Wednesday, February 24, 2010


I'm a strong believer in rewards, especially when it comes down to the debate of rewards vs. punishment. I think that decreasing the bad or increasing the good works far better than decreasing the good or increasing the bad. I like to reward myself when I reach certain goals, and looking forward to something nice is way more incentive than beating myself up about not reaching my goals.

As of such, I have a couple rewards lined up for myself when I accomplish certain things.

Standard rewards:

When I complete a chapter I get coffee. Not just any coffee, I get any drink I want from Starbucks. It's too expensive to buy everyday, but as my chapters run between 3-5K words, it's a great reward that also jump starts the next chapter.

When I complete a draft, my boyfriend takes me out to dinner. We don't eat out very often, and we don't eat fast food at all. Wait, actually we've been failing at this a lot lately. February is a bad month for eating out-- my birthday, v-day, that one night we were too lazy to cook... Anyway, finishing a draft is a nice excuse to go out. If only I could pump out drafts like crazy instead of one every six months.

A special reward:

When I complete my next draft I get to buy a laser printer. I've been meaning to get one for a while, and I'll be needing one when it comes time to edit and query, so it seems like the perfect reward.

Dream rewards:

Ah, we all have these. Certain things you will do or buy when you get an agent or land a book deal. I don't have any specific celebration planned for when I get an agent (probably lots of dancing and squeeing), but there are some things I plan to buy when I get a book deal. I have my heart set on two things. First, I want to buy a really nice coffee maker. Like, one that makes espresso and steams milk and everything. No more Starbucks! No more putting on shoes or pants to get coffee! Second, I really want to buy a Macbook. My laptop is old and super slow, and my desktop is, well, on my desk. Portability! Plus, pretty!

So, my questions for you:

Do you reward yourself for meeting writing goals?

What are you planning to buy when you finally get a book deal? (You know you've been dreaming about it.)

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Need To Read

The winner of my big birthday contest is...


I've already emailed you. Please reply so I can get those books out to you!!


* * * * * * * *

Now, onto something else. I have lots of great looking books in my TBR pile, but I'm not sure which one to pick up next, so I'm asking for suggestions!

What book do I need to read ASAP?

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray
The Maze Runner by James Dashner
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

There are lots more, too. I counted yesterday, and there are 63 books I've never read on my shelves, and more coming in the mail! But I've seen the above books recommended over and over again, so I narrowed it down to these 8 and now I need to pick one!

See you later!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Writing Process VIII: Synopsis

Another secret: I like writing the synopsis, too. It's like an outline, and you all know I love outlines.

I usually write a synopsis-like draft before beginning the story, but I do have a method for writing a synopsis after the whole manuscript is complete. This works best for me because I usually have 15-20 chapters, thus my synopsis will end up between 3-5 pages.

So. Here is my quick and dirty guide to writing a synopsis.

The first paragraph is an intro paragraph. Briefly introduce the main character and the immediate action at hand. Work in the details about the character with action, don't just info dump. Even in a synopsis that's not fun to read. Set up the world and conflict.

A possible intro paragraph for Temper would be something like:

Set in a fantasy world where superheroes protect the city from villains, those with useful abilities can get a job at Hero Headquarters, where the benefits are sweet and the paychecks are sweeter. Connor Thomas has a useful ability-- he can heat or cool any non-living object with the touch of his hand. He also wants nothing to do with Hero Headquarters. Ever since his hero parents were murdered on the job, Connor has vowed to stay away from that kind of life. But Connor and his older brother, Sinker, are broke. As in ramen-for-breakfast-lunch-and-dinner broke. And those paychecks really are quite sweet.

This sets up the world, gives us the main character, and gives us conflict already: Connor needs money, and while he doesn't want a job at HH, he's running out of options. He's desperate. This ups the stakes right away.

Then I turn to my manuscript and write a single paragraph for every chapter. I don't just write a summary, I keep track of the main characters and plot arcs as they move through the story. Every chapter should be relevant to character and plot. If you find you can completely leave it out of the synopsis, maybe you should be leaving it out of the novel.

I take my single paragraph summaries and put them all in order, then I read through a couple (dozen) times, trimming unnecessary sentences and making sure the transitions between paragraphs flow correctly.

I don't usually need a conclusion paragraph, because the last chapter is the resolution, and should tie everything up nicely. Again, this is just how I do it. This method may or may not work for you. There are many different ways to write a synopsis. Play around with it and discover what works best for you... just like everything else when it comes to writing a novel. No two authors go about it in the same way.

Anyway, here are some synopsis-y links I like:
Manuscript Formatting pt. 3: The Synopsis (All about formatting)
Writing a Synopsis (A nice collection of article links)
Writing a Synopsis from the ground up (My favorite-- very helpful!)

Thus concludes this series on my writing process! Weeee I can finally talk about something else!

See you soon!

What do you think of the synopsis?
How do you write one?

Friday, February 19, 2010

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

What if you had only one day to live? What would you do? Who would you kiss? And how far would you go to save your own life?

Samantha Kingston has it all—looks, popularity, the perfect boyfriend. Friday, February 12th should be just another day in her charmed life. Instead, it’s her last. The catch: Samantha still wakes up the next morning. In fact, she re-lives the last day of her life seven times, until she realizes that by making even the slightest changes, she may hold more power than she had ever imagined.

As you all know, I had big big expectations for Before I Fall. It did not disappoint.

Before I Fall is beautifully written, touching and realistic. After I finished reading it (at five in the morning because I had to finish this 480 pg book in one sitting!) I wanted to check out some other reviews before posting mine. And I seem to be in the minority here, but I did not hate Sam or her friends at first, as so many others have. Yes, it's true, Sam and her friends are not very nice in the beginning, but right away I found their friendship with one another to be a great redeeming factor.

The friendship between the girls is very realistic-- their interactions, the way they talk to each other. How close they are and how much they love one another makes them more likable. Even when we learn just how cruel Sam's friend Lindsay can be, we care about her because, despite her flaws, Sam still loves her. And even in the end, when Sam has re-evaluated her relationships with people and is seeing her boyfriend and her nerdy former friend differently, Sam still loves her three best friends immensely.

Like I already mentioned, this book kept me up until dawn. (Okay, I did make the mistake of starting it at 11 p.m.) The tension throughout is so gripping, you have to keep reading. When you're not wondering what Sam will do on the next repeated day, you're compelled to rip through the book because you need to find out: What happens to Sam in the end?

And of course, the ending to the story is amazing. It shows just how much Sam has grown and matured as she learns what really matters, and the choices she makes in the end are so different from what she would have done in the beginning.

I will admit, when I read the last page my initial reaction was disappointment. That's it? That's what happens? There's no more? BUT by the time I closed the book and set it down, my opinion had already changed. The ending truly is perfect. It's exactly what should have happened, and it makes the book that much better. It gives the book more weight, more relevance. It's the perfect ending to a book that is guaranteed to stick with you, long after you've set it down.

Before I Fall is not a book you want to miss. It comes out on March 2, and I feel so lucky to have had the chance to read it before then. Lauren Oliver has really created something special here.

Not yet convinced? You can read the first 100 pages or so on the HarperTeen site RIGHT NOW, RIGHT HERE.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Writing Process VII: The Query

Secret: I actually like the query letter.

Composing the query letter and synopsis are great fun for me. Why? Because the first draft is quick and then I get to spend time revising and editing and making it beautiful.

I usually write the first draft of what later becomes the query letter very early on-- before I've started writing, after/during the outlining process. It helps me figure out my story.

For example, this is the pitch I wrote up for The Temper back when it was little more than an idea:

16-year-old Connor "The Temper" Thomas has a unique (albeit unimpressive) superpower-- he can heat or cool things with a touch of his hand. When he gets a sidekick job with the legendary superhero Captain Power, he thinks he'll be saving the world. He's less than pleased when he discovers his main responsibilities are keeping the coffee warm and acting as a human ice pack when the Captain's shoulders are sore.

When Captain Power dies during a self staged publicity act gone wrong, Connor feels pressured to assume his identity. The city needs a hero. Or at least the illusion of one. As Connor fumbles through a rescue and thwarts a heist or two, he has almost everyone fooled. Only Freezepop, another sidekick, suspects that there's something different about the Captain. But the villains believe that Captain Power still protects the city, and so they stay away.

When Freezepop discovers the truth she tries to convince Connor to go public- before he gets himself killed trying to keep up with the heroic persona. But identity theft becomes the least of Connor's worries when a super villain comes to town. Blaze Blitz is the real deal- ruthless, determined and diabolical. And he has his eyes set on Captain Power.

Connor knows he's no match for Blaze, but when Blaze kidnaps Freezepop and threatens the town, Connor knows what he must do: defeat the bad guy, rescue the girl, save the city. And hopefully survive long enough to see the sunrise.

Keeping coffee warm never seemed so preferable.

It was hard not to edit this, but I wanted to show you guys my original, untouched draft. Right away I see a lot I can change-- make some sentences snappier, maybe trim it down a bit (it's a little wordy). Also I have four characters in this version, and generally you want to keep it down to two or three. This could work though, because the names are pretty unique and each character is important enough to stand out.

When writing a query, I like to break it down. Most stories can be divided into three acts. The Temper is no different. The first act is the setup, Connor gets the job as a sidekick and we are introduced to his life and world. The first act ends with Captain Power's death. The second act is all about Connor pretending to be Power. And the third act begins when Blaze Blitz enters the picture. I try to cover all these acts-- briefly-- in my query.

Of course there are many more subplots and other things going on in my story. I don't even mention Connor's brother, who plays a very important role. So how do I know what to include and what to talk about? I refer to my log line-- the ONE sentence pitch of my story.

When reluctant sidekick Connor "The Temper" Thomas assumes the identity of his fallen superhero, he never expects an actual villain will come to town and put both his lie and his life in jeopardy.

So this is what my story is about. This is what I talk about in my query.

We have all the basics, protagonist (reluctant sidekick), inciting incident (assumes the identity of his fallen superhero), and what is at risk (his lie and his life).

For my query, I elaborate on this. The draft I have above will be edited many more times before I dare to send it out, but since I write my queries early, I have plenty of time to tool around with it.

In conclusion:

Keep queries brief-- aim for about 250 words. Cover the basics-- the protagonist, the choice he/she faces, and the consequences. Agents want to be able to answer questions like: Why should I care? What is at risk? Try condensing your story into a single sentence pitch, then build your query up from there.

Next up: Synopsis! (Eek!)

Have any query writing advice? Please share in the comments!
Do you love or hate composing a query letter?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Writing Process VI: Revisions & Line Edits

After I receive the lovely feedback from my even lovelier betas, I sift through it and decide what major changes I need to make. Plot holes, continuity errors, unclear character motivations-- all that good stuff. However, I don't make the changes right away.

I take a short break from my novel and I let their feedback and suggestions settle in my brain. If one points out a plot hole, I brainstorm how to fill that plot hole. If one says that they didn't get why character x was in love with character y, then I think about how to fix that. Should I add a scene? Tweak a scene? What do I need to do to make this clear to the reader?

During this time I like to read a lot of books. See how other authors do it. Analyze their books and figure out what works, and how they make it work so well. Or, if the book I happen to chose is especially horrid, what makes it so bad? And how do I avoid that in my novel?

When I've figured out how to fix all the problems, I make a list of rewrites/changes. Then I tackle them ONE AT A TIME. Sometimes this is pretty easy, like if it's just one scene that needs to be rewritten. But if I need to change something that affects an entire storyline then I need to follow it through the whole story and make sure it's coherent.

After I finish all my revisions/rewrites, I do a line edit, making sure each and every sentence is as good as possible. Then I make sure the transitions between sentences are as good as possible. Then I make sure every paragraph is as good as possible. Then the paragraph transitions. You get the idea. Basically I make sure everything is shiny and polished and perfect and flows.

This stage takes the longest. Well, except maybe the first drafting stage, but that's because I really know how to procrastinate.

When I'm all done, I send my novel off to another round of betas, at least one who's already read it, and at least one who hasn't. If the one who's already read it likes it better, then mission accomplished! If the one who had not yet read it doesn't point out the problems other betas had previously mentioned, then mission accomplished!

If they point out any other issues I start back at the beginning, but hopefully the story works and any other/new problems are really minimal.

While all this is going on, I'm working on another step... The Query Letter!

How do you revise?

I do everything on the computer, even though it gets really tiring after a while. I'd love to print out pages and do paper edits, but it's just too expensive! I need a laser printer :)


Sunday, February 7, 2010

Kat's Super Awesome Birthday Plans

So, it's my birthday tomorrow (unless the apocalypse hits tonight), and as of such I have planned the most awesome birthday ever. Well, in my opinion anyway.

I'm going to spend my birthday writing. The whole day. (Except for dinner, my boyfriend is taking me out to a nice restaurant.) I've requested the day off from work and I'll have the whole house to myself (boyfriend=college classes all day).

I have my tools:

Open Office



And to make sure it's the best birthday ever, I'm going to attempt the most words I've ever written in one day. My previous record is about 9K, so I'm aiming for a solid 10K words.

Not only does writing all day in jammies sound like the ideal birthday (or just ideal day in general, really) but if I accomplish my goal I will be extremely happy and proud of myself. It will certainly be a day well spent.

What are your ideal birthday plans?
What was the best birthday you ever had?

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Writing Process V: Betas

This is the step I always want to rush. See, sometimes I have a hard time looking at my projects objectively. Not the writing style, exactly, because I can usually tell which sentences suck and which ones rock. But sometimes I have trouble seeing if my execution, my scene structure and my ideas are brilliant or just plain bad. Which is why I always want to rush to get my work to someone else. Even if I'm only on chapter three.

If I send out my first (and only) chapters to get critiqued, the outcome is usually partially good and partially bad.

The good: I get that pat on the head, the affirmation that I'm heading in the right direction (usually). This can help motivate me to write more.

The bad: If it needs a lot of work, I can get discouraged. Or too caught up in fixing/editing/perfecting that I can't move on until those first three chapters are sparkling like a vampire in the sun. (heh heh)

So now I'm trying to be patient. I need to finish a manuscript before rounding up the betas. Though it is sometimes hard, especially when I'm torn between projects and would really just love to send the first 40 pages of like three different projects to a beta to ascertain which one has the most potential.

Personally, I like beta-ing. I feel lucky that I get to read these awesome WiPs before everyone else. (I have talented friends, that helps!) Plus, it helps me look at projects objectively, and I can often take that objective eye back to my writing and improve on my own. Reading and critiquing can really make you into a better writer.

My advice for dealing with beta readers:

* Find good critique partners and stay dedicated. If someone critiques your work, don't back out when it's your turn. Help one another. Really root for your partner's success. Commit yourself to reading and critiquing as best you can. (Don't give a lazy critique, that helps no one.)

* Partner up with someone who gets your writing, and who is familiar with your genre, preferably someone who regularly reads and writes in your genre. Don't just grab any beta off the street. Talk to them first. Feel them out. Make sure you're a good match.

* Don't take the negative comments personally, they are really trying to help! (and if they really really aren't, you need to find a non-evil critique partner.)

* You don't have to go through with every suggestion they make. Take what you like, leave what you don't. They are only opinions, after all. (But if everyone who reads your project points out the same problems, then yeah, maybe you should listen.)

Next up: Writing Process VI: Line Edit

How did you find your critique partner(s)?
What's your favorite bit of critique related advice?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Writing Process IV: Page Editing

After I finish my first draft, I do a round of edits I call 'page edits'. This is exactly what it sounds like. I go one page at a time, fixing sentence structure, paragraph structure, dialogue, typos and all that good stuff.

But most importantly, I try to take out as much as I can. I read each page as though it were an excerpt of my story that I was using to get your attention. Is every single page entertaining? Does every single page make me want to read more?

I cut anything unnecessary, trim and tighten what is left, and polish so that each and every page will give the reader a clear sense of motivation/drive, character development, action, plot-- something. Every page is critical.

Needless to say, this takes quite a while. Sometimes after I've been doing it for a couple hours I get lazy, and start skimming pages. This is when I know I have to stop, and pick up tomorrow a couple pages back from where I leave off.

However, this is often one of my favorite parts in the writing process. I get to look at all the pretty words that are already there (and already rather polished, due to my obsessive editing as I draft) and all I have to do is make them prettier.

One interesting thing: when I'm editing I have to have music going on in the background. While drafting I can write with music, or without. Sometimes it doesn't matter, sometimes I have a preference based on my mood. (With The Temper I'm writing a lot with no music, just silence.) But I always listen to music while editing, though the type of music changes per project. (I love and I don't know what I'd do without them!)

Next up: Writing Process V: Beta Readers

See you soon!

What is your next step after finishing a first draft?
Do you listen to music while writing/editing?

Monday, February 1, 2010

February Goalsies

It's that time again!

1. Write 30K on any projects
(More than 1K/day, but I need to play catch up after my month of slacking.)

2. Fix Blood Ties
(Delete the parts that need deleting, add the character that needs adding, and just generally fix the story up to where I am. No extra words, just some repairs and polishing so it's ready for more words.)

3. Write 10 blog posts this month
(Finish the Writing Process series, and hold a super awesome contest when I reach 100 followers [which will hopefully be this month-- I'm only five away! Tell your friends.])

4. Comment on friends' blogs more
(If you leave me a comment, I will visit your blog and return the favor. No exceptions. Yell at me if I don't.)

5. Read 8 books
(At least one from this list, and one from this list.)

6. Turn twenty-two!
(This is easy, assuming the apocalypse holds off for one more week.)

7. There is no seventh goal, but I have a strange affinity for prime numbers

Moving on...

Blood Ties @ 61,296 (Ha! One more word than last month. Guess I did write on it a little.)
Temper @ 19,468

Okay. It's 9 PM and I have to write 1K.

Later guys!

What are your goals this month?