couple posts on how I brainstorm ideas
* Turned twenty-one!
* Joined Critique Circle
* Got to 38K on Untouched

* Posted about books influencing writing, random story ideas I had, what is "hookable", and accidental themes (among other things)
* Broke 50K on Untouched

* Posted about #amazonfail, what is appropriate for YA, how badly I was failing at my 1K/day goal (5K in a month), how to write in an active voice, plus several excerpts from Untouched

* Started off the month with something new-- an excerpt from what soon became known as "Burn". I've tweaked it a bit, but to this day it is still one of my favorite pieces of my own writing
* Posted about titles, writing epiphany, ending your novel, how I need my muse to hold my hand, hated Untouched, loved Untouched, hated Untouched again, wrote about outlining
* Got Untouched up to 69K

* Finished Untouched!
* Talked about queries, betas, and how I imagined my characters would look

* Jumped between projects because I didn't know what to write after finishing Untouched
* Started querying

* Queried more
* Still couldn't settle on just one idea
* Wrote about the different types of stories

* Started thinking about NaNoWriMo
* Researched questions to ask when you get THE CALL
* Sent out the last batch of queries (to which I'm still receiving responses)
* Posted about log lines and how much of your novel you should share online
* Wrote up a 7K word phase outline for a project known as The Temper

* Came up with my NaNo idea
* Decided I wanted to write a perfect first draft (HA!)
* Reached my 100th blog post!
* Wrote about the price wars between amazon and wal-mart, recreated some book covers for a contest, and set some really crazy goals for the month of November
* Started a new project (Blood Ties) and broke 40K by the end of the month

* Went insane
* Wrote 20K on Blood Ties
* Wrote 50K on Plural of Love, then deleted about 30K
* Won NaNoWriMo!
* Signed up for some reading challenges for 2010
* Tried Unplug Week, didn't like it. I'm addicted to the internet.

* Was burned out from writing. Took a break.
* Wrote up a nice long post on my outline process
* Participated in National Kissing Blogfest Day
* Did a lot of Real Life stuff (work, family, holidays)
* Realized I wasn't going to finish a second novel by the end of the year. Moped. Stopped working on Plural and Blood Ties to pick up an old project (Temper)

Wow. What a year!

Now, to wrap it all up, I leave you with my projects and their word counts!

Untouched @ 74,588 (Complete)
Blood Ties @ 61,295
Plural of Love @ 21,467
First Breath @ 15,798
Awakening @ 13,019
Temper @ 10,691
Wanted @ 10,005
After Life @ 9,844
Burn @ 2,809
Into The Sunrise @ 2,609
Kai of Chaos @ 2,258
Identity Crisis @ 2,121

(Note: Not all of these words were written in 2009. But most of them were. Also, I'm leaving out a ton of story beginnings/scraps that have word counts under 1K.)

Coming up next: Goals for 2010! See you soon!


Monday, December 21, 2009

Underneath The Mistletoe

Today is Official Kissing Blogfest Day! Yay! Kissing!

So here is my excerpt, from my WiP Blood Ties...

* * * * * * * * * *

I nod and give him a small smile. Yes, I will dance with Tristan. I will allow myself this moment.

I stand and give in to the dance, to Tristan. He pulls me and spins me and twirls me as the music swells all around us. And it works. It calms me down. It's like I'm back home, in the classroom, desks pushed to the wall, while Tristan teaches me how to dance. Then the music slows and he stops twirling me so far away. He pulls me closer, so we're pressed together, his arms wrapped tightly around my waist, and my arms draping over his shoulders. And then he catches my eye, and the moment is just perfect.

Before I know what's happening, his lips are pressed against mine. I've never kissed a boy before, so I didn't know what to expect. But I didn't expect this. This floating feeling like the butterflies in my stomach have taken to the air and I'm flying up into the sky with them. But that's not what surprises me most. What surprises me most is how I respond. Because I don't hesitate to kiss him right back. Tangling my fingers in his hair. Crushing my lips to his. And pulling him closer; as close as he can get. Because if I let him go, if he lets me go, I'm not sure what would happen. Maybe I would float away.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Still To Come (Also, Linkspam)

An overwhelming majority of you guys want posts on writing process and revision process. So I will happily oblige, but not until January. Come January, I'll start a series of posts that detail my writing process from idea to query. Fun stuff.

As for the rest of December, I'm planning a 2009 wrap up post, and a 2010 goals post.

So stay tuned!

For now, I will leave you with some fantastic writerly links. Enjoy!

* * * * * * * * * *

I'm sure everyone knows about the Kindle. But did you guys know offers several books for FREE on the Kindle? Cool, huh. Well, if you have a kindle. Then they offered a FREE Kindle on PC download. Awesome. I tried it, and I think it's great. They offer a lot of classics for FREE (Pride and Prejudice, A Christmas Carol, Little Women) and every now and then they offer other bestsellers for FREE (Maximum Ride 1, My Soul To Lose, [the prologue to Rachel Vincent's My Soul To Take] and Fireflies in December [Which was sooo good!])

If you've never heard of Dr. Wicked's Writing Lab, check that out. It will help you write. Or else.

This site is great for story starters and ideas and prompts and whatnot.

Casting the Bones has lots of fiction writing tips and tricks, and plenty of helpful articles (Leaving Out The Parts People Skip, Writing Query Letters That Work, When Will I Be On Oprah).

Television tropes and idioms (plotting info!)

Need a random/crazy/magical/spooky item? Search the basement.

Need an apocalypse? Go here.

Want a cool writing prompt site? Go here.

Need inspiration? Wanna hear about how hard writing is? Desperate for some writing advice? Quotes about writing is the place to go.

* * * * * * * * * *

All right! Well, I hope you are all thoroughly entertained. I'll be back sometime next week with end-of-year type posts. Catch you later!


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

In Which I Pretend I'm J.K. Rowling

Heya! So yesterday in the comments Vicky S. asked me how I outline.

*Cracks knuckles* Okay. Hold on tight.

First, I start with my story idea. Whether that is sparked by a character, a world, a scene, a line of dialogue or a theme, I always start with plot basics. I'll be using a well known book to demonstrate how I outline, so you can get a sense of how much detail I write in the outline, and what the outcome is once I type it up. So, for demonstration purposes, I'm going to pretend I wrote Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. *Grins*

I start with a sketchy chapter by chapter outline that might look something like this:

1. Intro Dursleys, weird occurrences, late at night, baby Harry defeated Vold., left on doorstep
2. 10 yrs. later, cousin's Bday, go to zoo, talk to snake/free snake
3. Uncle mad, letter arrives for Harry, uncle freaks! More letters, family runs from letters
4. Hagrid shows up, tells Harry about Hogwarts, Harry learns the truth about parents
5. Harry goes to Diagon Alley, bank, Hagrid gets package, meet Draco, gets Hedwig, gets a wand

So that's just the first five chapters, but I do one line summaries of each chapter for the whole story. Usually my chapters are long (+4K words) so I plan 15-20 chapters. Sometimes chapters get combined, or divided in half.

Once I have my whole story outlined, I read through it and play the whole thing out in my head, adding notes and details. Using the above example, I might brainstorm what the "weird occurrences" in chapter one are. In this case they are: owls behaving oddly, "fireworks", cat reading map, people dressed funny, etc. I would also work out how the uncle attempts to run from letters: boarding up mail slot, going to a hotel, boating to tiny shack on island.

When I feel like I have a solid basic outline I decide on character names, if I haven't already. If I have a clear image of the opening chapter, then I jump right in, without brainstorming much more. Otherwise I embellish a bit more. When I reach a chapter that hasn't been marinating in my brain very long, I do a detailed chapter outline, like so:

5. Harry wakes up in shack, thinks maybe it was a dream, Hagrid is there! Hagrid takes Harry to shore, explaining about Ministry of Magic, goblins, etc. Harry looks at list of supplies for school, lots of books, robes, wand, cauldron, and more. Go to Diagon Alley, meet Prof. Quirrell. First stop bank, Harry gets gold, Hagrid gets package for Hogwarts. Robe fitting, meet Draco, Draco is a snobby punk. Hagrid explains Quidditch, gives Harry owl. Wands next, Harry's wand and Vold's wand connected. Harry goes home back to Dursleys until school starts.

If I ever get blocked, or don't know what to do I'll write out a very detailed chapter/scene synopsis, similar to phase outlining. In phase outlining you write a sentence (less than 30 words) then expand it into about 250 words.

Here's an example using something I actually wrote, so I can put the whole text:

First, the phase:

Elle approaches window, peeks through, realizes the window has a magic barrier around it, wonders how to disarm it. (19 words)

Then, the text:

I squeeze between the house and the shop to its left. The space is barely large enough for my scrawny self to fit, but I manage. I slide along between the buildings until I come to a window I can peek through. Not a single light is on, but I can tell from the array of furniture that this window leads to the living room. When I take a moment to listen carefully I notice a slight humming noise. Instinctively, I lean back from the window. It's protected by something.

I reach into my pocket and pull out a small handful of ordinary pebbles. Then I toss them, one at a time, ever so softly, at the window. They never hit the glass; they rebound off an invisible force field with a crack and a hiss. After putting the remaining stones back into my pocket I stop to think. How do I disarm this?

I can't imagine that the charm to disable this is very complex. Theoretically speaking, this house should be one of the safest in all of Darkon's middle class district. Right in the center of the city, surrounded by merchant shops-- who would try to steal from them? I don't know as much about the city's laws as I should, but if the cost for being outside past curfew is paid in fingers, then I suppose the punishment for stealing might be paid in arms. You'd never steal again. As if you could. (250 words)

Phase outlining is my favorite form of outlining. You work out the whole story ahead of time, and when you draft instead of wondering "what happens next?" you can spend more time focusing on prose and sentence structure. Not only does it help you work out any plot problems ahead of time, but because you're not worrying about going in the wrong direction, you can focus on choosing the right words, which results in a much more polished first draft.

Read more about phase outlining here: It's Just a Phase.

My advice? Research different methods of outlining. Try different methods of outlining. Try writing without an outline. Play around with different techniques until you find the right one for you.

Also, I know many of you are in the revision process right now (what with NaNo being over and all that) so here's another link I found very helpful: One-Pass Manuscript Revision. I like this technique because I feel that it goes well with phase outlining. A one-pass revision isn't going to work if you need to restructure the whole story and change several major elements, but if the plot is pretty solid from start to finish, and you can be brutal with the chopping of words, then give it a try.

If you want to kind of outline, but also want to write on the fly, try writing down the following before you begin (From One-Pass Revision by Holly Lisle):

*Write down your theme in fifteen words or less. Some of my regular themes are Love Conquers Evil, God Is A Good Guy with Bad PR, Self-Sacrifice Is the Highest Form of Love, and The Individual Can Change the World.

*If you have sub-themes and know what they are, write them down too. I usually have one theme and from three to six sub-themes, depending on the length and complexity of the project. You may have more or less.

*Write down what the book is about in twenty-five words or less. This is not as impossible as it sounds – the micro-summary for the 375,000 word Secret Text Trilogy was “Werewolf Romeo and Juliet versus Renaissance Godfather in the jungle, with magic.” Twelve words.

*Write down a one-line story arc for the book’s main character. The story arc for Kait Galweigh in the Secret Text Trilogy is “Kait battles her own nature, magic, her family’s enemies, and resurrected wizards from her world’s past, finds unlikely love, and at terrible cost, saves her world.”

*Write down the main characters, and a paragraph of no more than about 250 words describing the story, sort of like the blurb on the back of a paperback.

If you keep these in mind while you write, your ms will be more unified, and it will be easier to determine if each scene adds to story/setting/character/theme.

* * * * * * * * * *

Woo! So there you have it! This is a very long post on how I outline. Be sure to check out the links, and if you're interested, check out some writing forums. No doubt you'll find plenty of advice on outlining (some bad, some good, some crazy, I'm sure).


Do you outline? How?

If you're an "on the fly" writer, what is your writing process like? (I just can't wrap my head around it! I'm an obsessive note-taker!)

Would you ever try Phase Outlining? What about a One-Pass Revision?

Also, if you have any questions for me, feel free to ask! :)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

NaNoWriMo: WIN??

Yes. NaNoWriMo was a win. In some ways.

First, it was a technical NaNoWriMo win-- I wrote 50K words on a new project for November. It was also a win because they were good words. I read through what I have on Plural and I find myself enjoying it, even though I know it needs some work. (For starters, the first 1/4 is in past tense, the rest written in present.) It was a win because it was good writing practice. It was a win because I kept up a nice writing pace.

Now the non-win part.

The whole second half-- seriously, twenty-five thousand words-- needs to be scrapped. OUCH. Some of the scenes, some of the dialogue may be recycled-- but not in this story. Halfway through I changed direction, and started writing something else. So there may be some usable scraps in there, but not much.

So at the end of the month, instead of having 50K words of crap writing I have 25K words of not-crap writing and the clear direction of where to take this story. This is pretty good. Though I am setting what's left of Plural aside for right now. I learned that I really do best when writing only project at a time. Juggling stories, characters, voices, etc. didn't work out so well for me. I could do it, but it was harder to get into the right mood for each separate WiP. I found my self thinking in Elle's voice, when I should have been focusing on Claire's, and vice versa. It's crazy enough that I already have voices in my head, I don't need them fighting for attention.

I've also come to the realization that I should always, always, outline. Writing on the fly works for me for the first part of the story-- but after that I need to step away, review what I've written and determine where it's going. Plus, I really like outlining. It's fun. And even though I outline, the story always ends up surprising me along the way.

So. That's the result of my NaNoWriMo attempt.

Did you win? What do you consider a "win"?

Peace and Reese's Pieces,