Monday, August 29, 2011

Is Your Writing Cup Half Empty Or Half Full?

We writers all have ups and downs. Heck the whole roller coaster ride metaphor has been used so much (by myself included) that it's become cliche! But is it really all in how you look at it? Or is that a myth? I say it is how you look at it! And to prove my point, I am listing both the negative way to look at common events in a writer's life, and the same thing with a positive spin.

  • Negative
    • I just got another rejection
    • I can't put a decent word on this page
    • No one will care if I give up
    • No one wants my dystopian vampire novel 
Boy I'm depressed just making those up! So let's look at
  • Positive
    • This one was personal and had some really good tips OR I'm ready to send out the next batch of queries OR Every writer gets rejected, but maybe there's something I can do to improve this query/manuscript OR This means I get chocolate!
    • I've put words on the page! OR I can always revise later, no one's ever gotten it right on the first try.
    • I have a whole community of helpful and supportive friends who are going through the same things I am OR I can't ever succeed if I don't try OR I won't be happy unless I write, so I'm going to go write something!
    • I'm going to put a new spin on an old concept/genre OR This was a great try, I'm going to start work on a new novel and put this one away for a while OR Before I write the next book, I'm going to do some research to verify it's a marketable concept. 
I guess what I'm trying to say here is that there are a million ways to look at any one thing, and it's up to YOU to decide whether to take it as defeat, or to embrace it as a helpful step of learning on the way to success. 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

To Blog Or Not To Blog

Today I have a guest post at the fabulous Muse, Rant, Rave blog of Melinda S. Collins. So if you want to see what I have to say about why we write - go take a look!


There's been a lot of debate lately on whether to blog, and if you do blog, whether to have a writing blog. So I thought I'd weigh in. I say do it if you enjoy it. If you feel like it's a huge chore, or if it keeps you up at night because you're scared you won't know what to say, then don't do it! Spend your time on craft and the things you do like. You can still put up a webpage and use FB or Twitter if you like those formats. Personally I like Twitter and blogging.


And writing? Are there too many writing blogs? I think as long as you have something unique to say, or at least a unique way to say it, you are fine. I blog about writing, because it's what I love. It's what I'm passionate about, and I like to try and put my own spin on certain things. Will that resonate with everyone all the time? No way! But that's okay. As long as I am providing something of value, whether that be a smile or a new way at looking at something, I'm happy - and hopefully you are too!
photo credit

Monday, August 22, 2011

Setting Goals

I've seen quite a few people talking about setting goals lately. I know that making goals specific and time dependent increases our chances of meeting them, but that isn't always so easy to do. And what if those don't encompass what you really want? I'd like to propose a revised 6 point goal setting model. Indulge me for a moment and then let me know what you think.

  1. Acknowledge what it is you REALLY want. Sometimes we disguise our loftiest goals from even ourselves. What are you after? Don't worry - no one's going to hear it to judge you. Do you want traditional publication? To hold your book in your hand? What is it that would really make your wildest dreams? Being on the best-seller list? Go ahead and say it. At least to the mirror.
  2. Look yourself in the eye (yeah we're still using the mirror) and tell yourself that you CAN accomplish this. Let yourself know that it's going to take a LOT of hard work and perseverance, but that if you are willing to make sacrifices and keep at it, it IS possible. 
  3. Tell yourself there is no time limit on this ultimate goal. That as long as you never give up, it is always possible. Then...
  4. Prepare yourself to streamline your path to success by making a series of smaller goals that naturally build toward the BIG ONE. E.g., "I'm going to finish a rough draft by November." Or "I'm going to complete my edits by my birthday." Or "I'm going to attend X conference and query 7 agent next month." Things like that. Those are your specific and time oriented goals, but now they mean more because you know where they will lead. 
  5. Write down each item as you accomplish it. Because why not take a look at all you've done? Sometimes we see only the failures, so why not take a good honest look at our successes too?
  6. The higher you aim, the higher you reach. Finally, I've found that if I shoot for the stars, I can reach at least the moon. But if I reach for the moon, I may not make it out of the atmosphere. Get it? This is important, so I'm going to give a personal example: In school I thought 4.0 was impossible, but maybe I could get a 3.5, which I barely reached. Then I transferred to another college where, starting over I decided to try for the 4.0. I graduated with above a 3.9.
So what do you have to lose? I'll tell you what! Your dreams. If you give up, you've lost. But if you keep reaching for those "crazy" goals, you just might get somewhere.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

SCBWI LA '11

First things first! The winner of the DAMNED ARC is Margo! I'll be emailing you with details...
Now, I've had several people ask me to give my thoughts about the conference. I know there is already so much out there about the phenomenal speakers and content. 40 years! Just look at that dessert above from the Golden Kite luncheon. It was truly an amazing time. The sheer number of icons had me absolutely dazzled and in awe. So I'm going to share a few of these people with you and what they mean to me.

  1. Judy Blume. How can I even begin to describe what it was like to be so close to THE Judy Blume? The woman was so gracious, so kind, so intelligent, and so very REAL. The first novel I think I ever read was Are You There God? It's me, Margaret. I remember that special feeling of being entirely wrapped up in Margaret's world. I loved it. I loved it so much that I never stopped reading and seeking new worlds with new characters. Hearing about Judy's process and journey was inspiring beyond belief. 
  2. Norton Juster. The first fantasy book I ever read was The Phantom Tollbooth. It was also the first book I ever read more than once. I had the opportunity to tell Norton Juster that, to which he looked me dead in the face and replied, "Fantasy? That's my life." How can I not love him? How can I not love a book that's remained AMAZING after 50 years, and that my own son loves just as much as I did? I think I might have to go read it again...
  3. Laurie Halse Anderson. Speak. She gave voice to difficult subject matter that may make some uncomfortable, but saves lives on a daily basis. At the conference, she taught me to embrace my creative need for self-expression, and to nurture the "seed" in my soul. 
  4. Donna Jo Napoli. Her speech was possibly my favorite. And that's really saying something as I gave more standing ovations than I have in my life. It was titled: How Writing About Terrible Things Makes Your Reader a Better Person. And she spoke to not just those who need to see others who've gone through similar things, but to the sheltered who benefit from exposure to truths beyond their own. 
  5. Libba Bray. I saved my favorite for last of course. My hero. Her speech was just as amazing as I hoped and so was she. Funny, intelligent, friendly, and talented. Libba - I would have voted you Prom Queen in high school. I'm just sayin'. She let us know that even the super stars go through rough times, and are plagued by self-doubt. 
Okay, have I gushed enough? You asked and now you have received, my friends. My own personal highlights of the conference this year. I could have kept going too! I mean Richard Peck, Gary Paulsen...

Monday, August 15, 2011

Changing Your Character's Core

Remember my post a couple weeks back on finding your character's core? I want to expound on that a bit because one way to ensure a strong character arc is to chip away at that core belief and alter it over time until at the end of your story, it has changed in a fundamental way. 
It isn't easy to change someone's core belief, so it's going to take some work on your part. But that's what will make the shift in character so interesting and realistic. 
Let's use HUNGER GAMES as an example, since most of you have read it. Katniss' core belief at the beginning is something like: I'm the only one I can depend on. 
Katniss had only herself to care for her family when her father died. Without her they would have all died. She learned from her mother's desertion (emotional withdrawal) that she couldn't depend on others. As a consequence she didn't let others in easily. In fact until the Hunger Games, she only let in Gale and Prim. Throughout the games she assumes other's actions are the result of ulterior motives. That is until Rue. And eventually Peeta's motivations cannot be explained away. 
By the end of the book I'd say her core belief is more like: I can protect myself and make a difference for others. 
Have you identified your character's core? Do you know how it changes throughout your story? 
photo credit

Thursday, August 11, 2011

DAMNED: A Chat With the Vampire Antonio



I am thrilled to present my contribution to the DAMNED book tour - the second in the CRUSADE series from New York Times best selling authors Nancy Holder and Debbie Viguie. Hang around because at the end of this post are details about how YOU can win an ARC of DAMNED. My own vampire did a review of the first book, but this time Antonio *coughs hot* himself has come to visit. And talk about conflicted, Antonio is a vampire, but he is also studying to be a priest.

1. Welcome, Antonio. Let's get right to it. Is it difficult being a vampire?
Si.  It is the most difficult thing in the world.  I have to struggle every moment to not forget myself, to not let the demon out.  I have prayed countless times to have this curse lifted from me and one day I believe God will answer and will save me.

2. Is it really a vampire’s nature to be evil?
Absolutely evil, por supuesto.  We are called the Cursed Ones for a reason.  Twice I have fallen prey to the darkness of my nature, and when I was in the grip of the bloodlust, there was no impulse inside me to be good.  None.  I reveled in my inhumanity.  I murdered innocent people, and I relished their torment.

3. *shifts uneasily* What do you think of the romanticized version of vampires in today’s teen literature?
I think they are dangerous because girls like Jenn believe that they can love a monster like me and it will turn out with a happy ending.  At the same time I wish it was like those stories.  I’m grateful that God blessed me with the calling to become a priest.  My vow of chastity creates a boundary between Jenn and me.  

4. If you had one wish, what would it be?To destroy the vampire scurge and free the earth from bondage.  If I could have a second wish, it would be to live as a human man again.  But first, humanity must be free of this horrible curse.  

5. What do you hope people will get out of reading this blog?
I hope that more people will join our cause.  The time has come to fight.  No matter how afraid you are, how isolated, or how insignificant you feel, nothing could be farther from the truth.  It only takes one person to make a stand and change lives forever.  Por favor, join the Crusade.

6. How do you feel about Nancy and Debbie, considering what they are putting you through? Do you have a message for them?
I wish they would let Jenn be free of her feelings for me and the fear she feels for her family.  I would suffer any and all cruelties, humiliations, and punishments at the seƱoras’ hands if they would only free Jenn to love and fight and be everything Father Juan and I know she can be.


Very selfless of you, Antonio. Thank you for joining us and spreading the word.
And now to the contest! Just leave a comment below in support of Antonio with your email address so I can contact the winner. If you blog or tweet about it leave a link. I'll give you an extra entry for each one up to five! Oh and since the ARC is courtesy of Simon and Schuster, the contest is open internationally! Yay! That's it. Good luck.I'll post the winner next Thursday.
Check out the other stops on the DAMNED book tour here.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Ode to SCBWI LA

Ahem. I am a bit loopy there's no doubt, but I can't miss a post! So enjoy my crazy attempt at a poem - Ode to SCBWI LA and be sure to come back Thursday for a contest and character interview you won't want to miss!


What's incredible, amazing, and cool, even though it's a mouthful to say?
SCBWI's hard enough, then they added the letters LA!
But we will forgive them for making it hard because of all they do,
I don't want to be dramatic but without them I wouldn't have a clue.


Helpful, supportive, and gracious only begins to describe,
Between workshops and speeches, and dances that give us the chance to imbibe,
we build many friendships, we learn about craft, we vent about our journey,
We pitch, and critique, and grow so nervous you could cart us all off on a gurney!


So many lessons, and formats to learn. So many faux pas and rules,
Thank goodness they're there to pick up the pieces and provide us with the tools.
It can be overwhelming and wonderful too, with so much to do and to see,
But all of those writers make it worthwhile and an awesome place to be!
photo credit

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Things I Never Considered About Being a Writer

When I decided to do this, I had certain expectations. I expected I would have to take writing seriously, commit to treating this like a "real" job, learn to look at it like a business, actually do the writing, and continue to read. 


Those are pretty reasonable expectations. And they all hold true. The things I DIDN'T know could fill a book, however. And you know how I like to keep my posts relatively short, so let me try to summarize:

  • The Interaction. I never would have dreamed of being able to communicate with others not only in my position, but real authors - ones I enjoyed reading! And then there are the agents and editors that so generously give of their time on Twitter and blogs, even workshops. What other industry has such an open and sharing network of kind and like-minded people at your disposal? 
  • The Reaction of Family and Friends. I figured my family would be supportive (they better be). But extended family? Friends? I held back on telling people for a long time. Then came my first publication. A short children's poem called "Ode To Mud" in Stories For Children magazine. Suddenly I had enough confidence to whisper to a few people what I was doing... And wow! I'm lucky to have such supportive people in my life. I believe there was only one person who looked at me like, oh no, you think you can write? I still hesitate when others ask what I do, but I've trained myself to say "I'm a writer." Because I am. Of course I now have my fair share of people asking me to proofread their reports and things. But I don't mind.
  • The Depth of Learning Involved. I joked with my husband recently that I probably have the equivalent of a self-taught Masters degree. But really, it's probably true. I'm not putting down anyone's graduate program, I'm just saying, I've put so much effort into studying craft over the last few years that I'm amazed at the amount of information swimming in my head. I love that part of it though! And I look forward to continuing my education.
  • The Emotional Rollercoaster. I was an actress for a time, so I'm no stranger to the whole expect rejection thing. But this is different. For one thing, it takes more time to get that rejection, which is probably what I personally have had the hardest time with. On an audition, you know pretty quickly whether you made it to callbacks or not. But wow, when you DO get an acceptance? Or a good review? I'll take a smattering of those soaring feelings in exchange for all the waiting any day.
  • The Friendships. I've made some of the best friends of my life doing this. They really "get" me and I get them. I wouldn't trade that for anything in the world. It might sound sappy, but it's true! You know who you are.
I could go on, but I promised to try and keep it short. What did you never expect when you started writing? Share!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Getting To the Core of the Character

When we write, we have to know our characters inside and out. We have to understand what makes them tick. We have to let them make choices based on who they are, and it is our challenge to make those decisions unexpected yet understandable. 


Inside every character is a core truth, something that defines their identity. Of course there's more to them than just that - there better be! But understanding that core truth can help guide us to knowing what that character would do in any given situation.


We know we have to come up with loglines for our books, one sentence that encapsulates the entire book. But can you do that for your characters?


Let's use an example, shall we? Oh I bet you know exactly where this is going... Damon! My favorite conflicted vampire. Remember the scene I made you watch in this post? If not go grab a refresher. The rest of us will wait and enjoy the eye candy.

If I had to guess Damon's core truth, it would be this: I am not human, and no matter how much I want to be, it can never happen.


Everything Damon does stems from this core belief, doesn't it? He embraces his dark side because he believes that's what he is. He acknowledges his human feelings for Elana, but agonizes over never being able to be what she needs. He insists his brother is pretending to be something he's not.


Now it's your turn! Try this with some of your characters and see if you can get to the basis of what makes them tick.
photo credit pic 1
photo credit pic 2