Topical Tuesday: NaNoWriMo–You in or out?

A few announcements:

SourceBooks has partnered with LibraryThing to provide free downloads of a fantastic story that is currently outselling both Infidel and Reading Lolita In Tehran.

From October 27th – 31st, Dr. Qanta Ahmed’s memoir, In the Land of Invisible Women, will be available for download to any LibraryThing member (membership is free) and it will be followed up a week later (Nov. 10th) with two weeks of author chat—meaning that every week-night for two weeks, readers can post questions for Qanta on the LibraryThing website which she will then attempt to answer.

 

Here at Fumbling with Fiction, I’ll be giving away copies to a couple lucky commenters this week. As usual, each comment this week is an entry. Comment as much as you like in order for a chance to win!

*******************************************************************

It’s that time of year again. The leaves change. The smell of chimney smoke begins to fill the air. The air is crisp and the weather perfect for a brisk walk around the neighborhood.

So, naturally, you’re going to want to lock yourself indoors. Because, I mean, why enjoy the season when you could write a novel in a month instead?

Yep, Saturday heralds this year’s NaNoWriMo, otherwise known as National Novel Writing Month.

Two years ago, I took the challenge and wrote my first novel during the month of November. That was my first “real” effort at becoming a writer. I never went back and edited that disastrous first draft, but I did print it out and placed it a binder on my shelf.

Exactly two years from that month, I have a fabulous agent and am preparing for my first book to go on submission.

Nano, if nothing else, showed me that, “Hey, I can string 50,000 words together” and, yanno what? That’s actually a pretty good lesson.

This year, I’ll be taking a more relaxed approach. Creative A and I will be co-authoring a YA sci-fi novel during the month of November. I’m pumped to refresh my creative juices and to start work on a new project.

More on why I’m excited to be collaborating tomorrow, but for now…Just in case you needed to justify your relative insanity…here are a few reasons to glue your butt to your swivel chair and get your Nano on this year.

Five Reasons You Need to Nano:

1. Your Jenny Craig diet forbids you from eating your weight in turkey and mashed potatoes. Why not release that aggression on your keyboard?

2. You’ve called yourself a writer for the past ten years, but have yet to write more than the occasional haiku and/or dirty limerick.

3. You type five words per minute. Yeah…unless you’re 7, it might be time to work on that.

4. The economy’s tanked and you’ve been left unemployed.  Good news! Writing requires virtually no overhead.

5. You have very little respect for the editing process.

 

 

Status: Waiting…waiting…waiting…waiting…Did I mention I finished my script? Oh yeah! I finished. Up ’til 5 am on Sunday finishing the edits on SCOUT. Yeah….I’m not a night owl.

Topical Tuesday: Have You Completed Your Prerequisites?

 

Does this ever happen to you? You mention you’re a writer–or perhaps more often your boyfriend Nate mentions for you, causing you to turn a lovely shade of purple, which is fortunately a very “in” color this season anyway–and the person you’re speaking with says, “Oh! A Writer!” After which you kind of grin and nod not knowing quite what to say. Then they’re like, “So you read a lot.” Or some variation thereof.

To that, you can more enthusiastically reply, “You bet!” And then give a cheesy thumbs up to emphasize your point.

Anywho, the person continues by asserting, “Oh! Well you must have read __________.”

And you’re thinking to yourself, I really should have read that. But I sure as heck never have. But you respond simply, “No, never have checked that out.”

“But you said you were an avid reader.” They cock their head.

Alright, so the conversation doesn’t always follow that verbatim, but that really does happen to me and I go away feeling like an idiot. It’s even worse when you say you’re a huge scifi fan or something and then haven’t read anything by Ursula LeGuin.

 

Ok, so here’s the thing: Are there books that you absolutely have to read in order to be able to call yourself a writer or avid reader with your chin held high? What are they?

 

Status: Busy. Busy. Busy. Script should be done by the end of this week! Correction: HAS to be done by the end of this week. Fortunately, I think I’m on track.

Guess what? I have a new artist working on SCOUT and new artwork up. Hop on over to the SCOUT page to check it out.

Topical Tuesday: It Ain’t Trickin’ If You Got It

Repeat after me.

“I am made of Awesome. I have more breathtaking splendor oozing out my eyeballs than those nasty looking grubs that Bear Grills chomps the heads off have goo. I have remarkable talent, unimpeachable flair for the written word, and goshdarnit people like me.”

Now with conviction, please.

Saundra Mitchell raised an excellent point yesterday in her interview and I think it warrants its very own blog post. To remind you, she said:

“Early on, an established screenwriter took the time to work with me on my scripts. She challenged me to excel, and when I finally produced a solid episodic (a script for a one hour television drama,) she recommended me to her agent. This was a Big Deal, but I had never done a business call where I had to sell *me*.

When this agent asked me how I would describe myself, I said, “Oh, I’m just a little midwestern housewife trying to make good!” The call chilled after that, and you’re probably not surprised to find out that he didn’t offer to represent me.

So that was a big oops, but it was also a great lesson. Never minimize your own ability or ambition. There are enough people in the world who will do that for you!”

I know you writerly types, always whimpering over an adjective that just doesn’t feel right. Or how ’bout yesterday when you left that beautifully constructed sentence in the first paragraph, the one that made you wonder how you had yet to win a Pulitzer. But today, in the light of morning, you’d just as soon put a bag over its head.

Ok, we all feel that way. And we feel that way a lot of the time. That’s what pushes us to improve and drives success, so embrace those sentiments, but as your little sister might have said to you whilst you were busy making out with Jake, the lead guitarist of your high school’s coolest garage band, on the couch:

“Get a room!”

This sort of self-doubt is an indoor activity. When we step “outside” it’s time to sell ourselves.

You are your own biggest advocate. You can sell yourself better than anyone.

Now, I’m not saying modesty isn’t important. And please, oh, please, don’t walk up to an agent or editor and declare that you are, in fact, made of awesome. K? But do think it quietly to yourself because it’s that inner glow that attracts.

Don’t be afraid to toot your own horn a bit. It’s not bragging if done adeptly.

Examples:

You might not want to say to prospective agent/editor: “I fully expect to top the bestseller list my first year out.”

But equally unattractive… “I know my book isn’t bestseller material, so don’t worry, I have much more reasonable ambitions like just getting published.”

So let’s try some middle ground: “I am proud of the book I put out and want it to have the best chance at success possible. I am also confident in my ability to continue to write and build my career.”

Everyone has good qualities to tout. I remember I told my agent on the phone that I am a fast writer and can produce quickly. This is the truth and something that I felt needed saying because it influenced my thoughts on the path my career could take. Therefore, I got to say something positive about myself yet remain relevant to the conversation at hand.

So never undermine your own abilities. Be proud of the work you seek to promote. Enthusiasm is contagious.

 

And as T.I. would aptly remind us: It Ain’t Trickin’ If You Got It.

 

 

Status: Got caught up on some law school work yesterday so I plan to do more script writing today. Our goal to start submitting SCOUT is November 1. I’m incredibly excited but want to make sure that every part of the proposal package is the absolute best it can be. So, lots exciting happening, but lots to do.

Topical Tuesday: I’m No Playgirl, but I Got Me A Playlist

I was never a believer in the playlist for your book thing. I mean, with the whole Stephenie Meyer let’s-have-a-book-concert thing, I was like, really woman? You listen to ALL that while you write? How do you think at night?

Anyway, color me a convert because I now have a SCOUT playlist. I listen to a few songs everytime before I start to write or when I change scenes. Yanno, that sort of thing. This embarrasses me to no end. Why? Well, I’m very private about my writing. Aside from my dad who edits, Nate is the only person who knows what my books are about. Oh yeah, and my agent, because telling him what the book was about was sort of a prerequisite for the he’ll-represent-my-book thing.

Anyway, so back to Nate. “So what” by Pink (Yeah, I know. Be quiet.) has been playing in my apartment about, oh, ten times a day as I’ve been buckling down to write. We went out in Austin this weekend and I was driving my friends out there, Pink came on the radio. Nate was like, “Oh, Chandler! This is your jam.” Which of course left everyone wondering, because, if you don’t know Pink’s “So What” isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Chandler Craig’s jam.

Unfortunately, Nate had no problem explaining exactly what he meant, so the cat (haha, get it–feline shapeshifter) was out of the bag.

Doesn’t mean I’m giving up my SCOUT playlist, though. Currently, my playlist is as follows (Please save the mocking until after the last name is read):

So What by Pink–my theme song for the character of Scout

The Way I Live by DJ Storm and featuring Lil Boosie

Paper Planes by MIA–If you are wondering what the common theme of these songs is; it’s because Scout is a badass

See You Again by Miley Cyrus–She’s 15!

7 Things by Miley Cyrus–lot of teenage love angst goin’ on

What Time is It and We’re All in This Together by the cast of High School Musical–because….I like it?

Love Song by Sara Bareilles

Sexy Can I by Ray J

Theme from Harry Potter by James Dorsey Orchestra

The Quidditch World Cup from Harry Potter Soundtrack–I love listening to the Harry Potter soundtrack because no words!

Calabria by Enur–Love this because I can’t undertand the words!

 

Anyway, not all of these songs inspire my writing, but something about listening to the sames ones everytime I sit down to write helps me trigger some brain spark (the technical turn) and that gets my butt in gear to start pounding out the words.

 

What’s on your manny’s playlist?

 

Status: I will be writing slash watching the debates. Working hard and having fun. The script is coming along swimmingly. Talk to me in a week when I am wrapping it up. Oh, did I mention that? I want to have it done in a week. K, thanks bye.

Topical Tuesday: Email Snafus Can Happen to You

“One of the most embarrassing moments for me is an email flub. I met an agent at a conference and queried her soon after we met. Several months later, I had signed with my agent, then six months later, on New Year’s Day I got an email from the conference agent. She loved the samples I had sent her and was requesting fulls of two of my manuscripts. I then quickly emailed my friend and said can you believe this agent took one year to get back to me! Ah, except I sent the email back to the agent and realized a second after hitting send. I felt so awful, but she was very nice and actually wrote back apologizing for taking so long and wished me best of luck with my agent. So the moral of the story is, always check the address before hitting send.”

 

 

“I once wrote an author I admired, raving about her latest book.  Which wasn’t out yet.  She was lovely about it and told me it wasn’t out yet, not even in ARC form and that I could buy it when it came out.  I realized in a major Dolt Moment that I had written the wrong title when I was emailing her.  I’d read one of her other books (and loved it), but written the title of the one that hadn’t been released yet.
 
Of course, I couldn’t write back and say, *embarrassed giggle* “The book I meant I read was . . . ” without it sounding totally lame.
 
That was only one of my horrible experiences with email.  It is an amazing medium and yet, potentially very dangerous.”
 

 

“I have my basic query letter that I keep in a word document and copy and paste into the body of an email before sending it off to agents. I always personalize from there. But one time, while I remembered to personalize the body, I left the heading for a previous agent in. It said Dear X, then under it Dear Y. Needless to say it was an instant rejection!”

 

We’ve all done it. It’s so easy. That itchy, little pointer finger ready and rearing to hit “Send.” I’ve done it. Don’t lie, you’ve done it, too.

So I’d like to prescribe the “Don’t Screw Up” Method:

Step 1: Compose your email in a word document.

Step 2: Check for red squigglies and green squigglies, too. Sure, spell check and grammar check aren’t right 100% of the time, but do make sure you understand why you are disregarding your trusty computer’s sage advice.

Step 3: Paste the text into the body of an email. Check formatting.

Step 4: Re-read your email. I know, it’s perfect, of course, and you don’t want to re-read it because it takes a whole one minute, and you could have done something important like chugged a glass of milk, but do it anyway. For me.

Step 5: Double check your greeting. Don’t say Mr. if it’s Miss (unless you are writing to me because I’m used to it so I don’t care anymore.) Don’t use the wrong name or spell it incorrectly. Also, make sure your greeting makes sense. “Yo” might not be the wording of choice when writing to Dream Agent #1. Just sayin’.

Step 6: Sit on your hands for 10 Mississippi. I know, I know. You’ve spent like two extra minutes on an important email. I’m so strict. But it’s ok. You’ll make it up on the apology email you’ll inevitably have to write afterward.

Step 7: Make your finger happy; hit send!

 

Now…to get myself to follow my own method….

 

Any personal anecdotes???

Keep on Fumbling!

 

Status: Stressed. The end.

Topical Tuesday: “When I was a young writer, I walked ten miles in the snow. Uphill. Both ways.”

In general I’ve found writers to be the most supportive bunch. Just today, Nate was searching through the comments on my blog and was shocked at how kind everyone was. He was like, “Doesn’t anyone want you to fail!?” And I said,  “Nope, don’t think so.”

I love that. But there does seem to be a different feeling toward authors whom other writers feel have not “paid their dues.” This is a particularly popular criticism of Stephenie Meyer.

I think the issue probably stems more from the fact that she doesn’t belong to the Blueboards or AW, etc., though I’m not positive about that. However, I don’t think those communities would tolerate that brand of criticism of one of their own. That line of reasoning might not work, either, though, because most folks that belong to one of those communities found them while they were paying their dues, so…yanno…I digress.

Anyway, back to the obsession with paying dues or rites of passage, if you will…

I’m trying to think of any rite of passage I went through that really made me better.

Form rejections? I mean, while those were a sweet treat in the inbox, I’m not too sure they did a whole lot for my mental health OR improved my writing.

Lots of form rejections? Just multiply the previous response by 12.

Waiting and waiting and waiting? I barely survived that.

Query Hell over at AW? I mean, if I’d gotten it on the first try, I wouldn’t be complaining.

Hitting the bestseller list on book #1? Oh, yeah, well this is still probably going to happen. (Just kidding, just kidding)

That’s not to say that some rights of passage weren’t important. For instance, learning when to move on from a project and, by virtue of that experience, learning how to recognize when something was not working. Probably pretty useful as I move on in my writing career.

And making friends? Well, that’s just invaluable.

Knowing that I wanted to keep writing whether i got positive feedback or not? The best thing I learned by far.

 

So, what do you think? Should writers have to pay their dues? Does it make you a better writer to go through these rites of passage? Which ones are important?

 

 

Status: Overall, a productive day. Huge thanks to Jennifer Lynn Barnes (Jen Barnes), one of the most helpful Blueboarders ever, for remembering the title for me of a book I needed. I was WAY off on what I thought the book was called that I was looking for. My agent had wanted me to find it as a possible book to compare to. And Jen somehow got from what I said (even my description was off) to the book I wanted. So, thanks!

I ordered the book on Amazon and it should be getting here in a couple days. It sounds like a great comparison (______ meets ______) book for SCOUT.

I finished my synopsis and winged it over to my dad for editing. I got back his comments and will be implementing them tomorrow.

Also, I have my idea for SCOUT’S SEQUEL!! I wrote it in the bathtub. Yup. Sure did. I’m glad to be getting all this stuff out because–this is sort of embarrassing–but I keep having ideas when I’m asleep and they wake me up and I can’t go back to sleep until they’re written down. That’d be cool if it were just plot ideas or premises and whatnot, but it’s wording. The wording of my damn synopses wake me up. And I have to go in and fix them. Yuck.

Topical Tuesday: The Upside of Aging?

As a young writer, I’ve heard many times to play my age close to the chest as long as I can.

I mean, on one hand I get it. I still microwave every meal. It’s been less than six months since I attended my last frat party and, hey, let’s face it, I still use the word “like” where it doesn’t belong.

But, then I’m thinking, it’s not as if I graduated from Huggies last week. I have a college degree. I’ve been able to write words for the past, oh, eighteen years. (Can four-year-olds write?) And I’m in law school, darnit!

So what’s the deal? Is age a barrier to getting an agent? A publisher?

At a whopping 22 years old, how much experience could I have?

And yet, there’s a whole bunch of writers that are extremely successful young authors. Jennifer Lynn Barnes is the first that comes to mind. Her debut novel, Golden, sold just a few days before her twenty-first birthday. And I’ve got to admit that her relative youth was one of the reasons I picked up her book, Tattoo, in the first place. Is some of Paolini’s success based on the fact that he’s so young? I think so.

So, in that case, shouldn’t agents/publishers be pumped to get their hands on a young author? After all, we’ve got long careers ahead of us. I’ve got a good forty-five years left in me. And that’s retiring early!

So what do y’all think? How does ageism work in the publishing industry?

Topical Tuesday: The Publishing Lottery

A recent Absolute Write thread entitled “I’ve had it with this B.S.” sparked a good deal of debate over at the forums.

The original poster had no doubt gulped a spoonful of bitter and opted to spew the bad aftertaste onto the rest of the writing community. But lest we all decide to prescribe to his new brand of “genius” and thus shirk any responsibility we have for our own failure let’s look at a few of his points.

 

“The world is a big place full of wonder and fantastical ideas and they’ve [agents] reduced it to a single cart-full of dung.”- As flattering as that is to writers everywhere I tend to think there’s a lot of great stories/writing out there. Here’s the thing. Readers don’t HAVE to buy a book. They don’t go to the bookstore feeling obligated to purchase. Nobody is watching their back making sure they pick up that hardback copy of Twilight. Readers are consumers and they are purchasing novels because THEY think that the book is a good investment. They want to read it. Bestsellers don’t run around with thousands of screaming fans because someone is holding a gun to their head.

“Those who moan glowingly about their deep understanding of the written word yet don’t seem interested in anything that doesn’t involve vampires, the paranormal, or women’s lib.”- Um, is there anything saying that people who write in the paranormal genre can’t also have a deep understanding of the written word? And besides, that constitutes a corner of the market. Did DaVinci Code fall into one of those categories? How about The Gargoyle? No? Shoot.

“If I’d known that agencies only place submission criteria on their websites to lend themselves an air of credibility then I wouldn’t have wasted my time and resources sending them query letters.”- Yeah, I’m gonna go ahead and say that that’s probably not the purpose of submission guidelines. People get requests (partials and fulls) from the slushpile all the time.

“Believe it or choose not to, but if you are an unpublished writer without connections you’re playing the lottery.”- This was one of his major points and I think he’s just wrong. Writers do get plucked out of the slushpile. And I’ve seen countless writers get progressively more requests from book 1 to book 2 to book 3 until finally they landed an agent. Is that luck? Of course not. The sentiment is an easy way to make yourself feel better though. If it’s just luck then the fact that manuscript could be better…well, that’s not on you, is it? Because if it’s just a lottery than whatever you do, it doesn’t matter.

I don’t know what y’all think. But, to me, that is the most depressing way to go about life ever. And then to later suggest that not seeing your success as luck means you lack humility? Ugh.

So, as a counter argument and to derive something good from the very long and aggravating discussion going on over there, let’s all remember that the harder we work, the more likelier we are to win and be thankful for that. Let’s be open to suggestions, ready for change, and prepared to walk through any doors that do open for us.

 

 To read Jay’s take on the AW thread click here.

Status: I received my 2nd offer of representation today, so I’ve spent a lot of time talking to other writers, seeing what is important to them. I’d like to thank some of the great people over at AW and the BlueBoards for being so open to helping me make the right choice for me. Y’all are awesome.

Topical Tuesday: Should Malfunctions Equal Money Back?

I touched on this Saturday, but I think it’s an interesting topic and deserves its own post.

On a certain agent’s blog, I read about how disgruntled fans tried to return Breaking Dawn to the bookstores having already read it because they didn’t think it was a “good” book.

Now immediately I thought this was nuts, but what was crazier to me was that this certain agent agreed with the disgruntled fans saying that a novel should be treated like any other product. If you buy a microwave and it malfunctions, you take it back.

So, I thought about this for awhile.

First, how would a book malfunction? Well, I guess if the ending didn’t follow. If the logic was flawed. If gaping plot holes kept the reader from buying into the story. Then, one might say that the book malfunctioned. Right?

I don’t know. I’m not buying that, but I was trying to figure out a way for this logic to work.

So then, I figured that books are probably more comparable to being satisfied with a college test prep company’s course than with a microwave.

Say a student takes a course with XYZ test prep to help him prepare for the SAT. Many test preps offer a satisfaction guarantee. If you aren’t satisfied with what you received, then you get your money back. But the learning is already in your head, you can’t take back the learning you did in the classroom. And in this way, I think it’s very similar to how a book return program would have to work.

But here’s the thing.

The way the story ended IS the way the story happened. Fans paid for Breaking Dawn to know what happened to Bella and Edward. This is the ending Stephenie Meyer came up with and, therefore, that is the only ending that exists. That’s what you wanted to know and now you know it. The only way you could get the ending you want is to write a fanfiction alternate ending and that wouldn’t be as much fun because you would know that it was you making it up.

Therefore, I still think 100% that you should not be able to return books after having read them. Not because you already consumed the product and, like food, you aren’t going to vomit it back up, but because you got exactly what you paid for which was for someone else to reveal the story to you.

If you don’t like my conclusion, then you’re in luck! I have a solution for you.

WRITE!

Come up with your own stories and you can end them any way you like. You can take your stories back and revise them and fix any malfunctions.

As for me, I’ll keep reading (and writing, too), of course.

 

To read Jay’s take on Topical Tuesday, click here!

 

Status: Done with law school orientation!  I have beautiful pages from Scott for SCOUT. I just need one little tweak from him. (He forgot a caption.) Then, off it goes. Keep sending good vibes for his wrist because I need him!

Topical Tuesday: You Never Can Trust A Writer

Folks have made a big stink about the historical accuracy of The Da Vinci Code. I choose Dan Brown’s book because of the enormous popularity it enjoyed followed by the equally enormous criticism, but the same goes for most works of historical fiction.

So, I have to ask the question: How “true” should historical fiction be?

 

A lot of readers want to hold authors of historical fiction to a ridiculously high standard. Like they should have some moral duty to have all their facts straight and to teach us something en route.

I got news for you, people. It’s Fiction. Made-up, spun-from-brain-goo, don’t-quote-it-in-a-term-paper fiction. Funny. You wouldn’t think it. It being called “historical fiction” and all.

Yeah, that’s right. They don’t call it a novel from nothin’. Now memoirs…that’s a different donkey. But, I digress.

The goals of an author of historical fiction are much like the goals of any other old author. They want to create a convincing illusion, to help the reader to suspend disbelief. William Styron wrote a fake “historical document” at the beginning of Confessions of Nat Turner. Sort of a false author’s note of sorts. Did I slam down my Diet Coke and shake my fist at the heavens praying that they’d take away Styron’s Pulitzer? No. And believe me, I didn’t realize it was fake–author’s note, that is–right away. Once I did realize, I kind of laughed to myself and thought: Chandler 0-Willie 1. And then moved quickly on before I could add up how much Styron was really beating me by.

The point is that he suspended my disbelief. He made me believe that’s how it happened.

Sure, writers of historical fiction do research. What writer doesn’t. But are you going to unleash on an author who mixed up how many cylinders there are in a well known car?

The point of historical fiction is to convey the spirit of the times more than the facts.

Otherwise, why not go read a textbook? Because historical fiction adds the human dimension and that’s what the author must strive for. It let’s us look at the little decisions that led up to an event or how a larger decision affected the daily lives of individuals.

The point is not for the author to be a historian or a scholar.

Now, If I were an author of historical fiction I would certainly do my homework. Otherwise, as we’ve already seen, you’re gonna get those front row dork types raising their hands in your face and telling you your story is all wrong.

So, here’s the thing. All you front row handraisers, it’s cool to know your stuff, to know you’re right. But let yourself smile smugly and then continue reading because what’s most important is to remember what’s so wonderful about fiction: it’s made up.

 

 Check out Jay’s blog for a very different take on this!

Status: Not an incredibly productive day. But I am reading Breaking Dawn like my life depended on it! Working on some SCOUT stuff and waiting on the word from Scott. Again, keep your fingers crossed for me.