Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Party Time!

As I mentioned Monday, today should mark my 100th post, but I deleted some older posts, so now it's only my 88th one. But, we are going to celebrate anyway. First, though, I wanted to take a moment to clarify something. My posts this week are based on things I've read in agent interviews. If I was super organized, I might have saved the links to those interviews, but I was far from organized, so I didn't. I do know of one location where several pieces of my information came from. Shelli at Market My Words interviews agents regularly. If you haven't visited her blog, you should. It's full of useful information. And one more thing, what you choose to post or not to post on your blog is entirely up to you and should also be based on where you are in your writing journey. My advice may or may not pertain to you. Okay, that being said, let's get on with the celebrating! What better way to celebrate than with music? My friend, Karen Amanda Hooper, tagged me on her blog last week. I'm supposed to list seven songs that have been influential in my life. I could not possibly narrow it down to just seven, so I decided to list ones that were influential to me when writing my first book. Keep in mind that it is a contemporary YA and the music I listened to at the time was consistent with that genre and not a reflection of my favorite songs. Although, I do like these songs. 1. I Don't Care by Fall Out Boy 2. I'm Yours by Jason Mraz 3. Let it Rock by Kevin Rudolf 4. Disturbia by Rihanna 5. Try to Leave a Light on when I'm Gone by David Cook 6. Angels on the Moon by Thriving Ivy 7. I Gotta Feeling by The Black Eyed Peas (Okay, I'm cheating with this one. It came out way after I finished my book, but it now reminds me of a certain scene.) Now, consider yourselves all tagged. Feel free to post your own top seven songs on your own blog. Oh, and have some virtual cake and ice cream. What would a party be without that? I wanted to send a message to Ellie Kings. Ellie, if you are reading this, I just wanted to let you know that your comment feature on your blog isn't working. You might want to check into that. I'll have more on blogging tomorrow. Have a great day!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

These Shoes Have Already Been Discarded

Why would I want them? I certainly don't want an agent thinking this way about my manuscripts, so I probably wouldn't want to advertise this, now would I? When an agent looks at a prospective client, they don't want to hear about the twenty rejections they've received. When I first started blogging back in May, I did so as a means of logging my journey. It started out as a diary of sorts. I have several posts that reveal how many queries I sent and how many rejections I received. Knowing now that agents don't want to see this, I've decided to delete all of those posts. (Don't bother searching for them. They are already gone. And, now that I think about it, I guess I'll have to delete this one eventually.) Unfortunately, this means tomorrow will no longer be my 100th post. No worries, though; we will still celebrate, and then in a couple of weeks when I hit 100 for the second time, we can celebrate all over again. Double the fun, don't you think? What about you? Does your blog reveal how many times your manuscript has been rejected? If so, what are your feeling about this?

Monday, September 28, 2009

How do shoes end up on power lines anyway?

Most of you know that I took a semi-break from blogging last week so I could focus on some much needed revisions. I called it my "I'm hanging up my shoes" week, and a picture similar to what you see here accompanied all of my posts. Well, thanks to my blogger friend, Karen Amanda Hooper, it has come to my attention that, in some parts of the country, shoes hanging on power lines indicate that drug deals take place there. GASP! I would never want anyone thinking that drug deals take place on my blog, so I thought I'd better clarify. It go me thinking about what message my blog is sending. I've read a number of blogs recently that discuss how agents google names of those who query. They quite often stumble across blogs in the process, and should an agent stumble upon mine, I certainly want it to convey a desirable message. Between this, and the fact that Wednesday will mark my 100th post, I've decided to discuss what we should and should not post on our blogs this week. If and when an agent reads my blog, I hope they will see a determined, aspiring author who is willing to work hard at improving and to do what it takes to rise to today's literary standards. What message do you hope to convey through your blog? Speaking of Karen Amanda Hooper, she tagged me the other day on her blog. Thanks Karen! I'll be following up on this next week.

Friday, September 25, 2009

I'm Hanging Up My Shoes! Day 5

This is the last day of my week of partially unplugging. It's been fantastic. I've gotten a great deal of revision done. Thanks for putting up with the lack of new shoe pictures and short posts. Today's question is: What goal are you currently working toward in your writing? What's your ultimate goal? (I know, that's two questions again.) Currently, I'm trying to improve my writing skills. I've learned a great deal over the last several months, and I'm trying to incorporate that into my writing. Ultimately, I hope to be published, but I also never want to lose my love of writing. And, since it's Friday, I'm doing more than just a question today. I couldn't let a Friday go by without giving the Silver Shoe of Sincerity Award to someone. To learn more see this post. This week's recipient is Katie Salidas (a.k.a. quixotic) at Step 1: Write, edit, and revise. She was my very first follower, and her blog interaction is honest and of the highest level of sincerity. If you haven't already, go check out her blog. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

I'm Hanging Up My Shoes! Day 4

For those of you who are new to my blog, or are visiting for the first time this week, I'm partially unplugging this week. This means no new shoe pictures and short simple posts consisting of only one question. Today's question is: What do you write? And why? (Okay, that's two questions, but it's my blog, and I'm entitled to break the rules if I want to.) I write, as most of you know, young adult fiction. I chose this genre because it takes me back to that time in my life. It's not that I want to go back to being a teenager because we all know that being a teenager isn't all it's cracked up to be. But there is something to be said for the newness of life experiences during those years. There are so many firsts, and firsts (good or bad) are exciting. Do you think I'm having a mid-life crisis? :)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

I'm Hanging Up My Shoes! Day 3

If you don't know already, I'm unplugging this week (sort of). There are no new shoe pictures, and my posts are nothing more than simple questions for you. Today's question is: What is your least favorite thing about writing? Oddly enough, my least favorite thing is somewhat the same as my favorite thing. I don't like the seclusion. Some days, I feel like I'm out of touch with reality. Don't get me wrong; while I'm writing, I love the seclusion, but when I'm experiencing real life, I sometimes don't appreciate it because my mind and emotions are focused on my fictional world, not the real world. Does this make sense?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

I'm Hanging Up My Shoes! Day 2

As I mentioned yesterday, I'm partially unplugging this week, so my posts will have no new shoe pictures and will consist of only a simple question for you. Today's question is: What is your favorite thing about writing? My favorite thing is that it takes me to another world, just like reading does. It's an escape of sorts. Every day that I write, even if it's just a sentence or two, I feel rejuvenated. Sorry, please excuse me, but that other world is calling me. See you tomorrow!

Monday, September 21, 2009

I'm Hanging Up My Shoes!

At least for a week. I believe it was B.J. Anderson who started this blog tradition known as Unplug Week. It is intended to be a week of no social networking so we writers can just write. I participated in July, and I have to admit that I was miserable. I missed blogging, so I chose not to participate in August. However, I find myself, now, feeling the need to take a little break. As you may or may not have guessed from my recent posts, I'm in the thick of the revision process. The kind of revising I need to do requires a great deal of creativity, and I'm finding that my creativity is all being spent on writing my posts and finding shoes to go along with them. So, I've decided to join B.J. in unplugging this week. Well, sort of. I'll still be posting, and I'll still be reading and commenting on your blogs, but there will be no new shoe pictures this week. The ones you see here will be on the rest of my posts, which will consist of nothing more than a simple question for you. That being said, today's question is: When did you start writing? I started writing in kindergarten. It was just a simple Mother's Day card, but I knew right then that I loved to write, and I've been doing it ever since. Now, I must go write, or revise in this case. Have a great day!

Friday, September 18, 2009

My Work Is Never Done!

So I finished organizing my shoes, and I tripped over this mess of kids' shoes. Just when I thought I could rest, a new mess came along. But isn't that life? Isn't that the way things usually go? We put out fire after fire, only to find a new one just around the corner. It's all good, though, because we really like putting out fires, don't we? Just like keeping all of our shoes organized is a continuous process, so is keeping our writing up to par. After rounds and rounds of revisions, we still may come across new messes that need cleaning up. Perhaps we learn a new rule while fixing something else, or maybe we already knew the rule but didn't realize we were breaking it. Either way, it is an ongoing process. So how do we know when we are finished? Well, your guess is as good as mine. I'd like to think that we will just know. We will look around our houses and not see one single mess that needs cleaning. We will be so proud of our houses that we wouldn't bat an eye if our most cherished celebrity came to spend the weekend with us. There will be no pile of shoes to trip over. That's how I envision it. What about you? Do you have an idea of how it will feel when you are finally done editing and revising? Will you know without a doubt that you are ready to submit? Yep! You guessed it. It's Friday, and that means the Silver Shoe of Sincerity Award must be passed on to someone. It is all about sincerity in blogging and to find out more click here. The recipient can choose to pass it on (which makes me smile) or not (I don't hold grudges). It's entirely up to them. So without further ado, this week's recipient is Wendy at All in a Day's Thoughts. Wendy was the first person to comment on my blog, and she may not even remember. But she made me smile that day because she reached out to me. If you don't already follow her blog, go visit it. You will come away inspired. I promise. Have a great weekend everyone!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

I Love Ugg Slippers!

If you've been reading my blog this week, you know I've been trying to organize my shoe shelf. I've thrown out the shoes I don't need, put some shoes away until spring, and stacked some shoes on top of each other. I now have room on my shelves for those Ugg slippers I must have (that is, if I can get my pocketbook to agree to purchase them). I've also been trying to organize my manuscript to make room for some desperately needed additions. I've cut scenes I didn't need, stored some away for possible future use, and layered several scenes into one. I'm not quite there yet, but I make more and more room every day for those things that need to be added in. (Luckily, my pocketbook doesn't have to agree on this one because my words are free, right?) Have you ever realized you had too much of something unnecessary in your manuscript and not enough of something really important? If so, how did you fix it?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Do I Need Three Pairs of Black Dress Shoes?

Well, actually, yes. Even though I rarely dress up, when I do, these shoes are necessary. They all serve a different purpose. One looks better with pants, one is a little more casual, and one is dressier. I must keep them all. The key is to store them efficiently so they don't take up too much space, and the only way to do this is to stack them on top of each other. The same could be said about scenes in my manuscript. If I come across several scenes that are similar but have their own function in the story, couldn't I try and layer them into one scene? That way I could still advance the story, but in fewer words. For example: Let's say there are three scenes where my female protag is on the phone with my male protag. One conversation might reveal that she has the hots for him. The second might hint at the fact that he also has the hots for her. And the third may bring to light the conflict that stands in the way of them being together. These three things are closely related and could easily be revealed in one scene as opposed to three. The key is to do it effectively. For those of you with too many words, have you ever tried layering scenes? For those of you with too few words, have you ever tried diversifying scenes?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

But I Like These Shoes!

They instantly add three inches to my height, and when you are only five-foot tall, that's a big deal. Unfortunately, I've seen the fashion police out on patrol, and we all know it is illegal to wear white shoes after Labor Day, no matter how good they make us feel. I don't have to trash them, though. They'll be useful in eight months or so. But for now, they are going in a box with all my other summer shoes (except the flip flops, of course, because they know no season). After Memorial Day, I'll smile when I pull out those white shoes because I'll still love them; they'll still make me feel tall; and they might go perfectly with my new summer outfits. I think of cutting scenes in much the same way. I may love a scene because it makes me feel taller, like I'm a great writer, but if it isn't useful to my story, it must go. This doesn't mean I have to trash it. I can put it in a box with all the other useless scenes and hope that some day it has its own season and its own place in one of my stories. Remembering this has made deleting scenes from my manuscript so much more bearable. Have you ever held onto a scene because it made you feel like a better writer when, really, it served no purpose? Or do you save deleted scenes in hopes that they will some day be useful? I don't know about you, but I'm guilty of doing both.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Not Enough Room!

When I stepped into my closet yesterday morning, this is what I saw. I have a perfectly good shelving unit to hold my shoes, but apparently there isn't enough room. (Well, maybe, I have too many shoes.) I decided it was time to get organized and make my shoes fit on the shelves. The first step was to get rid of the shoes that served no purpose. These are the ones that either didn't fit, didn't match anything I own, or were so worn out, I'd never wear them in public anyway. I threw out three pairs. Yay! I've made more room already. Like my shoe shelf, my manuscript is also overcrowded. The standard word count for YA is much lower than for other genres. SCBWI guidelines say that YA should be no more than 65,000 words. I've heard from other sources that 80,000 is acceptable. In either case, mine is too long. To make matters worse, I've realized, thanks to my most awesome beta readers, that I need to beef up some aspects of my story, which means more words, not less. So, what do I do? Well, just like my shoes have to fit on my shelves, my story is going to have to fit within the guidelines. Cutting unnecessary words isn't going to do the trick. I now have to cut entire scenes. You know, the ones that serve no purpose. These are the ones that don't develop the characters, move the plot along, establish setting, or build internal or external conflict. These scenes have to go. Yikes! I'm a little nervous, but here I go! What about you? Have you had to cut scenes? If so, how do you decide which ones to cut?

Friday, September 11, 2009

Mingle, People, Mingle

This is not a book review. I haven't even read this book, so I don't know anything about it. But how could I resist the cover? It is just too perfect for today's topic. As writers, we tend to spend much time alone. We spend hours and hours without talking to a single other human being. I think most of us enjoy being alone, or we wouldn't be writers. The problem is, though, if we don't interact with people, how can we write about them? If we don't see the world around us, how can we describe it? I think it is important to get out of the house and interact with people and our surroundings as much as possible. Nothing is more inspiring than real life. I'm a people watcher. (My husband calls it staring, but what does he know?) I get a lot of great ideas from being out around people. For example, one of my minor characters is a boisterous, southern gentlemen who wears a big cowboy hat. I saw a man exactly like this at a restaurant when I was writing my first book, and I knew I had to use him as a character. I paid attention to his mannerisms and was able to transfer that to my character. He has a very small role in my ms, but he is an interesting fellow. I'm not the best at setting description. I have to have a clear image of a place in my mind in order to describe it. For this reason, it's important for me to experience many different types of settings. For example, tonight, I'm going to the high school football game because my daughter will be performing with the dance team at halftime. Of course I'm looking forward to seeing her performance, but I'm also looking at it as a research opportunity. I have several scenes set at high school football games. When I'm there tonight, I'm going to take everything in and hope to come home and transfer those images to paper. In what ways does real life inspire you? Award Time! The Silver Shoe of Sincerity Award is intended for someone who shows absolute sincerity in their blog interaction. To find out more click here. The recipient can pass it on, but does not have to. This week's recipient is Stephanie Faris of Steph in the City. I've noticed her comments on so many bloggers' posts. They are sincere and well thought out. I'm amazed at her ability to follow so many blogs and comment on all of them. If you don't already follow her, go check out her blog. I'd also like to thank Kim over at Land of Mama Grits for honoring me with the Over the Top Award. I'm flattered. Thanks for thinking of me. Have a great weekend everyone!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Musical Shoes Anyone?

These shoes have speakers, and apparently a built in CD player. They don't look very comfortable, but they do offer some sort of musical appeal, I suppose. After I posted yesterday, I realized that one of the reasons I am so inspired by exercise is because I usually listen to music while doing it. Since I haven't been exercising much, I haven't been listening to as much music either. There's always the times in the car, but they are usually filled with fighting children, which really isn't an inspiration at all unless, of course, you are writing a book about sibling rivalry. Music is inspiring in so may ways. First of all, it sets mood. It has a distinct way of making you feel a certain way, and if you can actually feel something, it's that much easier to write about it, isn't it? Second, it brings up images so clear that you can actually see them. A visual picture is worth so much when we are writing. The same holds true with seeing something as it does with feeling something; it makes it easier to write about. Third, it puts me in my characters' heads. When I listen to music that my characters would listen to, I always conjure up some idea of who they are and how they will react in certain instances. Lastly, lyrics are a great source for story ideas. If you listen closely, every song tells a story. Every song can spur a great idea for a scene. Oh, one more thing; I don't mind cleaning near as much if I have music playing. And a clean work space is a productive work space, right? Since I write contemporary YA, I try to listen to modern top '40 music. This is what I envision my characters listening to. Lucky for me, it's what my kids like to listen to, so there is little argument over the station choices. Now, I must go put on some music and tidy up that work space. But, please, do tell--how does music inspire you? And what kind of music brings out the best in your creativity?

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Go For A Walk

It's not just good for the body; it's good for the mind. And it doesn't have to be a walk. Any exercise will do. Like I mentioned yesterday, reading is something that inspires creativity in me, and I haven't been doing nearly enough of it. Another thing I haven't been doing enough of (okay, any of) is exercising. It used to be that exercising was a time of inner reflection for me. It was a time to think. Many of my best ideas came to me when I was exercising. Well, when I get busy, it's one of the first things to go. And lately, I've been busy. Exercise does several things for me (other than the obvious physical benefits). It clears my mind and opens it up for new ideas. It releases the stresses of the day, which for me are often about writing. And it gives me energy to keep plugging away. So like I vowed yesterday to start reading more, today I am vowing to start exercising more, that is, as soon I'm over this massive head cold I have. My blogger friend, Eileen, has the coolest walking tool. It's a treadmill desk that her husband built for her. Check it out here. It has to be the best invention ever. She chooses to blog while she walks, which is great. It frees up other time during the day to write. There is nothing better than multitasking. But since my husband isn't quite as handy as hers is, I'll stick with using my exercise time to fill my mind with creative ideas. Does exercise help you get your creative juices going? If so, in what way?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Put Your Feet Up!

And read a good book, or a bad one, but just read. Either way, you can learn a lot. I've been in somewhat of a writing rut lately. I spent most of the summer running my kids around, and I was so sure that once they were back in school, my creative juices would start flowing again. Well, school started three weeks ago, and I've been able to squeeze very little juice from that creative fruit. It's got me thinking about what is different now. What was I doing differently back when the words flowed so easily? Well, the first thing that came to mind was reading. During the times when I was knee deep in creativity as far as my writing goes, I was also reading a lot. In fact, I was reading for at least an hour a day. Lately, I've only been reading for ten to fifteen minutes, and it's right before I go to bed. Sometimes, I'm so tired that I can hardly keep my eyes open, and I have to reread the same thing the next night. So, I'm making a commitment to start reading more again. And why do I think reading is so important? Well for one thing, it can show me what works and what doesn't. If I'm really drawn into a book, I can reflect back on what drew me in and apply that to my own writing. If I'm bored to tears, I can pay attention to what isn't working for me and avoid doing it in my own writing. I once heard that the six rules to writing were read, read, read, write, write, write. I'm seeing, now, that it is true. What about you? How does reading inspire you? And what books or authors have you been most inspired by?

Friday, September 4, 2009

Don't Jump Too Soon!

Or you may not make it over the pole. Yesterday, I talked about stepping back and studying feedback before jumping the gun and changing things. I have to admit, I'm guilty of this. I've found myself rewriting chapters before sending them to my beta readers based on their feedback from earlier chapters. I've stumbled upon a slight problem with doing this, though. I hit a chapter where I literally said, "Oh, crap! I've really messed up!" You see, the changes I had made based on their feedback caused the rest of the story not to make sense. If I had sat back and thought about it, I would have realized this sooner. Don't get me wrong; their observations were accurate and change was necessary, but I went about it all wrong. J.B. Chicoine left an interesting comment on my post on Wednesday. In case you missed it, here is what she had to say: Lately, I’ve thought a lot about the honesty in offering critique. I have swapped my MS with 2 writers (yourself being #2). With #1, we mutually agreed to hold off feedback until we are both done, and have completed our review and comments. This is under the premise that candor would come easier if we weren’t tempted to moderate our words according to what the other had to say (BTW, it was my idea). We haven’t swapped results yet, and I think we’re both nervous. On the other hand, you and I are swapping and critiquing in 3 chapter increments, and I feel much more at ease this time around. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve now done one critique or because you and I got the awkwardness out of the way right up front. I think it’s the latter. What do you think? She's right; our method of exchanging critiques every three chapters has provided for an ongoing relationship of mutual honesty, which is good. But, now, I understand her desire with her first crit partner to postpone feedback until the very end. This way prevents you from making hasty changes that don't work. I have mixed feelings about this. What are your thoughts? Which method of critiquing do you think is most effective? And, it's Friday, which means it's time for the next recipient of the Silver Shoe of Sincerity Award. This award is intended for those who show sincerity in their blog interaction. You can read about it here. This week's recipient is Terri Tiffany of Terri Tiffany Inspirational Author. She has her own great posts, but she always leaves valuable comments on my blog, as well as the blogs of many others. If you don't already follow her, go check her out. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

These Shoes Don't Match!

And sometimes the feedback we get doesn't either. As of now, three people have read parts of my completed manuscript (besides family and friends), and I am amazed at how different the feedback has been. One person might say one thing, while another says the exact opposite. This is when we need to keep in mind that critiquing is just as subjective as the publishing business. Everyone has different opinions, tastes, styles, etc. We must remember this before we jump the gun and start changing things just because one crit partner doesn't like it. Now, when we start to see a common thread, well, that's when we need to consider changing things. My point is this (and you all knew I had one): When receiving feedback, embrace it; mull it over; study it; and then sit back and think about it before you go willy-nilly changing your work. And, always remember that critiquing is a subjective process. What doesn't work for one person might just be a gold mine for another. I'll have more on this tomorrow, but for now, I'd like to know how you process feedback? Do you react right away and start making changes? Or do you wait until you have a chance to take a step back and mull it over?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

These Slippers Are Fuzzy Soft!

Maybe, too soft. Yesterday, I talked about dealing with criticism with thick skin. Today, I want to talk about when the shoe is on the other foot. (Hmm...apparently I mention shoes without even meaning to. Do you think I have a problem?) Just like we need a Kramer to be honest about our writing, our critique partners do too. We can't be soft when it comes to reading their work. It would be a disservice to them. Now, I'm not saying we need to go in and rip their work apart, but we do need to tell them honestly and openly what we feel isn't working. It isn't always easy. Pointing out faults in another person's writing is kind of like telling your best friend that her boyfriend is a low-life when yours isn't much better. But, it's what friends do, right? We owe it to our crit partners to be as honest as we can be, but we must do so in a kind and respectful manner. I like to start out with something positive, and then point out the negatives, and then return to something positive. This way, the first and last thing they hear is good, and the bad stuff is somewhere in between. This creates a positive vibe from the beginning, and allows things to end on a good note. I'm curious; do you find giving criticism just as hard as receiving it? If so, what approach have you found to be most effective for both the giver and the receiver?

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

These Boots Have A Thick Skin!

And when we put our work out there to be critiqued, our skin needs to be just as thick. Do you remember the episode of Seinfeld when they go visit a couple who has just had a new baby? The parents gush over how beautiful the baby is, and Jerry, Elaine, and George are polite and agree, even though the baby is the ugliest baby they've ever seen. Finally, Kramer says the truth. Now, I'm not saying our writing is the ugliest thing ever, but it is flawed, and we all need a Kramer to read it--someone honest enough to tell us the truth (perhaps in a kinder, gentler way than Kramer), even if it isn't what we want to hear. This is what our critique partners are for. That being said, we need to be prepared for the negative. We need to thicken up our skin and be willing to take the bad comments right along with the good. I'm not going to lie here; the first negative comment stings like the devil, but after you step back for a little bit, you can look more objectively at it. Without the negative comments, we can't improve. Those are what drive us to do better, to try harder, to pay more attention to our weaknesses. The negative comments are what make us better writers. For those of you who have been involved in a critique group, do you embrace the bad comments? For those who haven't hit the critiquing stage, how do you envision yourself reacting to the negative?