Nerds Like Us

My friend, Jen Hayley, alerted me to this completely amazing quote from author John Green.

‎”Nerds like us are allowed to be unironically enthusiastic about stuff…
Nerds are allowed to love stuff, like
jump-up-and-down-in-the-chair-can’t-control-yourself love it. Hank, when
people call people nerds, mostly what they’re saying is ‘you like
stuff.’ Which is just not a good insult at all. Like, ‘you are too
enthusiastic about the miracle of human consciousness’.”

Man, how true is that? So for Friday, here are the five things that I am jump-up-and-down-in-the-chair-can’t-control-myself excited about because, for the record, John Green, I am totally enthusiastic about the miracle of human consciousness. I am.

1. Harry Potter. Duh. And it IS Harry Potter 7 release week. So, what have I been doing, you wonder? Listening to MuggleCast, of course. Yes, that’s right, a weekly podcast dedicated to Harry Potter despite the fact that there are no more Harry Potter books forthcoming. Mugglenet? Undeterred. Oh yeah, and in case you missed it, I also already made the trek to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

"I don't go looking for trouble. Trouble usually finds me."

2. Sci-Fi Classics. If real love is watching the 4.5 hour Dune mini-series, I have it. Because as far as I’m concerned, the SciFi channel had it right. You never can get too much Paul Atreides (Muad’Dib, if you’d rather). You just can’t. And I’m pretty sure I deserve some sort of prize for making through all five in the Children of the Mind series. Where did Bean go, Orson? Where?? Other notables: Foundation, Stranger in a Strange Land, Wrinkle in Time.

 

"If wishes were fishes we'd all cast nets." - Gurney Halleck

3. Lord of the Rings. Little known fact: I’ve read The Hobbit 12 times. Twelve times, people. Plus, I went through that wonderful stage where I thought I was going to learn Elvish and I made a concerted effort until I read Silmarillion and it decided to both kill and enlighten my soul. Don’t even get me started on The History of Middle-Earth.

"Stupid, fat hobbit."

4. Famous Crimes. Alright, whatever, I didn’t want to bold “serial killers.” I know a lot about serial killers. However, I also know a lot about gangs, street families, and what it’s like to live in prison. I have seen every episode of Gangland and MSNBC Lockdown/Up and have read a truly startling number of articles and true crime. Also, I once got really passionate and thought I’d write to people on death row. Turns out they aren’t just looking for people to write them letters…

5. Zombies. Not surprising since this first fell within the category of natural disasters, one of the two categories of movies in which no bad films have ever been made (namely, Natural Disaster & Dance movies).  Zombies are great and once, in Dawn of the Dead, they made a Jay Leno zombie and, as you know, this combines two of my all-time favorite loves. You know what’s great about zombies? They just lumber on toward you and then by sheer numbers win. And you’re always thinking, why didn’t someone nip this problem in the bud before there were, like, a million zombies? We’ll never know. Another great thing is that people start relating zombies to consumerism and whatnot when really I think zombies are only around to eat brains.

"Great minds taste alike."

7 Tips To Writing High-Speed

 

I once thought I was a fast writer. That is until I met Jen Hayley and Shana Silver and about half a dozen other authors who put my daily wordcount to shame. Maybe I actually was a faster writer at one point. I think that’s a distinct possibility. Actually, I’ve been contemplating this some and I believe that once I learned how much faster some of these other authors churned out words I started to think of myself as a slow writer. Maybe it was self-actualization or a self-fulfilling prophesy–whatever self-help books are calling it these days–but I think my writing speed did, in fact, slow down. And by that I mean it straight up congealed.

Now, I know a lot of really awesome “slow” authors, too. There are a lot of positive adjectives that you could place on writers who produce at a more…ummm…measured pace. Meticulous. Painstaking. Careful. Fussy? And I have no doubt that many of these apply. I mean, I’ve seen some of these people’s prose and it is..well…meticulous and carefully wrought. So yeah, often I’m tempted to follow in the Orson Scott Card train of thought: slow down, get it right in the first draft.

But, with writing slowly comes the sometimes all-too-frequent desire to bash one’s head through a wall–or a desk– whichever is more convenient. Slow doesn’t feel like progress. Slow is not knowing where I’m going or not being happy with what’s on the page. Slow is often more procrastinating, less writing. More concern over the final product than focus on the present scene at hand. So what I’m trying to say is that there is certainly a place for fast.

Especially when deadlines start to roll around and real life demands a greater portion of your time than writing life. Slow just sometimes isn’t a great option for writers who hope to actually make a living. That’s what I’ve been working on. Figuring out some ways to produce more and write more efficiently with my time. Here is a very incomplete list of methods I’ve been toying around with:

1. Writing without word count. Lately I’ve been writing a bit in google docs where it doesn’t automatically count the words on the bottom of the screen. I can get really hung up on word count and it can take me out of the story, thus making me less productive. It’s been kind of freeing. You can still check your word count through the tools, but you aren’t watching the words tick up or down. Sort of nice.

2. Talking through it. It might be just me, but I find dialogue both easy and fun to write. Especially with my MC who is a pistol. So, for me that’s been an easy way to get a scene going. I write the entire scene in dialogue. I’ll do this through a few scenes. I get a lot done this way, but the real benefit is that in my next writing session I’ll fill in those scenes. So, I’m not stalling at the beginning of my writing session. I’ve had some time to let my sub-conscious mull over the action that should accompany. I’ve already pictured the whole thing once in my head and I have the dialogue as underpinnings. Add the actions, the scene setting, the reactions, the inner monologue and voila–words!

3. Writing out of order. I have mixed feelings about this one because I’ve gotten really mixed up by doing this in the past. But there are times when I feel it’s a pretty good idea. I mean why sit there and stare at a blank screen when you could get a chapter done in which you know what happens. Also, the sheer act of writing can often unclog your brain enough to get the ideas freely flowing once again. Plus, always good practice. I don’t know; jury is still out on this.

4. Outline. Although it pains me to say it I would guess that authors that outline *generally* get through drafts more quickly than authors that don’t. Of couse, there is some tradeoff given the fact that it took time to outline, but still. I absolutely do not have this one down, but whe I’m stuck or don’t feel like writing, I realize it is probably a good use of my “writing time” to jot down a few thoughts for next writing session. This sometimes kills my soul.

5. Write or Die. I know a bunch of fellow writers that love this program. You basically tell the website how many words you want to write in how long. Then you say how long it’s okay for you to “rest.” The program proceeds to yell at you if you fail. This stresses me out and given my stomach is already eating itself from the inside out I typically pass. But whatever works for you.

6. I do however try to use WriteChain some. It’s an iPhone app of the more mellow variety. You have to write a certain amount of words a day. You put it into your log. You say how many days you can skip (usually zero) without breaking the chain, then it will keep track of how many links you have. Very good if you are trying to Stephen-King-it. Simple, but I like it.

7. Write words that are bad. Maybe even really, really bad. It’s amazing the magic that can happen between first writing and a later reading. But even if, for some reason, your words don’t magically sound better the second time around, at least you have something on the page. At least you made progress and you can fix it. I promise.

Okay, so what about y’all? Any idea on how to write faster?

Back from the Big City

Oh my goodness! It’s hard to believe how quickly time has gotten away from me since my New York trip. It’s been over a week, so I guess this will serve as an update and a recap of my trip.

First, the trip:

It was so worth it! I was anxious about asking my agent to meet up, but I’m very glad that I did. On Friday morning, I went to Writers House. I had an embarrassing fight with the front door, which for some reason was impossible for me to open. So for future reference, people, if you are ever heading to Writers House, try to ride in the front door on somebody’s coattails because otherwise you are just going to have to jedi mindtrick that thing. Seriously. After the door incident, it was smooth sailing.

Writers House is exactly how you’d envision. Very bohemian and bookish. It’s an old-feeling brownstone with staircases that go up and up. I got to meet Stephen, Dan’s assistant. There is this collective-type workspace outside of Dan’s office where I think some of the interns and assistants work. Dan’s office has a wall of bookshelves filled with books he’s worked on. Very neat to see and you can tell how proud he is. He pointed out different titles and had stories of how long they’d taken to sell or what the revision process was like before the book went out on submission.

We sat on a couch and talked about what houses and which editors my manuscript would be going to when it’s ready. He gave me a few galleys and we discussed some of his recent sales. I asked questions and talked to him about some of the changes I had in mind for SCOUT. We both agreed we needed rich husbands to fund our book habit.

I’d heard so many great things about Dan–how laid back he is, how helpful. All true, of course, but it amazes me how much direction he’s had in his career. He is young! And he started out working at Writers House as an intern at 18 and has been there ever since. He told me that he was closing deals for his own clients while finishing his last semester of classes in summer school!

After Writers House I managed to find my way back to my friend’s apartment and to get ready for dinner with my writing friends. I had a wonderful time meeting Jen Hayley, Shana Silver, Steve Cordero, Gretchen McNeil, Sarah Kelly, Wendy Cebula and Kody Keplinger.

Here’s a picture of the whole gang!

Left to right, front row: Me, Jen Hayley, Shana Silver, Wendy Cebula

Left to right, back row: Gretchen, Steve Cordero, Sarah Eve Kelly, Kody Keplinger

Just so you can get an idea of how special this was that we could all get together, remember that Sarah was in from England, Gretchen from LA, and I was there from Austin! It just so happened that this weekend worked out for everyone.

Naturally, it was fantastic to meet everyone in person. Lots of book and industry talk. Everyone is incredibly interesting. All around great time and I’m so thankful I had the opportunity to do it.

When I got back, reality hit, though, and I realized I had a writing project due that Monday on top of school work, so I had to stay up all night to finish! I ended up being proud of what I turned in thanks to some very quick reads from Shana and Jen. So, we’ll see what happens. Now, I’m hard at work on SCOUT and trying to jot down notes on a new project that I’m really gunning to write. The new book idea is a project that my friends from school had been suggesting that I write, so that’s been really cool. I ran it by my critique partner and she gave the green light, so hopefully I’ll continue to brainstorm on that until I finish up everything I need to do on SCOUT.

Ok then, that was a lot. What’s going on with y’all?

Saturday Six

1. Finally told my agent about the new project. He loved the title and seemed genuinely excited about seeing the new project whenever I was ready. So, of course, that made me feel good! I feel sort of illegitimate if I haven’t touched base with him in awhile and it had been about a month. I feel much better now. P.S. Can I just tell you how wonderful it is to have an agen who always responds the same day? It’s wonderful.

2. I’m having a “pretend writing retreat” this weekend. I can’t figure out why it’s pretend exactly other than that I’m in my house alone and going nowhere special. My goal is 7k words this weekend, the weekend being from Friday evening to Sunday at midnight. So far I’ve written 1, 800. Not great, not horrible.

3. Books I so, so badly want to read: Winter Girls by Laurie Halse Anderson, Wings by Aprilynne Pike, Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins, Demon’s Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan, Story of  A Girl by Sara Zarr, Canterwood Crest series by Jessica Burkhart, and The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z by Kate Messner. There are others, but I will spare you. The ARC that I already have in my hot little hands for which I am most excited is My Soul to Take by Rachel Vincent. That book is coming out this fall from the brand spankin’ new Harlequin Teen imprint. I’m looking forward to seeing what type of book that line will offer.

4. Fellow Hopeful Karen Duvall just won First Place in the HTH Romance Through the Ages contest for her new manuscript, MYSTIC TAXI! Congrats again, Karen!!!

5. Another friend, Theodore Quester, turned me onto this resource: AR Bookfind. You can use the site to look up wordcounts for virtually any book. This was really helpful to me. Not that you should aim for a specific wordcount necessarily. But, of course, there are industry standards. And it might even give you an idea of how a book should be paced by giving you a point of comparison to see how many words it took to tell a given story. Knowing y’all you’ve probably known about this resource forever, but I thought I’d share just in case.

6. Happy early birthday to my critique partner, Jen Hayley!!

A Menage A Trois of Editing

 

editingcharliesangels

 

Gretchen, Jen and I are taking on the process of self-editing today. ^^That’s us…obviously. Taking on self-editing.

You’re welcome.

Anyway! We got onto this topic when I emailed Gretchen a few days ago hoping to dispel some of my own misconceptions about how good writers take their project from the first draft to the final, ready-to-send-it-out draft.

You see, I had this idea in my head that “serious” writers edit and changed every, single sentence in their manuscript and that there always had to be some huge structural changes in how scenes were set up. This worried me because sometimes when I go back to edit my drafts, I look at the writing and think: Hey, that’s pretty good! I figured I must not know what good writing looks like since, naturally, no part of my first draft could be allowed to stay, right?

Thankfully, Gretchen was like, “Ummmm…no.” Only more eloquently because she’s witty like that.

So now that I know that I haven’t been editing all wrong and that I might even be getting ok at it, I figured I could share my own process.

Unfortunately for y’all, my own process hardly has any elements of a formal process at all.

I like to tinker.  

elf

Which means I’m constantly going back and changing things I dont’ like. I hear this is bad because folks say you should be writing when you’re writing and editing when you’re editing and never try to do both at once. That might be true, but whenever I get stuck, I can’t stand just sitting there staring at the screen and twiddling my thumbs. I go back over parts that I’ve written and tweak bits and pieces. I also can’t start writing for the day if I don’t re-orient myself in the story. So, I go back, read what I wrote before, see glaring errors, hit my head on my desk, and realize that I can’t just leave those ugly bits for the world to see. After all, what if someone Stephenie Meyer-ed me and distributed my draft for all the world to see! I know all my fans are just *dying* to leak my WIP!

I’d say my primary editing tool is my innate sense of rhythm. When reading for pleasure, I get really caught up in a book’s sense of rhythm, the beats that move the story forward and make the writing seem natural. I think that’s why I read over and over and over passages so much. Whenever I hit a snag, I have to try to patch it, then re-read over again to see if I fixed the break in rhythm.

Aside from the tinkering, my first drafts are generally pretty streamlined. I don’t write with a lot of extra fat–I’m talking about good fat, like in avocados, not bad fat–so, I have to go in and layer more description, more detail and a whole heck of a lot more backstory. Backstory seems to be my archnemesis these days.

Finally, I’ll make sure that I didn’t leave any guns on the mantle un-fired. (You know the whole if you describe a gun on the mantle in Act I, it needs to go off by Act III trope.) Sometimes I’ll forget about the guns I’ve peppered throughout or, even better, not realized I included them in the first place. That’s my favorite because those little loose threads, once woven through, can really take the story to the next level.

After I make sure for the bazillionth time that the writing is up to snuff, it’s ready to be sent out into the world–first to betas, then to agent.

And voila! A shiny, new draft is formed!

Be sure to check out Jen and Gretchen’s takes on self-editing. It’s funny because we all have such different processes. I think they’ll be interesting to read through.