Monday, December 6, 2010

Three Things I Did This Weekend Instead of Being Productive

1. I caught up on TV missed during the week.

I'm super excited for new Castle tonight! I'm glad House wasn't Ruined FOREVER by House and Cuddy dating. Ooh and I really loved Glee last week. The sectionals episode was so good! I was glad to see that they didn't drag out the Rachel/Finn/Santana thing, the performances were fantastic (the dancing!!), and the character relationships were great, especially Rachel & Kurt and Brittany & Artie. Also, I realized that Chord Overstreet, who plays Sam on Glee, would make a great Peeta in the Hunger Games movie. Yeah? What do you think?




2. I read Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins.

It came in the mail and I had to stop everything and read it right away. Fantastic book. After I finished I put the book away then cried a little. Not because it was sad-- it was just such an emotional ride. And let's be honest here: Sometimes you need to cry a little after being Etienne'd.




3. I hung out on Youtube. A lot.

Here are some videos I like:










Friday, December 3, 2010

In Which I Declare Love for my WiP and Parody Jay-Z

You guys.

I am revising and I am ripping my novel into pieces and pondering commas and all that other editing madness and here's the thing: I love my story.

I'm almost afraid to say it. Like it should be whispered. Or blog-whispered.


i love my story, shh don't tell
.


This is terrifying.

I keep expecting to hate the story, especially because it's such a freaking mess. You've seen my final chapter in it's entirety in the last post, all 23 words of it. The whole thing is still at 26K. It has no written ending, plot lines have to be changed, characters have to be added. And it's going to take a ton of work just to get this into a somewhat coherent first draft, let alone a brilliant and polished manuscript.

But I still love it. Like, a lot.

Like I want to burst into song, but I want to sing about how much I love my ms, but there's not really a song for that, so I'm just gonna end up singing Jay-Z "I got 99 problems but a WiP aint one, if you're havin' writin' trouble I feel bad for you son, 'cause I got 99 problems and a WiP aint one, hit me!"

(We can pretend that never happened.)




I want to bottle this feeling and save it for later, when I really need it.


Oh, and before you get sad because you are indeed having writing trouble and were looking for more advice than "I feel bad for you son"-- DON'T WORRY. It's totally cyclical. Trust me. You'll come to love your story again. Just as I will come to hate mine. Maybe tomorrow. I guess you'll know if this post mysteriously disappears and is replaced with a rant about how hard it is to write a freaking book.


I probably shouldn't blog when I'm highly caffinated at 4am anymore.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

NaNoFailMo

National Novel Fail Month. That's what I participated in this year.

Blarg. I didn't win NaNoWriMo. I ended at about 26K which is just over half of the goal. Eek. I think my main problem was that I finished the draft at 26K on 11/19. It was short. It was crappy. Some scenes were written hastily with shorthand and abbreviations, some were written in a sentence with the intent to write the whole scene out later. The last chapter/epilogue, in its entirety, is this:

"At a party or something with friends. What happened to the family? Still learning, getting better at managing. Ends with lots of potential."


Like, seriously? That's the entire final chapter?

First of all-- "Ends with lots of potential"? WTF kinda crap ending is that? And how about "At a party or something with friends." There's some brilliant scene settage. I smell a Printz.

Anyway, looking at that last chapter brings me to the next point: How much revision is in my future. I have about 8 chapters (out of 40) that are "written" like the final chapter. A few words and the general purpose of the chapter, but nothing more. Of the remaining 32, about 12 are filled with tips on how to "fill out the scene later" and helpful notes like "[Cassie joins the table and says something clever]".

Half of the chapters are still okay story wise, but since they were written in a rush and many things have changed as I've gone along, they still need rewriting. Like, one of my characters has a supernatural power, and I decided halfway through that using the power should have some kind of retribution. So for the first half of the book everything is fine and dandy whenever the power is used. Then in the second half whenever the power is used the character gets horrible headaches of doom. So I need to go back, trace the appearance of the power from scene to scene, then change it so the headaches accompany the power from the beginning.



I'm all ready to get into it. I've got a four-pass revision plan and everything:


One: Go through and fix the story from the beginning; make sure all the different plots and character arcs are at least in place. This step involves writing any scenes that weren't fully written out before. It doesn't have to be good, it just has to be there so I can fix it in the next round.

Two: I'm going to print the whole thing out and go through it with a pen, fine tuning all my plots and arcs, analyzing my words, and making sure everything is good and consistent. I'm also going to spend time going through chapters one at a time and making each one shine like it's the most important scene in the book.

Three: Enter the changes from paper to computer into a new doc so every word gets some attention, do one more final read through, then send it off to betas.

Four: Revision based off of beta feedback. If significant changes were needed, resend to betas for another round. If feedback was minor, do final revision then prepare for querying.



So. That's my revision plan. I don't know how long each step will take, so I'm not sure when I'll be done, just that these are the steps I need to take. I could do it in a month or two if I were really truly dedicated, but likely I'll be done around spring. Whenever I finish, I'm hoping step one will be done as soon as possible. I really want to get ACTUAL drafts of these scenes written so I can print it. I look forward to sitting in the living room, snuggled in blankets with a hot cup of tea, a pen in my hand and my printed ms on my lap. Because right now I'm in my cold-ass office, wearing a jacket and fingerless gloves so I can still type. I reallyreallyreally want this drafting phase to be done now so I can go curl into a ball in front of the heater.


How did all of you do for NaNoWriMo? Win? Lose? Light your computer on fire?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Week Two

Well I'm about halfway through week two of NaNoWriMo and I'd say my freak-out level is about a 7.

It's just... So. Many. Words. Also, everyday! Everyday writing, no breaks, no days off, unless you write extra ahead of time or write later to catch up, which sounds scary, and I don't want to be doing that.

I know a lot of people are writing like crazy and are well ahead of schedule, but I am totally thrilled to just be keeping up. I'm at 17K words right now, which feels great, but I need to hit 18333 today, so there's still a good deal of writing in my very immediate future.

Wild to think that I'll be breaking 20K before the weekend. The last time I brought a novel to 20K was Temper, in February. It's nice to be drafting again.

That being said, holy crap this manuscript is going to need a ton of work come revision time.

For starters, I'm at 17K and I'm already about halfway through my outline, meaning my novel might end much sooner than expected. I was figuring around 70K. It's now looking more like, um, 40K. Which is even below the NaNoWriMo goal of 50K.

Now if the novel is complete at 40K words, great, it's a complete draft, which is an awesome thing to have. But I will still be a little sad that I didn't "win" NaNoWriMo. I do think after revisions the story will be closer to 50-60K, because I have a handful of scenes I need to add to the beginning chapters, but for now I'm just trying to get the thing out of my head.

Anyway, my plan is simply to write the 1.7K words/day and if I finish early, I'll go back to the beginning and try to add some scenes before the month is over. The biggest downside to this is that it might feel too revision-y for me and then my editing brain will take over and I'll do nothing but rewrite the first chapter eleven times.

But I guess we'll see.

How are your NaNoWriMos coming along?
How much of your projects are you sharing?

I'm actually being pretty secretive about mine. I will say this: It's young adult fantasy. The main character is a 17-year-old girl named Olivia, and she's trying to solve her best friend's murder. And, if you're especially curious, I put up an excerpt from the first page on my NaNoWriMo profile. (Just keep in mind this is not super polished!)

Happy NaNo-ing!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Word Sprints

I've been quite productive tonight. I did some self-monitored word sprints, timed writing sessions of thirty minutes with breaks in between.

First sprint I wrote 711 words.

Second sprint I wrote 817 words.

Third sprint I wrote 973 words.

A total of 2501 in about two hours, with a decent chuck of time spent feeding my internet addiction by allowing myself to update twitter and check for new blogs. Not bad.

Of course, this strange productivity decides to show up just before midnight on my second day off when I have work very early in the morning. Wonderful.

I've realized that writing sprints work quite well for me, but only when I'm really, really determined and really ready to sprint. It's like a mind state I need to motivate myself into. A thirty minute block of writing like crazy. If I can mentally prepare myself for it, then I can write great amounts. My fingers never pause. I don't stop to re-read and correct. It's a very good way to get words on the page, which after all is the main point of NaNoWriMo.

My current word count is at 7834, so I only need about 500 words by the end of today (the 5th) to be right on schedule. Some of y'all are doing great-- already decently past 10K words, and a few WriMo friends are in the 20-30-40K range. At least one or two insane people have already "won" NaNoWriMo with 50K words.

To which I say:

...


[Shocked silence. Also, some choice words I won't repeat because I try to keep my blog PG-13.]

For now, I'm going to take another break and spend some time with my boyfriend. I might do another word sprint tonight to push past 8K, but I'll probably wait until after work tomorrow evening.

Have you ever tried timed word sprints?
Do they work well for you?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Decision

I've decided on one novel to focus on.

Yeah, that was fast.

I ended up not starting the high fantasy idea. It's a great world, and I plan to write the story someday, but I started the YA fantasy at midnight and it just pulled me in. I ended day one a little ahead of schedule, with almost 2K words.

I work today (Tuesday) until about 5 PM, but then I have the whole night and the next two days off to write write write.

If you're NaNo-ing, you can find my profile here. Feel free to add me!

Hope you writing projects are going well, NaNo or not.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

All NaNoWriMos Eve

It's the night before NaNoWriMo! It's also Halloween, but I was told I couldn't go trick-or-treating because I'm a grown up (or something) so I'm celebrating the former, and not the latter. I still have a ton of candy though, so it's not all a loss.

My blogging break was great, but I'm happy to be back. I was good about not reading blogs (okay, I peeked a few times) but I didn't spend all day reading and commenting and replying. There were some days I didn't even turn my computer on. CRAZY.

It was nice to take a break from internet land. It's hard sometimes being an aspiring author because we all want this so bad. As happy as we are for our writing buddies, it hurts when they get an agent or editor interest or a book deal. And then comes the spiral of despair, when you can't help but think, "Why not me? Why them? Do I not have what it takes?" It's enough to set the computer aflame.

When I read about book deals and getting agents, I can't help but compare myself. It's natural. Two people in this race together and one wins, you start questioning what you did wrong.

But that's just the problem. A very wise friend reminded me: it's not a race. I'll repeat that. IT'S NOT A RACE. So there's really no point to break yourself down and make the journey miserable.

Anyway, NaNoWriMo starts in a little over 5 hours, and I have all my supplies. Music, candy, snacks, coffee, notebooks, ideas.

I'm doing something a little crazy this year: I'm starting two novels on the first. I couldn't decide which idea I liked better, so I'm starting the month with both, trying to reach the 1.7k/day word goal with each. At some point I expect to lose this crazed motivation, and then I'll make a decision on which idea to drop and which to finish NaNo with.

Last year I did something similiar, in that I worked on two novels. One was already started and I wanted to finish it, one was new and fresh-- my legit NaNoWriMo novel. About halfway through the month it got too overwhelming so I stopped working on the first one and finsihed out the NaNo one.

This year I'm writing a YA contemporary fantasy told in first person present, but it's new for me because it has lots of secrets and twists that are revealed gradually. Most of my other ideas have been very upfront, but with this one I'll be slowly chipping away at the mystery, giving away bit by bit. Should be interesting.

The other idea is a high fantasy story, very cowboy western-y with limited government, a harsh desert setting, and crossbows and magic instead of guns. I have a general plot for this one, and then lots of little events I want to include: shady deals gone bad, old fashioned shoot-out, getting attacked by desert raiders. This story also has an element that is new for me: third person subjective from multiple viewpoints. Most of my stories are first person, and the few that aren't are told in third person limited, so I'm excited to work with the many povs of this story.

The countdown to NaNoWriMo is going going going. I'm staying up until midnight to kickstart the month with some words, but I'm not sure which story I'll start with. Better decide soon! For now I'll spend my last few hours browsing the NaNo forums, eating snacks, going over my notes and dosing myself with caffeine so I'm good and ready.

Who else is doing NaNoWriMo this year? (The site is down temporarily, but when it comes back up I'll make a link for my profile so you guys can add me!)

Monday, October 11, 2010

Break

I haven't been writing very much lately, and in a therapeutic email to a writing buddy, I sort of figured out why.

I'm thinking about it too much. I'm obsessing too much. As I'm drafting I'm worrying that I'm using too many adjectives. I write a paragraph and I start editing it and changing it because I'm so paranoid that amazon.com reviewers are going to hate my first chapter. I don't know what to name my characters because I'm worried about following trends, or breaking trends, or choosing a name that a particular editor just really hates for some reason.

So I gave some of this advice to my friend, and now I think I need to follow it as well.

I need to step back. I need to write something actually for me, not "for me" and secretly I'm compiling a list of agent names in my head. Not "for me" and I'm thinking about how awesome my crit partners will think it is. Actually FOR ME.

See, the problem is, I know too much. I know the first chapter is the most important. I know that agents are sick of certain paranormal creatures. I know that a debut novel needs to be followed by something similar. These things are all affecting my writing, and if I didn't know any of this, I would write my drafts with far less stress, and with far more happiness.

But I know all these things and I can't un-know them. I can't go back to when I first started and wrote freely because I loved it and I didn't know it was bad to have a prologue that didn't move the plot along, and I didn't care that I abused adjectives, and I didn't care that my fantasy characters had crazy unpronounceable names.

And I've got to get back to that point.

(I think I sounded much wiser and more eloquent in the email to my friend.)

But anyway. I'm going to take a short break from blogging, and unfortunately I'm also going to take a short break from reading all of your blogs. I can't exaclty un-know all of the writing advice and information in my head, but I can stop myself from reading and refreshing it every single day.

I'll be back in November, clear-minded and ready for NaNoWriMo (I still haven't decided on a story.)

See you all in a couple weeks!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

On Banning

We're approaching Banned Book Week and by now I think everyone and their grandmother has heard about Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson being challenged. Get the full story on Anderson's blog here.

I'm not going to rant about how horrible I think book banning is, because it will just get me worked up, and I don't want to yell at a computer screen, that's not productive. And I don't have a story about how Speak helped me. My childhood and adolescence are thankfully free of horrors like that which Melinda went through.

This blog post is about giving thanks.

First, to the writing community, for being so vocal and open and jumping right to the aid of a very powerful novel that has helped and will continue to help so many people.

Second, I have so much appreciation for my parents, who never restricted my reading material, and who always encouraged me to read. What I've read and how I've chosen for myself what to read has helped shape the person and the writer I am today.

And third, I'm so very thankful that my high school library had a wide selection, and to my knowledge, no one ever tried to remove books from the learning curriculum or the shelves. Even some books I couldn't beleive they'd carry in a school. But those were the ones that really got us talking. Those were the books my friends and I checked out and passed from person to person, then we'd discuss the characters and events during our lunch breaks. Those were the books that got us reading, and kept us reading.

So thank you. I feel so lucky that I had the chance to read these books, so lucky that I had the choice.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Writing Plans

So, we're only halfway through September and I'm already thinking about NaNoWriMo. Last year was my first year participating in NaNo, and I really liked it. I got A LOT of writing done, because crazy me decided to work on two books during that time, writing 1K/day on a Blood Ties, a book I started in September, and writing the NaNo 1.7K/day on a new project called Plural of Love. So, yeah, I was writing 2.7K words a day and I got a lot done.

But... I kind of burned myself out. I stopped working on Blood Ties about halfway though the month, and that book currently stands unfinished at 60K. And even though I got to 50K (and won NaNo!) on Plural, I ended up deleting the last 30K words or so because they were just all wrong. That book currently stands unfinished at 20K (But I really love the 20K words I have there.)

So this year I want to do NaNo again but I'm going to write a more outlined book. (I was pretty much pantsing Plural, and I am so a plotter. I need my order and structure. I need to know what happens next.) I'm still debating which idea I'll write for NaNo, but it's between a YA historical fantasy, a YA contemporary, and three different YA fantasies. Ha. Yeah, lots of ideas, no clear favorite yet.

I also have a goal before NaNo: I want to finish the draft of the current story I'm working on, The Cure. I have about a month and a half, and it's only at 7K words so I do have a ways to go. But I'm trying to "train" for NaNo by writing everyday (trying to write 1K/day) so it's not too hard to get into the habit of writing 1.7k/day in November.

Lately I've been doing timed writing sessions. (I totally got the idea from the awesome Beth Revis.) Basically, I set a timer for 30 minutes, write straight though for that time, and when the timer goes off I stop. Then I get a 15 minute break to check twitter and blogger and email and grab a snack or whatever. Then when the 15 minutes are up, I do another 30 minute session. So far my writing sessions have been really productive, I've been trying to turn off my inner editor and just keep writing, and in each 30 min session I average about 800 words. So, an hour of writing with a 15 min break between and there's my 1.7K words NaNo goal right there.

With that in mind, these are my writing plans for the rest of the year:
Sept & Oct: Write The Cure
Nov: Write as-of-yet undetermined NaNo novel
Dec: Finish up The Cure and/or NaNo novel and decide which to revise next

I still have a goal of finishing three drafts this year. Temper is done, so that's one down. Hopefully I can finish these two drafts and meet that goal. Otherwise, come December, I'm going to sit down with Blood Ties (at 60K words) and just finish the thing. Hey, maybe I'll do that anyway.


What are your writing plans for the rest of the year?
Are you doing NaNo? Do you know what you want to write about yet?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Word Collection

Some people collect postcards, or stamps, or coins. Some people collect rare video games, or out of print books, or anything a favorite celebrity has ever touched (you can find all sorts of weird crap on eBay).

Well, I started collecting words.

Reading through some of my earlier writing, I didn't use a lot of variety. Characters walked. Characters shouted. Characters were afraid.

So I started reading more books and flipping through a dictionary and a thesaurus to find words I liked that I hadn't previously used. I saved these. I wrote them down and I held onto them and I waited for just the right moment. And with the collection of words at my disposal, the right moments came faster and more frequently.

Characters no longer walked downstairs, instead they stole downstairs.

Characters no longer shouted, instead they shrieked.

Characters were no longer afraid, instead their hearts hammered against their chest.

The thing is, I love words.

And I think that's why my word collection is the first successful collection I've ever had. When I was younger I tried to collect coins. I tried to collect postcards from every state. I tried to collect pens from all the businesses around town. I tried to collect coasters from different restaurants.

But none of these collections went anywhere. Because I just didn't care that much.

My collection of words is different. I collect because I'm passionate about it.

And now I get why my desire to collect all the special state quarters went nowhere. To some people, those state quarters are magical. To me, those state quarters were pretty cool, but on a hot day a soda from a vending machine sounded a whole lot cooler. And to some people, words are just words. But to me, words are magical.


Have you ever tried to collect something?
Successful or not?

Friday, September 3, 2010

Name Scheme

I've always liked picking out names for my characters. My favorite baby name site is this one. I love it because you can search for names based on meaning, or origin, or popular names during a certain year, or by categories like Musical Names, British Names, or even Disney Names. Very cool stuff.

But my favorite aspect has to be the similar name search. See, I like my character names in any given story to mesh well. I don't want to have a Christopher an Elizabeth and a Bud. That's just... strange. And the similar name thing is great, because often I'll start with just one character name and get all the rest based off it.

All of my stories have a different feel for them. For Untouched I didn't use a name finder, and I ended up with Gwen, James, Glory and Dante for my main characters. For The Temper, I had a lot of fun coming up with the superhero names, but all their real names are totally normal: Connor, David, Seth, etc.

Some of my other MC/love interest pairs include: Claire and Alexander, Elle and Tristan, Allison and Peter, Audrey and Shane, and Kady and Josh.

Another aspect that fascinates me about choosing names for characters is the name schemes I love are usually different from what anyone else would come up with. Usually.

Here's my current naming dilemma. In my latest WiP, the main characters are William and Tessa. The name Tessa came to me right away, so I can't imagine that character being called anything else. And now that I've named William, it just feels so right. So what's the problem? Well, I was reading the synopsis for the new book Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare and guess what? Two of the main characters are named William and Tessa. Arrggghhhh.

So what do I do? Stick with the names, because I like them, and hey, it's not like I named them Bella and Edward? Or change one of them now before I get too attached?

I'm not opposed to renaming William, I just can't think of a better name that would go well with Tessa and fit the character. If anyone has any suggestions, let me know! Other characters are named Graham, Jason, Kiera, Drew and Riley, if that gives you an idea of the name scheme I'm going for there.



How do you choose your character names?
Feel free to share some of your name schemes, I find it so interesting!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Inspiration, Everywhere

So my blog posting is still rather sporadic, but hey, at least I'm here!

This is my final theme-y post on inspiration, and as the title so cleverly implies, finding it everywhere. Though I've come to believe that inspiration is part searching (an active hunt for things that inspire) and part allowing yourself to be open to it.

You can't force inspiration. When I tried, tried, tried to be inspired NOW it didn't happen. When I wasn't thinking about it so much, I was able to see how the leaves falling a certain way was kinda beautiful, and how those same falling leaves could mean so many different things to so many different people.

I allowed a picture to spawn ten different scenes belonging to ten different stories.

I allowed a song to make me wish I could write something that would make someone else feel the way that song made me feel.

I allowed an interview question to give me an idea for a broken new world.

I allowed myself to find inspiration in a box of wax crayons, a four leaf clover, the tangy sweet smell of an energy drink, the clatter of dishes, a Ferris wheel covered in lights at night, the scent of ink from a cheap bic pen, the striking of a match, foggy morning air, the feel and smell of a new book, the crunching noise gravel makes under a pair of boots, a jar of mismatched pens and pencils, uneven cobblestones, melting an ice cube on the back of a sunburnt neck, the clang of putting quarters into a pay phone, the rainbow colors in gasoline puddles.

And so, so, so much more.

Because I learned something.

It's not about looking for inspiration. It's about allowing yourself to see.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Prompts

First order of business:
I wrote this post on Sunday and planned for it to go up early Tuesday, but then Mockingjay came out, and I had to avoid the internet for fear of being spoiled. (Side note: Mockingjay= wow). Anyway, now that I've finished reading the book (twice) (yes, really) the internet is safe again. So I'm back.

* * * * *

Continuing with the Encouraging Creativity theme, we have prompts. Prompts are always helpful to me, because they give a starting point. And that's the main point of a prompt-- to get you started. Once you're writing, the words come easier. Creativity breeds more creativity.

As far as what prompts I used, there's a couple cool sites that use word prompts. One is Sunday Scribblings, which I found through Laini's Not For Robots site. It's a blog you can follow, and every Sunday they give you one word ("Dangerous", "View", and "half-way" are some recent ones) and you take the word and just start writing. You can then post it on your blog and link back to the Scribblings blog and you can check out what others made of the same prompt.

Then there is Oneword, which follows the same idea. You get a one word writing prompt, and you just write. Oneword is a bit different though, because it only gives you a 60 second time limit. Very fun, slightly reminiscent of Dr. Wicked's Writing Lab.


I also used picture prompts. I'm sure there's a site or two for that as well, but I found it more useful to search flickr and other picture sites to find something that I found interesting. I would then take that picture and use it as a prompt to free write a paragraph (or more, if I was feeling it.) That was really fun for me, both the searching for photos and coming up with words to go with it. I'm going to try to keep it up, maybe posting some of my favorite on the blog.

Anyway, I thought I'd share the one I wrote last week:

Olivia Morrigan's wedding dress was a piece of art, from the jewel encrusted bodice to the many ruched silk skirts that swished across the floor whenever she took a step. Her hair was curled and pinned up, and diamonds sparkled from her throat and earlobes. The dress was mostly her mother's doing, for Olivia didn't care much about pearls and silks. To Olivia, the most important part of the dress was that it was long and flowing and nobody would catch a glimpse of her thigh-- or what she kept there.

Beneath the layers of petticoats and skirts, around her upper thigh where a garter ought to be, Olivia Morrigan wore a holster, which carried a shiny, black handgun.

Just in case
, she told herself, smoothing out the wrinkles in her skirt. No one would know the bride came to the wedding armed, least of all the groom.


And of course, the picture that inspired it:




Do you like to use writing prompts?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Writing Free

I spent the last month in some sort of weird post-novel ennui funk. I finished Temper but then I couldn't seem to muster up the motivation to work on anything else. I wasn't writing at all, and it was driving me crazy.

Every time I tried to write it was painful. I would stare at the same paragraph, rewriting and rewriting the same five sentences. I wasn't trying to write creatively, I was trying to make every paragraph absolutely perfect before moving forward. And because of that, I wasn't moving forward.

So I had to find my creativity.

One thing that helped was free writing in my notebooks, and also rereading my notebooks from the last year. Laini Taylor writes about the "attic notebook" on her Not for Robots blog, and you should definitely check that out.

I've always kept notebooks, but they take me months to fill. My current one was started in March, and it's just over halfway full. I write down my rough outlines, my blog post ideas, interesting concepts, and just random excerpts that don't really belong to any story but were so vivid in my mind I needed to get them out. I write down word count goals, notes on agents, year long plans of what to write during which month and rough drafts of queries. Sometimes I scribble single sentence concepts, like "Lady Fate" or "The last dragon" because I think I could find a story there if I want to.

Basically I empty my mind on to the page, and the result is a riot of words and strings of thoughts that somehow seem totally organized to me because it's comfortable. It's like hanging out in my own brain.

So that's what I went back to. I flipped through my notebooks. I looked at old ideas and tried to elaborate on them. I started looking everywhere I could for inspiration, and scribbling new ideas on the blank pages. I started free writing, and gathering writing prompts from various places and just letting myself go with it.

Then I started a new story, writing it in a notebook instead of on my computer. It might seem like it'd be harder to be creative in a notebook, because you can't erase or backtrack. But that was kind of the point. Writing in the notebook, I was stuck with what I had. Of course I could go back and scratch out lines and change sentences. Which, of course, I did.




But mostly, I kept moving forward. And that's just what I needed.



I have a couple more blog posts already written up and scheduled for this week (isn't that amazing???). I even have a theme: Encouraging Creativity. Free writing and prompts and all that good stuff. It's nice to be blogging again.

See you tomorrow!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Mockingjay



oh my god

i cant wait anymore

my brain is exploding in anticipation*




AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH





*seriously, it hurts

Friday, August 20, 2010

In Which I Return

Today I visit the blog.

When I flick on the lights it takes a moment for them to illuminate, probably from lack of use.

The place is a mess. Then again, it has been vacant for a month.

There are cobwebs dangling from the archives, dust in all the corners, and the floor is littered with broken promises of future and more frequent posts. I sweep those under the carpet.

Then I tidy things up. Update my blog pages. Update my reading challenges.

And then I take the time to write three new posts, scheduled to go up next week. For really reals.

See you soon!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Book Recommendations

I am such a bad blogger. I promise you guys posts, and I don't deliver. I feel so bad. If you can think of an appropriate punishment (something blogging related and not terribly embarrassing or illegal) let me know and I will attempt to make amends!

Anyway. I've been slacking in the writing side of things as well (like that's a surprise). My new project stands at a whopping 161 words. And this is like the fourth attempt at a beginning. Usually beginnings come easy for me. I know exactly where to start the story, I know how to kick things off with the right blend of action and characterization so it's interesting, but not in that blind, who-is-this-girl-and-why-should-I-care-that-she's-running-for-her-life? sort of way.

But this story is different. I originally had a great first line, that I planned to flip a bit for the last line of the novel because I love symmetry like that. But then I realized that it didn't really work as a first line, and the situation involving the first line didn't really fit the character. So I was back at square one.

I think I have a decent grip on the opening now, and I plan to make some actual progress and maybe get to 500 words by the end of the month. Lofty goals, eh?

In the meantime I've been reading, and I recently came across two fantastic books that I want to tell you guys about.


Shade by Jeri-Smith Ready
The premise of this book is so fascinating. It's hard to put into words exactly what I loved about this one, because the whole thing was just amazing-- the characters, the romance, and especially the mystery involving the Shift. The only aspect I didn't like was that it ended way too soon and with a total cliffhanger.

White Cat (The Curse Workers) by Holly Black
I really love stories like this one and Shade where the whole world is different, where history has been rewritten, but where everyone in the world knows about the magic. This was a great read, filled with cons and shocking secrets. No cliffhanger with this one (for which I was thankful!) but the ending was jaw dropping. I had to read the last few pages twice, and it still makes me sad to think about.


So those are two of the books I've read recently and haven't stopped thinking about. Definitely recommended.

And now it's your turn. Recommend a book you read and loved! I'm always on the lookout for more, and, for the first time in along time, my TBR pile is rather small.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

On Wanting An Agent

When I first decided I wanted to write-- like actually, seriously write-- I realized I would have to learn as much as possible about the publishing world and the way things work. So I jumped right in. I read agency websites, I started following agent blogs, I connected with other writers, I formed my own blog. And I wrote.

When I finished my first manuscript, I made a list of agents and began querying.

I never submitted to any publishing houses, despite researching and finding several I thought might like my book.

I wanted an agent. I don't understand contracts even a little bit, and I don't think I could negotiate my way out of a box.

But what about that 15% they take? Wouldn't you be better off going straight to the publisher?

Psh. What's 15% when they've helped you with revisions and now you stand a chance to actually sell? What's 15% when they have all these awesome publishing contacts and they submit for you? What's 15% when they negotiate a book deal twice the amount you would have settled for?

I don't have an agent yet, but as I start thinking about who I might query with my newest ms, it strikes me that I never thought to query publishers directly. I've always wanted to go through an agent.

Which made me wonder...

What are you opinions on having an agent?
Do you definitely want one?
Or do you want to query publishers directly and deal with everything yourself?

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Writing Love

Writing a book is hard.

It's physically, mentally, and emotionally draining.

You pour your heart into it, you exhaust your mind, you stay up late until the words blur together then you wake up early the next morning just to get that extra hour of writing in.

It's time consuming.

It's frustrating.



So then, why do we do it?

For the fame? (Yeah, right)

For the money? (You've got to be kidding)

We do it because-- get this-- we love it.



I'm still trudging through revisions. It's a pain. It's aggravating. But despite all that... I truly love what I'm doing. I love writing. I love the hard parts. I love pushing myself. I even love those fleeting moments when I feel like I might want to give up, because I know I could never give up, even at the lowest low. And realizing that just inspires me more.

We do all this because we seriously love writing.

There would be no point to put ourselves through it if we didn't.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Are You Guys Tired Of Me Talking About Revisions Yet?

I've been revising so much lately, it's consuming my life.

Good news: I finished my round of revisions and sent it out to a couple betas.

Bad news: Now I have more revisions to do.


Beta feedback elicits two basic responses from me:

1. Oh my god, that's brilliant, why didn't I think of that? It's going to make the book so much better!
2. More revisions?????? *Slams head against wall repeatedly*


So that's pretty much where I am right now. The critique I got is going to require a lot of hard work, but it's so dead on I can't really argue against it. Remember when I was getting sick of Temper and couldn't pinpoint why so I just set it aside for a month? Well, the changes I need to make will fix all the things that bothered me about the ms before.

Unfortunately, these changes are really big. Like, adding-a-plot-line big. Basically, I have to completely rewrite the first two chapters, and add at least three major scenes throughout. Not to mention lots of little changes to make sure the whole novel flows with this new story line.

So, yes. Lots of work for Kat to do. Tell me about your revisions. Have you ever added or deleted a whole plot line from your story? How did that work out for you?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

I'm Still Revising!

Nearly done with Temper revisions. It feels so good to be this close to the end. It's funny-- the more I work on the book, the more I like it. I'm mending and repairing and fixing everything that once bothered me. Of course I should expect to like it more.

I guess I didn't know it would be so easy.

Not EASY-easy, because writing a book? NOT EASY. But the more I work on it, the easier it is to continue working on it, because the better it gets.

Of course, pushing myself to the point where I could begin to work on it again was very, very, very difficult. It was SO. MUCH. WORK. So daunting. So energy/mind/life-draining. But now all that's left is polishing minor stuff, and I'm getting excited about the story. I like the story again. I'm feeling hopeful again.

And yeah, I'm still dreaming of new story ideas. You guys might tire of this, but I got another awesome idea I can't wait to write. Think I'm gonna go with this for my next project. I'm calling it SEVEN DAYS for now, but I'm not really sold on the title. It's a YA fantasy, and I started really plotting it today, talking through the story with my boyfriend (who has heard-- and remembers-- the plots for at least 20 of my ideas. He is forever spoiled for any/all of my writings).

Him: So how is the main character going to kill the bad guy in the end?

Me: I'm not sure yet. But I'm thinking some good old fashioned ingenuity... or maybe an axe.

Also, I just want to say thanks to all you guys! Your comments have been so encouraging, even though I've been so missing lately. I'm excited to get back into our lovely little blogging community. I'll be posting a lot more regularly here.

But for now, I'm off to revise some more!

Cheers,
Kat

Thursday, June 10, 2010

I'm Revising!

Maybe it's the venti white mocha with four shots of espresso.

Maybe it's the music, a play list of my current favorites.

Maybe it's the fact that I have all evening, distraction free, to work on my writing.

Maybe it's the great books I've read lately, inspiring me.

Maybe it's because I haven't really worked on Temper in so long I've forgotten the flaws and built up the parts that really work in my mind.

Probably it's a blend of all of these.

Either way, right now, I'm feeling rather fond of Temper, which is so nice considering my avoidance of it lately. Right now I really love it-- it's funny, the plot is solid, the characters are charming. It's... just... awesome.

And I'm going to finish it. Polish it up. And make it even awesomer (not a real word, but should be).

I'm not scared of my deadline anymore.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Voices

The voices are back. They kept me awake until five last night, tossing and turning in bed as I tried (and failed) to get them all to shut up. And yes, I did mean voices. Plural. All yelling and clamoring for attention at once. Was crazy-making.

There's Lucy. She sees dead people. She just doesn't know it yet.

And there's William. He's searching for a cure so he can finally be with the girl he loves.

Then there's Charlotte. She's clinging to a fantasy world because the real one is too harsh.

And unsuspecting Victoria is in for one hell of a night at work.

And those are just the new voices. Elle was there too, wondering why I've left her story unfinished for so long. And finally, perhaps most surprising of all, Connor was there, urging me get back into the superhero world. Promising me his story isn't as hopelessly horrible as I fear it is.

I'm still kind of scared to look.

But I'm going to.

Did I mention I have a deadline for Temper now? June 14th. My crit partner and I set it. We're going to swap manuscripts on that date.

So I should probably crack open the word doc, eh? I've been a very naughty writer lately, ignoring the voices so well I managed to block them out completely and convince myself they left me. Now I've got to fight my way back in.

But I will. Because I have to.

Because the voices are back, and I don't think I'll be able to shake them off this time. The only way to get them out of my head is to get them onto paper.

So that's what I'll be doing.

All. Night. Long.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Finish Everything

When I hover my cursor over my Temper word doc, it says "Date Modified 4/15/2010". Which means it's been over a month since I even opened the blasted file.

If you're wondering, no, I still haven't made a decision. Should I finish Temper? Should I start something new?

One of my favorite bits of writing advice (because I really need to learn to follow this) is FINISH EVERYTHING.

Finish everything.

If you quit projects somewhere along the way, then you won't really learn from them. You'll end up being really good at beginnings, okay at writing middles, and total crap at writing endings because you never write the endings.

And why wouldn't this apply to the revision side of things as well? If all you do it is finish stories, then yeah, you'll be able to write a nice, complete first draft. But it will never progress past draft status. Because you never learned how to properly revise. Because that's the point that you always gave up.

So looks like this post is really just me trying to convince myself to finish The Temper.

My crit partner Ina has suggested setting a deadline for us to swap manuscripts, and I think that might really help me. I do good with deadlines. Some of my best school work was done by skipping fourth period to finish up the essay due fifth period.

So we shall see how that works out.

Until then, tell me some of your great revisions stories. Did you figure out something that made the story sooo much better? Did you find out how to make your characters really stand out? Did you discover awesome bits about your story you never knew?

Please, convince me that editing is awesome. I kinda need it right now.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Torn

So I'm reading blogs again, replying to comments, even posting on my own blog. I'm getting back into the swing of things.

Mostly.

The one thing I'm NOT doing? Working on my writing.

At the moment I'm torn. I was afraid I wouldn't be interested in Temper after taking a break, and while that's not exactly the problem, I find myself so caught up in deciding what to do, I'm not doing anything.

I haven't lost interest in Temper, but I still don't know if I can kindle enough passion to jump back into revision hell. And starting a new story is even scarier than revising an old one. And I haven't come up with any new ideas lately. That bothers me.

Usually I'm an idea fountain. And yeah, I still have plenty of old ideas. But the lack of new ideas is weird. It's like I'm missing some key component of inspiration.

Luckily, my crit partner Ina sent me a care package full of awesomeness and jellybeans and chocolate and an amazing art piece (which tells me to WRITE) that is hanging on my wall right next to me. Aaaand she sent me some Be Incredibly Creative Instantly chewing gum. So I'm gonna pop a couple pieces and get to work. This story ain't gonna revise itself.

....but wouldn't that be cool if it did?


How do you deal when you're not feeling inspired?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Three Weeks

When I logged into my Google Reader yesterday I had nearly 2000 unread blog posts. A lot can happen in three weeks.

Some of you have finished first drafts.

Some of you have finished revisions.

Some of you have started querying.

And some of you have landed awesome agents.

And I missed it!

Sorry I've been MIA lately, but the blogging break really did me some good. I stayed away from blog posts, from email, from twitter. And I let the word doc of The Temper just sit there, untouched, waiting. Now I can't wait to get back to it. I'm excited to open it up and start digging through the words and sentences to reveal the story underneath.

Over the next few days I'll be sloshing through my messages (I'm so sorry I haven't' been responding to any emails/comments! That's the biggest downside to this unplug fest) and I'll be revisiting your blogs and saying hi!

It's nice to be back.

So... fill me in...

What have I missed?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Mistwood by Leah Cypess Review + Interview


The Shifter is an immortal creature bound by an ancient spell to protect the kings of Samorna. When the realm is peaceful, she retreats to the Mistwod.

But when she is needed she always comes.

Isabel remembers nothing. Nothing before the prince rode into her forest to take her back to the castle. Nothing about who she is supposed to be, or the powers she is supposed to have.

Prince Rokan needs Isabel to be his Shifter. He needs her ability to shift to animal form, to wind, to mist. He needs her lethal speed and superhuman strength. And he needs her loyalty--because without it, she may be his greatest threat.

Isabel knows that her prince is lying to her, but she can't help wanting to protect him from the dangers and intrigues of the court . . . until a deadly truth shatters the bond between them.

Now Isabel faces a choice that threatens her loyalty, her heart . . . and everything she thought she knew.


* * * * * * * * * *

If you guys follow me on twitter, you saw my immediate reaction after I finished reading Mistwood. It was something along the lines of...



"Just finished Mistwood by Leah Cypess--- WOW! This book was absolutely amazing! Just, wow. Wow again. And one more wow."


I did not see this book coming! There were so many twists and turns, and while I'm usually pretty good at predicting outcomes, I didn't guess anything right at all. The best part was, it was so well written and so well put together that despite all the shocking twists it was never hard to follow what was going on. It also wasn't what I was expecting. The cover art and the premise of shape shifters made me think it would be more paranormal fantasy with werewolves or something, but this was more like Graceling in all the right ways.

In fact, I liked it so much I decided to contact Leah and let her know, and she was kind enough to answer some questions for the blog!

ME: You started Mistwood seven years ago. At what point in the writing process did you decide to purse publication?

LEAH: That was my goal from the beginning. In fact, Mistwood was the fifth manuscript I submitted to publishers seeking publication.

ME: Mistwood has so many twists and turns! Did you plan them out ahead of time? Did anything in your story take you by surprise?

LEAH: I'm a seat-of-the-pants writer, so I started the story without knowing anything about what would happen or how it would end. Some of the plot twists I discovered while I was writing them. Others I had an idea of ahead of time, but I wouldn't say I planned them... I just
kind of waited for the right time to spring them.

ME: What is the hardest part of writing for you? The easiest?

LEAH: The actual writing is both of those things, depending on the day. Some days the words fly from my pen and I barely feel like I'm making things up... it's almost like the story already exists and I'm just taking transcription. Other days, I can't figure out what comes next or who my characters are or why I ever thought I could be a writer in the first place.

ME: Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

LEAH: Well, the first step is obviously to hone your writing. I wrote on my own for many years before I joined critique groups, and I think that was valuable, because it allowed me to find my own voice and build confidence in my writing before submitting it for criticism. Once you've reached that level, though, a critique group or critique partners is extremely helpful.

If you're ready to send your work to agents or editors, my main advice would be (1) to not give up and (2) to not pin your hopes too much on a single manuscript. Like I said, Mistwood was the fifth manuscript I submitted for publication, and I truly believe some of the earlier ones were also publishable (and maybe I'll manage to resurrect them someday), but they didn't hit the right editor at the right time. Having the best manuscript you can is important, but there is also a large element of chance involved. So while you're submitting that first manuscript, you should be working on the second -- and the second probably shouldn't be a sequel. It should be something you can send out fresh.

ME: What are you working on next?

LEAH: I'm currently revising a companion novel to Mistwood, which is scheduled for publication in 2011.

Thanks so much for interviewing me!

* * * * * * * * * *

Thanks again to Leah for taking the time to answer my questions! And you guys all be sure to check out Mistwood-- it debuts TODAY!!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Revision Diaries (8)

I caved. I'm taking a break from The Temper.

I'm a little bummed that it's going to take that much longer, but really, this is the best thing for me right now. I'll set it aside for a couple weeks and come back ready to work!

It was just getting too tedious. Editing the thing was like a chore, and not a fun-ish chore ike doing laundry but a chore that you dread like scrubbing the toilet and the shower. I really didn't like having negative feelings about my novel. And you know what? I'm already liking it better. I'm still thinking about it, but a break from the words is going to do wonders. When I read it with fresh eyes, I'll see the problems I couldn't see before.

I do worry a bit that I'll set it down and never come back to it, but I'm not too worried. The story still makes me happy, it just needs a little work, and I just need a little break before I can work it anymore.

I am debating on starting a new story or not. There's always THE INFECTED, my zombie novel. And then there's BLOOD TIES, the castles + magic novel which is already standing at a solid 60K. Not to mention the very long list of other ideas I have (currently brewing on an alien/sci-fi idea). Still undecided though, so we shall see.


How's your writing project going right now?
How do you decide what to work on next when you have many ideas?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Revision Diaries (7)

Lately, I've been working on a time line for The Temper.


This is it.
As you can see, it took some scribbles and revisions to get it all right.
The circled dates are important scenes.


The story starts on Friday, June 1st, which is the only date given, so I had to work out the rest on a calendar. A calendar I had to make up because June 1st is not a Friday until 2012 (which is funny, because if The Temper gets picked up, it could be published in 2012.)

Anyway, chapter one starts on Friday June 1st, chapter two takes place Mon the 4th, chapters three four and five take place on the 5th. Chapter six covers a couple of weeks, starting on the 6th and ending on the 18th. And I probably don't need to detail every chapter here (this is probably only interesting to me *grins*) but the last chapter takes place on Friday, July 20th. So the entire novel takes place over 7 weeks during June and July.

I had to figure out all the important scenes, and which days they fell on, and I had to make sure nothing happened in the wrong order, and that the pacing was all good. It was a fun activity, and it really helped me sort the time line out so I wouldn't make any continuity mistakes (like saying Connor's first day was a Monday, when in fact it was a Tuesday.)

It does make me wonder though: I know the dates, but if someone read my book, and really tried to figure it out, could they make up a calendar from the information provided? I mean, I give the day the story starts, and to pass time I say things like "the following Monday" and "the Tuesday of his third week at Hero Headquarters".

It also makes me wonder if I could figure out a time line for another novel. Maybe I'll try it sometime...

Anyway, that's what's been on my mind lately. And if this sounds like a diversion post because I don't want to talk about how revisions are *actually* going, well... you may be on to something. Ha. Okay, really, it's not that bad. I still think I'll finish revisions by the end of the month. If I really buckle down and work at it, I could finish them a lot sooner! But we shall see.


Have you made a time line for your current project?
(If not, I recommend trying it!)

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Revision Diaries (6)

Still plowing through revisions... just very, very slowly. Other story ideas are looking shinier than ever, and for some reason the idea of reading and revising some of my older projects is sounding pretty good. Which is strange, because they're in way worse shape than Temper. I think the main problem is that I'm starting to get sick of Temper. I've been thinking about the story and focusing on it for so long, the whole thing seems blah. Boring. Like it's all been done before.

A part of me knows it's not. But another part of me would be glad to never read or write another word about superheroes ever. A part of me thinks I should take a break. Set it aside. But then I get scared that I'll never pick it back up again. I'd rather work on it now, while it's still priority. If I let it go will I be able to rekindle the passion for it?

It's hard to say. I love my WiP Blood Ties, but I left it at 60K and haven't gone back. As of now, I don't have a real desire to. I mean, it's still in my mind that I'll go back to it someday, but when I think about setting Temper aside for something else, I don't even consider going back to Blood Ties. I consider starting a new project (I have a very long list of ideas) or maybe even going back to a old idea (like one I worked on before I became serious about writing) .

It's tempting... but I don't think I'll be swayed. I remember how it felt to finish the draft, and finishing revisions has got to be like a hundred times better, right? I've come so far, I can't quit now.

It's Kat vs. Temper, and I'm determined to win.


Do you take a break between draft and revision?
Have you ever set a novel aside and never gone back?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Revision Diaries (5)

I never give myself enough time. I like to set deadlines-- I will be done with the draft by this day, or I'll send it off to betas by that day-- but I never give myself the proper amount of time.

I had a secret goal that I would be querying by the middle of April.

(Pause for laughter)

Now I can see ridiculous that is. I'll be happy to finish revisions by that time. And then, after I get beta feedback, I'll have more revisions. Then, after the story and characters are solid, I'll go through another round or two of line edits and focus on the language and words and sentence structure.

So, yes. Lots of time before I'm ready to query.

Just today I realized I'll have to rewrite chapter two. Again.

I was never very happy with it. It did what I wanted it to. It moved the story from the new ending of chapter one to the beginning of chapter three. But it wasn't very good. Now, thanks to a great epiphany, I know exactly what to do to make it work.

That's the thing about revisions. You can't rush it. Sometimes you just need time to pass-- days, weeks, months-- for the solution to make itself known.

But the catch, of course, is that this epiphany involves deleting about half the chapter and writing a whole new scene from scratch.

Which is hard. I don't like deleting scenes and starting over. It's a lot of work. But the story will be so much better for it. And, as daunting as it seems, I feel like I owe it to my story and my characters. I have to do the best I can, not the best I care to do as long as it's easy.

At this point, I'm happy with most of my story. But there are bits and pieces I'm not pleased with, and I don't know how to fix those. Yet. I'll just keep working on it until I know. I get closer every day.

Do you set unrealistic deadlines for yourself?
How do you stay sane in the face of all this daunting hard work?

Monday, April 5, 2010

Voices of Dragons by Carrie Vaughn

On one side of the border lies the modern world: the internet, homecoming dances, cell phones. On the other side dwell the ancient monsters who spark humanity's deepest fears: dragons.

Seventeen-year-old Kay Wyatt knows she's breaking the law by rock climbing near the border, but she'd rather have an adventure than follow the rules. When the dragon Artegal unexpectedly saves her life, the rules are abruptly shattered, and a secret friendship grows between them.

But suspicion and terror are the legacy of human and dragon inter­actions, and the fragile truce that has maintained peace between the species is unraveling. As tensions mount and battles begin, Kay and Artegal are caught in the middle. Can their friendship change the course of a war?

In her young-adult debut, New York Times bestselling author Carrie Vaughn presents a distinctly twenty-first-century tale of myths and machines, and an alliance that crosses a seemingly unbridgeable divide.

* * * * * * * * * *

I love the premise of this book. I haven't seen a lot of YA fantasy involving dragons, so this instantly caught my eye. The story of the dragons is truly fascinating-- the atomic blasts from World War II brought the dragons out from their underground hiding spots and a war between people and dragon ensued. It ended with a treaty: the dragons were given land and both sides promised never to cross the border.

The world building was fantastic, and the dragons were really well drawn. Carrie Vaughn is already a NYT bestselling author though this is her first novel for young adults. I think she did a great job at capturing the YA spirit, but it did seem that a couple scenes (like the homecoming dance) were just there to make it feel more teen. It did provide a nice contrast though, as to how simple life was before the war. Once the battles between human and dragons started, I couldn't put the book down!

The tension over the war was gripping, and the way it escalated was very well done. Vaughn definitely has a way with words and her descriptions are beautiful. I really admired the way she handled something so large as a brewing war while all keeping it centered on Kay. The ending is a bit of a cliffhanger though it still manages to wrap things up in a satisfactory way. Regardless, I can't wait for the sequel!

The book came out last month, so no waiting if you want to pick it up. If you're not yet convinced, the awesome people at Harper have the first 60+ pages on their website right here. So go check it out!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

April Goalsies

These recap and goal posts are coming later and later in the month. I'm such a slacker.

(Heh heh, I said 'goal posts'. Like soccer.)

Moving on...

GOALSIES!

1. Finish revising Temper and get to betas!
I'm about halfway through my first pass of revisions, so I want to finish up then send it off to betas to get some feedback!

2. Write three chapters on new project!
It's true. I've started a new project. I'm not doing word count for this one because I'd like to see if setting goals to get to a certain spot in the story works better than word count. Also, I'm writing this one out in a notebook. That's right, actual PEN and PAPER. How old school. I don't want to say too much about this story yet, but it's about FORBIDDEN LOVE and ZOMBIES. The current title is THE INFECTED and I already have a pretty awesome opening.

3. Continue to blog a lot and comment a lot!
The online blogging/writing community is totally awesome. I like being more active, even if it takes up a bunch of my time. It's a fun way to procrastinate! :)

4. Read books!
I'm not setting a number, but ideally I'll read about 6 so I don't fall too far behind. I think I'm going to read a book a day in whatever month I choose to query. Not only will it get me away from the internet and stop me from checking my email 800 times, but I'll get way ahead on the 100 books in 2010 challenge!





What do you hope to accomplish this month?

Friday, April 2, 2010

March Recap

Bye March!

So last month my goals were really straight forward.


1. Finish Temper

What happened: Win! I finished the draft and am about halfway through my first pass of revisions.

2. Blog

What happened: Win! I posted a lot! It was a great way to procrastinate!

3. Comment

What happened: Win! I commented a lot! It was also a great way to procrastinate!

4. Read

What happened: Winish! I read four books, which isn't great, but I was busy with writing and revisions. I'll make it up when I'm querying. I'm thinking about dedicating May (or whatever month I spend querying) to reading a book a day. Best Idea Ever?

* * * * * * * * * *

Books I read in March

1. Heist Society - Ally Carter
My first Ally Carter book! I really liked it. It was fun and interesting, with lots of cool scenes and a great cast of characters.

2. The Body Finder - Kimberly Derting
An awesome and creepy book. Find my full review here.

3. Harry Potter & the Sorcerer's Stone - J.K. Rowling
A re-read, of course. I watched the movie and felt the need to read the book again.

4. Voices of Dragons - Carrie Vaughn
A really cool YA debut from an established adult paranormal author. I'll have a full review up soon!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Revision Diaries (4)

Dear manuscript,

I hate you.

I loathe you.

You are the bane of my existence, that which tortures me through every breath.

You fill me with despair, with anger, with frustration.

Still.

The line dividing love and hatred blurs. They are woven together with a common thread.

Passion.

It is for you that I wake an hour early, drag myself to the computer and stare at the screen through sleepy eyes.

It is for you that I stay up an hour late, lying in bed, staring at the shadowed ceiling, my mind consumed with thoughts of you.

Repairing you.

Polishing you.

Making you great.

And I will. Make you great, that is. I will not rest until you shine.

I will mold you into something wonderful, and I will love you.

All I need is time.

* * * * * * * * * *

Memory is a funny thing. When I was drafting Temper I was desperate to be done. I couldn't wait to get into revisions. Polishing the words already on the page. It all seemed so easy.

Now I'm in the thick of it and wondering what possessed me to feel that way before.

I think back to the time I spent writing the first draft and my memories are fond. Now I'm itching to be there again. In the creating stage. I have pages upon pages of ideas, all of them begging to be written, yet here I am, slogging through this mess of words.

My fingers long for the freedom of drafting. They are restless. They do not like moving slowly through each paragraph, debating commas and contemplating the difference between scamper and scurry.


So which do you like better?
Writing that first draft or revising?
And does it change, depending on your progress or you mood?

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Revision Diaries (3)

I've finished writing the new chapter two, but I've also decided to take two other chapters and expand them into three. This puts Temper at 18 chapters, three more than the first draft ended with.

Revising is going to take more time than I thought. But that's totally okay. I want to do this right. I plan to revise and polish my manuscript until I think it's ready to send to agents-- and then I'll send it to the betas instead.

I think most writers go through phases of loving their ms, then hating it. The only problem is I'm flipping sides every couple minutes. Earlier tonight I wanted to set my computer on fire because I was fighting with chapter two. Now I want to dance through a field of daisies with it. Maybe tomorrow I'll want to delete it again, but for now I am satisfied.

I've also found myself reading through these first five chapters over and over again, because they're shiny and I love them so. Chapter six is a mess. Chapters seven and eight are the ones I'm combining then splitting into three to improve pacing, so there's a ton of work to be done there. It's all very intimidating. So I just keep reading the ones that are done, because they make me happy, and the other ones scare me.

I also have a new idea. Well, not new new. It's one that I've already thought a lot about and wrote up a rough outline for. But I'm pretty sure I'm set on making this my next project. (It helped when I told my crit partner Ina my idea and her response was, "whoa, your brain is awesome.") Anyway, I'm itching to write it. First lines, and character traits, and intense moments are flooding my brain, but The Temper is demanding my editing attention. What a pain.

Well, five chapters down, thirteen to go.

*Sigh*

Better get cracking.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Revision Diaries (2)

I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again.
--Oscar Wilde



I'm revising two chapters a day, which I think works out just right. Each chapter is around 3K words, about 9-12 pages. I read through one chapter, making changes as I go along, then I read through the next chapter, making more changes. Then I go back to the first one, and go through it again. Then the second again.

At this rate I'll finish with this first pass of revisions by the end of March, which is just awesome. It helps that I'm so obsessively organized, and I have detailed notes written up for each chapter's revisions. It also helps immensely that I've divided up the chapters into individual files. I can't believe I never tried this before. It is so, so, so easy to navigate and revise 10 pages at a time. Way less intimidating, too.

This is what my desktop looks like right now. I usually keep everything to the side, nice and orderly, but I'm a very visual person, and this layout helps me stay organized.





First, we have my awesome background, which reminds me what I should be doing if I forget and spend too much time on twitter. Above the WRITE are the chapters not yet revised and the one chapter not yet written-- but outlined, so I'm getting there! Below WRITE are the chapters that have been revised. I read through these again today, and any changes were very minor (like Wilde's commas) so I'm pretty pleased with them.

I still have a lot of work to do, but I am very excited about getting my work out to betas. I love feedback-- good or bad, as long as it's not mean :)

But for now, I must get back to my revisions. I'll leave you with more of my favorite revising quotes.




It is perfectly okay to write garbage – as long as you edit brilliantly.
--C. J. Cherryh



There is no great writing, only great rewriting.
--Justice Brandeis



I have never thought of myself as a good writer. Anyone who wants reassurance of that should read one of my first drafts. But I'm one of the world's great rewriters.
--James A. Michener



I have made this letter longer, because I have not had the time to make it shorter.
--Blaise Pascal



You never learn how to write a novel. You just learn how to write the novel that you're writing.
--Gene Wolfe

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Revision Diaries (1)

I've decided to jump right into revisions. I know, I know. You're supposed to give it a rest. But for me, that part comes later. Since I outline so very much, my revisions aren't super crazy. At least not until I get some outsider feedback and they point out things I would never see. Then my brain explodes.

So far I've mapped out two new chapters: one is brand new, and one is the result of splitting a chapter. Right now my main concern is this brand new chapter. Because I have to write the thing. From scratch. And it totally wasn't part of my original outline. But I changed the end of chapter one (based on some awesome feedback from my crit partner) so I needed a new chapter two. The good news is that the old chapter two is being renamed Chapter Three, and not much else is changing there.

As of now, The Temper has grown from 15 chapters to 17. I've created 17 new word docs and copy/pasted each chapter into it's own separate file. This makes it waaaay easy to focus on one chapter at a time, and once I have them all smoothed out individually, I'll put 'em back together and make sure it works as a whole.


On my revision list I have:

-One chapter that needs to be drafted (the biggest priority right now).
-One chapter that I don't really like, so I need to fix that.
-Two chapters that are messy and full of telling vs. showing.
-Two chapters with messy beginnings, but the rest is okay.
-Three chapters that need more description/world building.
-Three chapters that are supposed to be heavy/emotional, so I need to make sure that is accomplished.
-Three chapters that need general smoothing out-- adverbs, dialogue tags, little bits of telling vs. showing, that sort of thing.
-Two chapters that are pretty much polished/done (for now).


Today I'll be working on the chapter that needs to be drafted, and adding about 3K words in the process. Which is fantastic, as I want to beef up the story. It's looking a little anemic at 46K.

Okay, this is the part where you guys tell me your revisions are just as obsessive compulsive as this and I am not a crazy person, and this is completely normal (normal for writers, not normal for regular, sane human beings).

Mmmkay?

Saturday, March 20, 2010

HECK YES

It's 5:30 a.m.

I work in six hours.

I wrote about 5K words today.

And I'm very happy to announce:

THE FIRST DRAFT OF THE TEMPER IS DONE!!!!

Complete at 46,021 words, quite short of my projected word count of 60K.

It will beef up a bit in edits. I already know of a couple scenes I need to add or flesh out. It'll probably end up around 55K.

BUT STILL.

I'm so happy to be done with this stage!

Let the revising begin!

(But first I think I'll sleep for a while.)

<3
Kat



P.S.-
SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting


A serial killer on the loose. A girl with a morbid ability. And the boy who would never let anything happen to her.

Violet Ambrose can find the dead. Or at least, those who have been murdered. She can sense the echoes they leave behind... and the imprints they leave on their killers. As if that weren't enough to deal with during junior year, she also has a sudden, inexplicable, and consuming crush on her best friend since childhood, Jay Heaton.

Now a serial killer has begun terrorizing Violet's small town... and she realizes she might be the only person who can stop him.




I've seen quite a few reviews of this book, and people are raving about it. I mean, one blogger loved it so much she decided to have a Body Finder themed birthday party, complete with an awesome cake.

The Body Finder was intense and gripping, with a hefty side of romance. I've read a lot of love triangles lately, so it was nice to see a different kind of relationship-- a girl pining after a boy who's been her best friend since they were kids. Violet is really likable, and right away I was on her side and wanting her to end up with Jay. I loved how Derting developed the relationship, it was very well written. I could feel Violet's pain from being close to Jay all the time while never being close enough, and I was really rooting for them to get together. I thought it was so accurate of many high school crushes.

The paranormal aspects of the story hooked me from the prologue. (Side note: TBF is a great example of a prologue that works. It was short, relevant and grabbed my attention immediately.) I also loved that there were a few chapters scattered throughout from the killer's point of view. It kept the tension high while also giving a look inside his very warped mind.

I did see the twist coming early on, but the paranormal and romantic elements keep this serial killer story fresh and unique. My only complaint was that the last chapter ended immediately after the climax, and the epilogue picked up a two months later and was just a few pages long. I know this is common for suspense stories, but I would have liked a bit more. While a little on the abrupt side, it was still totally satisfying and didn't feel rushed or unfinished. It's the kind of ending that leaves you breathless.

Overall, The Body Finder was another amazing debut (2010 is proving to be a great year for books!) and I can't wait for Kimberly's next novel, Desires of the Dead, which is a sequel to TBF and due out in 2011!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Three Words

Imagine your novel just debuted, and it's making the rounds on the blogosphere book review circuit. And people are loving it! You're getting rave reviews! (Stop drooling.)

Can you picture it?

Good. What are people saying?

I can't recall the specific site (it's probably several) but I remember reading a book review in which the reviewer chose three words to describe the book overall. My reaction: That's a great thing for writers to figure out to better understand their ms!

You don't want generic words like "entertaining" or "well-written" because obviously your book should be those things anyway. Be as specific as you can. Try to capture the essence of the book. Try to capture what mood you want to leave your readers in.

After thinking about it for a while, I came up with this:

The Temper - cool, comical, and quirky

Okay, okay, cool isn't super specific, but it's just the best word for some of the things that go down in this book. I mean, using a block of ice to surf on a gigantic wave in an exploding lake? That's just cool. I want The Temper to come off as funny, but comical is a better word choice because I want it to feel sort of comic book-y and humorous. Then I chose quirky because the characters are on the strange side, and a lot of the superpowers are absurd.

After I finish The Temper (Soooooon, I hope!) and jump into revising, I'm going to keep these three words in mind. It will help me cut, create or tweak sentences and paragraphs to better convey what I want my story to be.




You guys know the drill...


What three words would YOU choose to describe your current wip?


Also,

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Website!

Okay! So I went ahead and registered katokeeffe.com

All my comments disappeared :(

But now it's done! Things will be a little sketch here over the next couple of days, so if any links are acting crazy, let me know and I'll try to fix it!

And now I can rest easy knowing that another Kat O'Keeffe isn't going to sneak up and steal my domain name! Whew!

<3

UPDATE 5:15 PM: Holy guacamole, my comments are back! I'm not sure if this is temporary, as they're still a little wonky, but they're back!

By Any Other Name

I redid my blog layout! If you're reading in Google Reader you might need to click through to see. The pretty layout of black with green, blue and pink swirls disappeared (I think the site hosting the background picture died). It made me sad, but I've also been meaning to change my layout for a while, so maybe it was just the push I needed. Plus, I spent a couple hours in photoshop creating a cool little header. Pretty.

I was also considering registering my domain name so instead of www.kat-tastic.blogspot.com it'd be something like katokeeffe.com, which is much more professional.

HOWEVER, there are two things holding me up.

First, I would lose all my comments. Every comment on every post is saved to the site kat-tastic.blogspot.com, so if I change it, all my wonderful comments from all my wonderful blogging friends (you guys!) would be lost FOREVER.

Second, I'm not sure which domain name I would want.
KatOkeeffe.com?
KathleenOkeeffe.com?
KGOkeeffe.com?
A totally different pseudonym?

I'm not sure if I should register, say, katokeeffe.com because what if an agent or publisher thinks I should write under a gender neutral name, a la J.K. Rowling? Or a different name altogether?

On the flip side, now that blogger has this new page feature so your blog can look more like a real website, wouldn't I want it to be as professional as possible? And plus, if I'm going to register a name and lose all the comments eventually, wouldn't sooner be better? When I query The Temper (soon I hope!) I'd like to include my blog address so agents can check it out if they like. But is kat-tastic.blogspot.com too unprofessional sounding?

It's all very confusing. Maybe I should just query Kathleen Ortiz, a jr agent and foreign rights manager. She runs a publishing blog at kortizzle.blogspot.com. Not only do we share the same first name (and the same initials, ha!) but it seems like she'd get me.


What do you guys think?
Have you registered a domain name yet?
Are you planning to write under your own name, or a pseudonym?

Monday, March 15, 2010

On Book Signings

I live in the middle of nowhere.

Okay, that's not true. I live in the middle of northern California. But close enough.

The coast is an hour and a half away. San Francisco is about 2 1/2 hours away. And my town only has two Starbucks. Scary, eh? We have one main local bookstore (no Borders or BN here!) and they never have author signings.

However, last week there was a book signing in Petaluma, which is only about an hour away. The author was Lauren Oliver, the book was Before I Fall. And I missed it because I didn't even know about it! Very sad-making. I've heard Lauren is awesome.

Lucky for me, Daisy Whitney (who is also awesome and whose novel The Mockingbirds debuts this fall) did go to the signing and she was nice enough to get me a personalized copy!

(Love!)


I'm still a little bummed I couldn't go myself, but now I'm keeping an eye out for signings I might want to attend. And guess what I found?

John Green and David Levithan for Will Grayson, Will Grayson
Monday April 26, 7PM / Books Inc/Not Your Mothers Book Club / 601 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco CA

So, yes. I'm going to that. San Fran is a couple hours away but it'll be worth it. I love John Green's books, and everyone says David Levithan is great, so I can't wait to meet them both!


Questions for you:
Have you ever been to book signing?
Which author would you love to meet?


Also, if you live in the SF bay area, are you planning to go to this event? If so, let me know! Maybe we can get lunch and gush about books! :)

Another also, I love HarperCollins so very much. They've sent me more books, but instead of ARCs they gave me finished copies! Of books that don't come out until tomorrow! I love them (the books, and the wonderful people at HarperCollins). Can't wait to read!


Friday, March 12, 2010

Debut Ponderings

Most aspiring authors spend a lot of time dreaming about the one. Their debut novel. Their first adventure into the world of publishing.

One problem: Which one is the one?

I have a lot of ideas. And I mean A LOT. Last count I had... (skims through notebook quickly) (Gulps) (Skims through again, double checking obscene number) (Oh, wow, it's accurate) SEVENTY-FOUR IDEAS. Whoa.

Okay, so some of these seventy-four ideas are just barely ideas. One sentence describing a very very brief story. Some I've actually thought a lot about. Some have character names.

Some are just things I wrote down on a whim, like when Colleen Lindsay said she wanted a YA steampunk novel about girl gangsters in the 19th century, or when all the hoopla was going on about Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and I decided I was going to jump on the bandwagon and write a zombie Hamlet story called Rosencrantz and Gildenstern are Undead. (I *still* think that's a good idea.) But I have to face reality: there is a very, super slim chance I will ever outline one of these two novel ideas let alone write it. There's potential sure, each of those could totally be flushed out into a whole story, but will I ever do it? Meh. Probably not.

Of the seventy-four ideas, let me count how many I actually have outlined and plan to write... Okay, thirty-six. That's, uh, a little better.

Now let's narrow it down even more, of those thirty-six, which ones do I really want to see published. Which ones am I willing to put all the hard work into to bring them to life.... twenty-one.

Now of those twenty-one, which ones would I want to be my debut... I can narrow it down to ten. Ten fully formed ideas, all of which have at least a basic outline. All of them have character names. All of them have different plots.

But the main thing is, as a debut, each would take my career in a different direction. It's all about author branding. If your debut is about a teen boy who saves the city from a supervillain, then your sophomore novel probably won't be a sweeping historical romance. (Actually, no, I don't have any ideas for a sweeping historical romance. Which is weird, because you'd think out of 74 at least one might be... but no.)

I have a little chart in one of my notebooks, showing the possible course of projects if a certain project is my debut. For example, The Temper -> Temper Sequel -> Wanted (bounty hunters) -> The Cure (zombies) -> Blood Ties. The first four books feature a boy MC, though The Cure has a strong romance plot. I think of it this way: fans of Temper would like Wanted, fans of Wanted would like The Cure, fans of The Cure would like Blood Ties. But not all fans of Temper would like Blood Ties, and probably wouldn't like that jump. It's all about building your audience/fan base while still appealing to the original fans.

But lets say Temper isn't my debut. Lets say Blood Ties is. The following novels would be totally different. Blood Ties -> Blood Bonds (sequel) -> The Cure -> Wanted -> Temper. Of course, this is just one progression, purposely made to include Temper at some point. I could stretch it out a lot longer, filling in more girly type novels before The Cure, like Plural of Love, or Confessions of the Dead, or The Fallen (like I said, I have too many ideas.) It all depends on which direction I want to take it.

Hm. Well, those are my thoughts for the day. Keep in mind, nothing I ever say is a hard and fast rule. Most of the time I have no idea what I'm talking about :)


What's your opinion on the debut-sophomore relationship?
What novel would you like to be your debut?