Monday, May 30, 2011

Wrap My Heart in Paper and . . .

My latest is out with my first wave of betas.


This part is always more nerve-wracking to me than sending stuff to agents, for some reason. I guess it's easier to write it off if it's an agent, someone I don't know, than someone I do.

There's a lot of trust that goes into letting someone else read and critique your work. I mean, you have to open your writing up to them and take the chance that they may not like it. And since they know you, there's the paranoia that "may not like it" may translate into "thinks about how sucky a writer you are every time you see each other from now on". Oi.

Luckily, I never have to worry about thinking my crit partners are judging me like that. But it doesn't change how nervous I get when I send my work out.

Especially work that I am particularly attached to. Which, for me, tends to be everything I write. :)

So in the meantime, I try not to think about it too hard. I mean, what can I do? Nothing. I already did everything I could. And I WANT my betas to read it, whether they like it or not. Because if they don't like it, they can help me make it better. And if they do like it, they can help me make it better.

Either way, I get better as a writer. And I get to read some pretty awesome stuff in return!

How do you cope with beta nerves? Is it worse for you to send it to friends/ crit partners, or agents, or editors, or anyone else?

Friday, May 27, 2011

Pant pant pant...did I miss anything? OPEN POST!

Hi guys!

Many many apologies for the lateness of my Friday post. I thought I had everything together and every base covered this week, but there's always that extra SOMETHING that slips through the cracks. Sigh. All my base did not belong to me.

So! Instead of a real post, I'm doing something I've never done before: an OPEN POST! (Guys, I'm scared.) What do you guys want to talk about? Any questions for me, writing related or otherwise? I'll answer in the comments! Do you mind if I ask you questions? What are your feelings on George Lucas making a Star Wars live action television show? Why is focaccia bread so delicious to eat and so difficult to spell? Who dared cancel Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip? Was it the same guy who canceled Firefly? And Wonderfalls? Are they just doing this to mess with us? Let's discuss in the comments.

Happy Friday, all! And if your geographical location gives you Monday off for Memorial Day, happy that, too! Me and lolcatz are OUT.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The voices, the voices!

As writers, it's pretty much a given that we'd have voices in our heads. Some of them are louder than others, and some remain with you for longer, but you always have at least one person talking in your head that's not you. Especially considering that fictional characters tend to be some of the pushiest little BEEPs on the planet.

I mean, how much ruder can you get? There you are plugging away on Manuscript A that you've been writing for 6 years off and on and off again, and then some new voice pops into your head for an entirely different story. How dare that new character not wait for their turn until you're ready for them to start talking? Amirite?

There currently exist seven character voices in my head -- upwards of two dozen if you count subsidiary characters -- with three groups of two existing in the same story but telling it from different perspectives. The interesting part comes when I decide which voice's story to start working on. Two of them have been with me for about 10 years now in various incarnations, through roughly a dozen name and personality and story changes, and are currently patiently awaiting me to finish writing their three-book saga.

Two more are the MC and villain of CALLARION AT NIGHT (yes, I write from the villain's perspective in that book). CaN also has the distinction of being the world that I draw a number of short stories from. I picked that world over the three-book saga fantasy one simply because it's the newer of the two and thus more readily in my head.

Another two are the heroes of the round robin story I'm writing with Theresa Meyers, Ren Cummins, Kent Gooch, and Anabel Portillo. One of those is a sky pirate and the other is the airship captain charged with capturing her. Yes, it's a steampunk romance novel.

And the seventh and final voice in my head is the heroine from PURITY DISTILLED. Her story is the one I want to finish first because she's a) the strongest voice right now and b) that story ends up being the shortest out of the four.

But that's not the point. Nay, my point rather is that there's a simple way to deal with the plethora of voices we writers have in our heads. And that method is called The Notebook!

No, not the Nicholas Sparks story (I swear he writes the same book every time, but that's beside the point). I'm talking about having a handy notebook nearby that you can jot down notes in whenever a new voice starts talking to. My "notebook" is a file I save on my Google Docs account. There's 6 different story ideas in there already, all of them Steampunk, along with main characters and skeletal plot points for each piece. Whenever a new voice starts speaking, I open that file and write it down so I can go on my merry way and attempt to finish the current piece I'm working on.

How do you deal with the voices?

Monday, May 23, 2011

How Social Media Helped Make Me Social IRL (In Real Life)

So, a few weeks ago I posted about the Top Ten Reasons I Royally Suck at Social Media. This post was really cool for me, because so many other people feel the same way! Here I thought I was some sort of alien, and I discovered that if I am, that means a large number of other people are, as well.

Cue sigh of relief. I hate being the weird one. (Haha! You're weird too!)

So the other day I was thinking about this post, and I realized something pretty interesting-- the changes I've been trying to make, to improve my social media-ness, have carried over into my real life. I've never been a truly social person-- usually preferring the company of my husband and my animals, or a handful of very close friends, to most social situations. But lately, something is . . . different.

Specifically, GOOD different. I knew things had changed when one of my co-workers (also new, hired for the same position as me) told me a couple weeks after we started that she had complained to her friend how it was unfair that I got along with everyone already. I wasn't hung up on the complaining about me, because two things struck me about what she said. First, someone was jealous of how SOCIAL I was. ME. What?! And secondly, she thought I got along with everyone! WHOA!

That was a wakeup call. By which I mean, I realized that yeah, I was a lot more social at work than I have been at other jobs in the past. So far, there's not a single person there that I don't get along with, or can't have a nice long conversation with. It is, frankly, awesome. But what's different? What changed?

Well, I like to think I changed. I mean, I kind of had to. But I think I've narrowed it down more than that. I think this is the difference:

1.) I say hi to EVERYONE, with a smile.

This may feel like cheating, but the thing is, I mean it! I'm just so happy to have my job that I am genuinely overcome with joy and friendliness when I'm there. But I wouldn't have had this habit if it weren't for blogs and Twitter teaching me that it's okay to start conversations with other people you don't know. And, more importantly, HOW to start those conversations.

2.) I am getting better at small talk.

You pick up small talk pretty quick when you only have 140 characters to say something! Also, I've learned how to pick up on little things to initiate conversations with people. Things I probably never would have noticed before, if it weren't for social media.

3.) I am not intimidated by anyone, even my supervisors.

In the past, intimidation/ awed respect for my managers has made it difficult for me to get close to them. Social media has COMPLETELY cured me of this by making it totally possible for me to tweet at Nathan Fillion, or Neil Gaiman, with nary the touch of a key. Now, I chat with the director of my department as easily as the people who just got hired with me. It's not that I don't have respect for them anymore, it's just that I'm not letting that respect keep me from talking to them. And I like to think they've noticed!

4.) I've learned to see the common ground I have with anyone.

Social media is pretty good at getting you to spot what you have in common with someone else. Aided by years of Facebook and blogging practice, I've branched out into the real world and now have seized on common things with pretty much everyone at work. The easiest one, for most, is our love of animals :) But it's helped me a LOT connecting with other people, and helping them remember/ know who I am.

So there. I'm sure there's more but this post is coming after a verrrrry long day of finals, so that's all I've got for now. But here's hoping that the lessons I'm applying will make the difference between this being a seasonal job, and one that I get to keep!

Friday, May 20, 2011

It's the end of...blah blah, whatever. I feel fine.

As many of us have noted on twitter, tumblr, blogs and facebook, tomorrow is purported to be the end of the world. Now, this good old world has outlasted a whole slew of doomsday prophets and May 21st, most of us concede, is going to be no different. We'll wake up Saturday to a slew of quips on twitter about how Celebrity A is "not gone yet!" and Celebrity B "just saw a rainbow of empty clothes on my front lawn. What does it meeeean?" then on Sunday wake up to a whole lotta retweets. On Monday, life will continue.

But there is the tiny, minuscule part of our brain that does nibble on our conscience and says "What if?" What if they're right? What if this really is the end of the world? Of course there's never a bad time to tell someone you love them like it's your last day on earth or something equally squishy...but yeah. Tomorrow's still probably going to come.

Okay, so what does this have to do with writing? I swear it does. I'd argue that one of the greatest questions we writers have at our disposal is WHAT IF? What if Hitler had won the war? What if there was a game where kids had to kill each other for food? What if, right under our noses, a secret society of witches and wizards lived? And their trains ran in between the normal platforms of the station? And they could make jelly beans that tasted like ear wax?

I LOVE these WHAT IF questions. mostly because it starts a story. As Leslie Knope said on last night's "Parks and Rec"*: "The best part of a relationship is the beginning." It works for me and books, too! The best part is the "what if-ing", the discovery of your story's bones before even writing the first chapter. What if there was a boy? With powers? And a girl? With a secret? And so on...

Anyways, here's to the beginning of new projects and to our dear "what if"s! And, most importantly, if the doomsdayers are right, it has been an absolute pleasure knowing you guys. I'm off to drink some cocoa quickly.

*full disclosure: Despite my ultimate fandom of all things Parks and Rec, I am only halfway through last night's episode. Finishing it is my reward for writing my allotted amount of words today. For the love of Lil' Sebastian, no spoilers! (Okay, fine. You can spoil it.)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Why I've decided against self-publishing

I was talking to my mother the other day about one of my writing projects. Mom's been a big fan of my writing for years now, and for awhile there I was using her as a sounding board to also bounce ideas off, so these conversations aren't that unusual. She's not a writer herself though, so on a number of occasions she'll ask me why I haven't sent off my writing to publishers yet. Mind you, I've had this conversation with her before so it's not something I'm surprised by any more.

However during that conversation she brought up one of the many self-publishing platforms that currently exist in the marketplace. I don't remember which one, but the specifics don't really matter for this post. What does matter is that my mother believes so strongly in the quality of my work that she thinks self-publishing is a good path because in her mind all I need to do is get my work out to people who want to read it.

There's some validity to that line of thinking, since that's what many folks who do self-publish are banking on. I want to be very, very clear here -- I do NOT think self-publishing is a bad decision. If you want to self-publish your work (I'm looking at you, Ren Cummins) then by all means go forth and prosper writer friend!

However, I don't want to go that route with my own writing and my reasons for that are several-fold. Primary among them is a lesson I learned while currently working to make Doctor Fantastique's Show of Wonders into a proper business with a book publishing arm attached to it and a print version of the magazine. That lesson is that promoting things is bloody hard to do well. I can do it, mind, so it's not a question of ability -- and if you've seen the amount I talk on Twitter you'll not doubt this -- but rather it's a question more of desire to do that for my own works.

Because see here's the thing: I'd have to not only write, edit, and proofread the story, but also spend time pulling together a cover image, formatting the document according to eBook or POD guidelines, and then market the heck out of the thing. That could be about 40 hours a week spent on the promotions side when I could in fact be writing the stories in the first place.

Again, not a question of ability, since I'm going to be doing that same work anyway once I get Doctor Fantastique's bigger than it currently is. However, doing that as part of my work for DF's doesn't include me actually writing the novel or necessarily editing it. That's why I have several amazing, amazing staffers for help. L.T. and Marie are both on my submissions team, for example, so that's some workflow parsed away from me. Theresa Meyers just signed on as the Publicity Director -- another piece of the puzzle taken away from me, and I've got yet more people invested in that organization.

If I were to self-publish though, I wouldn't be able to use that organizational structure for a number of reasons. Primarily though because it would an unethical use of my staff's talents. I didn't pull them together to promote me. I pulled them together to make the magazine work.

Besides that, I already have little enough time to write as it is. Once I get one of my stories done and have it accepted, I'm going to be happy being able to ignore promotions except for what I told to do by the eventual publisher. Assuming it does get accepted and I do get a publisher, of course.

Self-publishing and the amount of work that comes with it is definitely not for me. But again, I don't begrudge anyone from going that route.

Monday, May 16, 2011

YA: Where's the Line?

Well, hello there! How is everyone? Doing well, I hope?

I am approaching finals, and my brain is short-circuiting, thanks for asking. Here's hoping I start to make sense of the world again pretty soon.

As I'm sure most of you know by now, I have written in a lot of different genres. My current and last manuscripts, however, are YA novels, and though I feel like I read a lot of YA, writing it was something I didn't ever see myself doing. And yet, here I am.

And yet I'm not sure that's where I actually am.

I worry. A lot. About everything. But one of the things that I'm worrying about right now with regards to my most recent MS is whether or not it's actually a YA book. It's historical fiction, dealing with some pretty serious issues. Issues I'm almost not sure I want to be writing about for teenagers.

But my protag is a teen, and her hero is a teen, and they are dealing with (historical) teen issues. And I think that teens might be the right audience for it just because of the issues at hand-- someone's got to talk about them, right?

But BECAUSE I'm labeling it YA, I have toned down the ending a little. Maybe not made it as gritty and romantic as I could, because it's not an ending I want teens to romanticize.

But then I wonder-- am I just labeling it YA because YA is hot right now? Is it really a more adult book because of the issues at hand?

In other words, I don't know. I guess I won't know, until I have someone else who knows YA read it for me. But I need to get it into shape first!

So, Alliterati who write/ read YA (and those who don't, if you want to share!), tell me: are there any issues you WOULDN'T touch in a YA book? Is there a point where you would say a book is definitely an adult book instead of a YA one?

Friday, May 13, 2011

Ride that elephant over the plot-Alps, Hannibal!

So once again, I find myself traveling on a Friday so please forgive the brevity of this post (anytime I say that, I'm reminded of that Simpsons episode where Marge writes Ringo Starr and he replies to her--and all fans'--letter: "Please excuse the lateness of my reply"...anyone remember that? Crap, am I digressing ALREADY?)

I'm in the final stages of yet another revision. But it's good this time around! After long days and nights of stewing and stressing over the storyline, I think I've figured out a really difficult point in the manuscript: the climax.

And as I've figured this part out, other things are coming together, too! Red herrings that I factored in before are coming to fruition. Characterizations that I struggled for before are blossoming right before my eyes. My main character still needs to find a way out of that hideous dress she's wearing, but we'll find a way to do that! Appropriately!

It's like Hannibal from the A-Team always says, "I love it when a plan comes together." When we reach this stage of putting things together, streamlining plotlines, etc. I think we can amaze ourselves when we realize how much we've actually thought it through.

We are great writers. Or great writers waiting to happen. Perseverance is the key, of course. But don't forget to take time to lean back and smoke your metaphorical cigar, glorying in your brilliant plan.

Mr. T type sidekick optional, of course.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Since no love is perfect: Part Deux

Last week, I asked you to tell me something about your writing that you hated. I was actually kind of surprised by the answers-- just about everyone said they hate that they write slowly! That might be my fault. Most of the people who responded know that I write pretty quickly. But I've said it before, and I'll say it again, folks: I am a FREAK. I am NOT NORMAL. And-- I'm pretty much where you guys are right now, myself. I realized that I started this book in January, which didn't seem so long ago in March, but in May seems really, REALLY far away. This is a looooooong time for me.

Although, last year, I was working on one book for over six months, and it still isn't finished, so there's that. I hope this one doesn't turn out that way, personally, as I'd rather like to have it done soon.

Anyway, moving on-- last week was fun, and all, but I really, really want to bring the mood back up and make us all fall in love with ourselves all over again. So this week, tell me something that you LOVE about your writing!

Mine? I love piecing words together. It's like a puzzle, and finding that perfect fit is just . . . thrilling. I love putting sentences together that read like poetry, but still convey the story to be told within them. And I love my characters, and my stories-- even though they may not be my strongest parts.

So there. That's mine. Now tell me yours!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Taking someone else's brain into a closet

So yesterday I was having an insanely difficult time wrapping my head around a certain scene. The two main characters find themselves together in a very small room, discussing something serious while trying not to admit that all they want to do is make out. I wrote the scene, but there was just SOMETHING missing.

I sent it off to my amazing crit partner with a plea: "Help!" Her response?

"I think you should crawl into your closet and hang out there for half and hour. Drag your husband in with you. Move around a bit. Turn off the light, touch shoulders. Try not to make out with him."

Later that day, talking with my sister the modern dancer, she talked about how even in dance, she has to "get into the head" of characters she's portraying. Of course we see this in actors with their fancy (yet admittedly creepy) method acting: they don't break character even after filming is wrapped for the day. But dancers do it too! The music does so much to inform the dance, but the dancer must also physically become the character. She drags someone else's brain into the dance, hoping to portray that to the viewers.

When whining about my scene to her, she added,"Yeah, go act out the scene in a closet. But drag Hannah's brain into the closet, not yours."

So my question to you, writey friends: What have you done to get into your character's head lately? Have you physically acted out a scene? Listen and responded to music as if you were your main character? Introduced yourself to someone as a character? Gone shopping as they would or affected an accent as they might?

Come on. We all already know we're a little weird. Share!

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go find a closet.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

eBook Piracy and Who Really Gets Hurt

My first column for Independent Publisher magazine goes live tomorrow, and in it I talk about the eBook agency model and whether it's harmed sales or not.

During my research for that piece, wherein I managed to read a whole mess of articles on the kerfuffle last year between Macmillan and Amazon, I saw a disturbing number of people who said that they'd rather find a free pirated e-copy of a novel rather than pay anything above $9.99 to purchase a legal version that was priced at $12.99 to $14.99.

Ignoring for a moment the sheer time you'd spend hunting down a pirated copy free of DRM or methods to track the book (which having pirated songs in the past I can guarantee this can take a LOT of time), and finding a version from a semi-reputable source that won't install a registry tracking virus on your machine that ends up spamming you with porn websites, the fact remains that you are devaluing the work of the author whose book you stole.

I can hear the complaints now from people who think they're "sticking it to the Man" by pirating a book/song/whatever item you're talking about. However, the only person you're really truly hurting by stealing an eBook is the author of the work itself. Because, to be entirely fair, a publishing house is fulfilling the function of distributing the author's work to you the reader.

The Publisher does not create the work themselves. Not even in the case of series novels written by multiple authors. The Publisher may own the rights to the concept, and they might hire the writers to do the novels, but the key difference is still that the authors are not employees of the publisher. They don't draw a salary; they make money based on how much the book sells.

By that simple fact -- of authors being independent contractors and not employees -- the person who takes the most pain from a pirated eBook is the author whose name is on the cover. I recognize the library argument as a valid one, that libraries allow people to read physical books for free, but unfortunately we need to work with the realities of eBooks as they are now.

As a creative type myself, who writes a whole mess of stuff -- blog posts, news articles, columns, and hopefully someday will have a book published -- this type of disregard for the originator of a creative work is disconcerting. Readers who do this sort of thing are basically saying "I don't value your work enough to spend more than X amount of dollars on it." Of course, you can translate this to mean that they don't like your work enough to spend a premium to get it. However, that might be me putting more thought into the logic behind eBook piracy than there really is.

And yes, I'm aware that my admission of having pirated music in the past will make this seem sort of like the pot calling the kettle black. However! I recall in my college years spending countless hours hunting out mp3s that wouldn't import some sort of nasty virus onto my PC. That was a LOT of hours wasted when I could've just gone to the music store and purchased a CD instead.* So my basic point still stands.

What do you think?

* This was in the years prior to iTunes, when it finally became legally possible to buy mp3s that were high quality.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Since no love is perfect

Hey guys! Late-but-great is my philosophy today. I'm living up to the first part pretty consistently. Not sure about the second. I guess we'll see.

So my current WIP is pretty cool, if I say so myself. Which I do. And I am SO EAGER to be done with it. But I have a little problem.

It's short.

Yeah. I've talked about this problem before, which is the opposite of most writers I know: instead of having trouble with writing too much, I have trouble with writing too LITTLE.

And I hate that. HATE. I am burning with fiery, fierce, ferocious hate about how I cannot tell a story the first time around in more than 60k words. Usually, during revisions I easily pick up the other ~20k before I feel comfortable calling it a draft, but I'm on Revision Numero Tres right now and still sitting less-than-pretty at about 57k. I just can't find the right places to make the words go.

So yeah. I LOOOOOOOOOOOOVE writing. Obviously. Or I wouldn't do it. But no love is perfect, and this is what irks me about mine.

I can't be alone. Vent me with, Alliteratus-- what irritates you about your own writing?