Friday, November 23, 2012

On the Immorality of Black Friday

I'm writing this while sitting in a Barnes and Noble at 10:41am on Black Friday. The only thing I have purchased is a coffee. Let me preface by saying I am not against buying presents for friends and family. I am not against the idea of gift giving. But I am disgusted by the overwhelming consumerism that grips our nation one day a year. Ironically, Black Friday happens the day after we are compelled to be thankful for what we already have. Instead, millions of Americans have left their family to spend hours in line to buy cheap, made-in-china products from corrupt mega-corporations. And I really don't understand why.

Do you really need the box set of some banal tv show that you probably won't ever watch again? Do you need another blender? A slightly different drill? What drives people to such a level of shopping fever that they are willing to trample other human beings in order to buy something they don't strictly need?

Someone I know was explaining that while she was going to go Black Friday shopping, she was only going to local, craftsman-based stores. I support this. I support buying from local artists and eschewing the likes of Walmart. But the fact that most people who go shopping today are going to mega-stores like Walmart or Target or Best Buy just blows my mind.

So in conclusion, I will not participate in the insane, inane "tradition" that is Black Friday. But if you do, I urge you to shop local, not just today, but every day.

And with that rant out of my system, back to my book!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

On the Importance of Taking a Break

I know. You're not supposed to take any breaks from writing during Nanowrimo. Oh, the horror! However, my brain gets tired of single-minded focus especially when that focus is super intense. So yesterday, I sat down to write and ... nothing happened. Oh, I wrote a few words and I was already above the day's word count goal when I started, but it just wasn't happening like it had been the last few days. So I stopped.

I've experienced this phenomenon many times. Sometimes I focused too much on math/science subjects and my brain forced me to stop and write a poem. Sometimes I spent too many hours on a pen and ink drawing and my brain commanded me to get up and bake a cake. Yesterday, it ordered me to make something. Anything. So long as it require the use of my hands.

I know. Technically writing is done with your hands, but it's just not the same. So I took a sewing break. 

I bought two white t-shirts a long time ago at a CVS (2 for $5) and had planned on doing something cute with them. Since the move, most of my craft stuff is still in boxes and piled on one side of my studio, but my sewing stuff was fairly easily accessible. I've also recently clean/organized my studio.

I have a desk that I use for writing. It's two-leveled and very convenient. I've also got a small dining table that I used as an interim desk. I set up the desk in front of the window (because that's where I like it) and the table is set to the side, creating an L-shape. This makes it very easy for me to just turn my chair and be at a completely different work space.

So yesterday, I just turned my chair around and spent some time sewing. Here's a pic of my creation!

Please excuse the low-quality and lack of hair/makeup. 

And today, not only do I have an exceedingly cute new shirt, I feel ready to get back to writing. In my experience, it's really easy to burn yourself out on an activity, even if it's one you love, if you don't do anything else at all. I think it's also helpful to give your brain a break and allow it function in a different way. This keeps it (and you) energetic and engaged.

What do you like to do when you take a break?

Friday, November 9, 2012

Nanowrimo: End of First Week

Okay, guys. Today is Day 9 of Nanowrimo. We made it past the first week! I finished yesterday a little below goal at 13,028, but I've already written over a thousand words this morning and I'm going strong. It's hard to reach the daily goals, but don't feel discouraged if you miss a day. I missed this last Tuesday/Wednesday thanks to election jitters and a stomach bug, but I'm nearly caught up!

I've also discovered how important really good outlining is. The first third of my book was very thoroughly outlined. I knew what happened, where, with whom, and in what order. Which meant that when I sat down to write, I knew exactly what was going on and could churn out scenes with minimal difficulty. The I reached the middle. Now I know a lot of writers have trouble with a "sagging middle," but I didn't think I was going to have that problem. Lots of exciting stuff happens in my middle, although the first half of the middle is mostly character interaction. My problem? My outline said vague things like "she starts being interested in him." Which means absolutely nothing to me when I'm trying to visualize a scene before writing. Where are they? What are they doing? What was it that interested her? I don't think I intentionally fudged on the details when I was outlining, but the end result was a huge stumbling block.

Thanks to Nanowrimo, I went ahead and wrote. If I didn't have that motivation I probably would have stopped and struggled with it for a while. And while I did write, I'm not saying that what I wrote is good or whether or not I'll end up keeping any of it. But at least its there on paper. I can see what's wrong with it and how to fix it. But editing/rewriting will have to wait until December.

So I plowed through that difficult section and I'm finally back on firm footing with my outline. I'm reaching the middle of the middle (where something exciting happens!) and I'm doing pretty good at churning out the scenes.

So that's where I'm sitting at the end of my first week of NaNoWriMo.

How are you guys doing?

Friday, November 2, 2012


Okay, guys. I really did not plan on doing this year's Nanowrimo. I'm in the middle of a book. I didn't want to drop everything and start a new one, but I couldn't help but be a little interested. So I looked into it. The stated goal of NaNoWriMo is to write everyday for a month and achieve the goal of 50,000 words in 30 days. Guess how much I have left to finish on my manuscript?

So I'm not starting a new book. I'm finishing one. I wrote 1,312 words yesterday and I'm getting ready to write today. If you're interested in participating you can join here. It's free to sign up and this website provides great info on how to accomplish your individual goal. You can also track your stats as the month goes on. Based on my one day of writing, I'll be finished on December 8th. So I need to step it up.

I probably won't be writing any lengthy blog posts over the next month, but I will try to write an update at least once a week so you can track my progress with me.

If you are doing Nanowrimo and need some encouragement, feel free to contact me. Writing may be a fairly solitary activity, but you are not alone. We can all do this.

Good luck!

Monday, October 29, 2012


I survived. Five days of an intense writing workshop, but I walked away, mostly intact, and with a vastly improved book.

I'm really getting to the point where being a published (and successful!) author feels like a reachable goal. My classmates were wonderfully helpful and I really feel like everyone in that class has the potential to be published. Everyone, including me, has a long way to go, but I think we'll get there.

So where am I in terms of my book?

I've finished the first act completely. I'm sitting somewhere between 35,000 and 40,000 words (I haven't calculated since the first round of editing cuts). My two main characters have finally collided and I'm getting ready to wade into the middle section.

For many authors, the middle section can get kind of boring. Not for me. I'm about to hit a brick wall of intensity and I think my main problem will be maintaining tension throughout the middle while gradually increasing towards the climax. I need to be careful not to start out so intense that I have no where to crescendo to.

Needless to say, I'm pretty sure my google search history would get me landed on some pretty serious watchlists (terrorism, interrogation methods, torture, etc.)

I'll need all the encouragement I can get to keep going. What helps you stay optimistic about your writing?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Prep for Writer's Boot-camp Phase 2

This Monday, I will be starting William Bernhardt's Small Group Writing Seminar, Level II. Level I was amazingly intense and I'm already beginning to feel anxious/excited about this next week. Not only is he the best selling author of over 10 million books, Bill Bernhardt is an amazing teacher. He's strict and helpful and encouraging. And he's going to kick my ass for not having written more.

He reminds me of my father in a lot of ways, but most especially in his quiet manner and his very high expectations. He expects all of his students to be the absolute best they can be and he pushes each and every one of us to go further. To work harder. To write more. 

And my type-A, teacher's pet self can't help but feel that I could have done more. I know I could have written more, but hopefully now that I have a few other facets of my life straightened out, I will be able to fulfill my potential. 

The first class was one of the best experiences of my life. It was completely draining and completely wonderful. It took everything I had to give and more. I know Level II will be just as intense and possibly more so. The class goes from Monday to Friday and last for three to five hours. Then the homework begins. Even at the height of my college career, I never had as much homework as I have for this class. Towards the middle of the week and on into the end, I will be getting very little sleep. 

I will try to write at least one blog post in that time, but I can't make any promises. 

What I can promise is that, by the end of this next week, my book will be significantly closer to being published. 

Wish me luck. I'll need it.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

A New Year: Thoughts of a Twenty-Three Year Old

Today is my birthday. I'm 23. When I was a teenager I always imagined that twenty three would be the perfect age. It was past the uncertainty of the teenage years and far enough into the early twenties that the euphoric joy of new experiences like college, drinking, and sex would have settled into a modicum of normalcy and I would have a pretty solid idea of myself and my future.

Instead, I feel more like I'm on the brink of a brand new journey and everything I thought I knew is up for grabs. I still have the intense uncertainty of my earlier years and, while I do have some basic expectations and understanding of my life, I don't have any idea what comes next. It's like I got to some end point and now I'm starting something completely new.

I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder when I was nineteen and I've struggled with it constantly. I thought I had it under control and that while my "normal" wasn't close to healthy, I thought that I'd learned to navigate it, learned to operate on a day to day basis without falling off some cliff. And that worked for a while. But when I moved and after I started writing, it got worse. And continued to get worse until it was interfering with my ability to write.

I really dreaded seeking treatment. I'd been twice burned and the thought of medication (which is basically the only option since it's a purely chemical issue) terrified me. But I have an amazing support system. Even when my brain tells me I'm alone in my struggle, it's not true. My amazing boyfriend, although he often doesn't understand me, is always there for me. My mother has gone through the same struggle and she understands how to help me and when I'm capable of being helped. And my brother. My brother pushed me to consider treatment again because he understood that it really is the first step to mental health. Because of these amazing people in my life I have been able to start a new treatment, and, while it's only been a week, I really feel like I might actually get better this time.

So now that I've got my mind on a better path, I'm hoping my writing life will improve drastically. I hope that if I don't have to spend all my energy fighting my own brain, I'll be able to write and get my book finished.

I understand that writing is, technically, something you do on your own, but living is not. Living requires help and love and encouragement and at the cusp of this new year I feel an especial gratitude for the people in my life that are always there for me.

Everyone needs help sometimes. Don't be afraid to ask for it.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Power of Books and Youth

“You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.” 
― Madeleine L'Engle

For most people who are avid readers/writers there is usually one moment in time that sticks out to them. A moment where a book changed how they saw the world. Changed how they thought about themselves. And this can be especially powerful when we are young.

For me, there have been a lot of world altering books, but I think one of the most striking was The Giver by Lois Lowry.

I read The Giver in seventh grade and it was my first real exposure to a dystopian future. I had already fallen in love with fantasy and science fiction, but there was something much more visceral about the world Lowry created. It was new. It was terrifying. It could happen.

And that is what I love the most about dystopias. There is an element of truth and that's what makes the story truly chilling. The possibility. 

Since that time, I have read many dystopias. From Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale to Suzanne Collins's The Hunger Games. There are many levels of verisimilitude, and, for me, the more realistic the better. That's why I've decided to tackle to the current problem of corporate personhood/deregulation in my book. By extrapolating the themes that I've observed in today's society I hope to create a new and terrifying and possible future. 

What book changed the way you thought about the world?

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Write Wherever You Are

Where am I? In a hotel room a long ways away from my desk. My writing teacher, William Bernhardt, emphasizes the importance of writing every day. He also stresses the dangers of rituals. Writing rituals that is.  It's not good to require too many specifics in order to write. 

For instance. "I can't write without . . . ." I can't write without a hot cup of coffee/tea. I can't write unless I'm at my own desk. I can't write without my super special writing cat (though I do miss my cat). Et cetera. 

As a writer, it's best to be able to write wherever you are. These rituals can devolve into nothing more than excuses for not writing. And as a life long practitioner of the procrastination arts, that's all too easy for me. So here I am in a hotel room writing a blog instead of working on my book.

Tell me, how do you get in the mood to write?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

My Pitch

I hadn't planned on pitching to an agent. My word count is just under 30,000 words and I only have about a third of the book finished. So how did this happen? I got suckered into pitching. It's okay that your book isn't finished, they said. It'll be good practice, they said. So I signed up. 

At this point, I'd done absolutely no research on the agent. I had a vague idea of what she was interested in, but one of my friends who was assigned to escort the agent around told me she wasn't interested in science fiction. Now, my book isn't exactly science fiction. It's a near-future dystopia, which as a genre, is often lumped into the overarching field of sci-fi. So that's one mark against me. 

Luckily, the agent whom I'd signed up to speak with was giving a talk on pitching. It was a two day conference and my appointment wasn't until Sunday. So I went to her talk, which focused mainly on query letters, and learned that she did, in fact, once choose to represent a first time young adult author who had not yet finished the book when she got it. She went on to say that she absolutely would not do that again. Another mark against me. 

At this point, I'd pretty much given up any hope of her being interested in my manuscript. Yes, that may have been a little premature, but I'm not exactly a glass-half-full type of girl. So that night, after a brief celebration for winning an Honorable Mention in the conference's contest, category: poetry, I did some googling. Turns out, this agent does mostly nonfiction, including a lot of economics, financial-crisis, dangers of corrupt capitalism stuff. And, while my book is fiction, that fits in with the theme of my world in which corporations have supplanted government as the ruling authorities. So +1 for me. Then I read something that gave me hope. "Interested in dark, issue-oriented young adult fiction." 

I wrote my pitch and memorized it (which wasn't too painful). The next day, I was a nervous wreck. My mom was pitching at the same time, but to a different agent and she seemed much more calm about the whole thing. Of course she's already pitched to a couple of editors and had a request from TOR Publishing for the first 50 pages of her book. Me? I was falling apart at the seams. 

So after waiting nervously in the hall, I was called into the room. The agent was young, probably late twenties/early thirties and seemed friendly enough. I made it through my pitch without stumbling too badly. Because this conference is relatively small, we were given an unprecedented 10 minutes with the agents. My pitch only took two or three minutes which left a lot of time for feedback. The first piece of feedback she gave me? Publishers aren't interested in dystopias anymore. Seems they flooded the market after the success of the Hunger Games and now they are seriously backing off. My small bubble of hope evaporated. 

HOWEVER, she continued, she personally loves dystopias and the fact that mine is a metaphor for the current issues swirling around the U.S. with Citizens United and the push for deregulation, she thought my book could prove worthwhile. <insert extreme adrenaline rush here> She asks me to send the whole manuscript to her as soon as it is finished. 

So, with a time frame of two months and two thirds of the book left to finish, it's time to get to work. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A Novel In Two Months

I recently attended a writer's conference in Midwest City where something both terrifying and exciting happened. A literary agent requested my manuscript. So what's the problem? It's not finished yet.

At the same conference, the importance of a blog and connecting to a community of writers and readers was discussed, so here I am. Writing a blog. I plan on documenting my trials and tribulations as I try to get my novel finished by the end of November/beginning of December (and by finished I mean first draft AND revisions) and sent off to a big time literary agent in New York City.

So I've got a lot of work ahead of me and this may have been the worst possible time to become addicted to Dr. Who (which I had, until recently, avoided)

Wish me luck and I will keep you posted.