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!
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