Friday, July 30, 2010

Staying Confident

If you've started querying you know the nervous tic as you refresh your browser, know the shaking finger as you click on the message, know the disappointment of seeing "not right for me, sorry" staring up at you from the screen.

This article about a day in the life of a querier was from yesterday's Guide to Literary Agents. I wondered how the author got into my dining room.

I've sent 35 queries. And by all accounts, I've done pretty well.  I've had two requests for fulls from unsolicited queries--and three more as a result of a query combined with a conference meeting or contest.  Five fulls out of 35 is pretty darn good if I do say so myself.  So I'm confident I'll find the right agent. But...

Yesterday I got a pretty disappointing rejection.  It was from someone I had met a couple of times, connected with, and who I know liked my concept.  Something wasn't quite right for that person to take me on.  I've had three pretty similar rejections from fulls--"good writing, good concept, not quite right for me." Or "didn't love it the way I'd hoped."  My confidence is waning. But...

I have 12 queries that haven't responded--and two fulls still out.  And like I tell my crit partners, 35 queries is not yet "querying widely."  I'm confident I'll find the right agent.

Can you say flip-flop?

Logically I know with a concept people like and good writing I should keep querying until I hit the right person at the right time.  But I'm starting to waver (did you notice).  Should I be making revisions?  Noone has given me revision suggestions on my current MS.  Should I continue boldly or wait until more of my outstanding queries come back?  Or wait to hear from the two agents who still have fulls?

When will the query fairy come down and wave her magic wand?

Rather than sounding whiny and ungrateful and desperate, I need to answer my own questions.  Every step along the way has it's own challenges, right? This is just one challenge.

I know my writing is good--I've had validation there.  I know my concept is good, too.  I think I'm going to wait a week or so and see if I get any feedback from the queries and fulls that are out.  And then, I'm going to dive back into the query pool.  There are lots of people looking for realistic YA who I haven't queried yet.  In other words, there are more fish in the sea.

I'm confident. Really.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

How I Write: Revision: How to Begin

Welcome to the seventh installment of the How I Write series, brainchild of Ansha Kotyk.  A group of writers are writing about how we write – scheduled for Wednesdays through August.  Please check back weekly. And click here for the list of all the writers participating and links to their blogs.

Today's topic: Revision

Newsflash: I love revision. This is what I live for--getting to the point where I can revise.  I often break a cardinal writer's rule and start revising before I even get to the end.  ::gasp::  Anyone else do that?  Revise as you go?

When I'm really ready to dive into major revision, I usually spend some time looking at passive/active voice issues--making sure I've used the strongest words possible, making sure my sentence structure is varied and interesting.  I might read some books on craft and see if I'm hitting all the plot points I should be.  I might read out loud a bit to make sure my dialogue is working.

I had one major plot twist rewrite during the last novel--I had a whole plot line where the object of my protag's crush fell and got a head injury.  There was a great scene where the protag and a gay [male] friend shared a moment over the injured boy's broken body.  It was great. And way too Guiding Light.

I decided to scrap the whole plot line--bye bye 15k words.  Started over pretty much. But it helped me know my characters better, their motivation, their personalities--even though that stuff didn't happen.  That was major revision.

Keep in mind I've only finished one some of these strategies might be different with WIP #2. But still, I seriously love revision.

Am I the only one?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Authors online

I always find it so cool to discover authors whose worked I've enjoyed online.  Twitter and blogs offer us opportunities to interact in ways never before possible--the fan girl inside me finds it a bit daunting.  It also makes me wonder what it might be like to have my book published and be on the other side of the coin.

My daughter and I recently discovered R.L Lafevers--we love her Nathanial Fludd: Beastologist series.  Her blog offered a chance to see the newly designed cover of the not-yet-published fourth book in the series. We commented on her post about the new cover.  I also noticed she's on twitter, so I tweeted a congratulatory message. And guess what? She answered. Made my daughter's night (not to mention mine!).

Of course if you've read my blog with any regularity, you know of my fan-girl status with Kate Messner.  Through my correspondence with Kate, I had a chance to review an ARC of her to-be-released SUGAR AND ICE.   That was cool. And wouldn't have happened without blogging.

Other author blogs I've enjoyed lately include Jaclyn Dolamore and Laurel Snyder.

Sometimes I hesitate commenting.  I almost never tweet to authors and agents--too much of a risk of looking/sounding stupid or seeming too stalkerish. But occasionally I work up the courage to make a comment.  And I'm almost never disappointed.  Because authors and agent really ARE people, too.  And just like those of us writing and querying our first novels, they want feedback.  To hear that something touched someone's heart, or made an impact on someone, or just that their words were enjoyed. And it's nice to have someone say thank you.

Have you thanked your favorite author today?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

How I Write Series: Motivation

Welcome to the sixth installment of the How I Write series, brainchild of Ansha Kotyk.  A group of writers are writing about how we write – scheduled for Wednesdays through August.  Please check back weekly. And click here for the list of all the writers participating and links to their blogs.

Today's topic: Motivation: Getting through the Dreaded Middle Pages

Yikes.  Am I really supposed to tell people how to do this? Me? Um, okay, here goes...

It seems to me that even the most seasoned writers have trouble with motivation. I've got all sorts of fabulous and successful procrastination devices (not to imply that I'm seasoned. Yet).  None of which are particularly productive.

twitter. itunes. facebook.  When I'm really desperate, I might vacuum.  (I know, ::gasp::).  None of these things really help me rack up word count.  Or figure out my story.  Or make me feel productive.

So how to get motivated?  I keep glancing up at my shiny new blog title.  Writing. For Real.  And it hits me.  You just have to write.  Write crap if you must. If you get stuck, write character bios.  Write obituaries for your characters.  Interview them.  Ask 'what if' questions.  Pull out all those writing exercises you hate to write.  Just write.

I know I know.  It's a whole lot easier said than done.  Ask my crit group--I'm forever complaining I don't know what happens next.  But the fact of the matter is, I haven't really sat down and tried for this new wip.  It's summer, and I've been vacuuming. And if you believe that, I'll sell you a shiny new blog title. ;)

How do you get motivated?

Friday, July 16, 2010

Preparing for a Journey

So when you start a journey, you don't just get in the car and drive, right? You plan. You schedule. You pack. You map the route. You double check the list. I know I do.

Why, then, when I start a new WIP, do I have such a hard time prepping? There is absolutely no reason why I should not plot, outline, snowflake, analyze characters, blah blah blah before I sit staring at a blank screen.  Of course I don't know what happens next, I don't know my characters yet! 

But I somehow feel like I'm "not writing" if I'm not writing. Why is that? The planning stages are just as important as the traveling or the arriving. Be Prepared!  That's what the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts say.

Maybe I just need to go away for a few days and relax.  And come back refreshed.  Maybe.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Naming the Blog

My Writing Journey has been the title of my blog since it's inception--it was for lack of a better title and at the time was appropriate.  I used the blog only a bit, and mostly as a journal.  I had no followers, and no hope of followers.  I had no idea how one even went about getting followers.

Flash forward three years.  I've got 71 followers (::waves::), I blog regularly, and try to contribute something to the blogging writer's community.  I feel like I've outgrown the old title.  So I'm trying on new names.  Since I write, for the most part, realistic YA and nonfiction MG...I was thinking "Writing. For Real." had a sort of nice double meaning.  Or maybe, "Writing. Really." (that sort of seems a bit desperate, though.).

Really Writing?
Or something related to golf to link it to my currently being queried novel: Hitting the Keys, Tales from the Clubhouse.
I could go cutesy: Krissy's World. (no, just joking on that one.)
Asselin's Adventure

Ok, the ideas are getting worse, not better.  I'm kind of liking Writing. For Real. 

I'd love any comments!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

How I Write: Finishing a First Draft

Welcome to the fifth installment of the How I Write series, brainchild of Ansha Kotyk.  A group of writers are writing about how we write – scheduled for Wednesdays through August.  Please check back weekly. And click here for the list of all the writers participating and links to their blogs.

Today's topic: Finishing Your First Draft & Setting a Writing Schedule

I've finished plenty of first drafts--picture book manuscripts; nonfiction freelance projects; and waaayyy back, term papers, and scripts and reviews for my film classes.  However, there was nothing so satisfying as "finishing" my first novel on Thanksgiving morning 2009.  Of course, since then I've added 15K words and have "finished" it again.  But finishing the first draft was special.  It felt like I had accomplished something.

I wrote the novel during the "in-between" times--waiting for my daughter's art class to end, late at night when no one else was awake, lunch break at work, riding in the car (thinking only, of course).  I didn't really have a set schedule. Toward the end, I was able to establish a bit of a schedule in that I wrote every day (or almost every day).

Now, with more work-for-hire projects on my plate, a second novel sort-of started, and querying and blogging responsibilities piling up (not to mention critiques and beta reads), it makes sense to put myself on a schedule.  Luckily, the work-for-hire has deadlines--so that's easy to schedule.  I don't want the new WIP to have to wait until October (of course, if any agents ARE interested in my current being-queried ms, I want to have some new to tell them about as well!). 

I'm not sure this post really has a point.  Except that the topic reminds me that I should have a schedule or at least some goals (Tina's post from last week also underscores that necessity).  Let's see, I know I'll be spending evenings working on the outlines for my two WFH projects with deadlines of end of August and beginning of October for first drafts.  I try to write my blog posts in advance and schedule them to post on certain days--so I'll continue to do that.  I'd love to have 10K written on the new WIP by the end of the summer.

Not much of a schedule, I know.  But if I set myself up to write every day, it just might work.  And of course limit my twitter-stalking, and time-sucking web activities. ;)

Anybody have set schedules for your writing?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

My favorite blogs this week

or the one's I've been stalking visiting most:

Alice Pope's SCBWI blog (and not just because I won an ARC of Holly Cupola's TELL ME A SECRET there this week.)
Query Tracker
Verla Kay's Blue Board
Casey McCormick's Literary Rambles
Krista V.'s Mother. Write. Repeat

I also spend time at Laura Pauling's Exercising the Write to Ramble, Heather Kelly's Edited to Within an Inch of my Life, Tina Laurel Lee's Watch Me Practice, Jennifer Carson's blog, and Ansha Kotyk's blog.

My favorite agent blogs are Mandy Hubbard's, Kate Shafer Testerman's and Jennifer Laughran's.  And there are countless others that I try to browse on a semi-regular basis.

Really, though, I should be writing.  Or outlining, at least.  Reading, maybe?  I've been trying to give constructive critiques at Writeoncon, trying to post helpful comments at the Blueboard.  And blogging regularly.  Oh, yeah, and twitter.  And don't forget, I'm querying. 

How do people do it all?  Tell me please!

Saturday, July 10, 2010


Plugged in at the library. Ten textbooks on the table. Bottle of water. Music.

I've got it all.

Unfortunately, I need to actually read some of these books.  Outlining is still cool and I'm making progress. 

Wish I still had that mocha ice latte that the library cop made me guzzle as I was walking in--the caffeine high has worn off. 

Friday, July 9, 2010

Wicked Awesome Contest at The Bodacious Pen

Happy Weekend, everyone. 

You should totally check out Tara's honkin contest at the Bodacious Pen.  Lots of cool ALA swag and free books!

I'm going to win though...

Nonfiction: Outlining

I'm fully entrenched in two nonfiction work-for-hire pieces at the moment.  Actually, really only entrenched in one, but thinking about the other.  I love history, so I'm really excited about this assignment.

At any rate, the guidelines for this set require an outline--which, normally, I am not inclined to write.  I wasn't sure where to start, so I spent some time looking at the history/social studies curriculum frameworks for my state. I pored through some of my library books.  I googled Colonial America. I jotted some notes.

But last night at the library, I actually started outlining.  And you know what? It's pretty cool!  I can skim my notes and my resources and only pull out important highlights.  I don't have to spend hours reading details--of course, that will come later.  But I suddenly feel like I have a direction to go with this project. 

I know a few of my CPs and blogging friends outline their plots, but I have never done it.  It's got me thinking...

Who knows, maybe it'll inspire me to outline for my new novel. Anyone else outline?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

How I Write: Starting a new WIP

Welcome to the fourth installment of the How I Write series, brainchild of Ansha Kotyk.  A group of writers are writing about how we write – scheduled for Wednesdays through August.  Please check back weekly. And click here for the list of all the writers participating and links to their blogs.

Today's topic: Starting a new WIP

Now this is a timely topic.  I just happen to be starting a new WIP and I was wondering this exact thing.  The last time I started a novel, I had written a short story inspired by an experience I had as a teenager.  People who read the story wanted to know what happened next to my characters, and so I started writing more.  Much of it was inspired by people and places from my childhood.  It was completely organic and from my heart.  I didn't actually start it consciously.

So I have no idea what to do with this new one.  I've got a first chapter drafted that sort of came from a daydream.  And my friend Ansha insists that if I let things stew, more of the story will come from my subconscious. ::waves to Ansha::   So I'm stewing.  And researching a bit (see last week's post).  And listening to music.  And reading.  And talking to my characters.

Wait.  What?  Talking to my characters?

Yes. If you listen, they'll talk to you.

Sometimes, I pull out scrap paper in the car while I'm waiting to pick up my daughter, and just jot notes.  Random thoughts about the characters.  It's amazing what comes out sometimes.

I use a novel writing software which helps organize--I don't use all it's features, but it's helpful.  And of course when I get into a funk, do a little snowflaking method.  I know I'll use character spreadsheets, outlines, review my craft books, and any number of other tools before I'm done.

UPDATE since I wrote this entry: I've been assigned two new freelance projects.  I'll be writing about life in Colonial America specifically focusing on government for one and weapons/battles for the other.  This type of research (see last week's entry) begins with a google search, searches on and my local library's online resources.  I'll begin with an outline based on the publisher's guidelines and then write the manuscript based on research and the approved outline.  Two or more primary resources are required--I'll probably take my research on the road and hit the museums in Lexington, MA and Plymouth, MA.

New fiction WIP will get to stew a bit longer as I tackle these new projects.

How do you start a new WIP?

Saturday, July 3, 2010


With all the attention on cupcakes lately (reality shows, food network, writers' blogs), I bought WHAT'S NEW CUPCAKE last week.  The munchkin and I tried our hands at the karaoke cupcakes for a birthday party.

What do you think?

I'm guessing they'll taste better than they look.  :)

Friday, July 2, 2010

Girl Athletes: Sugar and Ice by Kate Messner

Kate Messner's Sugar and Ice is due to be released in December 2010.  I had the pleasure of reading an ARC (Advanced Reading Copy) of S & I this past week.

From Kate's Website:

Walker Books for Young Readers (December 2010)

For Claire Boucher, life is all about skating on the frozen cow pond and in the annual Maple Show right before the big pancake breakfast on her family's maple farm. But all that changes when Claire is offered a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity-a scholarship to train with the elite skaters in Lake Placid. Tossed into a world of mean girls on ice, where competition is everything, Claire soon realizes that her sweet dream-come-true has sharper edges than she could have imagined. Can she find the strength to stand up to the people who want her to fail and the courage to decide which dream she wants to follow?

I loved Claire--she's not the typical skating princess from the books I read as a kid.  She's down to earth, has a great family, and doesn't necessarily want to win against all odds or at the expense of everyone else. She's also a math nerd, loves Indiana Jones, helps her parents business, and is good to her two brothers.  She has to compete against the mean girls, but she has a bee-keeping best friend, a cute boy "friend" and a cousin who gives her all her hand-me-down dresses.  In the end, she finds a way to beat the mean girls at their own game.

I liked the ending - it was satisfying that Claire made a decision that wasn't necessarily the one you might guess she'd make.  

I can't wait to read more from Kate Messner -- she's a talented writer and a treasure to the middle-grade genre.  And she's contributed some strong new girl athletes to the fold.

When Sugar and Ice comes out in December, I would encourage everyone to grab a copy for their favorite girl athlete!