Monday, August 27, 2012

On Sacrifice

Hi, sweet readers.

Yup, I've been gone from regular posting for a few weeks. I've missed you. Somehow, I always forget how chaotic and stressful back to school is for a campus professional. There are few things I love more than my college students (hi, you guys!) but going back to  work has been stressful and exhausting in ways I somehow forget every year.

You know, people often ask me how I "do it all" - working a (three-quarters time) day job, managing my house, taking care of my kids, writing books, looking halfway decent every day, sleeping enough, and maintaining my sanity.

 I don't like to complain, because I truly am grateful for every aspect of my life that makes me crazy busy. Healthy kids, a job working with people I love, a house to live in, a budding writing career. Also, because I really don't like to assume myself more busy than anyone else. Everyone has responsibilities and stresses that take up their time and leave them suffering from Not Enough Hours in the Day syndrome.

But when people ask me how I "Do it All," I try to be honest and clear - I don't. If I'm spending time on the weekend with my kids, you can well assume that there's a disastrous house or languishing CP on the other end of that equation. If I'm being productive with drafting or revisions, you can bet my elliptical  - and abs - haven't seen any action for weeks. More often than not, I'm running on not enough sleep, and dealing with chronic anxiety and depression to boot. And even with All the Coffee and a supportive spouse, there are only so many writing minutes you can squeeze out of a day before you collapse in a fit of exhausted tears.

I guess what I want to say is that fitting writing into your life isn't easy. Sometimes, it's damn near impossible.

Either way, it takes sacrifice.

I spend less time with my kids than I could, I've all but given up cooking, I do minimal housekeeping. I still have twenty pounds of baby weight to lose and, honestly, I'm not sure it'll come off any time soon. I don't watch TV. I don't do a lot of hanging out with girlfriends, and my kids never go on playdates.

Do I regret any of these things? Heck no. I know I'll never look back on my life and say, "I really wish my kitchen floor would have been cleaner," but I definitely would think, "Damn, it would have been awesome  if I had just made the time for that Mansfield Park redux."

So, I slept less, spent some cash on babysitters, had a dirty house and a couple nervous breakdowns. But I wrote the redux. Sacrifice. 

ed hardy & splash one I
Licensed for use under CC by Thomas (donnga BS) - thank you!

That's not to say there won't be times when I take weeks or months away from writing - I've just taken a couple weeks "off," and I'm not sure exactly how much more time I'll need to get adjusted.

Burt I do know that, now, once again, I have to figure out the new balance of work, self-care, and family to enable me to keep writing in which the sacrifice does not have to be my sanity. 

What about you? When people ask you how you do it all, what do you tell them? What sacrifices do you make for doing the things that you love?

P.S. - Watch this blog over the next several days for exciting news about something new and awesome that I'm lucky enough to be part of! (no, it's not a book deal, or anything like that. But it is awesome. I promise.)

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Blog Tour! Clare Davidson and her Debut TRINITY

YOU GUYS. I have reached a landmark moment of popularity in the blogosphere. I mean, I'm alllll puffed up here, because I get to host Clare Davidson, debut author of the TRINITY series, on my blog today!

How cool is that?

I know. I KNOW.

Anyway, since I don't believe that there's any one right way to write a book, but mostly because I'm a little voyeuristic, I told Clare I really wanted to hear about her writing process. And since she's such a sweetheart, she said she'd write a whole post about it. (See? SWEET.)

So, here we are! I'm so honored to be hosting Clare on her VERY FIRST BLOG TOUR STOP!
Be sure to read ALL the way to the end of the post for information about where to buy Trinity AND how you could win a copy from me! (Also, read slowly so that you can savor the awesomeness of her Brit spelling, verb tenses, and phrasing. Siiiiigh.)

When Leigh Ann asked me to write this guest post about my writing process, I thought "hey, cool, I know what that is! I'm a pantser!" Then I sat down and thought about it and realised that it isn't that simple. I change my writing process depending on the project, my mood, the time of day…

Over the years I've been writing, I've tried to learn the "correct" way to write a novel. I've asked myself the following questions over and over again: Should I plan everything to the nth degree, have reams and reams of world-building and a detailed summary of EVERY scene? Is it enough to do a line-per-scene on cards or post-it notes that I can shuffle around? If I don't plan, will my novel be rubbish?

To find out the "correct" way to write, I've read scores of "how-to" books, done online and physical courses, joined writing forums and communities and asked advice. Do you know the biggest lesson I gleaned from all that time, energy and money? There is no RIGHT way to write. None at all.

I'll repeat that. There is no RIGHT way to write. It's what works for you and what works for you invariably won't work for the next person, or the next.

I'm not saying you shouldn't read the books, join the websites and take the advice. I learnt a LOT from doing all of those things. What I am saying is this: don't be a slave to someone else's writing process. If it doesn't work for you, you'll end up feeling miserable and like a failure. I know I did.

What I learnt to do is magpie bits and pieces from all the books, courses and forums that I've come into contact with, but I don't use any one method to the letter.

Trinity began as a plotting session with a friend when I was trying to save another WIP that was on its third draft and just wasn't working. That WIP wasn't saved, but became a different novel: 'Trinity'. During that plotting session my friend helped me hash out the "big picture" and I wrote down ten bullet points. That was my entire framework. It worked because I had direction, but enough freedom to flesh the story out, join the dots and fill in the gaps. It allowed my muse and my characters to be free. For me, plans become like a muzzle. I know plenty of writers who love to use detailed plans, they stick to them and write amazing books. Hats off to them! I couldn't do it.

For me, the first draft is the easiest. I don't worry about the quality of my prose, I just throw the story down on paper. The real work begins with the editing. With Trinity, I printed out a full copy, broke out the coloured pens (it's more fun to edit with different coloured pens!) and scrawled on every page, tightening the prose, fixing inconsistencies, bringing out more character emotion and so on.

All in all, the whole novel went through about five drafts. Certain sections of it went through ten or more. I had input from family, three different editors and, finally, a copyeditor.

Was all that hard work worth it? Damn right it was! Holding the finished product in my hand was the most amazing feeling: I wrote that; that's my book. Completing and publishing Trinity is a dream come true. A dream I hope to repeat, even if my writing process changes with every book I write!

Wow, Clare, you're so cool.  And if Clare's this cool, I'm sure her book is ZOMG INCREDIBLE. SO. Go buy it.  Seriously. Go on. Just click here.

No kidding. Go buy Trinity.

And! I'm giving away one Kindle copy to a random commenter. Follow this blog, follow Clare on Twitter, and tweet about this blog post for extra entries! (Giveaway closes on Tuesday evening, get your entries in before then! Fun fun!)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

122 Words of Encouragement

Hey, sweet readers! I know a bunch of you are hanging out at Write On Con this week, hoping your hard-worked and awesome manuscripts get picked up by those Ninjas.  (Hi Ninja Agents! We love you!) Last year, for me, the week was full of highs and lows. I was hoping the conference would get me an offer, but it turns out that the best thing I got out of it was meeting my second-oldest critique partner. Way better than an offer. 

And, here's what happened since last year's WriteOnCon. 

(I mean this post to be encouraging. I hope it is. Forgive me if it isn't. I think you're wonderful.)

I met Gina fourteen months ago, and Chessie just about a year ago.

Back then, we swapped manuscripts for critique.
All of those manuscripts went through the query trenches.
All of those manuscripts subsequently went in the drawer.

We wrote new manuscripts, and critiqued those for each other too.
We queried and contested those manuscripts to death.
In the last two months, we all signed with agents.
Those second manuscripts are now floating around in the wide sea of Publishing.

I just sent Chessie my third manuscript.
That feels good.

It's a short story, but it's a big one.
And here's the lesson:

Work hard.
Have good friends.
Keep going.
Keep going.
Keep going.

You're doing a great job.
Keep. On. Going.

Monday, August 6, 2012

YA Writers Ask a Teen Chat = Awesome

Happy Monday, sweet readers!

So, you know how I've been trying to finish these revisions on SfEx? In the interest of that, I brought Penny to the Hirsch house, where Monica had agreed to spend the morning with her. I asked her offhandedly about   how those in her age group (almost 16) referred to their peers - "kids?" "people?" "peeps?" What?

Well, we ended up talking for over an hour about everything from slang to Facebook interactions to bullying via text message. I had to cut the conversation short then because I wanted to get SOME revisions done, but   she was so sweet and obliging and enthusiastic about the topic that I hated to go. So, I did what any social-media-obsessed YA writer would do - I asked her if she'd be up for answering some questions for my writing buddies on Twitter that night, if they had any.

And, WOW. Did they have questions.

We started tweeting about YA Writers Ask a Teen - #YAWritersAAT about nine hours before we wanted to start the chat, and not only did people get their questions ready, they retweeted. And retweeted and retweeted and WOW. We had a great conversation about voice and technology in teens' lives.

Jenny has a chat transcript posted on her blog, if you're interested in reading the whole thing. (Hint: If you're a YA writer, you probably should be interested.)

A lot has changed since many of us YA writers were teens, and we learned lots of useful stuff, like:  

  Gosh yes. You always know when a guy's going to ask you out. His friends text you with clues.

To which a lot of writers responded, "WHAT KIND OF CLUES!?!?!" And began furiously taking notes. So awesome.

But what I really want to talk about in this post is the response to #YAWritersAAT. About halfway through the chat, Valerie joked that she was just waiting for #YAWritersAAT to trend. And then she checked, just in case, and:

Yeah. There we are. Trending at #2. 

You guys, I actually got kind of emotional. Because, hey. It's no secret how I feel about writing for teens. And teens in general. I LOVE teens. I LOVE writing for them. I think it's SO important that there is authentic, quality literature written with a teen audience in mind.

And you know what it tells me when a chat created for the purpose of helping YA writers write authentically for teens TRENDS in HALF AN HOUR?

It tells me that it's important to other writers, too. It tells me that other writers are more concerned about writing books with authentic, accurate portrayals of how teens speak, think and act as opposed to how writers WANT them to speak, think and act. 

And that? That is absolutely freaking wonderful.

(Thank you to all the incredible teens who participated and were gracious enough to spend an hour on the weekend talking to us clueless old folks. And thank you especially to Valerie, Hayley, and Jenny, who were my impromptu co-organizers and promoters. You all were INCREDIBLE. See you next week.)

Friday, August 3, 2012

Friday Obsessions: Dahlia Adler, WHISPERS IN AUTUMN, and Kiss The Girl

Hey, sweet readers!

Well, it's been an insane week.  I started back at work, and have been finding myself completely exhausted at the end of every day just from the sheer effort of leaving the house, I suppose.

Writing wise? I'm trying to get back into Chrome, and not being too successful, to be honest. Could use some good old fashioned butt-kicking on that front. Fingers crossed that this weekend is more productive.

Allllrighty. That was boring. Let's just move right on to the obsessions, shall we?

1. Dahlia Adler. All of her.
Dahlia and I were on the same team in the Writer's Voice Contest (Team CupidsLC FTW!) and we signed with our agents in the same week. There's no one I would rather have shared my agent week with. She's super hilarious, totally kickass, and wrote an amazing MS, BEHIND THE SCENES. When it comes out, you all should buy it without thinking. Don't worry, I'll remind you.

Anyhow, Dahlia interviewed me on her blog today!!! And it was super self-indulgent but also tons of fun. So go over and see us chatting.

2. WHISPERS IN AUTUMN by Trisha Leigh
I "met" Trisha on Twitter right before her book released, and she's a sweetie pie. The book's cover is stunning, and the preview was awesome, so I bought it.

Whispers in Autumn (The Last Year, #1)

I only got 5% of the way through, and I'm obsessed. Like,  I'm counting down the hours till I can get home and get my  kids into bed so I can keep reading.

Go buy a copy. Now. Beautiful writing, great premise, and you can't beat that price.

3.  "Kiss the Girl" sung by Ashley Tisdale
You know how you're really obsessed with a song, but you feel like you should probably listen to some other songs, because it's kind of lame to keep pushing "repeat" and then rocking out to the same refrain over and over and over again? And so you do listen to some other songs, but they dont' make you smile and bop your head like That One Song and you're really just waiting for the other songs to end so you can go back to the obsession?

Yep. Just listen, and then try to tell me you're not rocking out to this  version of the song from "The Little Mermaid."

Welp, that's it for me! What about you, sweet readers? What were you obsessed with this week?

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Thursday Thank-You

Hey, sweet readers! It's time for Thursday thank-yous again, and I have a TON this week.

First and foremost: Thank you to all of YOU, my sweet readers. My post from Monday on not being a douchebag when you give people writing and publishing tips got over 400 views and 50 comments in 48 hours (it looks like 105, but half of those are my responses.) I lost track of how many retweets the link got, but a bunch of wonderful writers and rockstar agents Erin Niumata and Jennifer Laughran all joined in. So thank you thank you thank you for coming over here and joining in the conversation. I'm glad we're part of such a supportive community that is so excited to climb the ladder alongside people instead of imagining ourselves rungs above and acting like we're better. (Most of the time.)

Second: Thanks to Cait, who read the first draft of Solving for Ex in lickety-split time and gave me line notes (!) even though she has plenty of her own stuff to do. And for talking me down when I had a panic attack that the book actually sucks and was a waste of seven weeks of my life.

Third: Thanks to Gina, for still loving me even when I'm completely insufferable. Love you like a sis, G.

Fourth: Thanks to Jess, who BAKED ME COOKIES and then SENT THEM TO ME. I'm overwhelmed, not to mention completely in love with the baked goods. She even wrote me  note and calligraphed the envelope! I mean, come on:
Once in awhile, it's nice to know that someone loves you just because you're you, and goes out of her way to show you. Thanks, Jess.

Fifth: Thanks to Valerie, who's reading my MS even though she's SLAMMED at work, and even though she's only 50% of the way through, sent me a gushing email, imagining fandoms and also telling me my hair looks pretty. Wow.

Sixth: Thanks to Amy, who took some gorgeous new headshots of me at the drop of a dime. If you're in Central Ohio, or are ever visiting, give her a call and she'll do some amazing work for you. Tell her I sent you.

Remember, if you want to join in on the Thursday Thank yous, I'm sure your thankees would appreciate it. Link up, please, because I'd love to see them. <3 i="i">
See you tomorrow for an especially teeny-boppy installment of Friday Obsessions!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Writing a Novel Out of Order

I write my stories out of order.
 Like, completely out of order. 
Many times, the ending or penultimate scenes will be some of the earliest I write.
(For example, the very first scene I ever wrote for my on-submission manuscript is now Chapter 8.)
And I'm a pantser.

This confuses a lot of people. If I am a pantser, and consequently don't know where the story is going or how it gets there, how can I possibly write ending scenes before beginning ones?

See, the thing is, drafting is the absolute hardest part of the writing process for me. Something about getting new words out is grueling.

The only way it's not grueling - and, in fact, the way that I find myself able to fly through the words, optimally pulling 5,000-7,000 in a day - is by "seeing" a scene in my head, or "hearing" a conversation between two characters, and kind of channeling those things into words. (Sometimes I even type with my eyes closed so that I can "see" or "hear" better.)

Most often those scenes that I "see" or "hear" consist of one of two things:
1. Intense drama
2. Kissing or other sexy stuff

It is in these scenes that the characters are most emotionally invested in what's going on. When a character is at the highest or lowest point of her emotional arc, that's when I can "hear" her most clearly, and so those are the scenes I tend to write first.

I mean, seriously. Once you have this picture in your  head, how could you NOT write that scene first?

 Lately, I've been drawing up a beat sheet to get a very rough idea of the plot, so I'll plug these early-written scenes into whatever plot point they go with, and then write the other scenes I need to fill in the rest of the book.

What this essentially creates is a skeleton of a novel built around the characters' emotional arcs.

So, I think that what all this means is that I like to write character-driven stories, which is why this writing-out-of-order method works for me.

Now that I think about it, I'm pretty sure I'm just lazy as all get-out.

BUT STILL. I've written three books in two years and I'm going on a fourth, so it works for me.

(And, let's not forget: a famous out-of-orderer is Stephenie Meyer. She wrote the scene where Bella and Edward canoodle in that field of flowers before she wrote anything else. So...let's hope that the whole method works just as well for me as it did for her.)

What about you, sweet writerly-type readers? Do you draft out of order, or do you have to draft in the first-scenes-first method?