Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Being Awesome, Weeks 18-19

I was sick most of last week, so I missed my weekly affirmation. Decided it was better to just rest than to try to put it up late. Anyway, lots of good things happening. Here's my supersized list of awesome things I'm grateful for this week.
  1. I'm not sick this week! Party! *knock on wood*
  2. Agents of Shield Season 2 is on Netflix. If only you'd been present when I discovered that my DVR glitched and deleted 4 episodes no longer available On Demand, ABC, or any legal websites, you'd understand how exciting this is. It was a rocky couple of days.
  3. Last week, my darling husband and I celebrated our two year anniversary. It's been a wonderful two years, and I can't wait to see what the next 50 or so years bring.
  4. I learned how to make stuffed pork chops! They are quite delicious.
  5. Jurassic World! A movie that tells women everywhere that is IS possible to run for four hours through the jungle in stilettos without sinking, tripping, breaking a heel, or losing one. Those are some REALLY GOOD SHOES, GUYS! (I've seen the articles about the character's choice to wear those shoes....whatever. Your feet, wear what you want. Good for Bryce Howard in making a stand. But I don't buy that the shoes themselves [and her feet] would hold up in that scenario. By the end, she should've been limping at the very least. Barefoot would've been much more believable. Yes, I'm arguing about what's believable in a movie about creating dinosaurs out of DNA). Putting that aside, the movie was enjoyable, and I love me some Chris Pratt.
  6. Anyway, I had a lovely afternoon with a friend, writing, watching movies, and drinking beer. (In case you were wondering, I wore flip-flops.)
  7. We spent a quiet Saturday evening with good friends, saying goodbye to some jerk who's moving out of state. (Ok, we're happy for him, but it's still sad.) Take a moment to appreciate the good people in your life.
  8. QueryKombat is still going, and it's awesome to watch how much these writers strive to improve their entries. These people are going places, and I can't wait to watch their journeys.
  9. We actually managed to sit out on the back deck and not get rained on! Once, for like a few minutes. I'll take it. 
  10. It's my niece's birthday! We can legally drink together without having to go to Mexico or Canada! Yippee!!! (She's my OLDER sister's child. Remember that.)
  11. My husband tried to take a selfie with the cat using my phone when I wasn't looking. However, the cat was sitting in a beam of sunlight, and he turned on the flash. My husband was totally washed out. So what I found was a picture of what appears to be our cat taking a selfie, with an eyeball hovering in the background. It's pretty awesome.
  12. These little furballs have saved me thousands of dollars in therapy bills. 
What awesome things happened to you last week?

Monday, June 22, 2015

10 Things About My Writing

This post is inspired by one my critique partner, Mary Ann Marlowe, did a few months ago. The idea is to share your own writing quirks to see if maybe they resonate with someone else. After all, no matter where you are in the process, we're all in this together.

  1. When a manuscript is almost done and ready to go to my agent, I read from the bottom up to catch obvious typos.
  2. Sometimes I also publish to ebook format (thank you, Apple, for making this super easy) so I can read it with different background and fonts. Whenever I do this, I get ridiculously excited  to see what my manuscript would look like as a book, even though my .epub version has no cover and no formatting.
  3. When I have an idea, I can write anywhere: in front of the TV, listening to music, whatever. Sometimes when I'm in the zone, I can sit down and start throwing down words in total silence. I don't have special writing music or playlists—half the time, if you walked in and asked me, I couldn't tell you what's playing. It doesn't matter. 
  4. I steal character's names from people I know. If you're one of my friends, and you don't want your name to pop up in a book at some point, you should probably tell me. (Although, if your name is common, you're out of luck.)
  5. ....But for some reason, I won't name any characters after my sisters. 
  6. I don't outline. Typically, I know where the story is going, but I don't always know how I'm getting there. 
  7. I do not write scenes in order. With my first manuscript, the final scene was the second or third scene I wrote. (That scene ultimately changed, but the bones of it are still intact.) Everything else was geared toward getting where I needed the manuscript to go. With every manuscript, I've had the end written by the time I got to around 20-25,000 words. 
  8. Most of my best plotting is done when I am nowhere near a computer and physically unable to write anything down: while driving (but not sitting the passenger seat), during yoga, in the shower, or while taking a walk. I really need to get those waterproof sticky notes you hang in the shower.
  9. Some writers plod along, agonizing over every single word before it hits the page. Not me. I think about scenes enough before I write them that when I sit down, the words usually pour out. I type very fast. I don't stop to edit a thing until I'm done. As a result, my first drafts barely resemble English. That's okay—I love editing, and am much better at reshaping and molding words already on the page than creating clean first drafts.
  10. I am most productive when facing off against other writers: writing sprints on Twitter, "racing" a CP to see who can get to their draft faster, or at a coffee shop with a friend while we both type away. I spent a week trying to come up with anything at all to add to my latest MS, and the second Deana walked into Starbucks, I threw down 2,000 words. Being accountable to someone else really helps.
What are some of your writing quirks?

Monday, June 15, 2015

What Getting an Agent Is and Isn't.

Now, I'm not gonna lie, getting an agent was the single most exciting thing that happened to me in 2014. It's an amazing validation of all the hard work it takes to get to that point, and it lets you know that someone else believes in your work. That's all wonderful. But what getting an agent isn't is a golden ticket to BestsellerTown. I spend a lot of time talking to querying writers, and I see a lot of misconceptions about what getting an agent means. So I thought I'd take a moment to dispel some of the more common myths.
  1. An agent is not a book contract. You're not going to sign with an agent on Wednesday and find a book deal waiting for you on Thursday. Publication is a long journey, and signing with an agent is just the first signpost on the road to Being Traditionally Published. There are a lot of things that still need to happen. Celebrate your good news, because it's awesome, but know that there's a lot of work ahead.
  2. Your agent's job is not to fix your book or help you write it. Your agent's job is to sell your book. That means it has to be pretty darn good before they sign you. Yes, some agents are editorial and will help you polish and revise before going out on submission. Some agents don't. If you want an editorial agent, do your research. But your book still has to be polished and excellent before an editorial agent will sign it. An agent isn't a shortcut so someone else will edit the book for you.
  3. An agent will not agree with you on everything. Yes, it's good to have things in common with your agent. My agent and I love many of the same authors. But your agent isn't your brain twin, just like your spouse or your best friend isn't a brain twin. You will have different opinions on things. A good agent will push you to become a better writer, not merely sign off on whatever it is you send them.
  4. Not all agents work the same way. What you've heard from your CP or that best-seller you met at a signing ten years ago or your Aunt Val is not necessarily the way your agent will work with you. It's almost like different agents are different people. Before signing, talk with a prospective agent about your expectations and ask them to give you an idea of how they work to see if you're a good fit. Some agents communicate daily. Some only email when they have news. Some will want to hear ideas before you start writing a new book and approve it. Some won't. My ideas make zero sense until I start writing them down, so I wouldn't get very far with an agent who wanted to approve everything I do in advance. "This book has an Elvis impersonator, a road trip across Canada, pole dancing, murder, and... lawyers?"
    No. No, you can't write that.
  5. You still have to edit manuscripts before sending them to your agent. Just like your agent will only sign polished and complete drafts, they don't want to see rough drafts of your later manuscripts. You can't just type "THE END," then email it out five minutes later. I wouldn't blame my agent if she fired me for doing that - my first drafts only slightly resemble English. I actually have more critique partners than I did before signing, each helping me with different things. Look at it this way—Do you want your agent to spent all of his/her time reading multiple drafts of manuscripts for each of multiple clients? Or do you want your agent to have time to sell your book? Also consider that your agent will wind up reading your drafts several times before publication. You don't want to make him or her sick of the book before it's even ready for submission.
  6. You still have to write the synopsis. I really hate to burst your bubble, but a lot of people seem to think they can write the synopsis to get the agent, then toss it aside and never do it again. Nope! Plenty of editors want to have a synopsis when they get your manuscript. And who's the best person to write that? (I'll give you a hint: It's the person who should've already written many, many drafts and could explain the plot of the book while passed out in a drunken stupor). Before I signed with an agent, I'd written one synopsis. A year later, I've written seven—and I only have four completed manuscripts. Lean to love the synopsis, because it's not going anywhere.
  7. Everyone's journey is different. Some people may be very vocal about having the best agent ever, for whatever reason. That doesn't mean your relationship will be the same, or that your relationship is any better or worse than the other writer's. Don't judge yourself by what other people are putting out there to the public—it may not be the entire story, and even if it is, it doesn't mean that writer's agent would be the best fit for you and your book. One of my CPs has an agent who is very vocal on Twitter and chats with her all the time. Another has an agent who hasn't tweeted in months. And that has zero to do with their agent/writer relationships or how effective the agent is at agenting. We all have different personality types. Find the agent that is the best fit for you and your manuscript.
Questions about having an agent? Post them in the comments, and I'll answer them.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Being Awesome, Week 17

Here's a look at some of the awesome things that happened over the past week.

  1. Two friends got married on Saturday in a wonderful ceremony under an arch made of books. How awesome is that? And I couldn't be happier for them.
  2. The wedding was held in New England, a few hours away. We got to drive through beautiful scenery (much of it with no cell phone reception), so I got to unplug for a while.
  3. Listening to Redshirts on Audiobook in the car, which is absolutely hilarious.
  4. Our patio furniture arrived! We have a place to sit outside! Woo-hoo!
  5. Things are moving right along with my work in progress, and I managed to get it out to my next round of readers. I think I'm still on track to be finished by the end of the summer.
  6. Dinner with friends, old and new, last week was both awesome and hilarious, as usual. I'm really lucky to have had a ready-made circle of friends when I moved to this area. 
  7. We finalized our vacation plans for this year. Yippee! 
What awesome things happened to you? Tell me in the comments.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Being Awesome, Week 16

Here's a peek at some of the good things that happened during the past week.
  1. Grass is growing on our front lawn! It's not all brown and dead anymore! And there's no massive hole around where the For Sale sign was (which, for some reason, it was at least 8x the size of the post).
  2. S'mores, it turns out, have many fewer calories than I would've guessed.
  3. Dinner and games with friends is always a great way to spend a Friday night.
  4. .... and a Saturday night (even met new friends!).
  5. Judging the Query Kombat entries is really difficult, but also incredibly rewarding. So much talent!
  6. The carpenter bees are gone! (I think—it's been raining a lot.) But we've actually spotted a few honey bees, so, bee-wise, everything is as it should be (maybe).
  7. I got to read my CP's amazing new manuscript. It's ridiculously good. I'm so lucky not to have to wait for these things to be published before getting to read them.
What about you? What awesome things happened this week?

Monday, June 1, 2015

A Look Back at my Month of "Rest".

A month ago, I posted on The Writer Diaries about how exhausted I am and the need to rest without guilt. I also set several goals for myself for May, all geared at helping myself recharge my batteries. Let's take a look at how I did:
  1. Visit my sister and meet my new baby niece.
    YES! Nailed it! (That one was easy.) We had a lovely visit, the baby's frakking adorable, and I didn't do any work at all for five days. A good start.
  2. Spend time with my best friend, who I only get to see a few times a year.
    YES! Nailed this one, too. (She was at the same event as my sister.) The beginning of May was restful and awesome.
  3. Add at least 5k words to my current draft, getting it ready to go to my CPs.
    FAIL. I mean, I did achieve this in the sense that I added more than 5k words to my WIP. But I actually added closer to 20k words, did two revisions, sent to my CP for feedback, then revised and sent to another CP. So, a bit less relaxing than the goal I set.
  4. Read something, anything at all, on my To-Read list. Preferably something published in 2015.
    YES! Nailed this one. I actually read four published books in May, only two were for comp title research, and one of them was actually published in 2015. Go me!
  5. Go on dates with my husband that don't include constantly refreshing Twitter.
    We're both working on this one. I'm getting better at leaving my phone in my bag for large portions of dinner. Learning to relax is an ongoing process.
  6. Live. You know, so I have things to write about and my next book isn't about a stressed out writer whose butt grows into the couch.
    YES! Overall, the month was pretty great. I went to the beach, tried some new restaurants, saw TWO movies in theaters (Two! That's two more than I saw in the first four months of 2015), played games, made ice cream from scratch, and generally managed to maintain something resembling a work-life balance.
  7. Stop comparing myself to other writers, especially those further along in the process.
    This is also an on-going resolution. I'm working on it. It's incredibly difficult. 
  8. Don't apologize.
    I'm sorry.
Before the month started, I swore up and down to myself and my CPs that I wouldn't critique anything in May. Then I promptly offered a full MS critique to one of the NestPitch entrants (It's not my fault! It was too good to keep reading!) Other than that, I did remarkably well. I only read one manuscript, and it was for an existing CP who happened to finish her MS earlier than anticipated. I just need to learn that I can't CP for everybody, no matter how badly I might want to read ALL THE THINGS.

Most of my June writing time is dedicated to judging Query Kombat, edits, and doing pre-arranged manuscript swaps. These are things I've budgeted time to do. But I've also budgeted time to travel for a friend's wedding, go to a baseball game, visit an out of town friend I never see, and give myself some breaks. It really is tough, but it's so important.