Friday, December 30, 2011

Friday Obsessions: ZOMBIE TAG, Sleeping at Last, Vegetable Barley Soup

Hey Everyone!  Seeing as how tomorrow is the last day of 2011 and all, I *was* going to do a big ol' year-long obsessions post summing up everything I was obsessed with all year. But then Nesyah got banished from preschool for alleged pinkeye (no, she does NOT have pinkeye. Ugh.) and so we're having a ladies' day at home today, and SO....this one's gonna be quick.  Here we go!

Everything I was obsessed with this week.
Because I know you want to know.

1. ZOMBIE TAG by Hannah Moskowitz. It's no secret that I love Hannah's YA stuff - BREAK was an obsession of mine a couple of months ago. Last Tuesday, her first MG novel came out, and my goodness is it ever awesome. You know how sometimes people write books for little-ish kids, but really they're equally amazing for adults? Like A WRINKLE IN TIME and THE GIVER? Yeah. ZOMBIE TAG is like that. It's sweet and a little sad and absolutely beautiful, just like we've come to expect from Ms. Moskowitz. So go buy it. Now.

Of course, my boys were only interested in the rules for the game Zombie Tag, which, for their 3- and 4-year old brains, consist of hitting each other with spatulas. Which is also awesome.


2. Page 28 by Sleeping at Last
Sleeping at Last rules. They can make the cheesiest of cheesy lyrics sound amazing and powerful. There aren't that many in this song, but it's about writing and love and...guuuuuh. Just listen to it.

3. Vegetable Barley Soup
Writers! Do you have pages to draft or revisions to make or crit to get done but somehow other people in your household expect you to do things like cook dinner and speak to them? I know. It's ridiculous.

Well, I'm gonna help you out with the cooking part, at least. It's cold, right? Everyone loves a hearty soup, right? Okay. So do this:

 Get a can of crushed tomatoes, a bag of frozen veggies, a can of beans, and whatever other odds and ends are in your fridge about to start stinking. Throw all of that in a crockpot or a big pot on the stove with some water and a couple little handfuls of barley, some salt and pepper and garlic, and then leave it alone for a few hours.

 (If you want, you can take your laptop in the kitchen with you, pretend you're schvitzing over dinner, and get like an hour's worth of work done instead.)

It's dinner! It's homemade! It took you two seconds! Now get back to writing.

Okay my loves, it's your turn! 
What were you obsessed with this week?

Thursday, December 29, 2011

PSA: Unagenteds - Give Me Your Stuff!

I'm totally psyched that I get to guest post over at Zap's Lobster Tank next Friday for "F---ing Awesome Friday." I'm going to be writing about how F---ing Awesome UNAGENTED (/unpublished) WRITERS are. 

So. If you are an unagented and/or unpublished writer, send something you're proud of to me at leighannkopans [at] gmail [dot] com.  Could be a concept, an excerpt, a sentence, a TITLE for crying out loud.  Just...whatever you have that your agent-seeking fingers have toiled over that makes you say, "Yeah. I am F---ing Awesome." I know you have it.

I'm going to do my best to work everyone's contributions into the post. Because you are F---ing Awesome, unagentedsDon't forget it.

(Oh! And if you are an unagented writer and you know that I think you're F---ing Awesome - i.e., I have harassed you for your manuscript, synopsis, kissing scenes, or anything PLEASEGOD that lets me read more of your book...don't think you can get out of this. I'm coming after you.  You know who you are.

Because, after all - if you don't have rabid fans, what DO you have? )

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Tale of Two Queries (Drafting Your Query While Drafting Your MS)

As much as I hate it, I know. All writers seeking traditional publication must write a query. I know. 

I'm not about to ignore the advice of sage individuals like Peggy Eddleman who instruct us to work on our query letters for almost as long as we work on our manuscripts - seriously, months and months. (Listen, a few months ago I would have conveniently ignored her but considering that this was one of the things that helped get her her rockstar agent and all....well...yeah. I'd better listen to Peggy.)

Anyway. Yesterday I was all whining about how, now that the first draft was done and I'm hoping to query in April, I should probably get to work writing that first query draft. It was making my stomach twist and drop and my heart race and my head feel light for all the reasons I've already told you. ONE is my baby! She's the only thing that helped me get over my first MS! How can I just condense her into a couple of paragraphs and send her out into the world? People might misunderstand her! People might most certainly will (God forbid) REJECT her! It's all too much.

But then, Jessica shook some sense into me, all the way from the West Coast.
Not to mention she was seriously enthusiastic about critiquing whatever hot mess of a query draft I managed to put together. By some strange miracle.

So, after I'd finished weeping over Chessie's NaNo novel a second time (read: finished my in-line crits, and now I can finally start to emotionally recover until the next time I pick up the wonderful heartwrenching blasted thing) I sat down and got to work.

First move - head over to query-writing guru Elana Johnson's website and her collection of blog posts on the topic. 

Got it. No problem.

I mean, I KNOW all these things about ONE. I should be able to write a goshdarn 250-word letter summing them up, right?  So, I spent a good two hours breaking my head over the letter. Here's what I came up with for the first couple lines:

All Merrin Grey has ever wanted is to be able to fly like a real Super. At sixteen years old, the entire Super world is conviced that she'll always be a sad floating freak.

Merrin’s betting on a transfer to Nelson “Normal” High to let her fly under the radar while she gets good enough at Organic Chemistry to wrangle a job at the Supers’ Biotech Hub. 

*YAWN* In case you couldn't tell, this freaking sucks. This makes EVEN ME want to chuck ONE in the trash. And it just got worse and worse.

But if I'm anything, you guys, I'm a trooper. So I kept at it and got together about 250 words with the Hook, Setup, Conflict, and Consequences. Knowing it was full of too many details and emdashes, among other things, I sighed a heavy sigh as I prepared to send the whole horrid thing to Jess and watch her tear it limb from limb.  All I needed was the wording for the last line, and since my brain was fried, I figured I'd just lift it from my last query letter for drafting purposes.

I punched "query" into the search field of Evernote and guess what popped up, like an oasis in the middle of a freaking writer's desert?
A query I wrote for ONE back in August. Two weeks after I started drafting.
See, at one point, I had been a righteous follower of Guru Elana Johnson, who gently advises us to write the query before we write the manuscript.
But August-me got frustrated, reasoned that, since I'm a pantser, this advice didn't apply to me, and abandoned the query to concentrate on drafting.

Anyway. Here were the first few lines I found in that blessed File from the Past:

Sixteen-year-old Merrin Gray can float, but she can't make herself fly. When almost everyone else is a Super, with at least two powers, or a Normal, with none, being a One is the worst kind of in-between.

The rest of that letter was equally hook-y and voice-y and simple, and made my heart jump. "Yep! THAT's what ONE is about," I said to myself. After a few tweaks, it was off to Jess's inbox, and here's what she said:

Then, yeah, she sent me detailed crit in my inbox. But I'll be darned - she hardly hated it at all. 

Lessons: Query Guru Elana Johnson is always right. You know more about the bones and basic themes about your book when you first start drafting. You're probably also way less tired of it, emotionally attached to it, and mired in its details then. So just spend a bit of time drafting one up. Stick in in your files or notes. Who knows? It might do you a LOT of good later.

Also, no matter what stage your MS is in, buck up and write your damn query.

And in case you're wondering, I did send Jess the last deleted (kissing plus) scene from ONE in thanks. Because that kick in the bottom was exactly what I needed.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Flaw 'Em Up! (Crit Diaries)

Before we get started: A request. I'm totally psyched that I get to guest post over at Zap's Lobster Tank next Friday for "F---ing Awesome Friday." I'm going to be writing about how F---ing Awesome UNAGENTED (/unpublished) WRITERS are. 

So. If you are an unagented and/or unpublished writer, send me something you're proud of.  Could be a concept, an excerpt, a sentence, a TITLE for crying out loud.  Just...whatever you have that your agent-seeking fingers have toiled over that makes you say, "Yeah. I am F---ing Awesome." I know you have it.

I'm going to do my best to work everyone's contributions into the post. Because you are F---ing Awesome, unagenteds. Don't forget it.

(Oh! And if you are an unagented writer and you know that I think you're F---ing Awesome - i.e., I have harassed you for your manuscript, synopsis, kissing scenes, or anything PLEASEGOD that lets me read more of your book...don't think you can get out of this. I'm coming after you. Yeah, Jamie Gray and Marcy Kate. That's you.

Because, after all - if you don't have rabid fans, what DO you have? )

Now, on with the post.
Well, friends, it's that time of the manuscript again.
Chessie and Maggie are plowing through crit at a pretty impressive clip, and along with the "break the paragraph here"s and "What made you fall in love with run-on sentences this year?"s and "Elias sounds like an old man"s, I'm also starting to sort through the novel's meta-questions.

When I sent the ladies my manuscript, I asked them to keep a lookout for a few things.
To avoid my second lead, Elias, being a douchebag (not least to avoid Gina's wrath), I didn't give him any really STRONG flaws. At least, not any obviously egregious ones.  And I wanted to know if it was a problem.

We all know that a main character must have identifiable flaws. For one thing, they make her believable, and for another, they clarify her character arc - how she's going to grow and change throughout the story - for the reader.  So, we writers worth our salt get to work flawing our main characters up. Maybe they have low self-confidence, or they are are really rude, or stuck-up, or can't handle their tempers, or maybe they don't believe in Love (*happy sigh*.) 

But what about secondary leads? How flawed must secondary leads, or any supporting characters, be in order to be believable - in order for us to root for them?
Before critique on ONE even got rolling, I posed this question to my patient writing coach Jean, and then after Chessie had hung out with Elias for a bit I asked the same of her. And they both answered the same way:

Every character must have a flaw, but the reader only needs to see it to the extent that it interacts with your main character's arc. Mostly because your character can't go this story on her own. She has to have people doing stuff and causing events for her to react to, and without flaws, other characters won't do that. 

In other words? Your cast of characters is kind of like Voltron. One unbelievably-unflawed link, and it all goes to hell.

So, in other words, the more involved your characters are with the main character's story, the more of their flaws the reader should be able to see.  For example, I'm pretty sure that Merrin's biology teacher spends too much cash on comic books and too little saving for retirement. But we don't see that, because they only thing he does in this book is look at Mer and Elias scoldingly for breaking curfew on a school trip. No problem.

But Elias has a pretty major, if quiet, flaw that ends up causing kind of a lot of trouble in its own way. Now, I could give him no flaws, so that he could just skate through the story holding Mer's hand and boosting her self-confidence, but then people would throw my book across the room. Because a perfect character is unbelievable, especially one that we see so much of,  the whole STORY would become unbelievable.

Okay, readers. Your turn! Please regale us with stories of how you've flawed your supporting characters up, and what that meant for the way you wrote your story.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Friday Obsessions: Inspirational Quotes, Coconut Bonbons, and Ilana the Drummer

Hello, writing/reading/friend-type loves! It's been a bang-up week over here. While Christian folk are still getting ready for their holiday, we Jews are smack-dab in the middle of ours. I'm a weird mix of exhausted already and psyched for the rest. Check out my Chanukah monsters on night one.

Well, enough of that. Let's get on with the show.

Here's everything I was obsessed with this week.
Because I know you want to know.

1. Inspirational Writing Quotes. Yeah. I'm a cheeseball. (Hope Gina will still be friends with me.)

Being done with drafting leaves me a bit more...creative time on my hands. Since I'm all in a critique partner head these few days, my version of "making stuff" seems to be "making inspirational quotes about writing pretty in Photoshop."

I did one today, which I'll share here, mostly because the next one I'm prettying up involves profanity. (What can you do? Brilliance is brilliance.) Here ya go.

2. Coconut Bonbons.  So, you know how I used to live in Kansas City? And it pretty much was not a really great place for our family to live except for, like five reasons?

Well, one of those reasons was Chase coconut bonbons. They're made in Missouri and sold in grocery stores in about a two-hour radius of the factory. And I miss them. Dearly.

So, you know, I had a pretty decent run over at the Miss Snark's First Victim Baker's Dozen auction, and also I'm six months pregnant and darn uncomfortable already, and I was all, I DESERVE SOME BONBONS. So I ordered a bunch of them, and now they are back in my mouth again. Nom nom.


3. Another amazing girl drummer.
I added this song to the playlist for critiquing Chessie's NaNo book (which, oh yeah, obsession #4 this week), and then I was thinking about how my MC is a drummer and how she would totally own the drum line on this song. So of course I searched for a drum cover of it on You Tube, and lo, the heavens opened and gave me this video of teen-girl Ilana TOTALLY OWNING THE DRUM LINE on this song.

And seriously, you guys? If her hair's a little lighter and wavier, she's my MC and I just...I don't even....gaaaaah. I cannot stop watching this video. (Thanks, Ilana. You rule.)

That's about it for me!  Now it's your turn - tell me what you were obsessed with this week down in the comments - I seriously want to know.

(And I'll leave you with my Chanukah greeting to writers and general BAMFs alike:)

Happy Chanukah Leigh Ann

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

How to Have a Healthy CP relationship

I've heard, "Your CPs are too close to your books." a couple of times. I think that what people are really saying is that my CPs are too close to ME.

I don't think that's true. First of all, I haven't ever actually met my CPs in person. (I mean, seriously. For all they know, I could be a 50-year-old chain smoking prisoner in Colorado. One who writes cute books about superheroes and kissing, but still.) BUT because I think that's irrelevant, I'll give a different reason.

My CPs are my CPs because they're more invested in the health of my work than anything else. And because that depends on the health of me AS A WRITER, they have their work cut out for them. It's a tough balance to strike. It's a mixture of cheerleading, encouragement, sympathy, and understanding, balanced with a ruthlessly tough and objective eye.

Wanna be awesome like my CPs? Here's how.
(Note: These steps are for my "close readers"  - I also have betas, who do an overall read and don't get their hands nearly so dirty, which also has its super-important place.)

1. Gush over the book during the first read through. This shows your CP that you love the project and you are invested in helping her get it into tip-top querying shape.

My CPs raved on Twitter, as you know, but I also got big fat emails from them with initial reactions. Either or both of these will work, but it gives the writer confidence that she hasn't made the wrong decision by sending her stuff out for crit, and that it's good enough for other eyes to work on.

2. Tweet lines you love and other fabulous stuff as you critique.  It's really easy to use the hashtag #amcritiquing and tag your CP. My ladies will even quote a bit of the book with the hashtag #lineswelove every once in awhile.

It's easy for a writer to get stuck in an edits/revisions slump and convince herself that not only is she going to have to completely overhaul her book, but also that it will never ever EVER be finished. If you can manage to toss out little bits of love here and there, it not only assures your CP that you're actually working on her stuff, but buoys her confidence, piece by piece, to get her ready for the third (and technically most important) step...

3. Tear that sucker to shreds in (regularly sent) crit.

(Photo Credit Anne Mini)

Obviously, this is where the actual "critique" in "Critique Partner" comes in. You need to find every single problem in that manuscript and suggest a fix if you can possibly think of one. You need to be the eyes where your sweet writer friend was blind, either from love of her characters, desire to make the story flow just the way she envisioned it, and, maybe most treacherous, attachment to her darlings.

For example: Chessie just sent me the critique for the first five chapters of ONE, which, remember, we all know she loves. Here's what she did:
  • Told me to cut a supporting character
  • Told me that another supporting character just seems like a plot device (which OMG he is, so I've gotta cut him too.)
  • Called me out on countless run-on, confusing, and clunky sentences
  • Alerted me to every single place my main character made her roll her eyes (which, spoiler: wasn't none.)
  • Brought up a major flaw with the way my main character views those around her
  • Caught several instances of sloppy writing (example: I changed the villian's name about halfway through the book, but left his old name in Chapter 2)
  • Told me I should probably combine the first two chapters into one, effectively cutting half the stuff.
  • Left 110 comment bubbles and tons of in-line edit marks, changing everything from typos to bad punctuation.
Not huge changes, no. But there is a LOT of critique there, and it's just the beginning. 
How do I feel about it? PSYCHED. Because I know that she seriously combed these chapters and called out everything she could see that was wrong or that bothered her. I know she'll keep doing it, and I'm 100% confident my other close readers will do the same.

My point is this. Gushing over a book on Twitter and loving on your CP will only get her so far. It's only worth anything - is only a healthy CP relationship - if you're going to step up and help your writer friend make her stuff even better. 

So, get to work bringing the pain. Your CP will thank you for it.

(For another post about welcoming devastating news from your crit partners, check out this one that I wrote while Gina was critiquing THE TRAVELERS.)

What are your tips for making sure you and your CPs have the best critiquing relationship for you?  Tell me in the comments, so I can add to my arsenal.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Riding the First Draft High

This past weekend was the most emotionally overwhelming of my entire writing life. (Which, fine, admittedly has only been a year long. But whatever.)

Nope! I'm not complaining, not at all. It was completely awesome.

See, I finished my first-pass edit of my second (!!!) novel, ONE, and sent it to my first-round CPs, biting my nails and breathing into a paper bag.

I'm not sure if it was just well-timed, or if my CPs have an extraordinary kindness of heart, but Chessie read it in less than 24 hours and Maggie did it in less than 48.

Which, on its own, would have been amazing. But, you guys: While they were reading? They LIVE FREAKING TWEETED ABOUT IT.

So Chessie let me know she was starting....
Fullscreen capture 12172011 20410 PM.bmp
(which made me hole up with twitter for the next 12 hours. Thank goodness it only took her that long to finish it.)

and so did Maggie...
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Then Maggie quoted...
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Then Chessie fell in love with the second lead (*SQUEEE*)
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Then Maggie hit Chapter 10, or "The Beginning of Act 2"
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Then Chessie went to Sam's Club....
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....came home, and sped through the rest of the book.....

Then she tweeted this.....
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....and I died.

THEN she tweeted this:
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....and I could not contain myself.

Maggie gushed over the ending too, making me freak out even more.....
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And then Chess tweeted THIS
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And you guys KNOW how much I was worried about that...

...and so....YEAH.

Obviously this post is reflective of the near-manic state of the first-draft-initial-CP-read-through high I'm riding on.
But it feels soooo good. (It really truly is like a drug.)
And I know it will be crushed soon enough when the crits and revisions start rolling in.

So let's all just hold hands and grin like Cheshires for awhile, shall we, friends?

(Thank you.)

Please take a moment in the comments to tell me about YOUR experience with the First Draft High. You know, so that I don't feel quite so insane.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Friday Obsessions: New T-shirt, Avengers Menorah, and Reading! Lots of Reading!

Sometimes the week flies by so fast that I swear I won't have anything I've been obsessing over to share with you on Friday. And then...whaddaya know? So, here it is -

Everything I was obsessed with this week.
Because I know you want to know.

1. My new t-shirt.

Okay. So being a Jew and whatnot, I'm not exactly accustomed to giving and receiving Christmas gifts. But when Gina started talking about the epic package she was going to send me for Christmas, well, I got pretty stoked. She's so thoughtful that I knew it'd be something sweet.

You guys? I totally underestimated her. Check out the t-shirt G sent me.

Confused? There are no inside jokes here. Click over to this post where I explain it all.

Bahahahaha are you laughing yet? Because I did for a good twenty minutes. And then I wore the shirt to work the next day. And I'll probably wear it again this weekend.

2. The Avengers Menorah.

I want my kids to be psyched about Chanukah. So when I hauled out the Chanukah box and realized that our kid menorahs are a little....well, not lame, I wouldn't say, but cutesey-boring maybe?....I asked the boys what kind of menorah they wanted this year. I figured I'd Google it, order one, and we'd have a great holiday.

They told me they wanted an Avengers menorah.

But Avengers menorahs do not exist....

until now.

Behold, my craftiest craftiness of the year. I stole some of their toys, and a block of wood, some hardware nuts, spray paint, and a s*%t ton of epoxy, and we've got ourselves one of our very own.  Yeah, I was totally obsessed with getting this done. So. Worth it.

3. Reading. So so much reading.

Guess what I finally got on my Kindle just about an hour ago?

The Official First Draft of ONE!

Since it's hanging out in Chessie and Maggie's inboxes right now, and there's not much for me to do on it until they start sending me bits of feedback....

I get to read. A lot.
It feels luxurious.

Check out my TBR pile:

Not to mention, I get to start critiquing a second project for Chessie! I am seriously over-the-moon-obsessed.

Oh! And Prince Charming. But that's a given. Here's a picture anyway. (You're welcome.)

Your turn, loves! What were YOU obsessed with this week?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Make Them Obsessed and Tear Their Hearts Out

So, I got to read the sequel to THE NOCTURNIAN, the YA Sci-Fi novel Francesca's querying right now, over the past couple of weeks. 

(I know. You're seething with jealousy. And you should be. Here's why:)

I finished the book and I felt like I needed a moment to be alone, just so I could deal with it being over.

Chessie's asked me what I thought about it, and I feel bad that I can't really put it into words any better than that. But it's true. There was a sense of completion, victory and hope, underlaid with a very acute feeling of loss. Something irreparable. Something life-changing.  It felt like there was sort of an emptiness, where the book had taken a little piece of my heart that I couldn't really ever get back.

What I could say about the book was this: The last book  that made me feel that way at the end was POSSESSION by Elana Johnson. The one before that? CATCHING FIRE, the second book in THE HUNGER GAMES trilogy.


Now, there have been plenty of books I've really really enjoyed that did NOT make me feel like that. Those books fall into the (much more easily definable) category of "Obsessed." That means, to me, that even when I'm not reading, I'm thinking about the story. Songs  I hear on the radio make me think of that-one-chapter-when. I see someone at a coffee shop, and think, "Oh! That looks just like Alexis." I can't hear something about Paris on the news without thinking of the fictional hi jinx that occurred there in that one book I loved so much.

So all my CPs' books fall into that category, (duh)  right along with HARRY POTTER and TWILIGHT.

All these books are ones I am passionate about, for one of two reasons:

1. I'm obsessed with the world and/or the characters and/OR
2. I feel like my heart got torn out and trampled on by the end.

Of course, I want to write a story that others are passionate about. After all, a book's not going to sell too well if people pick it up, read some pages, say, "eh," and put it down again.

This is only my second project, and so I'm still not quite sure how to go about inspiring obsession.  But I think I have some idea of how to tear hearts out.

This brings me to a post my CP and writing-life coach Jean made recently about war in fiction. In the blog, she discusses her WiP,  and how even though it's about kid assassins (I know! Awesome, right?) it's really about war.

Then I commented that  reading about war is so gut-wrenching, because at the end, no one wins. And that's the worst part of the whole thing.

And then I thought, well, that's really how real life is, isn't it? There are no one hundred percent happy endings. For stories to feel real, and identifiable, and to tear the readers' hearts out and put them back in again not-quite-whole...there has to be a sense that no one really won here. Even if there was a literal win, like of a battle (oh hey HARRY POTTER) there's still going to be a lot lost.

The same sense we feel in our own lives.
The same things that build us up and tear us down.
The same things we know to be true.
The same things that make us human will make our characters and our stories human too.

Quite frankly, this is something I think is a little flawed about my first project. Sure, there's a bit of loss, and it's something that punches me in the gut every time. But I'm not sure it's something every reader would care about. In writing ONE, it was one of my hopes that, in achieving some of her goals, my MC also had to sacrifice a great deal. I think I'm getting a lot better at that with this second project.

So, what makes you crazy-in-love with a book? And what are you doing to make that happen in your own writing?

Monday, December 12, 2011

What's the rush?

My dear friend and writing-life coach, Jean, asked me an important question last week. I was in the midst of one of my work/life/family/writing balance breakdowns (which happen every 14 days like clockwork), struggling to figure out how I was going to do my day job, keep my house non-condemnable, get decent meals cooked, love on my kids, AND finish this draft.

After all, I had promised it to my first round CPs at the beginning of November. Then the beginning of December. And here I was, staring at December 9th on the calendar, and wondering how it had taken me five and a half weeks to finish a simple first-pass edit.

So I typed Jean a tear-filled email (I believe Gina was the one to get it about a month ago, you ladies are troopers) about the laundry and crumbs in the carpet and trash that needed to be taken out and bathtubs that needed to be bleached. And how it wasn't possible to do all the things that needed to be done AND hug my babies AND sleep AND get any writing done.

She wrote back a long email that showed that she heard what I was saying and that she sympathized, but what she really wanted to say was right there at the end:

"What's the rush?"

So that question stayed on my mind for several days, as the dear patient lady continued to correspond with me via novel-length email after novel-length email. After all, I know very well that I don't have an editor or even an agent to put me on deadline. (Believe me. I KNOW.) And I know that, as an unagented writer, it won't make a difference whether my project takes days, weeks, months, or even years longer to complete. So why should I rush?

verb (used with object)
5. to perform, accomplish, or finish with speed, impetuosity, or violence.

Okay. Well, I obviously shouldn't do that. We all know that an impetuously sent query (or a violently sent one, yeesh) is the kiss of death for a writer. But even at this stage of the game, I don't want to waste my CPs' time by sending them a hastily, haphazardly thrown together manuscript.

So, I asked myself again, "Whats' the rush?" (Because Jean is wise, you know.) 

I started to realize that it wasn't necessarily a sense of rush I felt, but a sense of drive. The feeling that I wouldn't be able to think about anything else, rest easy, or even breathe unless I made a least one little step every day on this draft.

I could convince myself that I'd be okay without writing a little bit every day, but after four or five days of ignoring ONE, I started to get mighty cranky, and resentful, and just generally down in the dumps. (Also my main character would start to scream at me, and you don't want to be near her when she's angry.)

What I learned from this was: I know there's no rush to finish any project, any time. But for me? There's definitely a rush when it comes to writing:

2. the immediate pleasurable feeling produced by a drug (as heroin or amphetamine)

Yep. My name is Leigh Ann Kopans, and I am a writing addict. 

What about you? Do you feel a sense of rush when it comes to your projects? Help me feel not-so-crazy down in the comments.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Friday Obsessions: David/Mary Margaret, the Breaking Dawn Soundtrack, and Chanukah!

(Before we begin: a Special "Hiiiiii!" and hugs to my new followers! You are amazing. Yep! YOU.)

Everything I was obsessed with this week. 
Because I know you want to know.

1. David and Mary Margaret from "Once Upon a Time." Don't groan. If you follow this blog, you're gonna hear about these two in more than one Friday Obsessions post. Just go with it. Let the awesomeness sweep over you.

I've decided that in an alternate universe David/Prince Charming is my boyfriend and Mary Margaret/Snow White is my bestie. (Yes, I know it might get complicated. That's okay.) He's so gorgeous! (Watch his lips move. Juuuust watch 'em.) She's so adorably pretty! He's so heroic! She's the best friend a girl could ask for! What's not to love?

Watch this scene and just try to tell me, in all seriousness, that your heart doesn't break. JUST TRY.

2. The Breaking Dawn Soundtrack. Don't hate. (And CPs, prepare yourselves, you're all getting a burned copy for Christmas. I'm an evangelist. Love me or leave me.)

Oh! You want my favorite tracks? I thought you'd never ask.
Christina Perri's "A Thousand Years" (makes me think of my mains from THE TRAVELERS, tears my heart out every time.)
Cider Sky's "Northern Lights" (makes me think of the happy times for my MCs in ONE - noticing a pattern here?)
Iron & Wine's "Flightless Bird, American Mouth - Wedding Version" (Guh. Gorgeousness.)

3. Chanukah. 
I'm normally opposed to getting too psyched for Chanukah before, well, Chanukah.
Here's why. Not only is Chanukah eight nights long, but we do pretty much the exact same thing every night. (Light the candles, sing the songs, fumble to pry chocolate coins out of their foil wrappers before the children eat us instead.) So, my fear is that the kids will get all blase about Chanukah by, like, night five, and by the end of it, they'll just kind of lay on the carpet, stare at the menorah, and say, "Oh, that again?"  (Remember, my kids are only 4, 3, and 18 months, so I don't have decades of experience here.)

In past years, I haven't hauled The Chanukah Box out of storage until the day of candlelighting #1. But this Wednesday (T-13 days till Chanukah) my doula called looking for some dreidels for a Boy Scout thing, and I was set to facilitate a Chanukah prep program for area interfaith families that required I bring my own menorah, so I had to crack The Box open way early.

Of course the kids hover over any box to come out of storage, sweet little vultures that they are. Their chubby hands hauled out the glittered Jewish-star garland from preschool last year, dreidels in all shapes and sizes, our copy of "A Rugrats Chanukah," every Chanukah toy on the face of the planet, and all ten million of our Chanukah books, along with copious amount of wintertide cheer. As I watched my them spend hours (seriously! hours!) stuffing candles in  the plush menorah and flipping wooden latkes, and then poring over THE RUNAWAY DREIDEL and CHANUKAH BUGS, my heart grew three sizes and I let them keep all the stuff out for a few days.

And of course, now I'm kind of obsessed with Chanukah too. Two weeks too early. Oh well.

Here's a shot from last year at our house, in case you want to catch the Chanukah warm-fuzzies too.

Okay, my dears, it's your turn. What were you obsessed with this week?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

One Year On

One year ago today, I woke up with an idea in my head and frantically typed 5,000 words of a story that would become THE TRAVELERS.

That day, I thought a lot of things about my writing self.

I thought that writing was some silly endeavor I had to try to get out of my system.
I didn't know that writing was something absolutely ingrained in me, desperate to be let free.

I thought that those 5,000 words were captivating, stunning, AWESOME.
I didn't know that they weren't (but I'd learn to make them better.)

I thought that I'd just write this one book and be done with it.
I didn't know I'd write this book, then write another one, then dream up the skeleton for a third, before the year was out.

I thought there was no way I'd ever show my book to anyone.
I didn't know that the handful of people I ended up showing my book to would become absolute lifelines for me, writing and otherwise, and very dear friends.

I thought that, when those people gave me constructive criticism, I would curl up in a ball and die.
I didn't know that the critique-and-revision stage would turn out to be my absolute most favorite part of the whole process.

I thought that writing and blogging about it would make me even more disconnected than I already planned to be.
I didn't know that so so many of you would find my little blog, like reading what I have to say, and support me along the rocky road that I've only just started out on. (Hi, followers! I really do love each and every one of you.)

I thought that writing was ridiculous because it didn't match up with all the career goals I'd had (and achieved!) before.
I didn't know that becoming an author was a dream living deep inside me that I never knew I had.

I thought that all writing this book would accomplish was losing me sleep and buoying me through a tough year.
I didn't know writing would become part of how I think, the way I look at the world, and who I am.

And, just because you might be wondering....

I thought my book would suck.
It doesn't.

Oh! And those five thousand words? Only one sentence out of them survived to make it to the manuscript I'm querying now. (Yeah. I had a lot to learn.) But that sentence, still perfectly intact, is one of my favorites in the whole book - and looking on my first notes dated one year ago today, I know it was in me from the very beginning:

Could it be possible to belong to someone she had never met?

So, even though I was hating on Past Me something fierce on Monday, today, on my one-year-writerversary, I want to give Past Me a great big hug. She's absolutely changed my life.

Your turn! Tell me what reflections and revelations you've had on your writerversaries. Can't wait to tear up at all your sweet stories.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Editing Me HATES Drafting Me

So, ONE is only my second project, which means I'm still really learning about my whole writing process.

When I wrote THE TRAVELERS I edited as I went. I didn't have to do that with ONE - I was generally really happy with the stuff I put on the screen. I like to think that's because, after the experience of writing a first manuscript, I understand things like character arcs, pacing, and plot better.

 I really, really thought it was because I was slowly slowly moving away from being a 100% reckless fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pantser, and toward having more-or-less fleshed out story lines and plot in the first draft.

I thought. Then I merrily went through the first draft to clean up passive voice, word repetition, etc and.....

A lot of chapters were ready to be polished, loved on, gushed over, lovingly shined up. I'd say 3/4 of them. And then, in  others, I had written Future Me sweet notes like, "Add more intrigue here," "Fill in this newspaper story," or, worst, "Finish this scene."

Excuse me, Past Me? FINISH THIS SCENE?????

But the worst - the WORST - is that the last four chapters seem to be little collections of scene-fragments that I thought Future Me would be absolutely freaking delighted to sift and sort through, and, of course, FINISH WRITING.

So, while Past Me was all gushing about the first draft being finished, Future Me was just waiting in the wings to read through the "first draft," then walk up to Past Me and do this:

Past Me, who do you think I am? An heiress whose choices for filling my day are: "Finish Writing Scenes" or "Get a Pedicure?" A Woman of Leisure? Are you freaking kidding me, Past Me?

I hate you. 

(But I do really appreciate that one really pretty scene you wrote. And the angsty convo between the MC and her mom. And, you know, the whole idea for ONE in general. Oh! And that one kiss. So, I guess, thanks. I might not claw your eyes out after all.)

What about you? Have you ever hated a Past Writing You?  Commiserate with me in the comments. 

Friday, December 2, 2011

Friday Obsessions: New Crit/Revising, Baker's Dozen, and Spiced Pear-Raspberry Sauce

(returning after a week's hiatus...)

Everything I was obsessed with this week. 
Because I know you want to know.

1. Revising TT.

It's just a teensy bit. Just a few lines here and there, that will greatly improve a character, and maybe up her woodchipper factor.

Here's what went down: I was lucky enough to get new crit from a friend, and she said something that all my other CPs had said as well, something that I agreed with. But I didn't know how to fix it and still have the story happen like it had to happen. A few months down the road, though, and I've entered a phase of my writing, or maybe it's a better relationship with my CPs, where I can admit, "I see what you're saying, and I agree with it. I'm just too dense/stupid/clueless to know how to fix it."

So I finally say that to my CPs, and they say, "Oh, okay. Well, here's how."

Oh. OH. And look! All the things are already in place in the story, I just have to USE them! OH!!!
(illustration credit:, who continually knocks my socks off.)

So I had the lightbulb moment, and now am completely obsessed with putting the plan into action. I already told David about the whole debacle, and he's cool with me holing up in the study as much as possible this weekend. But I'm starting now.

(Alexa - would you mind checking out my changes along with the other ladies? I'll buy you Jeni's.)

2. And the revision inspiration is due to The Baker's Dozen Auction over at Authoress Anonymous's "Miss Snark's First Victim" Blog. I was lucky and my entry got pulled from the slush (which included authors and books  more awesome than me/mine) along with 59 others to be critiqued by peers and hopefully bid for on Tuesday. If you have a moment, go visit, pick an entry that catches your eye, and leave a critique. The authors REALLY appreciate it - don't forget to be encouraging!

3. Spiced Pear Raspberry Sauce. So, I went grocery shopping yesterday (yes, in my boring life, this is exciting, because I normally go at like 6AM on Sunday and frankly it's getting old) and these gorgeous red pears were on sale. I bought, like, six pounds of them and decided to make pear sauce. Then I was cleaning out my freezer and found some raspberries from the summer (oops.) I put them all in the crock pot with some  brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and lemon zest, and a couple hours later I threw the whole thing in the blender.


It. Is. Amazing.

I'm actually thinking of getting some vanilla ice cream for the sole purpose of drowning it in this. (Any other flavor suggestions? I'm a little dense when it comes to combos like this.)

Bonus: My kids hate it. More for me!

Okay, those are my boring obsessions of the week! How about you? What are you obsessed with this week?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Anti-Procrastination Live Blog

Hi my most patient and dedicated of readers! Thursday is my day (mostly) off, and I don't have to be anywhere until 5:30, so I'm anti-procrastination live-blogging today!

I want to edit the final five (!!!!) Chapters of ONE, then send it to Kinkos to print so I can start doing the second-pass edit this weekend.

In addition, I have an insane amount of cooking and cleaning to do.

This morning's cooking projects include:
Double batch of oatmeal chocolate chip muffins
Spiced pear sauce (I am seriously freaking-out excited to eat this)
Chopping veggies for chicken and noodles today, cholent tomorrow, and lentil soup Tuesday
Chicken and noodles for dinner
Double batch of matzo balls
Eggs for breakfast sandwiches for the next two days
Prep the kids' lunches for tomorrow

I also have to:
Clean 2  1 bathrooms
Change the kids' sheets
Change our sheets
Do two loads of laundry
(Folded two) Fold five loads of laundry and put away six
Re-hang all the work clothes I have strewn around the study right now.
Clean the dining room table (does yours accumulate as much crap as ours?)
Clean the living room and spot-clean the carpets (kids are disgusting. We'll leave it at that.)

Wheee! Let's go.

4:45 AM - I drag myself out of bed. Clearly still trying to work out the best sleep schedule to wake up refreshed and alert, because all I can manage to do for the next hour is answer a few emails and comment on a few blogs. FAIL.

5:45 AM - Hair and makeup done and coffee brewed.

7:15 AM - One load of laundry in. Double batch of muffins done. Kids woken, fed, dressed, and packed in the car.

7:20 AM - David offers to take the kids to school and I almost weep with relief.

7:30 AM - Kids are gone and I'm off to grocery shop.

8:45 AM - Return home from grocery shopping with waaay more groceries than I intended (trying to avoid shopping Sunday, so I got a whole load instead of just the ingredients I needed today.)

8:55 AM - Get on the computer to submit my pitch to the Op Awesome Contest because it opens at 9. Navigate to the site and see that there are already 15 comments!!!! What!?!? Scramble to copy and paste my (prepped, thanks CPs) pitch from Evernote, click "post," then realize IT WAS THE WRONG PITCH. WHY DIDN'T EVERNOTE SYNC #&%$&*($&%()(????????

9:00 AM - Finally get the right pitch posted, then realize the punctuation is bad. Kill me now.

9:20 - Have procrastinated and chatted a bit on Twitter a bit. *hangs head in shame* Although. I have made an important decision. It's a JANE EYRE (read: Michael Fassbender) kind of morning. Gonna get to work now with it playing in the background.

(I know. Yum.)
10:45 - Groceries put away, veggies chopped, portioned, and stored, Pears, raspberries (found in the back of the freezer ftw) and orange zest in the crock pot for pear sauce, chicken soup simmering, matzo ball batter chilling.  Fruit washed and cut for kids' next three meals.

10:48 - Paused to watch the most romantic scene in the whole damn movie. Goooood timing. Mmmm.

11:30 - Laundry's in, lunches packed, tweeted a spell, movie's over. ("Edward, I am come back to you." Guh.)  Switching to MANSFIELD PARK!

1:45 - Finished the chicken and noodles, the matza balls, and the eggs for breakfasts for the next couple mornings. First load of dishes drying, cleaned the kitchen (had to do a deeper clean than anticipated because it was scuz-zy), took out the trash, cleaned out the fridge, froze a bunch of chicken broth. Mopped the floor. Finished the loads of laundry.

Take cookies and pizza crusts off the cooking list because they're just not necessary today.

Read an email from my dear darling awesome CP Jean giving me some crit about TT's first 100 pages. It was one of those awesome crits that had me nodding my head in agreement most of the time, and also has my stomach twisting because now I'm wondering if I should try to make those edits before Baker's Dozen goes live to agents (i.e. lock myself in the office all weekend editing.) I think they would probably take 6-8 hours. Emailing my other CPs to ask a "what would you do?"

Oh, geez. Oh geez.

1:55 - Okay, reading the email again, maybe the edits aren't that earth-shattering at all. Maybe it would take me on the low end of 6-8 hours.

Also, Alexa sent me this:

*jaw drops*

2:10 - Get a call from the pregnant-lady chiro I've been trying to see that she can take me at 4:45 tonight!!! Heavens rejoice!!!! (Because I'm pretty sure my back's gonna fall off sometime here.) Email my boss, hope it's okay that I don't come to this event at 5:30 tonight and try to make it to a later one instead.

2:31 - Ohhh geez. Realize I've been sitting staring at the computer for the last 20 minutes doing pretty much nothing. &$*(+@*&(*& Off to clean the bathrooms.

3:00 - Threw a second load of dishes in the dishwasher, blended up the pear sauce (you guys I swear to you I am a freaking culinary genius.

3:15 - Change the kids' bedding. Discover a pile of blankets that are damp and smell distinctly of urine. I'd like to say it was one of the boys, but I'm pretty sure it was Nesyah, since her chubby little naked booty was running around the house for a good fifteen minutes this morning. That's loads three, four, and five of laundry.

3:45 -  Cleaned the kids' bathroom (the grossest) and pick up the living room. Contemplate scraping melted crayon off the heating vents. Decide against it. Clean fingerprints off the TV and dust everything ("dust" = scrape dried yogurt and smeared chocolate chips off several surfaces.)

4:10 - Change laundry and vaccuum everything, after digging wads of accumulated dirt out of the vaccuum.

4:20 - Check email. A relief since hips are about to shake apart and onto the floor. A SUPER relief because ALL OF MY CPs HAVE ANSWERED MY EMAIL OMG I LOVE THEM SO MUCH. They say I shouldn't do all the edits, but I should tackle one of them. That, I can handle.

4:48 - Okay. Reply to my CPs, who are all freaking geniuses, then make up the bed and fold some laundry SUPER quickly. Hopefully get a little writing done between 5:15 and when the monsters sweet baby darlings get home.

8:00 - After a fast appointment, managed to fold two loads of laundry and put them away. Gave the kids dinner - Nesyah and Asher at FIFTEEN matza balls between them. They must be mutants. Bathtime, bedtime, collapse. Luckily David is game to serve me dinner while I lounge on the couch.

11:00 - Wake up from having fallen asleep on the couch. Check my email (duh.) CHESSIE HAS SUGGESTED THE PERFECT SOLUTION TO MY MS PROBLEM. And now the gears in my head are turning. Return the email, make some in-MS notes in my Kindle, and crash in my real bed this time. Starting all over again tomorrow!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Wishing for a Writer's Deus Ex Machina

I don't know when to quit. With this book, anyway.

I wish there was some mechanism, a whooping alarm or a decisive trap door or something, that would sound off when I've sent my last query on THE TRAVELERS. You know, the last one I should reasonably send. Before I go into delusional writer's territory, querying a book that will Just Never Make It.

I know all the inspirational stories. Everyone rejected J.K. Rowling. Brodi Ashton queried a hundred agents. Elana Johnson queried 188 (one hundred and eighty-eight!) before she found her agent.

But maybe (probably) I'm not Brodi Ashton or Elana Johnson. Maybe I'm not talented enough. Or my first novel is too first-novelish. Or people don't care if the main character gets fed through a woodchipper.

I went through all the things listed in this post for how to tell if it's time to put your novel away, and I thought they maybe applied to TT. But I didn't know if I really felt that way, or if it was rejection-based disappointment flapping its jaw.

So when do I give up? When does this novel get lovingly wrapped in paper and stuffed in a drawer?

How did Beth Revis, who has NINE drawer-novels, know when to put each of them away?

In the lowest of the query trenches (form rejections on my subs!) the answer felt like, "Right now, you idiot, how could you have even thought you should query this piece of garbage?"

This sign would have helped. Maybe a good business to market to writers?

So, I tried to declare my own Deus Ex Machina (yes, I'm aware that's the opposite of how it works. Shut up.) And I said that if my project wasn't pulled for the next round of the Miss Snark's First Victim Baker's Dozen Auction, I'd put it on the shelf, forget about it for now, and pour myself fully into ONE. It had a 10% chance of being pulled from contest slush, so I thought it would at least be a definitive "yes" or "no." (I want to say very clearly for the record that all my CPs thought that this idea was completely moronic.)

And then a crazy thing happened. The ladies doing the choosing pulled TT from the slush and decided to put it on the auction block. There went my big plan for knowing for sure when to quit. The auction goes live to crit on Friday and to agents on Tuesday, and it just might be the big opportunity for me that it was for these ladies last year.

It's a funny thing, writing these projects we love. The littlest thing can get us down, make us want to host a manuscript-based bonfire party. But then something else can bring us right back to loving our manuscript, and save it from a future in the drawer for another week, or another month.

And the only thing we know for certain is that nothing about this business is easy - not even knowing when to quit.

Have you ever drawered a project? How did you know when it was time? Were you as much of a drama queen about it as I've been?

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Perks and Pitfalls of Sending a Second Project Out for Crit

I thought that the most terrifying emails to send would be queries.

I was wrong.

See, ONE is about ready to fly to my crit partners' inboxes for critique. (A couple weeks now. Juuust a couple weeks.)

And I am completely freaking out.

Funny Cry For Help Ecard: Rather than sticking with meditation, I'm sticking with chronic anxiety.

See, I've known these ladies for months and months now. I consider them dear friends. I trust their advice, both about writing and life in general (and fashion, duh) implicitly.  So why am I so stressed about asking them to leave their comments on a manuscript that I KNOW needs critique? That I'm absolutely DYING for feedback on?

It really makes no sense at all. I know that this manuscript is better than the first draft of THE TRAVELERS I sent to Gina this June (poor, poor Gina.) They've all read excerpts (and Excerpts) and been all, "Wheee, I can't wait to read this, hurry up and edit!"

Well - it's precisely BECAUSE I know/love them so well that I'm worried, I think. Deep down, here is what I'm afraid the reaction will be. The crit reaction is first, but the reaction I'm really scared of is in parentheses.

  • This story is stupid/boring/makes no sense (you are stupid/boring/make no sense)
  • This story is essentially the same as the last one you wrote. (Don't you have a single new idea ever?)
  • You can cut this whole chapter. (Why have you wasted my time making me read this whole chapter?)
  • Your dialogue punctuation is consistently incorrect. (I thought you told me you graduated from High School...?)
  • Etc., etc., etc.

Funny Cry For Help Ecard: I'll be publicly sobbing for the next few weeks.

But. The rational part of my brain reminds me that the manuscript needs critique/revision. The only way I'm going to get it is from critique partners. And here's where the wonderfulness of sending a second project to the same group comes in. I already know that my CPs are  the best - I mean THE BEST I can hope for. Here's why:

  • I trust them implicitly. When they tell me to change something, I change it, or at least take them seriously enough to figure out what was bugging them and how I can fix it, even if it's not the exact change they suggested. And that's BECAUSE
  • They care about me and my book. When they make suggestions, exclamations, or giant red slashy lines, on my manuscript, it's all in the name of making my book better and helping me succeed - not cutting me down, or making themselves feel superior, or nitpicking just to nitpick.
  • I can predict the things that will bug them, and remind myself in advance that they are not personal judgements against me. For example:

I know that Gina will have some issue with one of the following:
- the denseness of my MC
- the douchebaggery of her boyfriend
- some of the relationship cheesiness between them.
- lack of description and consistency, which I call "sloppy writing" (but Gina never would, doll that she is)

Maggie's never critiqued a project of mine beyond an alpha read, so I can't predict that much about her, but she's looked at the first page of TT a ton, and I already know she'll tear my grammar limb from limb. Probably paragraph structures too. And then help me put everything back together again.

Jean is ruthless with her dedication to flawless craft. Show don't tell.  End every scene on a question mark. It's chapter five and you are just now introducing a main character? Are you effing kidding me? And why is that character so flat? SHE KNOWS I AM A BETTER WRITER, QUIT WHINING AND SUCK IT UP.

And Chessie is going to MURDER me on what I'm audacious enough to call "science" in this (light!) science fiction manuscript. She'll also indicate at least a dozen times a chapter how much my rampant use of the passive voice makes her want to vomit/stab her own eyes out. You know, lovingly.

(I already know that Heidi, who's going to crit for me for the first time, is a master of paring down a story to its essential elements and an all-round genius.)

Now! Having these things in mind doesn't mean I won't take them seriously. On the contrary! I've assembled my own awesome Charlie's Angels of a crit group.  I know that each member has an eagle eye for different things. I can count on them to help me polish ONE to a high sheen.

Is it still TERRIFYING to think of sending them this draft? Absolutely. And I'll be in my office focusing on deep breathing for about half an hour after I do it.  Because, at the end of the day, I also know that

Funny Cry For Help Ecard: No one understands my work, including me.

but at least I won't get (too terribly) offended when they tell me that.

Do you get nervous to send new stuff to your established crit group? Is it worth it, like it is for me? Tell me in the comments!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Making the Magic

Thanksgiving is amazing, right?

It's a magical week where Wednesday is like Friday, but really people stop working so hard mid-Monday. Everyone travels to hang out in someone's warm, cozy, welcoming house, there's an amazing dinner with all the trimmings, then everyone piles onto couches or stretches out on the floor just to fall into a turkey coma.

Yeah. Thanksgiving is the best. So relaxing, so effortless. Travel, eat, and snooze. Maybe play football, or video games. No gifts, no church, no hassle. Ahhhh.

Unless. are the hostess.

If you are the hostess, Thanksgiving starts at least two weeks before the actual holiday. Its onset may be marked by anxiety, cold sweats, and disturbed sleep.

You must plan a menu so that you can start to shop. You buy an eight pound bag of russets for $2.49 twelve days before the holiday, and then nearly bust a vein in your neck when you see a ten pound bag for two bucks on the Monday of Thanksgiving week.

You must make a prep/cooking schedule so that all your food will be cooked, warm, and ready to serve at the exact time that everyone is sitting at the dinner table. You will prep cranberry sauce and bake rolls at six o'clock in the morning the Monday before Thanksgiving because those things can be stored and/or frozen while the sweet potatoes/mashed potatoes/green bean casserole/turkey/gravy/stuffing cannot. You will scream, then throw a turkey breast, then assume a fetal position when there is just no more room in the freezer.

Your house must be clean and ready for guests. Since you will be in the kitchen for 48 continuous hours before the holiday, you must accomplish this thorough deep-clean and massive Washing of All the Linens the weekend before Thanksgiving. You will spend the three and a half days between this cleaning and Turkey Day screaming at your four year old that YOU KNOW HE HAS TO USE THE POTTY BUT IT HAS TO STAY CLEAN FOR FOUR MORE DAYS SO JUST HOLD IT GEEZ. (Bonus points if you have three children under five. Triple bonus points if they're all potty training.)

On the day of Thanksgiving, your guests will try to be helpful by puttering around your kitchen and asking vague questions like, "Are there any tupperware containers?" or "What do you use to clean these counters?" They will think they are helping but really they are pushing you one step closer to the straight jacket with every step they take. (There may be one family member who knows your kitchen inside and out, shuts her mouth, puts her head down, and CLEANS. This person will be invaluable to you. Never let her have Thanksgiving dinner anywhere else. NO MATTER WHAT.)

At Thanksgiving dinner, someone will do one of the following:

  • Insult your personal religious or political beliefs.
  • Comment that the turkey is dry.
  • Ask why you didn't cook that dish again that only they ate last year.
  • Make an inappropriate comment about your choice of career, sex life, or reproductive status.
  • Engage in a marital spat - or worse.
  • Get completely wasted.
  • Throw up.
After dinner, there will be approximately three hours worth of cleanup. Your guests will be snoozing in the living room. You will curse their names in a continuous loop until you collapse next to them, only to have one of them ask you whether there is leftover pie.

Yeah. Very relaxing.

One year, my dear sister and I were co-hostessing (she is that invaluable relative I told you about up there.) We paused during our second hour of preparing food to serve and setting the table to gaze at the rest of our family, happily chatting, laughing, and relaxing in the other room. They were completely in love with Thanksgiving. She was sweating up a storm and I had pregnancy-induced sciatica like you wouldn't believe.

"What are we doing?" she asked me.
"We're making the magic," I said. 
She nodded, we looked at each other, and got back to work.

Writers. Does all of this sound familiar?

When we write a story, it starts with a mere list, maybe a few words, maybe a character profile, maybe a photograph. We painstakingly plot, outline, and dream, switching out elements that don't make sense for others that might work better. We carefully lay everything out so that something in the Rising Action foreshadows the Climax in the subtlest way, and hopefully all comes to a gorgeous, sweeping, stunning head that leaves readers delighted and breathless.

Will there be unhelpful comments? Yeah. Blog contest participants to nitpick for the sake of saying anything nitpicky? Absolutely. Agents who will bring the snark and make fun of your query or even *gasp* concept on Twitter? Oh goodness yes. Will there be people who slam your story because there is a typo, or a shallow character, or because you are Mormon, or female, or Russian, or black, or gay? Even if that has nothing to do with your book? Uh huh.

See, to readers, our book lasts six to ten hours. To agents, it lasts maybe a few seconds (before they form R the query.) But to us, it is a year or more in the making. It's easy for others to take the giant turkey dinner and clean house gorgeously plotted book and sweet characters for granted when it doesn't mean nearly as much to them. When they haven't worked their fingers to the bone for it, lost sleep over it, cried over it.

So, what do we do to overcome this inevitable gloom slump of writing stories? We find those gems of supportive crit partners, writing buddies, and author luminaries. We stick to them like glue and hold on to their advice and inspiration like precious jewels. We count on them to feel assured and not so alone, and above all, we use their words to grow.

And then? We keep making the magic.

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody. Don't forget to hug your hostess, compliment the gravy, towel off the bathroom sink, and maybe even take out the trash. But if you do that, don't forget to replace the garbage bag - and find the damn thing yourself.