Thursday, December 31, 2009

2010 Writing Goals & What I Learned in 2009

A year ago right now, I was making a list of goals for 2009 and at the last second, as sort of a joke, I threw in "Write a novel." Even though my biggest goal for the year was to focus on writing, I meant screenwriting, and the idea of writing a book seemed ridiculous. Still, I had always known that one day I would write one - I have the notebooks full of cheesy teen romance I wrote back in elementary school as proof. I just thought it would be one day when I was older and wiser and had something very literary to say about the world or something. You know, something profound. I thought I would write the literary equivalent of an indie film.

Anyway, after reading the Twilight Saga (the first books I'd read since the last Harry Potter save for a couple Kathy Reichs books - she is awesome, you should read her!) and having it reignite my love for all things YA. While at the same time having the epiphany that almost all my film ideas involved teenagers for a reason, I thought well, hey, maybe it's time to give that book thing a try. I mean, I was going to focus on writing this year anyway.

So I stuck "Write a novel" at the bottom of the list and I snorted at my own ridiculousness. I didn't just write screenplays because I loved movies. I wrote screenplays because they are SUPER SHORT and I was lazy/terrified at the thought of trying to write over a 100 pages of like, comeplete sentences. It really seemed impossible to me. I was so used to cutting stuff out to write a film that I had no idea how to put stuff in.

I won't bore you with a month by month rundown of 2009 but suffice it to say that two (great) false starts later, I had an idea burning in my brain and NaNoWriMo staring me in the face. Thanks to those two false starts I had already written over 40,000 words. 50,000 didn't seem so scary anymore. Plus, I knew exactly how this story ended, making for a much easier trip. NaNoWriMo and the awesome YA community, especially at the blueboards, made me realize that it is really possible for me to write a book.

So here I am, the last day of 2009 and I have a very, very rough, first draft of a novel just waiting to be revised. One impossible goal accomplished! And I can say with all honesty to anyone reading this and wondering if they could ever write something as big and scary as a book:

If I can do it, you can do it!

Now with trumpets and fanfare, here are my goals for 2010 that are within my control!

2010 Resolutions

  • Revise WIP #2 until it's ready for queries.
  • Write best query letter in the whole wide world.
  • Query agents.
  • Finish WIP #1.
  • Write a screenplay.
  • Shoot a film. (A short is okay.)
  • Shoot at least one music video.
  • Write 1000 words (minimum) a day, six days a week.
  • Write at least a first draft of two more YA novels. (Preferably from ideas I've already got written down.)
  • Attend a writing conference or workshop.
  • Read 100 books. (At least 40 of these should be from my own bookshelves!)
  • Become more involved in the YA blogging community. There are so many great YA writer blogs out there!

Then of course the ones that are not so much in my control:
  • Sign with the perfect agent for me and my career goals.
  • Sell my book to an awesome publishing house that totally gets my book, loves it and knows how to market it.


If you made it all the way to the end of this post, please have a SAFE and Happy New Year's Eve!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Writing Tip: Uncertainty - why it (sometimes) sucks!

Wednesday is my day to post over at my critique group's blog Sisters in Scribe. If you haven't checked it out yet, you should. My partners post some really interesting stuff. Since we're just getting started, I thought I would share my post this week here on my blog as well. Here goes:

Recently I read a really good book. Really good! It was full of action, adventure, drama, suspense, and emotion, and it was also full of one of my pet peeves. The dreaded uncertainty that is seemed like, appeared as if, almost.

You know what I'm talking about. One character says to the MC, "I hate you!" and the MC's inner monologue says "He punched the wall, as if he was angry." Really? It was like he was angry, but you're not sure if that was it? Maybe he just likes punching walls? Maybe wall-punching means happiness?

This occasionally drives me insane.

I notice this happens most often in books written in close third person. I think it's because when writing in first person it's easier to slip into the character's distinct point of view and feel what they're feeling.

Think about it. In your own life, if someone shouts at you "I hate you!" and then punches a wall, you have a strong instant reaction. You don't think to yourself, "I wonder if he's angry?" You think, "Whoa, this dude is pissed!" Even if you're wrong, and he does just like to punch walls for no reason, you have interpreted his words and actions and made a decision on what they mean.

Characters are like this too. They jump to conclusions. They reason out why things are happening. I know that, especially in third person, there's a fine line between staying in one character's close POV and crossing into another's. This is where the trouble starts. Writers worry that if they say too much about what is happening, or how someone is feeling that they are switching POVs or crossing over into omniscience. I say, HOGWASH!

While it's true that unless your main character is a mind reader, he can't know what others are thinking. He can definitely take an educated guess or decide for himself how to interpret what he sees. When I see a lot of this in a manuscript I'm critiquing, I always write "Be authoritative!" and "Either it happened or it didn't. Which is it?"

Don't tell me "It seemed like the door opened all by itself." When I see this type of sentence structure, I expect a "but". As in "It seemed like the door opened all by itself, but it was just the cat leaning against it." When you leave the sentence as "It seemed like the door opened all by itself." and the character doesn't do any exploring to find out how it actually did open, I'm left wondering, did the door open by itself or not? You know whether it did or not, why not share? Your character, having witnessed this event, should have come to a decision about whether or not the door opened on it's own - even if it's the wrong answer. And if your character really can't tell if it opened by itself or not, then he needs to try and find out why (or run away in terror, whichever he's more prone to do).

I may be in the minority here, but I think it's best for your character to see things through his own world view and save the uncertainty for when he really doesn't know what's going on. If you stay focused and true to your character's personality and voice, it should be clear, even in third person, that what he sees happening is what he thinks is happening, and not absolute fact. To me this is one of the best things about telling a story through one person's eyes. Each character has a unique way of seeing things. What one character thinks is evil spirits haunting his house, another thinks is just the wind. Find out what it really is is what storytelling is all about!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Catching Up & Fave Books of 2009!

It's time I do some catching up here. I can't believe 2009 is almost over! It's been a busy holiday season and I haven't had much time to blog so here's a round up of stuff.

First I have to say a very belated THANK YOU to Shannon at Book Dreaming who gave me the awesome One Lovely Blog Award!

The rules for the award are to link (up to) 15 new blogs. Whew!

I am going to have to come back with a post listing some new blogs when I get a chance to look at them!

Next it's time to list my favorite books that I read this year. They're not all 2009 releases but they are new reads in 2009 for me. All of these books had me thinking about them long after I'd finished reading which to me makes them great books.

Favorite books of 2009

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater
The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
Candor by Pam Bachorz
Cracked Up To Be by Courtney Summers
Identical by Ellen Hopkins
Stolen by Lucy Christopher
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler
When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

Special Mention to Paper Towns by John Green which I loved, and which just missed the cutoff because I read it in December 2008.

Books I'm dying to read in 2010

Linger by Maggie Stiefvater
The Dead Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan
Mockingjay (Hunger Games #3) by Suzanne Collins
The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting
Bleeding Violet by Dia Reeves
The Rise of Renegade X by Chelsea M. Campbell
Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan
Hunger by Jackie Kessler
Dirty Little Secrets by CJ Omolulu
The Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare
Spirit Bound by Richelle Mead
Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers
Paranormalcy by Kiersten White
Anna and the Boy Masterpiece by Stephanie Perkins
The Line by Teri Hall

Sunday, December 27, 2009

In My Mailbox - The Holiday Edition!

In My Mailbox comes from Kristi at The Story Siren.




Yay books! Here's what I got for Christmas (or um, some of them, I bought for myself for Christmas):

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
Dark Visions: The Strange Power; The Possessed; The Passion (trilogy of books in one) by L.J. Smith
Mistik Lake by Martha Brooks
I Heart You, You Haunt Me by Lisa Schroeder
Betrayals by Lili St. Crow (been waiting forever to read this!)
When It Happens by Susan Colasanti
Two Way Street by Lauren Barnholdt
Slawter by Darren Shan
Bec by Darren Shan
Blood Beast by Darren Shan
Demon Apocaolypse by Darren Shan
Death's Shadow by Darren Shan

Monday, December 21, 2009

Small Victories

I wrote the end of my NaNoWriMo project last night. The first draft isn't done, there's still a few scenes that need to be written or completed, but still, I wrote the end. The scenes that have been swirling around in my brain for over three months now, just waiting to be put on paper. The end of the story is really what started me writing the book in the first place. I really wanted to write the events that lead up to that moment and I've had SO MUCH FUN doing it! I have to say that while my current manuscript is a great big lump of coal waiting to be squeezed into a diamond, there is a lot of stuff I really love about it. And the end! Oh! There was a moment there that totally caught me by surprise. It made the whole ending so much better than I was expecting. I'm so excited to get this thing finished and revised so I can get it out to my crit partners and see how other people react to it.

My New Year's resolution for 2009 was to write a book and while it's only a rough first draft, I'm calling it a win. Go me! I wasn't sure I could do it, but there's no stopping me now!

In another small victory, I finally got my facebook page up and running. Friend me if you want. It's looking pretty lonely over there. I was so nervous to put up my full name and a picture, which is ridiculous, because I'm all over the place for my film stuff, but it was still scary to put myself out there and say I write books. Even though I totally do now, because, you know, the end!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Waiting on Wednesday - 7

WOW is hosted by Breaking The Spine. This week's choice is:

Bleeding Violet by Dia Reeves - release date January 5, 2010


Love can be a dangerous thing....


Hanna simply wants to be loved. With a head plagued by hallucinations, a medicine cabinet full of pills, and a closet stuffed with frilly, violet dresses, Hanna's tired of being the outcast, the weird girl, the freak. So she runs away to Portero, Texas in search of a new home.


But Portero is a stranger town than Hanna expects. As she tries to make a place for herself, she discovers dark secrets that would terrify any normal soul. Good thing for Hanna, she's far from normal. As this crazy girl meets an even crazier town, only two things are certain: Anything can happen and no one is safe.


Bleeding Violet is Dia Reeves debut and she's currently giving away a copy (and some other cool stuff) on her website so check it out! I'm so excited to read this book! I've been waiting for it forever!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

In My Mailbox - 5



I'm working at a bookstore this holiday season and we just had our employee appreciation shopping days were we get a huge discount so I went a little crazy with the book buying!

In My Mailbox comes from Kristi at The Story Siren.

I've been getting into boy books lately since my NaNo book features a male first person POV so hence all the Darren Shan. (I actually bought the whole Demonata series (!) but the rest are coming in the mail sometime this week.)

I bought a couple books that I'd checked out from the library earlier this year and loved. (Lament and Paper Towns)

And a couple contemporary books I've been meaning to check out (finally getting to Sarah Dessen) but haven't because I hardly ever read contemporary. (The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian and The Sky Always Hears Me And The Hills Don't Mind)

Here's the full list:
Lament - Maggie Stiefvater
Lord Loss - Demonata #1 - Darren Shan
Demon Thief - Demonata #2 - Darren Shan
The Vampire's Assistant (movie tie-in) Books 1-3 of Cirque du Freak - Darren Shan
Paper Towns - John Green
Just Listen - Sarah Dessen
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian - Sherman Alexie
The Sky Always Hears Me And The Hills Don't Mind - Kristin Cronn-Mills
Nightlife - Rob Thurman
Tithe - Holly Black
Valiant - Holly Black

Saturday, December 12, 2009

On Fear and Baring Your Soul

I once had a voice teacher in college (Voice for non-music majors, I should add) who told us on the first day that we would be doing lots of solo singing and it was okay if we were scared because singing for a room full of people was like taking off your clothes and standing naked before them while they judge you. At first I was like, huh? But then he explained that our voice, and the instrument we use to sing is inside our body. It's hidden where nobody can see. You can't look at a person and know whether or not they're a good singer. So the act of singing is taking out that hidden part and putting it on display for everyone.

I think writing is the same way. Until you put words to paper and show it to someone, no one knows what's really inside you. Writing reveals things even you didn't know about yourself. What moves you. What you think is beautiful or scary. What breaks your heart. You're showing people how you see the world and then hoping that even if they don't see it the same way, they will at least get what you're trying to say and love it anyway. That's scary.

It's also really brave. I've always thought that in general, art is courage. Even when an idea burns inside you to get out, actually bringing it to life and sharing it with others takes courage. The truly amazing paintings, music, and books, the ones that changed or made history are the ones where the creator took a risk, followed their gut, and then showed it to the world.

I think to those of us who are unpublished and plugging away this is important to remember. It's supposed to be a little bit scary. You're sharing a hidden part of yourself. You're supposed to wonder if what's true for you will translate and resonate with other people. If you're writing, and every single word you put down has you thinking "They're gonna love this! This is exactly what people want!" Then maybe, (just maybe, because hey, you might be a writing genius) you're not reaching deep enough inside yourself to the things that make you uniquely you. You don't want to do what's already been done. You need to stand out, and that means swallowing your fear (and your pride) and showing all of you, even the hidden parts.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Awards!

So I have been very lax. The extremely awesome Sara has gifted me with not one, but TWO blog awards! I am humbled and honored that anyone would even read my blog at all, much less reward it! And with NaNoWriMo and being sick and my new job, I have yet to post and thank her, so I'm going to fix that right now.

First up: The Best Blog Award



The rules for The Best Blog Award are:

1. To accept the award, post it on your blog together with the name of the person who has granted the award and his/her blog link.
2. Pass the award to other bloggers that you recently discovered and think are great! Remember to contact the bloggers to let them know they have been chosen for this award.

The second award is the Superior Scribbler Award:



With this award I pass it on to 5 other blogs that I've recently enjoyed reading.

I'm going to give the following blogs both awards, so here are a few really awesome blogs I think you should check out!

1. Sara at The Babbling Flow of a Fledgling Scribbler
2. L.J. Boldyrev
3. Mary Beth
4. Anna
5. The Black Quill

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Teaser Tuesday

I haven't done a teaser in a while, so here's one that I used for Kiersten White's Giveaway last week. It's from my WIP Sleeper. Hope you like it!

I sneak down to my dad’s office and search the web for things like “sudden development of martial arts skills” and “strange dreams”.

According to 99% of the internet I’m a vampire slayer and Buffy is dead. I’m pretty sure that as crazy as things are right now, they’re not vampire-and-demon-crazy.

Mr. White was doing just fine in the sunlight before I knocked him out.

Friday, December 4, 2009

2010 Debut Authors Challenge

The Story Siren
2010 Debut Author Challenge
Hosted by: The Story Siren


I decided I could use one more thing to distract me from writing and use up all my money so I'm participating in the Debut Author Challenge!

What is the 2010 Debut Author Challenge?

•The objective is to read a set number of YA (Young Adult) or MG (Middle Grade) novels from debut authors published this year.* I'm going to challenge everyone to read at least 12 debut novels! I’m hoping to read at least 30! You don’t have to list your choices right away, but if you do feel free to change them throughout the year. I will also be focusing on mostly Young Adult novels.

•Anyone can join, you don’t need a blog to participate. If you don’t have a blog you can always share your views by posting a review on Amazon.com/BarnesandNoble.com/GoodReads/Shelfari, or any other bookish site.

•The challenge will run from January 1, 2010- December 31, 2010. You can join at anytime!

Sign Up Here!

Here's the list of books I'm planning to read for this challenge so far:

1.   Paranormalcy - Kiersten White
2.   The Naughty List - Suzanne Young
3.   The Body Finder - Kimberly Derting
4.   Bleeding Violet - Dia Reeves
5.   Before I Fall - Lauren Oliver *read*
6.   The Rise of Renegade X - Chelsea M. Campbell *read*
7.   Shade - Jeri Smith-Ready
8.   The Secret Year - Jennifer Hubbard *read*
9.   Matched - Ally Condie *read*
10. Dirty Little Secrets - C.J. Omololu *read*
11. All Unquiet Things - Anna Jarzab
12. Firespell - Chloe Neill
13. The Iron Thorn - Caitlin Kittredge
14. Hunger - Jackie Kessler
15. Other - Karen Kincy
16. The Tension of Opposites - Kristina McBride
17. Exit Strategy - Ryan Potter
18. Faithful - Janet Fox
19. Anna and the French Kiss - Stephanie Perkins
20. The Deathday Letter - Shaun Hutchinson
21. Party - Tom Leveen *read*
22. The Replacement - Brenna Yovanoff
23. The Line - Teri Hall
24. Restoring Harmony - Joƫlle Anthony
25. The Iron King - Julie Kagawa
26. Harmonic Feedback - Tara Kelly
27. A Blue So Dark - Holly Schindler
28. 13 to Life: A Werewolf's Tale - Shannon Delaney
29. The Summer of Skinny Dipping - Amanda Howells *read*
30. Shadow Hills - Anastasia Hopcus *read*
31. Split - Swati Avasthi *read*
32. Guardian of the Dead - Karen Healey
33. A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend - Emily Horner *read*
34. Firelight by Sophie Jordan *read*
35. The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson *read*
36. The DUFF by Kody Keplinger *read*
37. Freefall by Mindi Scott *read*
38. The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney *read*
39. Personal Demons by Lisa Desrochers
40. Losing Faith by Denise Jaden

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Awesome Giveaway!

Megan Crewe is doing an awesome giveaway on her blog! She's giving away two prize packs!

Prize 1 is a set of three great YA books: Fortune’s Folly by Deva Fagan, Wondrous Strange by Lesley Livingston, and Lament by Maggie Stiefvater

Prize 2 is a three chapter critique of your manuscript!

Read more and enter here.

Check out the trailer for her awesome book Give Up The Ghost!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

NaNoWriMo and Epic Fail Poetry!

So I finished out the month with just under 41,000 words. I'm okay with that given the fact that I've been laid up with a cold for the past few days. I'm off work until the 4th and am giving myself those 3 more days to finish the 50,000 words. Despite technically failing I'm feeling pretty good about the whole project. I really like my characters and my plot and there is some really good stuff mixed in with all the rambling. 41,000 words is the most I've ever written in a month. Plus I'm confident that I will finish this book because I know my ending and am excited to write it. So overall, NaNoWriMo was a win for me. I can't wait to dive into revisions and make this thing a book!

It's Teaser Tuesday and I've been inspired by some of the writers out there like Maggie Stiefvater (and the rest of The Merry Sisters of Fate) and Victoria Schwab who have been sharing their teenage writing. It's fun to look back and see how much I've changed.

I think the biggest surprise to me was how much all my writing was about love. Desperate, yearning, melodramatic love. I'm pretty sure I could win an award in the flowery, purple prose category. And so, without further adieu I present to you this little ditty all the way from 10th grade (transcribed exactly as handwritten) that will forever more be known as:

Epic Fail

Love is lost...
like a moment's twinkling in an eye
Never to be recaptured.

Love is lost...
like the heartbeat of pure beauty
when your eyes meet a young fawn's
Lost forever.

Love is lost...
like the single dew drop on a rose petal
before the sun rises completely
to pluck it's diamond like essence
from its red velvet cushion.

Gone.

Love is lost...
on you.

*sigh* Really hits home doesn't it? I could make so much snarky commentary on this, but I think, really, it speaks for itself.

Now, get on over to Kiersten White's blog and enter her YA book giveaway! She's giving out books to two of her favorite funny writing snippets. Plus she's giving out more to people who enter at random! It ends tomorrow. Go!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Random Thoughts

So I'm sick with a wicked cold and totally out of it thanks to Thera Flu. I have about 13 hours to write over 9000 words to win NaNoWriMo. Hopefully they will all make sense. In the absence of the brain power to post anything really earth shattering, I thought I would share some random thoughts and a video that always makes me feel better.

Random Thoughts:
* It really bothers me that we don't use an apostrophe to show ownership when writing its. I know it's is for the contraction it is, but given that we use it for everything else, I think it should match. Plus, it makes me look like an idiot everytime I write it's when I should be writing its and I hate that.

* Every time I hear Love Story by Taylor Swift I wonder if she's actually read The Scarlet Letter?

* I want this:
and this: for Christmas.

* Why don't the Cullens get spray tans? It would make it so much easier for them to blend in, and they're rich enough that they could buy their own booth for their mansion so no one would even know. Plus, it might cover up whatever that stuff is in their skin that sparkles, and then they could go out in the sun.

* I really love the totally pointless What's Up With That? sketch on Saturday Night Live. Jason Sudekis's dancing in the red sweatsuit and curly wig in the background makes me laugh so hard I cry. Gerard Butler is pretty funny in this one too.



Um yeah, and with that, I'm off to try and form some complete sentences and win NaNo. Wish me luck!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Contest Winners!

Here are the winners for my Best YA Books of 2009 contest as chosen by Random Number Generator. You all should have received emails from me, if I don't get a response from you by December 5th, I will choose a new winner.

1st Choice: Meghan from Meghan's Book Blog!
2nd Choice: Pixie from Page Turners
3rd Choice: Yay Reads
4th Choice: Kate from The Neverending Shelf
5th Choice: Jo from Once Upon A Bookcase

Thanks so much for entering! I will be doing more giveaways in the new year!

Monday, November 23, 2009

What NaNoWriMo is Teaching Me

NaNoWriMo has been a really eye-opening and encouraging experience. I've discovered a lot about myself as a writer and as a person. I think I've come a long way towards figuring out what process works best for me (a perfectionist control-freak) to get a working first draft.

Approaching this story like I would a film has made all the difference. I write scenes and leave them open to change. I consider this first draft the same as filming the movie. When making a movie you use the script as a guide, you film everything and then some, and then the real fun comes from sitting down in the editing room and seeing what you have and how it best fits together. Editing is probably one of my favorite things in the world. To me it's where the real storytelling comes in.

I think it also helps that I had a concrete ending when I started. I didn't outline but I knew exactly where my story started, the central conflict, and the whole action packed ending. I had pretty detailed notes on my two main characters too. Writing towards the big finish, and seeing the pieces come together that lead up to it is a lot of fun. Getting to the end is one of the things that's kept me going these past three weeks. Hopefully I'll feel like it was worth it when I finish this week!

Somewhat Surprising Stuff I've Learned About Myself:
1. Despite considering myself a visual person (hello, filmmaker!) when drafting, the only description I tend to write is internal/emotional.

2. I am totally emo. Nothing makes me happier than oodles and oodles of angst (especially angst with kissing!). This shouldn't be surprising to me given that in my past life as a vidder all my vids were heavy on the angst, but somehow it was.

3. I have a limited emotional vocabulary (or okay, a potty mouth). When my characters are upset, they drop F-bombs and I don't even notice. Not even when reading through what I wrote. Although, oddly, my female MC almost always says fricken rather than the F-bomb because that's just the way she talks.

4. Every single day feels like I can't possibly write anything worthwhile, and then I do. For me, I've found that writing is all about courage. You face your fear of failure and wade right back into the mess you made. Every day.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

NaNoWriMo Wordle - Week 3

Here's this week's wordle with a total of 35,248 words. It's interesting to see that my character names are beginning to take on much bigger parts (Rain, Chase, and Snake are all characters, not just words) and "something" is finally starting to shrink.

Wordle: whisper week 3


The dreaded "felt" is creeping up. Proof that I am writing stuff down as fast as I can rather than thinking up the best way to say things.

More than anything, I'm just excited I made the weekly goal and got up to 35,000 words! It was a rough week without much writing time and I still managed to pull it off. I guess that means I have no excuses in the future now. I'm finally on the downward slide to the end. Just 15,000 words to go and I know my ending will take up at least 5,000 of those. So exciting! I think I'm going to win NaNo!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Contest Update!

I've received more than 100 entries, (wow!) which means that I will be giving away 5 ARCs to 5 winners! The ARCs I'm giving away are:

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater
Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick
The Maze Runner by James Dashner
After by Amy Efaw
Candor by Pam Bachorz


Reminder: The contest ends tomorrow November 22nd at 11:59pm Pacific Time.

Then I begin my long journey through Excel and random number generator! I have a busy week coming up, so I will post the winners after the Thanksgiving holiday.

Good luck!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Teaser Tuesday

Here's a teaser from my other WIP (currently on hold for NaNo) Sleeper.

"Even all pissed off that he had to talk to losers like Cody and me, he was still really hot. I kind of hated him for that."

I like this line a lot. I think it sums up my MC's personality really well.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

NaNoWriMo Wordle - week 2

It's week two and I'm just under halfway done! Here's my week two wordle with 24,980 words.
Wordle: whisper week 2


It's interesting that the most prominent words now are words like "like" and "just" and "looked". I thought for sure that "shrugged" would be in there. I swear it seems like the only thing my characters do is shrug! I'm glad to see that that's not the case.

I didn't get as much writing done this week as last, but I'm still happy with my progress. I worked out a few new plot twists that will help me make my way out of the middle and overall I'm really excited to finish this draft so I can get started revising and making it into a manuscript I can be proud of.

How was week two for you?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Contest Update!

My contest where you can Win Some Of The Best YA Books of 2009! has a new end date!

I've decided to change the end of the contest so that the winners will get their prizes before the end of 2009.

The contest will now end on Sunday November 22, 2009 at 11:59 PT.

Right now you can win Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater, Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick, and The Maze Runner by James Dashner.

It's getting close to 50 entries, which means that After by Amy Efaw will be added as a prize.

If I get 100 entries by 11/22 Candor by Pam Bachorz will also be a prize.

Read the rules and enter here.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Teaser Tuesday

It's Teaser Tuesday! I thought for a change I'd share a teaser of my own work. So here's a couple of the few sentences from my nano project I'm actually willing to show the world right now.

"They found Jenna in the woods, her brown eyes gray with early morning frost. Laid out amongst the moss and tall grass like an offering to some goddess of the forest."

There you go! Now back to writing!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Things I Do When I Should Be Writing - Fake Cover!

Ah procrastination, how I love thee!

So today my goal is 3,000 words on my nano project, which will take me to 20,000. What have I been doing? Making a totally craptastic cover for my unfinished book. Check it out:



Um... yeah. What's sad is that my female MC is not even on the cover (that's her dead best friend at the bottom) and also, I realized after I finished, my story takes place in early April so none of those trees should have leaves. This was actually particularly distressing because it totally ruins the mental imagery I had going for the book. How this escaped me before now I don't know. I blame it on all my years living in LA, where the trees never lose their leaves.

Anyway, back to writing! How's it going for you? Anyone else make a cover? I'd love to see!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

In My Mailbox - 4

I got some really good stuff this week!

In My Mailbox comes from Kristi at The Story Siren.




WON
The Naughty List ARC by Suzanne Collins

BOUGHT
Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
Catalyst by Laurie Halse Anderson
Missing Abby by Lee Weatherly

LIBRARY
Ballad by Maggie Stiefvater
North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley

Saturday, November 7, 2009

NaNoWriMo - week 1 Wordle

So I'm obsessed with Wordle. I've been using it every day on my nano project. It's been interesting to watch it change over the week. Up until today, the biggest word by far was "Jenna" which was funny because Jenna is dead, the murder victim at the core of my mystery. Today she's finally evened out with most of the rest of my characters. I'm still so amazed that I'm over 15,000 words in just 6 days!

Week 1 Wordle:

Wordle: whisper week 1

Just a note, the word "something" is what I use when I need to come back and name something or fill in detail, so that's why it's so big. I think!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Twittercation Day 5

So I've been off Twitter for 5 days now, just 2 more to go, and I have to admit, Nova Ren Suma was right, Twitter kills novels. Because in just four days I managed to write over 11,000 words on my NaNoWriMo project. 11,000 in 4 days!! It boggles the mind. Most of it will need major revision but I'm still really happy with the way the story is flowing. It's so much darker than I thought it would be, which I love.

I've seen a lot of other people do this and I figured why not. Here's one of my favorite lines I've written so far:

"I stared out at the lake, wishing I could smell the water, feel the sand, leave an effing mark - something that would prove I was a part of her world." Ben - Whisper

How's NaNo going for you?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Contest! Win Some of The Best Books of 2009!

This contest has ended. Check back next week to see the winners!

Since the gift giving season is coming up, I thought it was time to have my very first contest! And since 2009 is drawing to a close, I thought it's the perfect time to share some of the best books of 2009. So...

I'm giving away ARCS! And here's the best part, it's INTERNATIONAL! That means, if you win, I will ship your book anywhere in the world.

Here's what you can win:

These are ALL ARCs - not hardcover copies.

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater
Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick
Maze Runner by James Dashner

If I get 50 entries, I will add another ARC. (After by Amy Efaw)
If I get 100 entries, I will add another ARC again! (Candor by Pam Bachorz)

RULES
You MUST be a follower to enter! (I need followers, help me out!)

I'll pick three winners (or 5 if I get that far). First winner gets to choose the book of their choice. Second winner gets second pick and so on until the books are gone.

HOW TO ENTER
+1 Comment and leave your email address!

+5 Blog - an actual blog post - about this contest (put link in the comments)

+5 Link to this contest on your sidebar (put link in the comments)

+3 Follow me on Twitter I'm valeriekwrites. (Let me know your Twitter name so I can give you credit)

+1 Tweet about this contest (put link in the comments) - you can tweet it once a week until the contest ends, leave a new comment with the link each time.


Contest ends 11/22 at 11:59pm PT

Monday, November 2, 2009

Freedom!

I have to say, I'm really enjoying NaNoWriMo. It's the first time I've written for fun, without concern about how it comes out in a long time. Until I saw others talking about it at the blueboards, it had never occurred to me write about what I want to happen when I can't quite work out the details about how I want it to go. Usually when that happens to me, there is much staring off into space then typing, deleting and typing again. Often for days, until I decide I'm stuck and should take a break until I can work it out. SO unproductive. I think NaNo might have just changed my life!

It's so liberating to write "something happens where his stepdad does something mean and makes him feel like crap" rather than spend days trying to figure out what that something might be instead of moving forward.

So far I've written over 5,000 words. I've written out of order and I've made some huge, wonderful discoveries about my plot and my world. When I started this book, I knew there was going to be a murder. I had no idea who the murderer was or why they did it. About 800 words in yesterday, a new character I hadn't pre-planned appeared and soon after I realized they were my killer and I knew why they did it. If it weren't for NaNo, I wouldn't have even started writing this book because while I knew the beginning and the end, I didn't know the murderer and that was too important.

I hope I can keep this up. Right now I'm in love with NaNo and I hope we never break up. This is the most fun I've had writing in a long time.

How about you? How's NaNo treating you so far?

Friday, October 30, 2009

Micro-Managing Your Story

Recently I've come across more than one book that does something like this:

"I was totally freaked out and I didn't know what to do. I realized I was thirsty so I went downstairs and over to the refrigerator and opened it up. I searched through the food and drinks on the crowded shelves until I found the chocolate milk in the door, where we never keep it, which irritated me. I put the chocolate milk on the counter and then went to the cabinet and pulled out a cup. I poured the chocolate milk in the cup, making sure to put it back where we usually keep it in the refrigerator before sitting down. I drank the milk but it didn't ease my mind so I went back up to my room to think, leaving the cup behind."

I call this Micro-Managing your story. Now Stephanie has already written a fabulous post on self-editing that addresses many of the things that are wrong about this and how to fix it. What I want to talk about is the why.

Aside from inexperience, I think there a couple reasons why this type of over explaining happens. The main one being control issues, which of course come from fear.

It's can be scary to think that someone might interpret your character's actions or behaviors in a way that is different from your intentions and therefore, not like your book because they don't understand what you're trying to say. I get that. I do. Unfortunately, in the art world (and writing is art) you don't get to decide how other people interpret your work. Now you might think that makes it all the more important that you put down everything exactly the way you see it but you would be wrong, and I'll get to the why in a minute.

Reason #2 why this type of verbal diarrhea might spew from your fingers. (Pretty image, huh?) You're a visual thinker. Maybe (like me) you come from the world of film, or you see your scenes play out in your mind like a movie and then write them down. This is something I struggle with daily. Having gone to film school and learned to distill any story into a sequence of images, when writing, I always think in terms of film editing. Like: If I say she was at the refrigerator and then next thing I mention, she's at the table, when did she sit down?? How will anyone know she walked over there? Or: If I say she has a cup in her hand and then she leaves, people will think she still has the cup and they'll wonder what she's doing with it!! And if this was a movie, I would be right. But it's not. And just like I have to accept the idea that people will see what they want in my work, I also have to trust that they will fill in the details when necessary.

So now let me tell you why this type of detail-oriented writing can become a real problem. (Aside from the fact that it's tedious and readers will get bored and frustrated waiting for something to happen.) It's because we are trained to read a certain way. This is easiest to explain using film, so indulge me.

When writing a screenplay, the biggest issue is time. You have 90 minutes to 2 hours to tell your story. On average, one page of a script = one minute of screen time. This makes every single minute gold. Think about that for a moment. You have to choose the best 40-60 scenes to tell your entire story. Even if that story is epic. Which means there's not a lot of time for excess information that does not tie directly to the plot. As filmgoers we've learned to take note of any seemingly innocuous detail and catalog it with the assumption that it's being shown to us for a reason. For example, one of the first "rules" in screenwriting is never show a gun unless someone's going to use it later on.

Now let's look at the example above. The last line ends with "leaving the cup behind". Sounds ominous doesn't it? Like, leaving that cup behind was the straw that broke his neat freak sister's back and after discovering it, she went on a shooting spree, determined to get rid of all the messy people in the world. That would make reading everything that preceded that line worth reading, right? (Well okay, not really, but still.)

But what if nothing happens with that cup? What if the character goes back upstairs and starts playing video games and that cup is never mentioned again? Now your reader is left wondering why they were told about that cup at all. And if you keep doing it, then your reader starts to wonder how they're supposed to read your book, because they can't tell the important stuff from the unimportant. Eventually, if they bother to finish, they will begin dismissing all your details as useless, even the important ones.

Think about every piece of information in your book as having weight. Now, is the fact that your character left his cup on the counter equal to the fact that there's a portal to hell in his bedroom closet? Do they weigh the same? Do they both deserve the same amount of space in your chapter? Remember, space is gold. Readers want to know what happens next in the plot, not in the day. Use your valuable space to tell your story, not the stuff that happens in between plot points.

Lastly, if you're using this type of over-writing to pad your manuscript, stop right there. If you don't have enough plot to fill out 60,000 words, you don't have enough to write a book. It's time to think about subplots and character development, not excessive attention to useless detail. Either that, or you have a movie!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Waiting On Wednesday 6

WOW is hosted by Breaking The Spine. This week's choice is:

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl - release date December 1, 2009


There were no surprises in Gatlin County
We were pretty much the epicenter of the middle of nowhere.
At least, that’s what I thought.
Turns out, I couldn’t have been more wrong.

There was a curse.
There was a girl.
And in the end, there was a grave.

Lena Duchannes is unlike anyone the small Southern town of Gatlin has ever seen, and she’s struggling to conceal her power, and a curse that has haunted her family for generations. But even within the overgrown gardens, murky swamps, and crumbling graveyards of the forgotten South, a secret cannot stay hidden forever.

Ethan Wate, who has been counting the months until he can escape from Gatlin, is haunted by dreams of a beautiful girl he has never met. When Lena moves into the town’s oldest and most infamous plantation, Ethan is inexplicably drawn to her and determined to uncover the connection between them.

In a town with no surprises, one secret could change everything.

Description from goodreads.com.



Watch The Trailer!


Beautiful Creatures is Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl's debut YA novel. I've been dying to get my hands on this book forever! The trailer just makes me want it even more.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Win a 4 ARC bundle from Princess Bookie!

Cindy at Princess Bookie is giving away four awesome ARCs!

One winner will win:
The Unwritten Rule by Elizabeth Scott
Bleeding Violet by Dia Reeves
Dark Divine by Bree Despain
Voices Of Dragons by Carrie Vaughn

Enter here

I'm seriously dying to get my hands on Bleeding Violet and The Dark Divine!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Haiku For You

YA Highway has a cool post today where they take their WIPs and create haiku poems about them. I love haiku, so I thought I'd give it a try. Not my best work but hey, they are about works in progress!

Current WIP

awkward shyness wakes
to newfound strength, speed and skills
must learn why or die

NaNo Project

at the end of life
he finds a reason to live
save her from herself

Waiting on Wednesday 5

WOW is hosted by Breaking The Spine. This week's choice is:

The Dark Divine by Bree Despain - release date December 22, 2009

A prodigal son

A dangerous love

A deadly secret . . .

I stood back and watched his movements. Daniel had that way about him that could shut me down in an instant. . . . I kicked the gravel a couple of times and worked up my courage again. “Tell me . . . I mean . . . why did you come back? Why now, after all this time?”

Grace Divine, daughter of the local pastor, always knew something terrible happened the night Daniel Kalbi disappeared—the night she found her brother Jude collapsed on the porch, covered in blood. But she has no idea what a truly monstrous secret that night really held. And when Daniel returns three years later, Grace can no longer deny her attraction to him, despite promising Jude she’ll stay away.

As Grace gets closer to Daniel, her actions stir the ancient evil Daniel unleashed that horrific night. Grace must discover the truth behind Jude and Daniel's dark secret . . . and the cure that can save the ones she loves. But she may have to lay down the ultimate sacrifice to do it—her soul.

Description from goodreads.com.


The Dark Divine is Bree Despain's debut YA novel. I've had this on my wishlist forever but once she posted the first chapter on her website I was hooked! I CANNOT wait to read this book.

Monday, October 19, 2009

NaNo Playlist

I spent some time this weekend making notes on the book I'm going to write for NaNoWriMo next month. It's my first time doing NaNo and I'm pretty excited. I've had this idea floating around in my brain for a while. It's a YA (of course) ghost story/paranormal romance called Whisper. I always make playlists for my writing projects so I thought I'd share this one.


Get a playlist! Standalone player Get Ringtones



They didn't have a couple of the songs I'm using, including Stay by Lillix, which sucked, but oh well, you get the idea.

I'm looking for writing buddies for NaNo! If you want to be buddies, I'm valeriekwrites over there!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

In My Mailbox - 3

I'm back! Finally posting on my blog after a little writing hiatus. This was a very cool week, I got my James Patterson prize pack in the mail! In My Mailbox comes from Kristi at The Story Siren.

WON (all by James Patterson)
Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment
School's Out - Forever!
Saving the World and Other Extreme Sports
The Final Warning
Max
Maximum Ride Manga
The Dangerous Days of Daniel X
Daniel X: Watch the Skies

Sunday, September 6, 2009

In My Mailbox - 2

Got some pretty good stuff this week! Can't wait to finally read Catching Fire. In My Mailbox comes from Kristi at The Story Siren.




WON
Devil's Kiss ARC by Sarwat Chadda

BOUGHT
The Hollow by Jessica Verday
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
The Pace by Shelena Shorts
Stolen by Lucy Christopher

Encyclopedia of Ghosts & Spirits

LIBRARY
The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Waiting on Wednesday - 4

WOW is hosted by Breaking The Spine. This week's choice is:

Firespell - A Novel of the Dark Elite by Chloe Neill - release date January 5, 2010

As the new girl at the elite St. Sophia’s boarding school, Lily Parker thinks her classmates are the most monstrous things she’ll have to face…

When Lily’s guardians decided to send her away to a fancy boarding school in Chicago, she was shocked. So was St. Sophia’s. Lily’s ultra-rich brat pack classmates think Lily should be the punchline to every joke, and on top of that, she’s hearing strange noises and seeing bizarre things in the shadows of the creepy building.

The only thing keeping her sane is her roommate, Scout, but even Scout’s a little weird—she keeps disappearing late at night and won’t tell Lily where she’s been. But when a prank leaves Lily trapped in the catacombs beneath the school, Lily finds Scout running from a real monster.

Scout’s a member of a splinter group of rebel teens with unique magical talents, who’ve sworn to protect the city against demons, vampires, and Reapers, magic users who’ve been corrupted by their power. And when Lily finds herself in the line of a firespell, Scout tells her the truth about her secret life, even though Lily has no powers of her own—at least none that she’s discovered yet…

Description from goodreads.com.


Chloe Neill is the author of the adult Urban Fantasy books Some Girls Bite and Friday Night Bites, the first two books in her Chicagoland Vampires series. This is her first YA novel. I think it sounds really interesting and action packed. But then I always love a creepy boarding school, magic and a little demon hunting!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Teaser Tuseday - 2

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

* Grab your current read
* Open to a random page
* Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
* BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
* Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

My teaser this week is from Hate List by Jennifer Brown:

Nick unzipped his jacket slowly, but he didn't take it off. "Let's go get this finished," he said, and I smiled because I was so happy he was going to stick up for me. p. 80

Sunday, August 30, 2009

In My Mailbox - 1

It's time that I come forward and admit my addiction to Amazon and reading in general. Here for the first time is my In My Mailbox post without pics or descriptions cause I'm lazy right now, might put them in later. In My Mailbox comes from Kristi at The Story Siren.






WON
Shiver ARC by Maggie Stiefvater

BOUGHT
My Soul To Take by Rachel Vincent
Blood Promise by Richelle Mead
Hate List by Jennifer Brown
Rampant by Diana Peterfreund
Break by Hannah Moskowitz
Once A Witch by Colleen McCullough

Encyclopedia of Magic & Alchemy
Encyclopedia of Witches, Witchcraft & Wicca

LIBRARY
When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
The Monster Variations by Daniel Kraus

Saturday, August 29, 2009

the secret

I think I finally figured out what the secret to finishing a first draft is. It's not being afraid to write crap. I'm such a perfectionist, I agonize over one sentence until my eyes go blurry and I can't stand to sit at the computer one more second. It's stupid.

I already learned this with screenwriting, just get the draft out. Get words on paper and sort them out in the rewrite. I actually love editing, I love pulling the pieces together like a puzzle and honing them until they tell the best version of the story possible.

The difference between screenplays and novels though is all the words. There's so many words in a book! The thought of working through so many in a revision is overwhelming and so, rather than trusting myself that I will get the bare bones that I need for a good edit, I am constantly going back and revising or taking time away to rework the plot.

It's time to stop. It's time to put my butt in the chair, write some crap and sort it out later. Today, I'm giving myself the permission to write the worst scenes ever. I will finish this first draft in the next two weeks. No, really, I will!

Show Me Five Saturday - 2




That's A Novel Idea just started this fun new meme!

Here are the rules:
Each Saturday You will post the answer to these questions. The number indicates the number of answers you will provide.

1 Book you read and/or reviewed this week
2 Words that describe the book
3 Settings where it took place or characters you met
4 Things you liked and/or disliked about it
5 Stars or less for your rating?

1. When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
2. MG/YA, Awesome
3. NYC, 70's, Miranda
4. Liked: that it was set in the 70s, the plot - which I can't talk about without revealing the mystery, sense of place, realistic characters
5. 5 stars

Friday, August 28, 2009

Friday Finds - 2

Friday Finds is hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading.

This is a cool sounding book I discovered this week!

Here they are:

The Pace cover

The Pace by Shelena Shorts (released 8/19/09)

From GoodReads:
Weston Wilson is not immortal and he is of this world. But, aging is not part of his existence, and eighteen-year-old Sophie Slone is determined to find out why. In doing so, she could also uncover something about her own life expectancy that she may not want to know. Suddenly, immortality will mean everything and nothing all at the same time.

Intensely fascinating and rich with determination, The Pace brings together romance, mystery, and suspense in a compelling bond that is sure to have readers asking for more.


This sounds so interesting that I ordered it from Amazon! Can't wait to check it out.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Waiting On Wednesday - 3

WOW is hosted by Breaking The Spine. I've been getting into boy books lately, so this week's choice is:

Maze Runner by James Dashner - release date October 6, 2009

When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his first name. His memory is blank. But he’s not alone. When the lift’s doors open, Thomas finds himself surrounded by kids who welcome him to the Glade—a large, open expanse surrounded by stone walls.

Just like Thomas, the Gladers don’t know why or how they got to the Glade. All they know is that every morning the stone doors to the maze that surrounds them have opened. Every night they’ve closed tight. And every 30 days a new boy has been delivered in the lift.

Thomas was expected. But the next day, a girl is sent up—the first girl to ever arrive in the Glade. And more surprising yet is the message she delivers.

Thomas might be more important than he could ever guess. If only he could unlock the dark secrets buried within his mind.


Ooh, sounds post-apocalyptic, and creepy and mysterious. Three of my favorite things! On Amazon it's paired with The Forest of Hands and Teeth (one of my faves this year) which makes me very curious and even more excited to read it.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Friday Finds - 1

Friday Finds is hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading.

These are books that jumped out at me this week and that are now on my Must Read list!

Here they are:

The Maze Runner cover

The Maze Runner by James Dashner








Dirty Little Secrets cover

Dirty Little Secrets by C.J. Omololu
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