Monday, August 31, 2009
Someone debating the validity of your Genius.
How dare they, you ask??
The greatest gift a writer can get (besides cash or liquor) is honest feedback on his/her work.
How many of you have been writing since you were in high school or earlier?
How many were told they were brilliant by English teachers and/or relatives?
And how many of were unpleasantly surprised later in life to find out that ... yeah, not so much?
Welcome to the life of a writer.
That twirly feeling in your stomach is the beginning of a new and wonderful thing called Self Awareness. It is this discomfiting understanding that your first drafts are crap that will set you apart from the other wannabes and make you shine. Trust me :). It's true!
I was that kid who was told by all the teachers that everything they write might as well be inked in unicorn snot and angel tears because it's so amazing, and so thought (of course) this was true. Embarrassing, I know.
I very clearly remember my first week in college. There was an online poetry critique group that you could submit to, so of course I sent my Pearls of Awesomeness over, expecting them to praise me, tell me how amazing I was, and then ask me to tear their lesser works apart for them.
I'll never forget what happened next. They gave ME criticism! My themes were vague. The endings of my sentences weren't snappy enough. I was wordy. I was wasting words... Needless to say, I almost had a heart attack.
"But... I'm brilliant! Everyone says so!" I thought, shaking my fist at the computer screen.
This was when I first wondered if maybe my gradeschool teachers were liar-pantses, and I had a lot of work to do after all.
Thank goodness for criticism!
Without it, we would never know our shortcomings and would have no clue how to recognize them on our own. Criticism is the mirror that tells us when we have spinach in our teeth.
There is a theory that goes something like this: Competence is inversely proportional to confidence.
Have you ever noticed how the people who are worst at something are the ones that think they're the best? Think karaoke. Think middle-school poetry. Think... William Hung from American Idol. This is absolutely true for writing as well. The people that don't think they have any room for improvement are the ones who suck the most. They suck, because they never realize they have room to grow, so they simply don't bother on improving themselves. These are also crazy people.
Let's face it. Even Shakespeare probably sucked at first. He and Christopher Marlow probably had a critique group and helped sharpen one another's skills.
I guess my point through all this rambling, is that learning to accept and even love constructive criticism has made me a vastly better writer. I learn more and more each day, and crave feedback that can shine a light on something I've yet to learn. Hooray for people who care for me enough to tell me the truth :). I love you all!
There is a great discussion over at author Nicola Morgan's blog about when to either let your WIP die, or when to give it CPR and revise. I'm quoted there talking a little bit about my own journey with LEGACY OF THE EMPRESS, which is very cool! If it weren't for the couple of rejections I received, I never would have gotten critiques, never would have revised, and wouldn't have this shiny, sparkly new version that I swear is 10X better than I ever thought it could be.
Criticism is a gift :).
Do you treat it that way?
Friday, August 28, 2009
Remember, L&L, imitation is the purest form of flattery ;).
10) People on Twitter love talking about a) food, and b) what their cats are doing. I'm not sure why, but it's true. I caved and tweeted about my cat today. Not sure if this is good or bad, but one thing's for sure: I'm very, very afraid.
9) I can't look at http://cakewrecks.blogspot.com/ at work without giggling loudly, disturbing my neighbors. It's Just. Too. Funny. I'm still not sure why, but banter + hideous cakes = irrepressible laughter.
8) True Blood is a good show. It has proper vampires that murder people and burst into flames when the sun comes up. I missed that!
7) Listening to heavy metal helps me write better fight scenes. There is such a thing as Viking Metal.
6) Since revising my manuscript, I've now gotten used to only using ONE space after my periods! Can you believe it? I feel like I'm growing as a person.
5) Every time someone mentions getting a Kindle I get a little chill. I want one so badly I can taste it, but I'm totally too cheap to buy one unless the price goes down to... I don't know... free.
4) My husband is as outraged over the Google Settlement thing as I am. I can't believe they scanned all of those books that are still under copyright. WTF, Google? I usually love you, but that ain't cool.
3) I can now read my manuscript without having to stop and fix something in every single sentence :D. I think this means it's almost "done." Like... for reals done.
2) Every time I think about my manuscript being ready to query, I get a shiver of excitement, then a chill of terror, then longing to get to work on my new book Hollow Land, then the chill of terror again. It's like my own mini rollercoaster. And I love it.
1) Last but not least, while reading Neverwhere, I learned that EVEN NEIL GAIMAN USES -LY ADVERBS ONCE IN A WHILE :). They're not illegal, turns out. But you have to be Neil Gaiman to use them.
Also, I got some presents this week :D!
Christine Fonseca was kind enough to give me the Silver Shoe of Sincerity award for leaving sincere blog comments. It's just so SPARKLY! I never knew what it was for, but have long coveted it. I would wear it if I could. Thanks, Christine!
You guys are all amazing commenters, and I love hearing your thoughts, so it was difficult to call out just one person to give this shiny, shiny award to. I chose Yunaleska! Yuna, thank you for always being so encouraging and supportive :). You rock!
Secondly, the ever-fabulous JennyMac gave me her own special award! In case you all didn't know, I give good blog.
If you haven't checked out JennyM's blog, you really should, immediately. She tells the best stories, has yummy recipes, and even creates her own cocktails. Seriously, go there. You know you want to!
I'm going to give this one to Sara Tribble , horror writer and interviewer extraordinarre! Keep it up, Sara! :) I love reading your editor interviews.
I hope you all have wonderful weekends!
Did you learn anything new this week?
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Yesterday editor Cheryl Klein announced on Twitter that she had A Modest Proposal she'd like agents to consider.
Being a voyeur, and wondering if it was about eating babies, I trucked over to her blog to see what's up.
Turns out, editors have an issue when an agent starts accepting offers for a book in the blink of an eye and asks other editors to throw their hats in the ring with only 2-3 days notice. To resolve this, and make sure that the editor whose offer is chosen is the best for the book and not just the one with the fastest trigger finger, she asks if agents would consider not accepting offers for 4-8 weeks to give editors time to collect the proper support from their publishing houses and do their thang.
Okay, close your mouths everyone, and wipe that drool off your chins ;).
I know this is every aspiring author's DREAM to hear stuff like this. I think it falls under the catagory of "word nerd porn." But it gets more interesting from here!
Agent Michael Bourret of Dystel & Goderich Literary Mangement rebutted with some thoughts of his own, namely:
a) This is all well and good, but we don't want to offend anyone by declining their pre-emptive offer. We have relationships with editors to maintain.
b) Fast editors are the ones that are usually the most enthusiastic about the book, and therefore the most desirable for the author.
c) Waiting longer makes authors sad pandas :(.
In response to his response, Cheryl said that, yes, thank you, it would totally work if all agents set up the timeframe ahead of time. Then editors would be able to gather support in their houses properly, get the excitement brewing, which benefits the authors. Then there isn't a mad lemming-esque rush to the auction by people who will ignore the author once all the fuss settles down.
In response to her response to his response, Michael said that while awesome in theory, all agents couldn't be expected to participate. Also there is the slight issue of editors procrastinating and waiting until the very end of the 4-8 weeks to even read the manuscript. In which case it's the same as the no notice, and authors are still sad, sad pandas :(.
Agent Nathan Bransford also put in his .02 on the time publishing takes, making the point that just because an agent has quick response times to queries doesn't mean they are neglecting their clients. Perhaps this is in response to agent Jessica Faust's post yesterday on how to tell if your agent is a jerk before you sign on?
So that leaves us..... where? I'm not really sure.
As authors or aspiring-authors, what do you guys think of Cheryl's "Modest Proposal?"
Would you be willing to wait the 4-8 weeks to narrow down on your Dream Editor if you book went to auction, or would you be worried about procrastination and lack of interest without the rush?
The most interesting part is reading the comments--seriously! Agents and editors abound and share their opinions on the matter.
Also, do you judge agents based on their response times to queries?
Is faster necessarily better?
I'd love to hear what you think!
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
And by finished, I mean I finished going through a last comb-through edit for passive language, clunky sentences, etc. Now, I'm working on upping the anty in my ending scene, fixing a middle scene which my husband pointed out needs fixing (bless him), and sending it to betas, and editing it again myself.
Thinking about this whole process today, I have to admit, I started to get discouraged. Looking at my book, I found myself thinking "will it EVER be good enough?"
After thinking this, I had a couple of epiphanies, I'd like to share:
1) I'm the one judging myself most harshly. I am asking if it will ever be good enough to please ME. Not if it's as good as I can get it, but if it's good enough by my impossible standards.
2) To be "good enough for me" I would have to concentrate hard enough to instantly become George R. R. Martin.
3) I'm never going to instantly become George R. R. Martin just by willing it to be so.
4) I want each book I write to be my absolute best possible work in that moment. And then I want my next book to kick that book's ass.
In conclusion, no my work will never be good enough for me because I'm the kind of person who always wants to be better. I will do my absolute best on everything I write, but when it gets to that point where I can't do any more, I have to let it go.
I realized, too, that I'm proud of what I've done with LEGACY OF THE EMPRESS. Sure it's not George R. R. Martin, but it's me. And maybe that's a very good thing. I like to think that it is :).
Now it's time to do another once-over (or twice-over), and believe in my book and what I've accomplished.
I think, too, that those of us who are unsatisfied with our level of work (even though it's our best) are the ones who are going to continue to improve over the decades, getting better and better with each novel. That's going to separate the good writers from the great.
I want to be great. I want every novel to be as close to perfect as possible, and then one-up myself next time.
What do you guys want? What are you going to do to get it?
How was your week? :D
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Now, since I've been doing the crazy revising, I realize it's been a while since I did a proper Teaser Tuesday! Without further ado, here is a short bit from my work in progress, LEGACY OF THE EMPRESS.
The footprints led directly into the mouth of the cave. Brandok stood scratching his backside as he surveyed the cliff-face for any sign of life. He was certain the girl came this way. He would bet his life on it. Tracks in the ashes. Clear as day. The soil beneath his feet was charred as if a fire had scourged the land near the cliff. Lightning, maybe. Long ago. Brandok sniffed the air. Rain’s not far. He had to hurry.
He drew his knife from his belt as he entered, narrowing his eyes in the darkness. He groped for the back of the cave, but before he reached it he saw a faint glow coming from a tunnel. He grunted and raised his knife. Anyone could be waiting. Could be a trap, or could be a traveler seeking shelter. Could be a little girl… His lips curved into a smile. A gold tooth glinted coldly.
He moved further into the tunnel, the light growing with each step. He noticed the air becoming thick and warm around him as if he were walking into the lair of a dragon. His eye twitched at the idea. The old stories troubled him. He could almost hear the voice of his grandfather, harsh and wheezing; smell the tang of his breath as he beckoned him closer.
This is no time to think of the old stories, man. Those beasts are dead and gone along with the old Empire. Nothing remains now but bones and stories. Nevertheless, he was grateful for the darkness that hid him as he moved down the tunnel.
I’d rather face them dragons than Queen Leanore if I don’t find the girl. He ran a hand over his face, wiping the sweat away. He remembered the look in the captain’s eyes as he gave him his orders in the queen’s own hand. He looked drawn, haunted, as if he were seeing things behind the veil of the world even as he looked into the tracker’s eyes. He accidentally brushed the captain’s fingers as he took the parchment, and he watched the man jump as if stung as their flesh met. He left in a hurry from that place, eager to begin and end his mission.
I hope she struggles when I find her. He licked his lips. Hopefully the little poppet will be worth my while, as well as the queen’s.
How are your works-in-progress going so far this week?
Any news or updates to share? :)
Monday, August 24, 2009
I am on drugs (hooray for decongestants!) and lying on my couch watching movies on Netflix.
The plan is to be lucid and back on track for your blog-reading pleasure tomorrow.
Until then, please tawk amongst yourselves while I pass out.
Hope you're having good Mondays!
Also, go see District 9. I saw it before the plague wiped me out, and it's awesome, although tragic. I loved it. Good stuff!
K, back to the couch I shuffle...
Friday, August 21, 2009
(picture by Daniela Elisabeth Kaminski)
Since the Dawn of Geeks there has been a vast debate: Where is the line between Fantasy and Science Fiction?
The arguments have been heated and numerous, but recently the old stand by argument "Star Wars is totally Fantasy because Jedi are WIZARDS" came up again on the Internets, making me think... what really does separate these two genres?
I've heard Science Fiction defined as anything including advanced technology or science that can be logically postulated upon or explained using the known laws of Nature. Fantasy is defined as involving sparkly magic or magical creatures that can't be explained by current laws of Nature.
This poses a problem, though. What happens if you take into account Arther C. Clark's Three Laws?:
1. When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
2. The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.
3. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
At what point does technology become so advanced in your novels that it seems like magic? And at what point is magic explainable as simply being preternatural--something we can't yet understand but will as we evolve?
Also, what about DRAGONS IN SPACE?
There is a lot of blending and cross polinating that goes on between Fantasy and Science Fiction, and I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing.
Where do you think the lines are?
When does science give way to magic, or magic to science?
Does it change whether or not you want to read a book, depending on magic vs. science?
And once in for all, is Star Wars just really badly done Sci Fi, or is it Fantasy because it has Super Magic Force Wizards?
More on this debate over at John Scalzi's blog: http://whatever.scalzi.com/2009/08/20/re-the-science-fiction-failure-mode/.
Have a great weekend!
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Thank you so much to Lynnette Labelle, Tereliz Luziana (coolest name ever), Michelle McLean, and Scott, who needs no last name. It really did touch me to get this from you guys, because you all have blogs that I love to read daily and really admire!
Okay, onto the rules of this award (because rules make it more fun):
1. Thank the person who nominated you for this award.
2. Copy the logo and place it on your blog.
3. Link to the person who nominated you for this award.
4. Name 7 things about yourself that people might not know.
5. Nominate 7 Kreativ Bloggers.
6. Post links to the 7 blogs you nominate.
7. Leave a comment on each of the blogs letting them know they have been nominated.
At this point, I'm very grateful that rule #4 doesn't say "fastinating thing" because yeah... I've got nothing.
Here are the top 7 things you wish you never knew about Rebecca Knight:
7. I realized the other day that all the movies and TV I own/watch are dude movies. It's all things like First Blood, Season 1 of MacGyver, Preditor, and Equilibrium. This translates into my reading life, too. I'm emotional and love some romance in my novels, but if they don't have someone's arm getting chopped off or a werewolf eating someone's face, I'm not truly happy.
6. I am a closet trekkie. I LOVE The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and all of the movies except for Nemesis, which didn't exist. If I could walk around wearing one of those sweet Bajoran earrings, I totally would. Also, Data's hot.
5. I value Badassery very highly. Even though I wear skirts and makeup and heels (once in awhile, I'm tall), I want to be able to defend myself from ninja attacks at a moment's notice. This makes me want to one day become some kind of Muay Thai master. You know. Just in case.
4. I own most of the Lord of the Rings action figures. And play with them. When I was in college, I almost shot my mom's eye out with Aragorn's tiny (yet deadly) bow and arrows. Well, I had to try it out! It was CHRISTMAS, for Pete's sake!
3. You know when you hear the recordings that say "This call may be recorded for quality purposes?" That's my job. I'm the lady who sits in a cube all day listening to people's calls and judging them on call quality and compliance to consumer protection laws. When I tell people this, they look at me like I just announced I'm Hitler's personal secretary. :(
2. The X-Men animated series has made me cry, as has Futurama. That stuff is well written, dammit!
1. I'm a total sucker for babies and kittens, despite my insistance that I am a badass. So if you are a zombie coming to attack me in my home, bring a kitten to distract me. It will work every time.
SO, on to the really fun part now!
Here are the 7 folks who I love and nominate for this award (in no particular order):
1) Christine Fonseca
2) The Rejectionist (seriously, I love this blog!)
3) Lisa & Laura Write
4) Jenny Mac
5) Cole Gibson
6) The Badass Geek
7) Terri Rainer
CONGRATS, ALL! Thank you for constantly entertaining and enlightening me :D.
Last but not least, I wanted to make up my own award just for funsies.
Everyone has those couple of awesome writer friends who have helped you grow as a writer, have patiently talked you off the ledge when you're being crazy, and have corrected your passive language more times than you can count. I think those folks need an award, too!
So, here is my official Awesome Writer Friend Award, also known as the WORD NERD Award!
I would like to give to this the irreplaceable Abby Annis. Thanks for being there for me, dude! :D Please feel free to pass this to someone who is your Word Nerd and give them the love. (Also, please forgive the ugliness of the award, I has no skillz at this type of thing.)
Thanks again, Everyone, and Congrats to our winners!
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
I'm sorry and excited to say this will be a really short post today.
I'm sorry because I love this blog and hanging out with all of you wonderful writer friends, but excited that I'm SO CLOSE TO FINISHING editing my WIP (squee!) that I'm taking time to hammer that out instead of blogging.
Please look at this picture to tide yourselves over. I sort of feel like this in anticipating of finishing Legacy of the Empress up and handing it off to critters one more time. YAAAY!
How are your weeks going? I'd love to hear about your progress!
Monday, August 17, 2009
Today, I have a special treat for you guys: an interview with author Cindy Pon of SILVER PHOENIX (that's Cindy w/ the alien on the left)!
I did a review of SILVER PHOENIX a while back and really enjoyed it--it's a YA fantasy set in ancient China. Anyone who is a fan of fantasy will really enjoy the mythical creatures and adventures in this debut novel.
I follow Cindy's blog, and she is also one of the nicest, most approachable authors out there. I suggest you stop on by at http://www.cindypon.com/ and say "hi!"
Now, on with the interview!
1) Can you please tell us about your road to publication? How did you meet your agent?
i queried from end of january 2008 through april 2008. i hit 121 agents and was still sending out queries on the weekend that agent bill contard i emailed regarding his interest. i didn't "know anyone". i simply did my research online and sent out queries to any and all agents i felt might be interested in my debut. they weren't especially personalized either.
how could you with 121 queries?
we went on sub within two days and silver phoenix went to auction and sold five weeks later.
it was an absolute whirlwind and utterly surreal and thrilling. also terrifying! i always say it takes a lot of courage to pursue your dreams, but it takes even more courage to live it.
2) Wow, that is amazing. I totally agree that it takes courage to make it happen! Did you ever think about giving up along the way? If so, what kept you going?
i didn't. i was considering going directly to publishers if i couldn't find an agentto represent me.
what kept me going was the love i had forthis novel. i did get feedback, but many agents were saying "great writing and story, not sure i cansell this", because there simply wasn't very much out there that's similar to Silver Phoenix within the YA genre.
so i chose not to believe them and kept going. =D
that someone *will* be willing to take the risk and love the story as much as i do. i was blessed that this is exactly what happened.
3) I'm a fan of your blog, and notice that you're on several social networking sites. Can you tell us about what you did to promote the launch of your book? Any advice for newbie authors on building a readership?
i did most of my promotion online. i'm so fortunate in that the blog and writing community have been nothing but supportive. readers like you are kind enough to share the news of my debut and interview me. i spent a lot of time doing interviews which i love to do--only with sequel deadlines and travel, it's been more difficult these past months.
i love my blog. i'm not sure if i have advice but i can tell you what i do. i write posts about things i enjoy sharing, and i try to blog fairly consistently. there's nothing worse thanvisiting a blog that hasn't been updated in weeks.
i'm sad to say i haven't been able to visit all my favorite blogs consistently since a month before publication. =( but this give and take is key. find other blogs you enjoyto read and contribute to their comments section! it's allabout community.
4) Great advice! What is it like to be writing the sequel to Silver Phoenix now that you're working with an editor and a dealine? Is it more difficult than writing the first book? Easier? Why or why not?
there are pros and cons. the deadline really forced me to focus. at the same time, i did find it much more challenging due to the time crunch. it's like learningto write a novel all over again!
5) If you could go back in time, what advice would you give Past Cindy about the road to publication?
i don't think i would have done anything differently?
my advice to other writers is to keep reading and keep writing. believe in yourself and your story and never forget your passion for it. that's what truly matters.
6) Well said! Anything you can tell us about the sequel? We're excited!! :D
it's a pre-sequel! two story lines (silver phoenix & zhong ye, ai ling & chen yong) intertwined.
A big THANK YOU! to Cindy Pon for the interview :). I learn so much from hearing about other's journeys to publication. It's invigorating to hear the success stories and glean courage from them.
If you haven't read SILVER PHOENIX yet, I suggest you check it out at Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/Silver-Phoenix-Beyond-Kingdom-Xia/dp/0061730211/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1250563178&sr=8-1).
Read it with your favorite Chinese food at the ready, though. Cindy writes about food throughout, and I was never wanted dumplings and noodles so much in my life!
Consider yourselves warned.
Has anyone else read Silver Phoenix?
Read any other good books lately? :) I'd love to hear what's on your reading list!
This time, the lovely Cole Gibson started by posing this challenge:
This blog chain is a game!
Your subject is writerly advice. (I just made that word up. Hee) Pretend you are addressing a crowd of aspiring authors eager to soak in your words of knowledge. The problem is, you've only been given a time slot of five seconds. In one sentence (no more than 20 words), please summarize the most important words of wisdom you can impart.
Check out her pearl o' wisdom here, and please leave one of your own: (http://colegibsen.blogspot.com/2009/08/blog-chain-post-only-one.html) The best part about this topic, is that EVERYONE can play! Leave a pearl of wisdom on her comments, or here, and I'll pass them along.
Hooray for group knowledge! :)
But, no pressure, this means I have to contribute my own tidbit of advice, the most important thing I've learned so far in 20 words or less.
Okay, no more stalling. Here goes!
Take it slow--make sure your writing is the best it can be, then research all you can before querying!
BOOYAH! 20 words exactly.
Now it's your turn! What is the one Wisdom Nugget you'd like to bestow upon newbie writers, or wish someone had bestowed upon you?
I'd love to hear! :)
Next up, answering this question is Kate Karyus Quinn on her blog tomorrow: http://katekaryusquinn.blogspot.com/. Don't miss it!
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Taking some time apart.
On a break.
Seeing other manuscripts.
We talk about how sometimes manuscripts need time to "cure," and taking time apart does us good as writers, but is there a point where "time apart" becomes abandonment?
My husband asked this question last night: How long is too long? He knows what I do (leave it alone for a week or so then go back), but asked what other writers do. My response: "Uhhhh... I have no idea?" I think he's secretly asking this so he can keep me toeing the line with my editing. So sneaky!
However, today to sate both my husband's curiosity and my own: YOU TELL ME :)!
How long do you let your manuscripts sit/age like a fine wine/cure/percolate, and when does it become pure, unadulterated procrastination?
How do you know the difference when it happens?
Is it a horrible, horrible trap?? (Okay, probably not, but inquiring minds want to know!)
I'd love to hear your thoughts!
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
The voices in my head yelled this phrase while I was editing last night.
Me: Hmm, this sentence has lots of adjectives and a simile that doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Sure is pretty, though!
Voices: KILL! Kiiiiiiill!
Me: I love comparing things to hands and fingers, but I've already done it a couple of times. Maybe it's getting old?
Voices: Cut the fingers off!
Me: Wow, this description of the trees is beautifully written, but I think I said the same thing a paragraph back.
Voices: Burn the forest down! Fire is PRETTY!
Me: Oh, no. No, I love that dialogue. What does my crit buddy mean by "it doesn't make sense in context?" Noooo!
Voices: Do it! Duct tape his mouth and throw him in the river!
Needless to say, although frightened and queasy, I acquiesced to the voices' demands and Killed My Darlings.
It was tough. Tougher than in a lot of my other edits because this time I'm down to the nitty gritty and am forced to make brutal decisions. It's down to the wire.
No! Shut up, Voices!
Aaaanyway, this week I've slashed and hacked through about 40 pages, and I have 56 more to go. Wish me luck!
Any progress to report this week? How's it going?
Were you forced to commit murder most foul to any favorite words?
"Kill your darlings."--William Faulkner.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
The question for this chain was posed by the fabulous Terri Rainer (http://terrirainer.blogspot.com/2009/08/blog-chain-blatherskite.html) is:
Do you focus on one project at a time, or do you have many irons in the fire at any given moment?
Before me, answering this question was Cole Gibson (http://colegibsen.blogspot.com/2009/08/blog-chain-post-multitasking.html), and after me will be Kate Quinn (http://katekaryusquinn.blogspot.com/).
I thought about this topic over the past week, and realized a few key things about myself.
1) I have the potential to be the biggest procrastinator on the planet, and
2) I have to keep myself on a short leash to get anything done. Ever.
I've always like to think of myself as an awesome multi-tasker, and I do a great job of juggling tasks at work or menial tasks at home. I can juggle chores in a way where I become a one-woman assembly line--the height of efficiency.
However, when it comes to my writing, if I try to focus on more than one big project, I fall apart.
What the heck??
When I'm working on editing LEGACY OF THE EMPRESS, it's all I can focus on. It was only when I thought I was finished with it, that I began my next novel, HOLLOW LAND. Now that I'm back tweaking LoTE, the second novel is sitting in the corner patiently awaiting its turn.
Why is this? Why can't I be like other writers who have 3 or 4 manuscripts going at once, or are pumping out short stories while working on their novels?
I think I've finally figured it out, and there are a few reasons (man, today I am loving the lists!):
1) If I have too many projects, I will do them all poorly, instead of one thing well
2) If I have too many projects, all of them will take forever to complete, and I won't get anything accomplished
3) If I have too many projects, if I make a mistake in one, chances are I'll make it in all of them.
One of the biggest things I've discovered from writing and rewriting my first novel is that I am able to grow as a writer. I've made a lot of mistakes throughout this process, but instead of jumping into other projects and making the same mistakes in four novels, I chose to stick with this one, and rewrite until I learned the lessons I needed to become better. I would deeeeply regret it if I'd been writing the sequel and working on other stories when I discovered the issues with my first novel. I'd rather take it slow with one project, learn what I need to learn, and then save myself from making those mistakes on my next novel.
Then I get to make all new mistakes and learn some more. YAY!
I also know that if I have too many things going on, I won't have the focus and drive I need to complete them. I'm not a fast writer, I'm a thorough writer, so writing one thing at a time helps me get the job done.
It's funny to me that even though I'm a "typical artistic type" in many ways (I'm messy at home), I'm actually very mythodical when it comes to my art. This just works for me, even though others go at it completely differently and achieve great success.
How do you guys work?
Are you able to multitask projects and complete them?
If so, tell me how ;)! I'd love to hear your thoughts.
Also, don't forget to tune into Kate tomorrow for her answer!
Monday, August 10, 2009
I've been thinking today about goals.
Many writers (and normal people) find it difficult to be satisfied in life unless they know when they'll be able to say "I'm successful." Many of us also find it hard to get started if we don't have something to aim for, and become saddened if we're not sure if we've arrived.
We have to ask ourselves some questions to determine what we want, and how we'll know when we've got it. If we don't, we'll either be too overwhelmed to begin chasing our dreams, or too unrealistic about what will really make us happy. Unrealistic expectations, even ones you put on yourself, SUCK.
So, let me pose a few questions that every writer should probably ask themselves:
1) Why am I writing?
2) How long do I want to do this, even if I never get any credit or money from my work?
3) How much rejection can I take?
4) How much time do I want to spend on my goals, versus with my family, friends, and pillow?
5) What do I want to achieve Big Picture?
6) Will I be satisfied when I get there?
7) Am I satisfied if I never get there?
8) What steps do I have to take to achieve that Big Picture thing?
9) Which one needs to be achieved first?
10) What is my support system?
11) How will I feel if I never achieve this? Is it worth trying anyway?
Here are the answers I've given myself, and what keeps me going (in case it's helpful):
1) Why am I writing? It's my favorite thing to do, and I'm happy when I'm doing it. I'm unhappy when I stop.
2) How long do I want to do this, even if I never get any credit or money from my work? For as long as I possibly can.
3) How much rejection can I take? As much as I need to (be honest here, folks, or you're in for a world of hurt.)
4) How much time do I want to spend on my goals, versus with my family, friends, and pillow? I need to have a balance. I won't be happy meeting my writing goals at the expense of my husband, family, and sweet, sweet sleep. This means I have to make more realistic smaller goals to get to my big goals.
5) What do I want to achieve Big Picture? I want to make enough money to be able to write as a full time job and not starve. This means making about 20-30k. That will be great. Also, I want a Hugo Award.
6) Will I be satisfied when I get there? OH YAH. I don't want to be rich, I just want to have the freedom to write more. And have a rocket statue.
7) Am I satisfied if I never get there? Yes, because no matter what I'll achieve my goal of writing as long as possible. I just won't get to do as much of it per day. Also, maybe I'll get an award after I'm dead. Whatever works.
8) What steps do I have to take to achieve that Big Picture thing? I have to get an agent, have my manuscript sell, promote the crap out of my book, lather, rinse, repeat as many times as possible.
9) Which one needs to be achieved first? I need to find an agent.
10) What is my support system? The awesome people who read my blog (I heart you!), my crit buddies, and my wonderful husband.
11) How will I feel if I never achieve this? Is it worth trying anyway? It will be lame, but I'll still be okay. It is absolutely worth chasing for my entire life. I'll have a blast trying.
The key to getting started and keeping going without driving yourself nuts is creating reasonable goals, and then realizing you'll be satisfied if you meet them or not.
But you have to be willing to keep going as long as it takes. If you're not, then this isn't the business for you and you need to go do something sensible like run a petshop. If so, then chase it with all you've got, and above all enjoy the ride!
*My husband just said he wants me to win two Hugos so we can make bookends. Damn! The pressure! ;)
Friday, August 7, 2009
Last week, you may remember that I posted "Cover Wars: When Cover Art Goes Wrong" expressing my surprise and outrage over the fact that Bloomsbury picked a white model for the cover of a book with a black main character because "black covers don't sell."
Well, a week later, I'm giving Bloomsbury kudos for making things right and doing a full blown photo shoot to correct the cover! Also, a huge congratulations to Justine for sticking by her guns and fighting for this change.
Sometimes it's amazing and humbling to realize that a group of voices on the internet can promote change like this. When we band together, we can actually right injustices and change things for the better. (We can also organize city-wide zombie walks, but that's beside the point.)
The best part about this is that all the hoopla over this cover issue is probably going to throw a lot of fantastic publicity the author's way, boosting sales for the new cover. Maybe now we'll have a recorded case of a black cover selling better than it's white counterpart. Stats prove that black covers sell!
Even if that doesn't happen, I think we've witnessed something very cool going down because of an author and her readers saying "enough is enough" :). Hooray!
What do you guys think about all of this? Did you follow the controversy these past couple of weeks?
Thursday, August 6, 2009
So far I tweet, but I'm worried that maybe I'm not using the site to its full potential.
Many writers say it's crucial for their networking, but I can't help but wonder--am I doin' it right?
A lot of you are internet experts and navigate social networking sites with the greatest of ease. How the heck do you guys do that, already?
Stealing a page out of Nathan Bransford's book, You tell Me:
How do you utilize Twitter as a writer?
How has it helped/hindered you?
I'd love to hear from you!
Thank you in advance for your brilliant comments :).
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
The funny thing was, before I left I was getting really sick of looking at it because of all the time we'd been spending together. Maybe distance really does make the heart grow fonder? After some curing time, getting back into the swing of things felt GREAT.
Last night, Legacy of the Empress and I spent some nice quality time together. I edited and edited and edited, until at 10:30, my husband finally told me to knock it off and relax.
But I was relaxed :). I love feeling like I'm getting stuff done, and I feel SO CLOSE to getting back out there and querying.
However, I've learned from the past and this time I'm not going to rush it. I'm going to go over it after my "final edits" once or twice more in its entirety (along with my dear, live-in beta reader) and make sure that it's as perfect as it can possibly be.
The break from the manuscript seemed to be just what I needed to get my head back in the game :). Yay!
How are your weeks going so far? Any progress? Anything you need some cheerleading on?
Let us know!
I'll leave you with this deep thought:
I try to leave out the parts that people skip. ~Elmore Leonard
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Killer of copy, Pirate of Prose, Destroyer of Dialogue, Stomper of Stories. It is infamous, and it walks among us.
Or does it?
I was thinking about Writer's Block today because I've been seeing more and more people talking about how to "cure" their own Block. I've always been of the opinion that if you believe in its existence, it will come out and get you, like if you say "Bloody Mary" three times in front of a mirror at midnight. Best to just leave it alone and pretend it's not real.
A while back while working on my WIP, I felt like I was getting the dreaded "Block," so I unstuck myself by writing a poem about it. I was amused by the irony, and was able to go on writing because of the exercise.
Do you believe in Writer's Block?
Is it fact, fiction, or creepy ghoststory? Does it affect your writing life? If so, do you have any Block Breakers or cures? I'd love to hear your thoughts!
This Teaser Tuesday, I'd like to share my Writer's Block poem with you guys. Enjoy!
A canal cakes into ruin
Red dust scattering over broken walls.
The land aches to be filled again
To feel the caress of flowing life
Brought by the river’s hand.
The men forgot how to dig.
Time made them dull, their minds
Following the by and by of quiet living
Not used to work of this kind.
Their backs forgot how to bend.
Hands are smooth, calluses gone,
Forgotten in the land where no one
Lifts a hand to help his neighbor.
No one remembers his neighbor’s name,
The chore of friendship abandoned.
Their only hope, the words,
the melody of time and space,
the by and by of quiet living
turned glorious in the rapture
crumbles, even now,
into crimson ruin.
Monday, August 3, 2009
However, even our imaginary worlds can be full of potholes, most of which we created ourselves in an attempt to be Overly Fancy. Oops!
Book blogger Vonda N. McIntyre over at Book View Cafe posted a helpful article on one of the traps to avoid: silly neologisms (or in layman's terms, funky made up words in your fantasy world.)
Ms. McIntyre points out that calling a rabbit a "smeerp" doesn't make it any more alien, and makes you look like a bit of a regular, earth-breed "doofus" rather than adding depth to your story.
I have to admit, I've read a few fantasy/sci fi books where someone uses a fancy-pants alien word for something I later find out is..... bread. It's disappointing. And then after that, distracting.
As we know, every fantasy has to have some made up words, but my question is this:
When is it okay to use your own terms, and when does it get goofy?
Is food/travel/time okay, or should it be reserved for names and places alone?
What is your favorite successful made up fantasy/sci fi word?
Any that drive you crazy?
My favorite made up word to date is: Frak. Fake cursewords are always fun! :D
What about you?