Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Blog Chain

It's time for the blog chain again and this time Christine asks:

What are your "go-to" scenes or phrases? You know, the ones you have to remind yourself NOT to use too frequently? What do you do to keep yourself from being overly reliant on them?

Okay so, I just can't believe Christine thinks I might actually repeat words or phrases. I mean, seriously? I just don't like, write like that. Okay, I mean come on. Seriously.

Ha! Okay, no actually it's embarrassing how often I use the same words and phrases. For my last manuscript, I was fortunate enough to be mentored by the amazing Ellen Hopkins as part of the Nevada SCBWI Mentorship Program. She helped me so much, but it was kind of humiliating how many repeats she pointed out. In dialogue, I use okay, just, come on, really, actually, seriously, like, and I'm sorry way too much. In that story I used dark, freak, zombie, glisten, rush, and unfurl too much.

I'm always writing about character's eyes. So many eyes.

And in this last story my main character dropped too many beverages. And the love interest asked if she was okay too many hundreds of times. (But she was so not okay!)

I always think by reading the manuscript out loud, I'll find these things. I do, but clearly not enough. Scrivener has a great feature where it ranks the order of which words appear most frequently in the document. I should use this feature more often.

What about you? Which words sneak themselves onto every page?

Check out Michelle's and Cole's take on the topic.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Thick Skin

Oops! So I'm a day late on the blog chain and the topic is my own question! I asked the group:

Have you developed thick skin as a writer? How do you handle having your work critiqued? Do you love revising? Hate it?

For my latest novel, I've been lucky to receive A LOT of feedback. I received critique from three readers at a revision retreat, my mentor gave me great notes as part of a mentorship program, my critique partner, the amazing Kate, had very helpful comments, and my agent gave me a great editorial letter. Some of these critiques shared common threads, but of course the specific comments varied.

Revision is my favorite part of the process. I love the creative problem solving aspect and I get excited about weaving in new threads to the existing story. I like to think I have a thick skin and am open to critique, but for some reason, I find myself bristling when I first read editorial feedback. Interpretations are wrong and suggestions are impossible on first glance. But by the next day I'm usually agreeing with the critique and revisions are very doable if not exciting.

I know some authors cringe when they're told to delete a scene or change a plot point. That's all part of the fun. It's thrilling to make the puzzle pieces fit together. 

Line edits have much more of a sting. I can get discouraged when it's pointed out that I've described the love interest's warm brown eyes for the 50 millionth time and I use "just" in every sentence and characters ask each other if they're okay on every page. It's easy to get embarrassed and start questioning why I thought I could even write a book in the first place. That's when I look for those happy faces and "Good!"s in the manuscript to keep me going.

It's been great reading about how everyone handles critique. Check out Michelle's and Cole's take. 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

I need more reality

This round on the blog chain Sandra asks:

We all know it's important to read fiction if you want to write fiction, but what about reading non-fiction? How much non-fiction do you read? What kinds of non-fiction books do you read, and why? Has reading non-fiction influenced your fiction writing style?

Ummmm. So now I feel shallow and uneducated. I don't read a whole lot of non-fiction. I should. I should read the newspaper, and intellectual magazines, and books about our changing world, and all these things to expand my mind. But instead I mostly read about teenagers with super powers kissing.

My husband reads almost exclusively non-fiction. He reads books about science, and politics, and religion, and nutrition, and philosophy. He's always recommending things to me, but I just...don't. In all fairness, he rarely reads the latest YA I recommend to him.

The non-fiction books I do read are practical. So lately I've been reading a lot of baby books. Right now I'm reading one on baby-led weaning. I do listen to NPR. Or at least, I used to, when I had to commute to work. Now I stay home, take care of my baby, maybe read some YA, read about baby stuff, talk to other people about baby stuff. Oh god! I'm turning into one of those moms with mush for brains. Quick! I better start in on Stephen Hawking's latest book or something.

Hopefully Michelle and Cole are smarter than me and can recommend some good non-ficition

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

It's blog Chain time again and Michelle asks:

What elements in your favorite genre make it your favorite? For instance, if your favorite genre is romance, what elements do you like in a romance story? A tortured hero? A spunky heroine? Steamy love scenes? Sweet romance? If your fave genre is sci-fi, what elements do you love the most (the characters, the science, the possibilities?), etc?

I have to agree with Kate and say YA is by far my favorite category because of the huge variety of genres within it. Like Kate said, within YA authors have more freedom to combine elements from different genres and I love reading these unique stories.

I'm a sucker for YA fantasies. For some reason I haven't been able to get into fantasy written for the adult market. I get hung up on the world-building. But I've found so many YA fantasy novels with fluid world-building and compelling characters. 

Some of my favorites are Holly Black's Curse Worker Series, Daughter of Smoke & Bone and Days of Blood & Starlight by Laini Taylor, and Kristin Cashore's Graceling, Fire, and Bitterblue. I love the original worlds in these stories. These writers create dynamic characters that are very different from the people I see every day, yet are extremely relatable. These characters have to face problems unique to their world and its rules.

The best kind of escapism for me is when I'm rooting for a character to use her magical power to defeat the bad guy and win over the love interest.

Be sure to check out Michelle's post from yesterday and read Cole's tomorrow.   

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Favorite Tropes

Time for the blog chain again. This time Kate wants to know:

As a reader and/or a writer what are some of your favorite fiction tropes? Are you sucker for secretly in love with best friend type stories, stories set in mysterious boarding school stories, stories that contain time travel, or something else entirely? As a writer how do you try to give the tropes you tackle in your own books a fresh spin?

Of course I'm a sucker for a kick-ass heroine. Whether she uses her body or her mind to defeat the bad guy, I love girl who takes charge. Kristin Cashore writes awesome heroines.

I LOVE unreliable narrators. Liar by Justine Larbalestier is the ultimate example of this, but I like any story that makes you question what the narrator is telling you. 

Like Kate, I love the survival trope. I'm more into post-apocalyptic stories than surviving in the wilderness tales, though. The Forest of Hands and Teeth and Under the Never Sky are two of my favorites.

I also like childhood best-friend turned lovers romances. The romance in the Curse Workers Series by Holly Black is a good example of this.

Similar to the unreliable narrator, I like stories with a protagonist who isn't necessarily a "good guy." Kate does a great job of this in Another Little Piece.

In terms of my own writing, I always try to write about strong women. And whether it's due to memory loss or mental illness, my narrators aren't very reliable. I've written about childhood best-friends turned lovers, but it didn't work very well.

You can see Michelle's post from yesterday and read Cole's take tomorrow.

What about you? What are your favorite tropes?

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Blog Chain

It's blog chain time again! This go around Margie asks:

Pick a book or story and imagine it in a new genre. For example, what would Oliver Twist be like if it was a sci-fi novel. Would Fagin have been a robot? Do you prefer you new creation or the original?

There are so many books that have done an awesome job of this. I love Malinda Lo's version of Cinderella in Ash. I think her version is much more romantic than the original. I also love Marissa Meyer's take on Cinderella in Cinder where of course Cinderella is a cyborg. Jackson Pearce's fairytale retellings are tons of fun. My favorite is Sisters Red.

I've heard people say there's only 12 plots or something and we just retell the same stories over and over again. But I tend to be pretty dense when it comes to picking up on these things. I can get so wrapped up in the current story that if it's well done, I don't compare it to anything else. I read somewhere that The Dark Knight Rises is a retelling of A Tale of Two Cities which totally makes sense now, but I did not pick up on it at the time. Just the other day I was watching The Lion King for the tenth time and it suddenly it occurred to me, hey this is kind of a way happier version of Hamlet.

I don't know, I'd like to see Macbeth in space. The witches could be aliens. But someone else can do the work and write it. :)

What do you think? What are your favorite retellings?

See Michelle's post from yesterday and tomorrow see what Cole thinks.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013


It's time for the blog chain again! This week we're responding to Lisa's topic:

The balancing act. How do you balance your writing time with everything else in your life--including, kids, job, book promotion

Balance. Hahahahahahaha HA! That's me laughing so hard I'm crying. I think balance is a myth. For years I taught full-time and wrote. I sacrificed housework, socializing, exercise, and sleep to find time to write. I mean I didn't give up all of those things all the time to write, I just made writing a priority. But I couldn't find time to work all day, plan lessons, grade papers, spend time with my husband, write, and do all those other things.

When I quit teaching and worked only 40 hours a week, it got easier. I had time to write every evening and do some of those other grown-up things like dishes and walk the dog. I didn't watch TV. I see all these writers on twitter chatting about their favorite shows and I don't know how they find time to watch them.

When we decided to start a family, I knew there was no way I could work, write, and raise a baby. Amazing people do it, I just couldn't picture myself being one of them. Something had to give. Luckily we could afford for me to stay home with our son (at least I hope we can afford it, I'm afraid to look at our bank statements!). I thought I'd be able to get tons of writing done. Sure I knew the first couple of months would be hard, but I'd figure out a schedule and be a super-productive work-at-home mom. I mean I've met tons of women at conferences who find time to write with small kids. A friend even coined the term nap-time-writer. Yup, I was going to be a nap-time-writer.

Except my perfect little baby doesn't nap. Sure, he'll nod off for 10-20 minutes here and there, but that's usually just enough time to feed myself and change the laundry. Oh and that neglected housework is a much higher priority now that I'm home all the time. So I squeeze in writing time when I can.

This morning I woke up at 5:30 and wrote until my little boy woke up at 7. If I don't get too tired, I might make that my new routine. I'm writing this post with one hand while nursing my little one. Sorry, TMI?

So, balance? Balance is what my laptop does at the edge of my knee while I'm holding my baby.

Any tips for a new work-at-home mom? Has anyone out there achieved this mythical balance?  Haha, reading the other blog chain entries, it looks like we all struggle with this. Is finding balance a unique problem to writers? Or as humans, do none of us have enough time for everything? I'm tempted to say if anyone feels their life is perfectly balanced, maybe they're not trying hard enough. 

Check out Michelle's post here and tomorrow you can read Cole's take.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

It's my turn for the blog chain, but apparently I posted on the wrong topic last time. Oops.

Today I'm responding to Katrina's topic:

Write about your next writing project. What is the genre? Is is one you've written before or is it a new venture? Do you have it all figured out or is it just a germ of an idea? What did you learn from your latest writing project that will make this one even better?

I have a shiny new idea that I need to force myself to find time to work on. It's a YA...murder mystery? I think. I haven't read that many murder mysteries, so maybe I'm wrong, or maybe it's a bad idea to try to write one. But there's a secret murderer, and a body count, and with the help of her sleuthing friend, the main character will have to solve some mysteries.

I think this book will be about sisters who are more than sisters, the magic of a mother's love, the power of a good story, and a heroine who has more heart than brains.

I have a rough outline, a paragraph playing with voice, and the first scene in my head. I need to write a detailed outline and then get to work. I've learned from previous projects the importance of structure and I hope this whole outlining thing will work out. I just have to sit down and make myself do it. :)

You can check out Michelle's post from yesterday here and Cole's tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Out with the old, in with the new...

For this week's blog chain, Amparo asks:

It's a new year, and some writers have taken it upon themselves to switch things up. *points at self* It might be the genres you write in or your revision process. It might be your main character's voice. What's one thing you've chosen to change in your writing this new year? Why do you wish to change it? If there's nothing you're going to change, why do you think it should remain as is?

Well, since the birth of my son, I've had to re-examine my writing process. I'm an unorganized pantser. I usually just start drafting and maybe by my third draft, I'll have some idea what the story is about. Now with a little one, I feel like I need to make my process more efficient.

I'm starting a new project and I'm afraid I don't have time for my usual methods. Normally, when I have a new idea, I like to spend hours staring at the wall, spacing out, and living in my head. That's hard to do with a 3-month-old who needs constant attention. So, I've decided to force myself to write a detailed outline before I start drafting this shiny new idea. It's been more difficult than I thought.

At first, my idea seemed boring and formulaic when I started to outline it. I was not motivated to work on my ho-hum story. Then, I hashed out some ideas and am now super excited about this new WIP. I'm so excited about the new book...that I want to jump right in and forget the whole outline thing. Sigh. I'm forcing myself to stick to it, though. Maybe I'll hold off on drafting for so long that when I do sit down to write scenes, the words will fly out of my fingers. Here's hoping.

You can read about Michelle's new process from yesterday and check out Cole's tomorrow.