AKA: How I realized I’m actually a crazy cat lady.
See – this weekend I had the best time. I went to Oklahoma City with one of my best friends Heather Cashman for the OWFI 2015 conference.
I finally got to meet Brenda Drake, L.L. McKiney, and Trisha Leigh, and caught up with Sarah Henning. It was fantastic to meet and hang out with Brent Taylor, Melissa Nasson, Natasha Hanover, and Dawn Allen.
These people have a wealth of knowledge between them, and are some of the kindest loveliest people you’ll ever meet. Generous with their time and expertise – it made for the best conference I’ve attended to date.
And I know, right? Those are actual pictures of me too. Don’t worry, that won’t happen too often.
So OWFI 2015 was fantastic. But now I’ll get to the serious information that I’m sure everyone is dying to hear – how did I find out that I’m actually a crazy cat lady?
This was the first time I’ve left my daughter over night. She got to facetime with me, and that was great. Things were going well and she was dealing. Her grandmother helped my husband out with her, and it was all pretty great.
But you see, I forgot about the cat.
To rewind, my cat is pretty attached to me. He was a rescue, and has been my little baby ever since the first night we brought him home. His sleeping place is the crook of my knees.
And I wasn’t here.
So he terrorized my husband and daughter, woke the little up at 2:30, and she didn’t go back to sleep until 5am… threw up all over the dining room because he got all stressed.
This is how I found out that I am actually a crazy cat lady – and by crazy cat, I mean I literally have a crazy cat. He hasn’t left my side since I got home.
He’s really quite adorable.
And May the Fourth be with you
Never judge a dragon
by her human cover…
Sixteen-year-old Kitty Lung has everyone convinced she’s a normal teen—not a secret government operative, not the one charged with protecting the president’s son, and certainly not a were-dragon. The only one she trusts with the truth is her best friend—and secret crush—the über-hot Bulisani Mathe.
Then a junior operative breaks Rule Number One by changing into his dragon form in public—on Kitty’s watch—and suddenly, the world knows. About dragons. About the Draconic Intelligence Command (DIC) Kitty works for. About Kitty herself.
Now the government is hunting down and incarcerating dragons to stop a public panic, and a new shape-shifting enemy has kidnapped the president’s son. Kitty and Bulisani are the last free dragons, wanted by both their allies and their enemies. If they can’t rescue the president’s son and liberate their fellow dragons before getting caught themselves, dragons might never live free again.
About the Author
Sarah is a 30-something YA author who currently lives in Orlando, FL. She believes that some boys are worth trusting, all girls have power, and dragons are people too.
She’s a proud member of the Gator Nation and has a BS in Mechanical Engineering, but has switched careers entirely. She now works as an Event Coordinator for a County Library. She also blogs at YAtopia.
This is very true of everything. How many times do you, or someone you know, mutter the excuse: I don’t have the time?
In light of recent events, I sincerely believe we have to make the most of our time. Not tomorrow, next month, or sometime next year.
It’s especially true of writing. Because that’s what writing takes. It takes perseverance, guts, ideas, and a bucketload of time dedicated to making it work. Making it work entails, draft after draft, edit after edit — until that bloody thing shines as brightly as you can make it.
And then, it’ll probably need another round of edits, just to make sure.
While some people always want to be a writer, but don’t have the time for it, others sacrifice sleep, outings, food, or a portion of sanity to make the time they need to pursue their dream.
Okay, let’s face it, most of us sacrifice a portion of our sanity anyway.
I digress. The point is, that if you aren’t willing to figure out how to make the time, then the odds are that you either don’t want it enough, or aren’t quite ready to want it that much. Time is constant. It’s always there, ticking down, counting like a pendulum about to cut that rope. You can’t adjust it, because only the Doctor has a Tardis on tap. And you can’t increase it.
The only way you can do it, is to manage your time. Simple, right?
Not so much, because life has this awful way of happening to us. But regardless of this, if you seriously want to write you will make time.
You’ll make time because otherwise that whole talking to yourself might get you locked up.
You’ll make time because otherwise those stories will keep you up every night shouting at you anyway.
You’ll make time because you can’t not
And really, you’ll make time because you owe it to yourself to get those words out, to get that story down, and be the writer you want to be.
So, whether it’s 10 minutes a day you manage to squeeze in before bed, or it’s ten hours a day you have to sit your butt in a chair and hammer out words because you have deadlines and overlords and must write all the words before sundown lest they steal your cat…
You are a writer. Time is there. Make it work with you.
I was going to title this post “Believe in yourself”
But then I realized, as creative types, that’s a bloody hard thing to do. In fact – it’s a difficult thing to do as a human being. Society throws all these different norms at us, all these expectations that have been bred into it over hundreds of years. Finding yourself in all of that kerfuffle? It can be debilitating.
Society even has this cool new trend of not wanting to pay creators for their work… but I digress and that’s a rant for another day, and not what I intended to write here.
If you can’t bring yourself to believe in yourself, or perhaps even your writing – then believe in your story. It’s in your head, and it wants down on paper. It is YOUR story, to be told in a way that only you can tell it. You are its vessel, and the reason it popped into your head is that only you can tell it in the way best suited to it.
Sure – you might need to practice and research, and edit and read… but it’s all part of it.
You may have critique partners, beta readers, editors – but at the end of the day, it’s your story. Don’t just blindly dig your heels in and refuse to make changes, because sometimes suggestions can lead to bigger and better things and make you smile in all sorts of new ways.
But whatever story you’ve chosen to write (or if you’re me it’s the one that bashed all the others into submission and fought to be put down first), remember the reasoning. And whatever your reasoning – it is yours.
If you can believe in nothing else – believe in your story. It is a part of you, and it wants to be written.
And maybe, it’ll help you believe in yourself.
So a few weeks ago, I wrote about why you should have a critique partner. And frankly, I think they’re invaluable. Both my critique partners and my beta readers.
The how to go about finding them is a little more difficult.
If you write YA, MG, or PB, you can look up your local SCBWI chapter. Most of them will have regular meetings of some sort, or else smaller sized writing workshops and conferences.
There’s also the online writing workshop for science fiction, fantasy, and horror. They charge a monthly fee, however there is a free month’s trial. It’s a critique site that’s point based on how many critiques you contribute, and request. It’s another potential way to find people who are serious about writing and growing as writers.
If you’ve ever even contemplated NaNoWriMo – keep up that train of thought and go to the NaNo forums. This is another potential place to find critique partners. A furthering of this is to visit your local area NaNo board and see if they have regular meetups – as well as attend some in the NaNo period. It’s a great way to meet fellow writers and have some great writing talk. The bonus is that maybe you’ll be able to form a face to face critique group.
CP Loveseek is another option. It’s a registered forum with the explicit purpose of finding critique partners and matching them up.
Of course – I already mentioned the Maggie Stievater option. But it’s worth bringing up again, and definitely worth looking through those posts. You might just find the perfect partner or two.
And then there’s good old google. Most cities will have a writer’s group meeting of some sort. Most states should have a small writing association. Look them up – go to meetings, or see if they have online forums, and just reach out.
Regardless of how you go about finding a critique partner or beta reader, make sure you test things out. See how you mesh when critiquing each other’s work. Give a chapter or two. Check writing levels, critique style, personality, genre etc.
Finding the right crit parters can be an amazing feeling.
generations, people all over the world have wondered how Andrew Borden and his
second wife, Abby, met their gruesome deaths. Lizzie, Andrew’s younger
daughter, was charged, but a jury took only 90 minutes to find her not guilty.
In this retelling, the family maid, Bridget Sullivan, shines a compassionate
light on a young woman oppressed by her cheap father and her ambitious
stepmother. Was Lizzie mad, or was she driven to madness?
it to read on Goodreads
husband, three children, and one rather irreverent black lab. She is
a chronic daydreamer who prefers the cozy confines of her own imagination
to the mundane routine of everyday life. She writes Young Adult Contemporary
fiction, Psychological Horror and Science Fiction and is published with FSG/
Macmillan, Flux/Llewellyn and Merit Press. To can learn more about Trisha’s
books, upcoming shenanigans, and her quest to reel in the perfect tuna, please visit
her website: www.trishaleaver.com
three awesome children, husband, and a one hundred and sixty pound lap dog
named Sam. She has an unnatural fondness for coffee, chocolate and things that
go bump in the night. She spends her days curled up in the comfortable confines
of her writing nook, penning young adult psychological horror, contemporary
fiction and science-fiction and is published with Flux/Llewellyn, Merit Press
and Spencer Hill Contemporary. Learn more about her at www.lindsaycurrie.com
Isn’t it PERFECT?
If you’ve read CREED, then you know this one is also going to be amazing. You want this book. Trust me.
There’s something I feel a lot of people forget what with all the advice flying around out there.
This is your dream. These stories are your stories.
Every single person approaches things differently. Each one of us has had experiences which shape the way we look at the elements that contribute to how and what we write.
So all of this: You should write every day. You should always plot. You should pants. You should only write when you feel like it.
None of those are absolutes. All of those pieces of advice are the sum of someone else’s experiences.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s a good idea to look at what has worked for people who’ve been through this whole thing before. But always remember – just because it worked for them, doesn’t mean it’ll work for you. Take the bits that do work for you, and mold them to your unique set of circumstances.
If you need to, pluck different parts from everywhere and make your own set of rules. Because ultimately, you have to figure out how you write best. And since no one else is you, no one can 100% definitively tell you how to write.
How to write? Sit down, and do so. But the when, the method – that you need to find out for yourself.
Remember it’s your dream – make sure you do it your way.
In March 2012 I entered the first #PitchMadness as a bright eyed and bushy tailed hopeful. I got very lucky, met amazing people, had requests, and got signed.
Since then, I’ve helped pay it forward every year, every #PitchMadness. Including this year that makes 5 PitchMadness slushpiles. I’ve been first or second readers every time.
This year I wanted to do something a little different for my post slushpile post. Sometimes writing can make us all a little loopy, but things like PitchMadness make it easier, because we know we aren’t alone.
First and foremost though, I want to say:
YOU DID IT. YES, YOU. All of you who entered, you wrote a book. You sat your butt in that chair, and wrote your heart out. Don’t let anyone take that from you. It is an amazing thing.
So, this time I’m doing a list of what made me say yes, and what made me hesitate.
What made me say yes:
The pitch, while important, wasn’t the be all and end all. Sure, it had to show that the story had something significantly fresh about it, but as long as it gave me a good view of the story and the stakes, I was fine. Sometimes, a very good pitch could really tip me if the writing was good, but not amazing.
Overall, there were some amazing concepts outlined in those pitches, and I can’t wait to see some of them on the shelves.
I’m a HUGE voice fan. If I can tell the voice from the first line and it continues through? I’m in. 100% no holds barred, I’m in. A lot of things about writing can be taught, but voice is difficult to learn. Give me the atmosphere, and good grounding (combined with a twist to the concept) and it’s golden.
If the writing flowed, built the sensory, showed the world and expressions, set the world of the story apart in my head? Then it was an in. Stellar writing could easily pull through a weak pitch. If the pitch gave enough to confirm a good concept, and the writing was amazing? That was easy to let through. Good of both? Also easy.
What made me hesitate/say no:
If there was no indicator that the concept hadn’t been seen before. There were many times that the concept read like something seen over and over again. While this is okay in some genres, it doesn’t work in all of them. If your concept is a little well worn, then your stakes need to be exceptional.
Suggestions: Check your pitch over and make sure it can do the following.
1) Does it highlight what about your book is different, what makes it stand out? Why should someone want to read your book over all the others in the genre? What is the exact part of the concept that sets it apart?
2) Are your stakes viable? Does your hero/protag have a personal choice to make that is truly a difficult choice and not just a case of not being selfish?
This is harder to pin down, but it’s the overall tone, the mood, the setting. Your narrator and their quirks. The point of view and how the story is set up from that very first word. Sometimes there was no atmosphere to tug me in. A strong voice goes a long way to this. Thing is – Voice can be there even when the writing isn’t.
Know your narrator, your point of view. Make sure you know what about them makes it unique and find a way to express it. I realize this sounds sort of vague, so I defer to the awesome Chuck Wendig here.
There were a lot of elements that stuck out about the writing, of course, writing itself is far easier to pinpoint than something like voice.
I found this especially prevalent in third person. Which was odd. Watch your prose for it. Make sure you can’t add “by Zombies” to the end of it and have it make sense. It makes the writing drag. Avoid too much feel, seem, had done, had found etc
Telling, not showing
We hear this all the time. Don’t tell us, show us.
This is telling:
Samantha always walks home after school. She kicks the rocks along the way because she’s sad, and dreams of adventure.
There is nothing here to entice, or draw the reader in. It’s a simple statement of facts in her life.
Example: Samantha trudges along the path and its perfectly manicured lawns on the way home from school. Rocks scatter as she kicks them, landing in a haphazard pattern that echoes her mood. Her shoulders sag and she chokes back the sudden catch in her throat. If only her life weren’t so dull.
That might be a little too detailed/over the top. But I’m trying to show how much you can change from telling to showing.
Beginnings that seemed to have no relevance to the pitch
When your beginning doesn’t have a hint of the character mentioned in the pitch, of anything to do with the pitch in it? I wonder why it’s starting where it is. In your pitch, you break your book down to its most important elements (or you should be doing this), so if your beginning has no relation to that pitch, ask yourself if you’re starting in the right place.
Repetitive sentence structures
I’ll state right out that I am biased to this. It’s one of my pet hates. Just because it’s first person doesn’t mean 50% of your sentences should begin with I. The same goes for third person and he, she, the, they etc. It shows as lazy writing or a bad habit. It’s a good bad habit to break.
Multiple use of the same word in short spans (or a variation thereof). This can be done with a lot of words of course. But the most common thing I saw was feel. Feeling, felt, feel… Try not to use it at all, and your writing will be much richer.
Instead of I suddenly felt cold. Come up with: My stomach cramped as a chill crept up my spine, goosebumps spreading in its wake.
This is dialogue with lots of he said and she said modifiers. Aim for variation. You don’t always need an actual dialogue tag. Give us physical sensory in there too. Bring the dialogue to life for the reader.
Age Category inappropriate
I got this a lot. Whether you’re writing for MG, YA, NA, or Adult. Please make sure your narrator/pov is age appropriate. There were many cases of a too young narrator in the case of YA, NA, and Adult, as well as a few that were too old for MG. There are mannerisms that will differ, word choice, overall wisdom and sarcasm dispensing will vary depending on the subject matter they’ve experienced.
TL;DR – Make sure the pov/narrator is from the character’s point of view and history, not the author’s.
I saw this more than I expected to. Since the excerpt was only 250 words, I didn’t really expect to see any, but there were quite a few instances where the point of view headhopped between characters.
Unless psionic (of which there weren’t that many) and capable of reading minds, the odd of your pov character knowing what their friends are thinking is pretty close to zero, nada, nix. Make sure your prose reflects the one point of view you are telling it from. If it has multiple points of view, make sure your switches are made with clear definition (my preference is scene/chapter breaks – I find paragraphs without other differentiation get a little iffy).
If you’re going to pick present tense, please keep it in present. Likewise with past. Jumping between tenses on a constant basis interrupts the flow and causes confusion. Frankly, it just makes it less fun to read. And especially when you’ve got a great concept – we WANT to read.
Soooo I’ll drop the link I shared in the PitchMadness feed here. WORD COUNT DRACULA
Know your genre’s acceptable range. There are always exceptions, but it’s better to aim for something at least close to these. 2,000 words, or 300,000 words are generally red flags (unless the writing is amazingly, astronomically stellar from the get go – and even then…)
To be honest, I was very impressed by the entries. Even the ones that had some of these mistakes, showed promise. Just a bit more practice, more critiques, and a few more edit passes and a lot of them will be exciting to see.
I want to note that no one entry had all of the things that made me say no. A few had some of them, but no one had all of them. This is a good thing.
I really hope this has helped some. If you have any questions about any of these, please @ me on Twitter or the PitchMadness feed and ask them, or ask them here and I’ll do my best to answer them in a timely manner.
Good luck to everyone who entered. I think you’re all amazing, brave, and going to make it as long as you never give up! Remember – you wrote a book.
So pretty much 2015 for me so far? Busy. Very busy.
I’ve been working on my writing retreat. Finally nailed down a desk and bookcase combination I’m happy with. To top it off I got two papasans for my reading nook with matching cushions, pillows, and throw rugs.
And so, for the first time in far too long this weekend, I decided (read: my CP told me to take a break and read or else) to sit down with a good book (in hard copy) and relax in my cushions and read.
Reading is not only completely therapeutic, it’s also one of the best things to do as a writer. You can’t be a writer if you don’t read. Read everything you can read, everything you can devour. It’s where my need to write started, and I’m sure it’s where a lot of people learned the love of storytelling.
My room isn’t complete. The furniture doesn’t arrive for another week or so, and one of my papasan’s doesn’t have its big cushion yet. None of that matters though, because I got to snuggle up with one of my favorite authors and descend into her world for a little while.
If you want to create your own worlds, make sure you spend time in those created by other people.
Read. Read some more.
And then go and write.
(and maybe snuggle a kitty)
With the whole moving into a larger house with a testing-the-boundaries toddler in tow, has given me a whole new perspective on knowing my own limits.
When you’ve known since November that you’re going to close on your old and new houses in mid January, you should probably delay doing a workshop to launch your new business venture. I loved doing Brenda’s workshop, but I really did push myself.
My days were spent packing, and yes my husband helped, but things have to be packed a certain way, in a certain order, in specific boxes with each other or else I get a little… (read very) uncomfortable and panicky. My nights were spent pouring over critiques.
We’ve been in the house several days now, and I’m loving it, but I booked myself solid over this weekend and then I had some intern work pop up. Now please, I adore my internship. I feel like the luckiest person to have it, and the things I learn make me love writing, reading, and polishing edits even more than I already did. But wow, I had completely forgotten to factor in for that.
So, since Thursday I’ve been unpacking like a mad-woman (which also has to be performed in very specific ways), reading, critiquing, interning…and sleeping very little.
The point here might be that you should just never move house. EVER.
But the larger point is to know your limits. Even when you have deadlines, factor in some time to breathe. Even when you’re about to have a panic attack because you just have so much on your plate you’re not sure how you’ll ever survive, factor in time to take a bath. And even when you want to write all the things and time just seems to keep slipping out from under you, make the time to gather yourself, remember the little things, and take it from there.
If we don’t take a step back on a regular basis, gain some perspective, and let ourselves breathe – we will burn out. And if you’re a creative type, you know as well as I do, burning out is the worst feeling. It’s evil.
Shoot it dead with laser-beam eyes.