A friend and I signed up for a zombie-themed run a couple of years ago. I’d just had a baby and was looking for a way to lose the baby weight. … Continue reading Why writing a novel is a lot like a “fun run”
I remember being twenty-five and all that mattered were what bands you were into, what books were displayed on your bookshelf, and what your life motto was. Those things defined us. Decided our compatibility with one another. They were our self-created book covers by which others judged us, and half the battle was discovering how true these things actually were about others. And even more so, figuring out how true these things were aboutourselves. Do I really like that American Analog Set band, or am I just saying I do because so-and-so likes them? And if so-and-so likes them and I like them too, then so-and-so will like me—nay, respect me. Right? (ie. Was Kafka’sMetamorphosis really that good, or does saying I liked Metamorphoses make me look smart even though I didn’t enjoy it as much as I said I did?)
“Look at me! I’m an intellectual! And check out my diverse Indy CD collection!” Alas, I was never cool enough to have a record player and a box of old vinyls which would have undoubtedly put me on another level, but I digress. I guess what I’m getting at is that lately those old songs keep finding their way onto my playlist (I swear I keep updating my iPhone playlist, but it’s not as easy as only worrying about not effing up the songs on my iPod many years ago), and in turn I find myself evaluating my hypothetical “book cover” from years past.
So when The Postal Service comes on, I find it hard to remember why I liked them so much. Even (I can’t believe I’m about to say this) Radiohead doesn’t do it for me anymore. Instead I find myself listening to the Brick and Mortar station on I Heart Radio because Honeybadger don’t you know what. I no longer care about what’s cool and instead just like stuff because it jives with my personality. Makes my brain light up in the right places.
Here are some things that make my brain light up, and things that don’t.
- Authors: Isaac Marion, Chuck Palahniuk (although I can’t get through Haunted and after a few books it’s inevitable that they all sort of start to sound the same), Erin Morgenstern whose in progress “slightly more book-shaped” novel is something I can’t wait to get my hands on! Ally Condie, Gillian Flynn (Dark Places rocked my world), Jeffrey Eugenides (I admit I’ve only read The Virgin Suicides and not Middlesex), Stephenie Meyer, J.K. Rowling (the HP books but not The Casual Vacancy which I put down without finishing), Flannery O’Connor (god, her short stories are amazing!), and Suzanne Collins.
- Books I’ve abandoned without finishing : Haunted, Ismael, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, The Casual Vacancy, Angelfall, The Poisonwood Bible, The Giver
- Bands I currently like: The Hives, Masked Intruder, Riverboat Gamblers, Against Me!, Gaslight Anthem, Alkaline Trio (the older stuff), The XX
- Bands I used to love but can barely stand to hear anymore: Radiohead, Elliott Smith, Coldplay, Portishead, The Beta Band
- Bands I used to think I liked (wanted to like) but in actuality probably never really did: Mates of State, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
- Bands I’ve been told I should love but I can’t stand: Sonic Youth, The Smiths, The Rolling Stones
- Favorite TV Shows: Dexter (seasons 1 to 4 but after that it goes down hill—WAY down, but I own all the seasons on DVD anyway), Six Feet Under, Dead Like Me, The Joe Schmo Show (Season 1 only- Season 2 was terrible, terrible, terrible!), Breaking Bad, Mad Men (but what’s with the “on the next Mad Men” previews? Those never give us anything to work with), The Walking Dead, American Horror Story, Orphan Black (but the boy clone in season 2 was a head scratcher), Band of Brothers (sooooo good!), House of Cards, Being Human, Orange is the New Black, Fargo, Face Off, Humans, and Homeland.
- Other favorite things: I love horror and macabre/creepy chic things! ::evil laugh:: I also love the 40s era and the atomic era (Midcentury mod). I’m getting signs that I should write a horror novel:
So that’s my current “book cover”. For now. Judge away. 🙂
Since my last post I’ve been really busy. Not so much with book stuff, but with my Etsy business, my day job, and the tedious process of house hunting and prepping our house to go on the market.
First, for the 2nd year in a row I took Prim and Grim to the Mile High Horror Film Festival. This was my 4th year attending the festival. I volunteered in 2012, attended as a member in 2013, attended as a member AND as a vendor in 2014, and went as a vendor this year but managed to squeeze in some films thanks in HUGE part to my amazing mother and to my friends Marissa, Corinne, and Vincent. But none of this would be possible without my husband who is just so, so supportive. He works a LOT of behind the scenes magic with the creation of many of our awesomely creepy lamps and gives up lots of time to essentially be a single parent during the month of October.
This year I sold necklaces to Lisa and Louise Burns (the Grady Twins from Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining), Ari Lehman (the original Jason Vorhees), the Scissor Sisters, and the always awesome and down to earth Dan Myrick (writer and creator of The Blair Witch Project). I also met some awesome folks which I hope to see more of in coming years, such as the creators of the upcoming Colorado Monster Madness and even a lovely gent whose son worked on Fox’s Scream Queens!
I enjoyed meeting Monster Midian, Daniel Crosier, Ryan Policky, William Wyman, Christenia Colvin, and Keith Eyres. For the myriad other friends I ran into along with the MHHFF volunteers–I was so happy to see you all! So much work goes into this top-notch festival every year. It just keeps growing and it’s NOT to be missed!
Here are some pics from this year’s festival:
After that, I took Prim and Grim to Share Denver for their Halloween Pop Up.
So that was October. Phew!
There has actually been quite a lot of activity on the book front too, even if it hasn’t been action on my part. Meaning:
- I’ve received valuable feedback on my first two chapters of Shelved from a published author, Holly Bodger, who kindly donated her time as part of the Red Light Green Light contest which I was a top 10 finalist in. I’ll soon be busy working on her recommendations.
- I also had 50+ high-school-aged beta readers read the first two chapters and answer 10 questions!
To be honest, it took me a while to open both of those emails–afraid enough that just seeing them sitting there in the queue gave me the chills. I’m a perfectionist, and I’ve always had terrible stage fright. At least in my day job as a manager and trainer, my public speaking topics are based on something NOT my own; I didn’t create the system we use… I didn’t create the laws that govern most of what I’m responsible to monitor in my day job. But this book- the writing– is ALL mine. The criticism always feels very personal. So now I’m left to decide where to take this draft of Shelved, but in the meantime, I’m REALLY enjoying reading again! I missed it so much while writing Shelved. I just finished Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty and now I’m halfway through Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake. I recommend both!
Well, that’s all for now! I’m still here, still working, still writing, and still looking forward to next October. 😉
It’s no secret that writing a book takes time, and as I approach the 10th month of my first complete manuscript, it’s time for a little reflection.
The photo above is a perfect reflection of my writing process and it’s no coincidence that I took this in the midst of a manuscript crisis. Imagine what that ground looked like when it was freshly tiled, clean, and new… and then after a few years of footsteps and a hail storm, it’s a little worse for wear and messy… But not without personality! I’ll bet some of that was missing at the beginning. That’s how my manuscript looks, with the exception of a few upgraded tiles here and there, and some holes where I’ve ripped a few damaged tiles out and the vacant spaces sit, waiting for the words to be written and saying “please fix me!”
So what’s the deal? Over the past few months I’ve been trying a few things.
- I revised my plot line/story arc.
- I decided to change the book to first person narrative.
- I attended a Literary Festival and live query critique session with my dream agent.
- A few weeks later, I ran into my dream agent on the street on my way to work and froze. A perfect opportunity missed.
- I was lucky enough to be included in the #YayYA critique party which gets 10 more pairs of eyes on the first 250 words of the book, plus a 35-word pitch.
- I received my feedback from the Colorado Gold contest, which was thought provoking and thorough–too bad I’ve completely changed the manuscript since then. ::sigh::
- In preparation for #PitMad, I had a query letter and first chapter review by the amazing Naomi Hughes.
- I participated in the Red Light/Green Light #GreenLightWIP writing contest and won an agent/author 12-page critique.
- Ultimately, I decided not to enter #PitMad and instead focus on enjoying my first vacation out of the state in 4 years. 🙂
So yeah, just a few things. I really like the direction the book is taking and I have a few other book ideas that I’ll be glad to try out after I finish up the current version of this manuscript and send it off to a beta group. It will be a challenge to stop tampering with it once I’m back to the querying stage again.
And that’s what I’ve been up to. Thanks for reading, and if you have 13-18 year old girls who would like to be beta readers, send them my direction. 🙂
I thought it would be fun to re-post how some of my favorite authors obtained representation.
This week’s installment features Marie Lu, the author of the Legend trilogy.
What was once the western United States is now home to the Republic, a nation perpetually at war with its neighbors. Born into an elite family in one of the Republic’s wealthiest districts, fifteen-year-old June is a prodigy being groomed for success in the Republic’s highest military circles. Born into the slums, fifteen-year-old Day is the country’s most wanted criminal. But his motives may not be as malicious as they seem.
From very different worlds, June and Day have no reason to cross paths—until the day June’s brother, Metias, is murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect. Caught in the ultimate game of cat and mouse, Day is in a race for his family’s survival, while June seeks to avenge Metias’s death. But in a shocking turn of events, the two uncover the truth of what has really brought them together, and the sinister lengths their country will go to keep its secrets.
According to Marie Lu, herself:
I love Kristin [Nelson] so much! She’s amazing, as is Sara [Megibow]. But you’re right—I definitely had my share of setbacks…I started submitting my first novel back when I was fifteen, and I think I accumulated over a hundred rejections on my query when I realized I just had to write a better book. I ended up writing three more that went nowhere, although two of them got me agents. I went on submission twice before Legend, and both of those times we would get slow rejections from publishers over the course of years before my agent and I would finally agree to shelve the novel. It was certainly disheartening at times, but I think it made the sale of Legend that much more of a happy moment.
It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Let me take a moment to shovel this blog out of the tumbleweeds… There we go. So, what on earth have I been up to? Where did I go? “What happened to your manuscript?” you may be wondering… all fair questions.
It’s been a little over 6 weeks since the beta reading process concluded, and I may (or may not) have mentioned, that I decided to make some changes. And not little changes, although at first when I began talking about them, they sounded like small changes. Not so. Not at all. A couple of plot changes means a complete revision, especially when your story has a mystery in it. Or any type of suspense. Remove the wrong thing, and you’ve killed the suspense. Add the wrong thing, and you’ve changed the entire tone of the book. Writing a book is a slippery slope, and if one isn’t careful, it has the ability to consume your soul ::cue flames and demons::. Okay, maybe not exactly, but it can leave some pretty serious bruises and fatigue, and a lot of self-doubt. Scars.
Over the course of the past six weeks I’ve learned when to take a break, when to listen to myself instead of others, how to take criticism, what questions to ask, and patience. I’ve had my query letter critiqued by an agent and I’ve attended a Literature Festival. I’ve managed to step far enough away from my own book to read someone else’s, and I’ve got another book idea or two in the mythical tadpole stage in the very back of my mind for when I finish Shelved. Oh, and did I mention that I’ve completely changed the narrative from third person past-tense to first person present-tense? Yeah… that takes time.
So where am I in the process? Well, I went from having a complete manuscript to only a partial that needs a complete rewrite and new plot points created. That is a problem, considering I have two pending queries sitting in agent inboxes as I type this. But, all is not lost! I have 20,000 words rewritten/re-plotted for the latest manuscript, and I’m holding the cards close to my chest until the entire thing is done. Most importantly, I’m not rushing it. I’m able to spend more time doing normal things if I don’t have a deadline. Sure, I have goals, but not deadlines.
When it’s done, you’ll know. When the first query letters go out after I’m done with the new version, I’ll celebrate, but I probably won’t let you know. But, when all is said and done, after I (fingers and toes crossed) find an agent that is a good match, then I’ll share the details. It could be months, or it could be years. But until then, I’ll continue posting things I learn along the way.
Until next time, thanks for reading!
I’m IN LOVE with TweetDeck. Like, serious infatuation. WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN ALL MY TWITTER LIFE, TWEETDECK?
Just in case anyone else lurks here and is in the same “seeking a literary agent” boat, here is a list of hashtags to follow. Using the awesomeness that is TweetDeck, you can filter which posts you see by hashtag. You won’t be sorry.
#kidpit – a twitter pitch contest for children’s and young adult books
#pitmad – a twitter pitch contest for all types of books
#asktba – agents at The Bent Agency answer your query questions
#querytip – agents post tips about querying
#askagent – another hashtag for agents to post tips
#tenqueries – agents critique 10 queries in their slush pile
#mswl – “Manuscript Wish List” where agents tell you what they’d like to see
#writetip – general writing tips
#slushworks – success stories from the slush pile
#10queriesin10tweets – same as #tenqueries
#YALitChat – weekly chats about young adult literature (there are other hashtags for other genres)
#nlpitchperfect – New Leaf Literary’s own twitter pitch contest, which seems to be held annually
#pitchslam – a bi-annual contest unlike any other, where writers hoping to gain the attention of agents can receive feedback on their work, and then Revise and Resubmit their entries before the final round.
#querylunch – agents read queries on lunch hour and tweet about their thought process
What hashtags do you follow? Leave a comment to share! 🙂