Thursday, April 30, 2009

How Do You Start?

There and Back Again
A Hobbit's Tale
Bilbo Baggins

"How to start? (pause) Ah, yes. Concerning hobbits."

Recently, I finished a project (see my WiP Wednesday yesterday). I've been stewing a lot about how a new story starts. And I don't mean the idea gathering, the note-taking, the naming of characters or anything like that.

I mean the actual first words you write.

How do you start writing your story? At the beginning? The end? (A lot of people gave me some great advice last week about writing the ending and then bridging the gap, something I was struggling with last week.) Somewhere in the middle?

As a teacher, I've endured attended many professional development meetings over the years. One of the things we learned a few years ago was this: Start with the end in mind.

Um, yeah, I do that in teaching. I know what I want the end result to be when I start a lesson. When I'm writing, this bogs me down. I don't outline, I don't plan ahead too far. That takes all the excitement out of writing the story. (For me. No stonage, please! We're all different.)

But in writing, I rarely, if ever, start at the beginning. And I never, ever have the end in mind. And I think that's what's been slowing me down from starting something new. I dunno why, I've always just written whenever and wherever and whatever the muse dictates. But lately, I've been feeling like I have to start at the beginning.

And I don't wanna. So I'm gonna throw caution to the wind (again) and start writing where I know what happens. I'm not going to pay attention if they're in chronological order. I'm just going to write the parts I have percolating. Then I can carefully piece together all my little scenes like a nice patchwork quilt. Wait. I don't sew. I actually hate sewing with a passion. Maybe that's not a good analogy. Piece it together like a puzzle? Yeah, let's go with that. I like puzzles.

How do you write? In pieces that you put together masterfully? From beginning to end with a full outline as a companion? Jumping around from beginning to middle to end? Chapter by chapter?

Lay it on me. I'm always interested to find out how other authors do their thang.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Work In Progress Wednesday - I Wrote THE END!

*panic face*

Now what?

No, seriously. I haven't been able to start writing anything else. I decided to type up the middle grade novel I wrote in January - March. It's been going pretty good when I can figure out what all the little stars, smiley faces, triple lines and other bizarre-o characters mean. Yeah, I probably should have typed that up as soon as I finished it.

But it's gone through a nice curing period. I'm reading it as I type, adding a second layer of details in the setting (something that is always missing from my first draft) and more emotion (also a missing component when I'm getting the story down). I'm finding that I have no idea what happens next. Like, no idea. It's sort of exciting to see what Jesse has to endure and how he's gonna get out of the situations he's in.

Meanwhile, I have invested all my extra income into an Unlimited Stewage Plan for the thinking about major plot points and character arcs for the big general ideas floating around in my head. I currently have three.

1. Chick lit novel. It actually has a title. Spa Survivor.
2. Control Issues, the sequel. Maybe something like "Voice Activated" for the title?
3. Goth YA paranormal. No title, no clue. The girl's name is Penelope, though. It's good to finally know her name.

My "notes" notebook is turning into a Federal Disaster Area with all the scribblings. I write a lot of them in the car--while driving--so I'm hoping I can make out the stoplight scratchings when I go to write.

What are you working on? How is it going?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Goth, Anyone?

I'm no good at research. Well, it's not that I'm not good at it, it's that I loathe it with every fiber of my being. I actually start to shake if I think the word "research." *shudders* I've typed it twice now, and I'm starting to break out in hives.

I'll do the r-word if I have to, don't get me wrong. I mean, what kind of writer would I be if I didn't verify my facts? I can nary write about NYC if I've never been there (which I haven't) and don't know a single thing about it.

So sometimes research is a necessary evil. But I've come to something that I've actually enjoyed learning about. Are you ready for this?

The Goth subculture. Those are Wikipedia's words.

See, I'm sort of fascinated by the whole Goth scene. Not really the white-painted faces and weird piercings (although the piercings are kinda cool, just not for me. I have a little, okay huge, phobia of needles and all things pain-related). But the wicked spiked hair, the dark black dyed look, that kind of thing.

My DH says it's because I'm obsessed with vampires. Like all vampires are Goths or something. Which, by the way, I'm obsessed with neither. I just find other people fascinating. I like to sit back and watch what they do and say and more importantly, why they do and say what they do. It makes for interesting character-building inside my own head.

Sadly, I am not well-acquainted with any people who are involved in the Goth subculture. In fact, I don't know a single person who is. Thus, my reliance on the interwebs. And believe me, you can find a lot on there.

So I found out that Gothism (my word) emerged as a sort of "post-punk" era in the United Kingdom. I like punks, too. Anyway, I discovered that not all research is bad. I actually liked learning more about the whole Goth culture.

And it was important research, because I'm going to attempt to write a glam-Goth paranormal/ghost story. It's something I've been stewing over since last summer. And Adam Lambert's glam-Goth look on American Idol has only been fanning the flames of my inner gotta-write-Goth desire.

Anyway, this post has been sort of rambling. But I guess I was wondering how you all research. Do you stick to what you know? Or are you like me, and have to do a little bit of searching to find out more in order to make your novels authentic? Do you like the research aspect of writing? Or do your cells quiver at the thought? What are you researching right now?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Interview with Literary Agent Anna Webman

Most of you know that I'm an author of the QueryTracker blog. If you haven't checked it out, you totally should. It's a wealth of knowledge and experience (if I do say so myself).

One of my co-authors, Suzette Saxton, posted this interview with Anna Webman. I'm going to repost it here because it's just that awesome. Enjoy!

I first met Anna Webman last August when I had the honor of sharing some of my work with her. She was an absolute delight to correspond with. When the time came for me ask agents for interviews, Ms. Webman was at the top of my list.

From Curtis Brown LTD's website:
Anna Webman began at Curtis Brown working with Elizabeth Harding, and is now an
associate agent. Anna has a small, select list and is interested in all
categories of children's books authors and illustrators. She is always on the
lookout for first-time authors and is particularly interested in stories with
unique voices with something to say. Her ideal book would be one that has both a
driving narrative and beautiful language. Anna graduated from The George
Washington University and lives in Manhattan with her rescue dog Vinny.You may
recognize some of the interview questions; several weeks ago in a shout-out
to our readers
you weighed in on what questions you'd like us to pose to

Without further ado, I give you the interview:

Why agenting? A lifelong dream, or something that happened serendipitously?

I was raised by a literary agent, so I guess you could say it’s in my genes. I think it took me a little while to come to terms with the fact that I actually wanted to work in the same industry as my mother. When I first began working as Elizabeth Harding’s assistant, I thought I might want to eventually move over to the editorial side. After a few months I was hooked—I really love the business side of things: working with creative people, reading, editing, negotiating, matching author’s works with an editor and a house, and figuring out how best to help clients manage their careers.

What would you like to see more of as an agent? As a reader?

As an agent, I would like to see more quality writing and to sell books that I respond to so immediately and thoroughly that I can’t put them down or stop thinking about them. As a reader, I would like exactly the same thing.What's the most common mistake you see authors making in their queries? I think it’s probably not staying on topic. I get so many queries where authors give a lot of superfluous information about themselves. Track record is significant, but other than that, for fiction, the manuscript should speak for itself. Another common mistake I see is authors not addressing their query letter to me (I can’t tell you how often I receive letters addressed Dear “Mr. Curtis Brown”, “Editor” or “Agent”).

What’s the one thing an author can do to catch your eye? How can authors get agents to look beyond the query letter?

A compelling query letter, with no typos is a good place to start. And then to make sure to send the first couple pages of a manuscript along with the query letter.What is projected to be the next big thing in publishing for children and teens? What trend do you see dying? I really don’t think it’s possible to know for sure what the “next big thing” will be. I think perhaps mysteries because they really have been underserved and there seems to be a market for them—Perhaps what will work for this market is mysteries with other elements-like Scholastic’s 39 CLUES series or Harper’s THE AMANDA PROJECT. Another growth area might be novels illustrated in interesting ways- not graphic novels, but other kinds of illustration with narrative. For example, THE DOLL PEOPLE by Ann M. Martin and Laura Godwin, illustrated by Brian Selznick.

Is it possible to do YA without the "edgy" element? What is too edgy in YA?

Yes! I do absolutely think great YA can be done without being edgy. I shared this with some colleagues and we couldn’t think of anything that is too edgy these days. The canvas is very big and wide open. Perhaps the only caveat is that there should be an element of ultimate triumph/hope rather than despair.

Do you often choose to represent works that only you would personally read and enjoy or do you aim to represent works that you know will sell, even if you don't like them?

It’s a very fine line. I’ve found that I’m most successful in representing authors whose work I either love personally or whose appeal I understand in an intuitive way. However, this is such a subjective business, so I don’t want to limit myself. Fortunately, those also tend to be books that I believe will sell.

With the economic slow down as it is, are you signing fewer new clients and focusing on the ones you already have?

I am still building my list, so I am definitely looking for new clients. Honestly, I don’t know of any agent who would ever say their list is completely full, regardless of the economy. Who wants to be known as the agent who turned down the next big literary phenomenon?

Do you ever get a chance to read for fun? What book do you not represent that you wish you did?

I always to try to be in the process of reading one “for pleasure” adult book (it can take me months to actually complete an entire book). And I’m also constantly reading the current YA, middle-grade and picture books, which is both fun and a great way to stay on top of the market.

If you could offer one piece of advice to aspiring authors everywhere, what would it be?

I think it would be to read as many books as possible in the genre you write, and then be able to openly accept criticism and learn from it.

And now, just for fun, I'll hit you with the Fast Five:

Coffee or tea? Coffee
Courier or Times New Roman? Times New Roman
Cruise or Self-Guided Tour? Self-Guided Tour
3 chapters or 50 pages? 3 chapters
Guilty pleasure? Watching Gossip Girl and shopping online

Anna, thank you so much for taking the time to give our readers a glimpse into the uber-secret world of agents. Readers, be sure to mention the QueryTracker Blog when you query Ms. Webman.

For those of you unfamiliar with the main site, everything you need to know about querying Ms. Webman is here, including links to Publishers Marketplace, AAR, the Curtis Brown LTD website, and many others. With a free membership, helps you find agents and track your queries. To get up to speed on the what, why and who of QueryTracker, read this post.Have a fantastic week!

Thanks for conducting a great interview Suzette!

If Writing Were A Reality TV Show

Holy next top model surviving on the big stage in Hollywood. I watch a lot of reality TV. And I wonder...what would the judges say if it there was a writing reality show? Like, say, Author Idol. Or America's Next Top Author. Or Writing with the Authors. Or So You Think You Can Write? Or Rejection Survivor. Hey! We should make a badge for that. *Kate? Kate?*

I hear Simon Cowell say, "That lacked originality." I think that could work on Author Idol.

I hear Tyra Banks say, "She's a model, but she's not model-ing." Totally works for writing too. "She's a writer, but she's not write-ing."

I hear Coach [on Survivor] say, "We'll see who the dragon slayer is." Well, okay, maybe that wouldn't be said on Rejection Survivor, but still.... I kinda like the idea of being the dragon slayer. Maybe I'll have to write a novel about a dragon slayer. Then I could live vicariously through my character. *snarf, snarf*

I hear Phil on Amazing Race say, "You had some problems there in the road block." Totally an appropriate comment on So You Think You Can Write? during the climax or whatever.

I hear Bobby Flay say, "Your culinary point of view isn't clear." This could apply to the point of view in a novel. Are you head hopping? Don't do it.

I hear Bruno Tonioli say, "You've got to bring the raunch back." Well...maybe not so much.

There could totally be a writing reality TV show. So I think I might type up a little proposal for Fox and see what they say. The show could consist of terrified-looking authors doing a reading of their own work. Papers clenched in trembling fingers. Then the judges (a panel of shark-tank agents or whatev) could confer, maybe get some of those kewl paddles with scores on them and give some feedback. Yes?

Here's a pop-quiz for you. Who would say these if writing were the topic on a reality show?

1. "I wouldn't read this if I were on my death bed. I think this is going to be the last week we have to listen to your drivel. Sorry."

2. "So tell me, Elana, what did you think of Christine's story? Does she deserve to be here next week? I mean, it's a million dollar publishing contract. That's a big decision."

3. "I'm sorry to say, your story is the last to 'arrive.' You have been eliminated from the competition."

4. "It sounded great. I just wish I knew how you view writing. You seem to be all over the place with your genres. You need to narrow in on just one."

5. "You took a concept that has been used and made it your own. Sassy and daring. I like that."


What else would be on Author Idol? Would you sign up? I totally would. I like being critiqued. One of my critmates said I should make that into a T-shirt. Would you buy it? Kate? Could you do a mock-up of that too? A T-shirt that says, "I like being critiqued." That could be the uniform for the writing reality TV show.


Friday, April 24, 2009

Blog Chain - I Love Me Some Books

Okay, Kate started this chain with this: This time...I'd like to focus on the flip side of the writing coin - reading. Specifically, what books have influenced you? This can be books that influenced you as a writer, or simply books that touched you as a human being. If you want to talk about one book, a top three, ten, or even twenty go right ahead.

Annie posted before me and Terri is up next. Everyone's been going all crazy about how they could go on and on about this topic.

Um, me? Not so much. See, I don't read to learn something new. About life, about the chemical reactions of copper and peroxide, about myself, about anything. To me, that's not what reading is for. I can Google if I want to learn something new. Or ask someone who already knows. Or just by trial and error. But reading? Pshaw. That takes the whole point of reading away. Because reading should be...well, keep reading. *winks*

I'm what you'd call a shallow reader. I read for fun. The end.

So books that have touched me? *scratches head*

Influenced me as a writer? *panic face*

Don't get me wrong, I love me some books. I've always loved books, but not in the way that they can teach me a lesson and/or influence my life. More like in the way that I can escape to a new place, experience something cool or get caught up in a romance that leaves me breathless. Reading, for me, has never been about the writing. It's been about the stories, the people, the places.

Only recently (translation: when I tried writing myself) did the books I read have any other purpose other than to entertain me. So if you're looking for something deep here, um, maybe you better go back to Archy's post. Or Christine's. Or Annie's. Or pretty much anyone else in this chain.

My list of books I love randomly changes based on what I've recently read that I love. Ha! Go figure. I've blogged about some of these before, but here's my best shot. You should note that these books are on my list for their entertainment value. Now, before you go all ballistic on me, that doesn't mean they're not written well. I just didn't happen to be paying attention to that at the time.

1. Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
2. Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead
3. Uglies by Scott Westerfeld. Heck, anything this man writes is pure entertainment for me. (And good writing.)
4. The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
5. Percy Jackson and The Olympians by Rick Riordan
6. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
7. Maximum Ride by James Patterson
8. Alcatraz and the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson
9. The Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud

These books I love because of the way the author wove words together. Some of them I didn't actually finish, because I wasn't entertained enough to do so. But the writing? Brilliant. I have pages folded down, images I've scrawled on post-its and happy faces in the margins of especially poignant sentences. This all came about after I decided to be a writer. I do think these books have helped me become a better writer, simply by helping me define what kind of writer I want to be.

1. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
2. Enna Burning by Shannon Hale
3. Anything by Nancy Farmer or Cornelia Funke
4. Tantalize by Cynthia Leitich Smith
5. A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray
6. Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr

Notice there are no classics in either list. Um, that's not fun reading. At least not for me. Heck, I was on the Academic Olympiad in high school *insert geek song of your choice*. We even had these totally schweet T-shirts and everything. I don't think any of my former geekalicious Olympiad's read this blog so I can say this out loud: I didn't read the books we were supposed to for the competition. Why? Cuz A Tale of Two Cities and Huckleberry Finn are NOT entertaining reading! That is not my idea of a fun time.

But reading about magic and moving staircases and hoverboards? Oh, yeah. Djinn and faeries and alternate realms? Bring it on. The first kiss and riding in the Sun God's chariot and jumping out the window of a fifty-story building and unfurling your wings? Yes, yes, YES!

There are also only young adult and middle grade books on my list. That's what I like to read (and write), because it's fun.

So I read for entertainment. Funnily enough, that's also why I write.

Can you answer Kate's question? What books have influenced you? And maybe just because they were a good yarn that kept you turning pages way past your bedtime.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

When Life Gives You Lemons...

You know how to finish it. Say it. Out loud. (Name that movie! LOLOLOL)

Anyway, I digress. This post is going to be a lot of digression, so I hope you're in the mood for some stream of thought writing from el@n@. That's my new name. My sister is certifiably insane. And she did some tweeting yesterday on her name (which has an i, now replaced with an !). Since I don't have an i, she said I could be el@n@. So here I am. kenyit

Anyway, Eric over at Working My Muse gave me this Lemonade Stand blog award. Thanks! I'm supposed to nominate 10 people, and send the award along. I just nominated 15 people for the Premio Dardos award, and I can't even think of 10 more. If I do, I'll post them soon, promise.

So on to lemonade. When life gets you down, what do you do? I try to surround myself with good people. Play a few games (guitar hero) and just forget about whatever is bothering me. Most of my stress is self-inflicted. Do you do this? This self-inflicted stress-inducing?

Ugh. I just get in the way of myself. I have to constantly step back and remind myself that this whole publishing thing is a journey, not a result. Sometimes I find myself frustrated because I'd like to think I'm a pretty smart person. I've worked hard through some stacked odds to get what I want.

And so this whole publishing thing is sort of hard for me. I'm used to working hard, persevering, and ultimately getting what I want. This is a little different than that.

I've decided I'm going to climb into the sidecar of a motorcycle. Remind myself that it's not the end result I'm striving for (but of course, getting published is still The Goal), but it's also the learning experiences along the way. The writerly people I get to interact with. The new novels I get to read. And write. Sometimes I think all I'm focusing on is the lemons and not the lemonade. Being the driver and not the rider. Achieving The Goal and not enjoying the How.

So a new sidecar goal to go with The Goal: enjoy the ride. I'm imagining myself in one of those sidecars on a motorcycle. I don't have to drive. I don't have to watch the speedometer, the upcoming curves in the road, the weather. I can look for those purple blossoms on trees, seagulls flying, deer in the meadow, whatever. I can enjoy the ride.

I've got my helmet on, ready for the rejections and critiques. I've got the goggles strapped in place--hopefully they'll help me see clearly who to listen to, which agents to research and query, and what to write. I've got the leather chaps, waiting to protect me if I happen to crash and burn.

I'm ready to enjoy the ride. Are you?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Work In Progress - Will I Ever Finish?

I feel like EH is dragging on and on and on...and ON. I feel like I should be done with it already. I'm making slow and steady progress on it, but it's, well, slow. I think one of my problems is I'm not sure how to resolve it. Once the main battle is won, the bad guy (girl, in this case) is defeated, then what? I can't just say, "We moved to Aruba and Adam fed me coconut milk and shellfish everyday." can I? Somehow, I don't think so. *snarfage*

Because of this not-knowing-how-to-resolve issue, I feel like the progress I'm making is leading me toward the gallows. To my ultimate demise. Not only will I not be able to keep up in the Writing Throwdown (can't write if I don't know WHAT to write), but the book will still be unfinished!

Meanwhile, I've got this other story idea brewing in my head, and it actually wants to be written. So do I abandon EH yet again? How many times can you leave a story and it will be waiting patiently for you when you get back? Are they like lovers? Is once already one time too many? What about three times?

If only I could figure out where to go, then I could get there. Since I don't know, I feel like I'm writing more and more, bloating the darn thing to an unmanageable size, just to avoid writing the ending. Avoidance. That's what I'm doing. And my manuscript is paying the price.

So how do I snap out of this? *whines* Help! I've got resolution issues, abandonment, bloating and the very real danger of being thrown down into the seventh rung of writing hell and never climbing back out.

Someone throw me a ladder! Or at least some Oreos.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Tuesday Teaser - One Liners

Every once in a while I can craft one great sentence. So, for Teaser Tuesday this week, I'm just going to give you some of my best one liners. I'm not really sure why I included this picture, but it came up when I searched for "one liner" in Google images. And it's sort of true....

These lines may totally suck or they might end up in the deletage folder, but for right now, they're in my WiP, Elemental Hunger. Well, almost all of them are. I sort of, *gulp*, started something new over the weekend. I have no idea what it is, but I'm liking it. It's just that first sentence. Notice how it's in first person / present tense. *snarf*

No, Blake is Goth in that dark, secret, quiet way that he watches me without looking like he’s watching me.

Dawn brought with it a city.

I ran next to him, my grip on his hand slippery with panic.

And the sky inked itself, ready for another night of icy slumber.

I stood in the shadows of a pine forest, watching the world burn.

The bed cradled me in the scent of honeysuckle and smoke.

I sucked at the air, desperate to fill my lungs again and again, as if I could store the oxygen for later use.

I tentatively reached up, my finger hesitating a breath away from his disfigured skin.

The touch of Adam’s fingers on my face brought a fresh wave of suffering.

Because of the rain, the wide waters did not glimmer the way I’d always imagined they would.

Okay, that's ten lines. I guess that's enough. Post your favorite one liners from your own writing. I think it would be cool to write a short story using one of the one liners.... Hmm...definitely cool.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Who Tells Your Story?

Okay, so this past week I had the chance to go to a bookstore. This shouldn't be, like, a planned outing, but in our household it totally is. See, my hubby and I are both teachers and we both adore books. And we're poor--mostly because of spending too much money on books. So a trip to an actual bookstore is a rare activity just on principle alone.

I always carry a notebook with me, and this day at the bookstore was no different. I usually jot down titles I want so I can research them more or put them on hold at the library or whatever.

This particular trip, however, something struck me. Who's telling the story? Who tells the story has always interested me, so much that I've read over my notes from writing conferences on this very subject.

I'm very comfortable writing in first person (three novels done in first person), and I absolutely adore present tense (one in third person, present tense). But I'm trying to stretch myself both as a reader and a writer. Well, maybe not too much stretchage. I still pretty much only read (and write) YA paranormal / fantasty / science fiction.

So here are the novels I was considering and I jotted down who's telling the story. I'm calling this market research instead of Elana-is-the-biggest-geek-on-the-planet. So stick with that, okay?

1. The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan: First person / present

2. City of Bones by Cassandra Clare: Third person / past (multiple narrators)

3. The Dust of 100 Dogs by A.S. King: Third person / past

4. Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson: First person / present

5. I.Q. by Roland Smith: First person / past

6. SilverFin by Charlie Higson: Third person / past

7. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins: First person / present

8. Need by Carrie Jones: First person / present

9. The Last Days by Scott Westerfeld: First person / present

10. Feed by M.T. Anderson: First person / past and present (Can I just say that I l-o-v-e this approach? I can, cuz it's my blog. And this is what I do in Control Issues. Looove it. ETA: And you can see what I mean by this by clicking here. Not a link clicker? Well, that's the announcement saying I won a runner-up prize in MSFV's secret agent contest! Then you can click on mine and read the first 250 words that [literary agent] Ms. Kate Schafer Testerman liked enough to request to see the first five chapters! It's now a Squeeeee! day!)

Market Research Findings:
  • Out of these ten YA novels, which I know is an extremely small sample size, 7 of them are written in first person, 3 in third person. That's a wow-moment right there.

  • 5 (and part of a sixth) of them are written in present tense. this a new trend? I can think of a few other books that are present tense (A Great and Terrible Beauty, for one) or first person (The Hollow).

  • I have actually only read 1 1/2 of these books, I merely flipped them open and read the first page or so to see who was telling the story. My husband sets a time limit when we go to the bookstore. No, really. He does.

So, since my "market research" I'm seriously considering who's going to tell my next story. I'm leaning toward a first person / present tense story, but that won't work with the sequel to Control Issues. So I may be going all chick lit on you, which sort of seems to lend itself to first person / present tense. Who knows?

But here is a question you should know the answer to: Who tells your story? How do they do it? Why did you choose them?

Friday, April 17, 2009

Holy Coolness That Is The Hollow

That's right, peeps, I've read a book that isn't even out yet! One of my online buddies is Jessica Verday. Her book, THE HOLLOW, comes out on October 6. You have to get it, so put it on your list right now and make sure you have an extra 15 bucks that week. Oh, and about 4 hours to read it, cuz you're gonna get sucked in from page one.

Wait! You can pre-order it now from Amazon. I have a thingy in my sidebar. You should. Do it. Now.

<---A few of my favorite things...

7. I also started The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan this week (thanks Leah). I am in the well of shame. The woman writes with a beauty I can only hope to achieve one day. I'm about 75 pages in and I've already been doing the sad head-shaking. I absolutely love it, the way she describes the emotion of love...gorgeous. You have to read it.

So I'm up to seven books for 2009. Not great, but not terrible either. My husband took me to the bookstore and I was able to buy two books. I bought City of Bones by Cassandra Clare and The Dust of 100 Dogs by A.S. King. I can't wait to read them and report in. And if you look really closely at that picture above, behind the ginger ale is a stack of books I have yet to read. And that's the short stack.

What have you been reading?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

A Whole New Appreciation

Okay, so we had our first contest on the QueryTracker blog on Monday. I think I got about 923.37 emails that day. I'm not kidding. There were roughly 575 entries. I opened every single one of those emails. Every. Single. One. I responded to almost all of them. In one day.

In addition to those entires, many people sent a thank you reply. That meant more emails. And with the crazy behind-the-scenes communication with my beloved QT co-authors, Ms. Volpe, blog comments that needed to be modified and new twitter followers, and I thought my inbox would spontaneously combust. It did stop working around 10-ish. Michelle had to go in and check if we had any more entries. Oh, we did. Many more.

That really, really, really made me appreciate literary agents more. I missed Nathan Bransford's "Agent for a Day" experience, because I was experiencing it firsthand in my own inbox. And let me just say this: literary agents are...well, I don't know what, but holy super agents. Yeah, that's what they are. Super Agents. They should wear capes and burn holes in stainless steel with just a stern look. Maybe some of them can...

I digress.

Many of you entered, and so many of you left your appreciation in comments on the QT blog. I so appreciate that. Some of you sent me emails with funky concoctions of both chocolate and bacon. That made me snarf out loud, and we all know that's a good thing. So at the risk of sounding all mushy and teary-eyed, I wanted to say thank you.

What a totally huge, overwhelming experience it was. But with such great people at the QT blog--and all of you who gave me kudos and gifts--it made the hours in front of the computer worth it. And my aching fingers. Wait. That might have been from Guitar Hero World Tour...

And to literary agents everywhere, a sincere thank you. It's no wonder you can't answer every email you receive. I bow down to your uber-awesomeness for accepting queries from aspiring authors.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

WiP It, WiP It Good

And I have, my friends, I have. Thanks to my Throwdown Challenge, I have been writing every day since we last talked!

I have been amazed by the snarftastic people out there. They've set their goals with me, and together, we're going to get some serious writing done. It's so fun to celebrate with other people who "get" you. So thanks to all my new friends (and several old ones) in the Writing Throwdown.

You thought that's all there would be, didn't ya? *scoff* Hardly.

This is Work In Progress Wednesday, after all.

I've written an additional 4000 words in Elemental Hunger. Here are some highlights:
  • Two people have died.
  • Winter is finally over.
  • A mysterious tattoo has reappeared.
  • Adam Lambert helped me through a particularly emotional scene with his rendition of "Tracks of my Tears" on repeat.
  • The resolution is still hiding in my brain.

But, in the back of my mind, I'm thinking of my next project. I know I shouldn't be. The football team always focuses on the game at hand. But I know I'm nearing the curing stage of EH, and I'm not going to have anything new to write. Well, that just won't do with my new Throwdown challenge. I must write 500 words every day.

So I asked Christine. She suggested that I write the sequel to Control Issues. I'm thinking about it. Jag sort of has control (with a capital C) over me, so he might get his way. He usually does.kenyit

But I'm also stewing over a chick lit idea I had a few weeks (months?) ago. Can't you guys see me writing chick lit? It would basically be like writing the blog, only chickier. Littier. Or something.

Oh, and if you like the LOL cats, thank Michelle. She stayed up late with me last night captioning them for me. Oh and you can pull them from here and use them in your own WiP or Throwdown posts. Spread the love, baby. Spread the love.

How's your work in progress coming? Are you WiP-ing it? Or is it WiP-ing you?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Teaser Tuesday

Okay, so it's no secret that I'm a serial blog reader. And I've seen some Teaser Tuesdays out there. So I decided, what the heck? What's one more bandwagon? I'm already on like, fifty, why not one more?

So here goes. Teaser Tuesday is where you post a little snippet of your writing as a teaser...on Tuesday. Yeah, I love the alliteration thing. Also, I'm not saying I'm gonna do this every week, cuz frankly I'd run out of really teasy stuff to post, but I might give it a go for a little while.

Here goes. This is from Control Issues.

I exited to muddy ground. My sneakers absorbed a lot of water and gunk, making my feet heavy and running difficult. I slogged through the swampy area to the street, which was deserted. The sky lay silent and silver, peaceful in the early morning.

After a few turns down narrow alleys, I stopped and pulled my shoes off. Running barefoot would be faster than trying to run with muddy bricks on my feet.

The farther away from the Institute we got, the softer the alarm became. Then it stopped completely. I dodged behind Jag in the shadows of buildings, expecting the hum of a hovercopter, an electronic voice or a beam of red light to freeze me in place.

Nothing happened.

Jag wove north toward the Centrals. By the time we reached the border of the Southern Rim, my breath came in gasps and my back hurt. I mean, I’m a water girl, not an athlete.

The air pressed silently around me. Surely they wouldn’t just let us run away. Would they? I ran my finger along my wrist bone, and the tiny knot jutted out like a boulder.

A guard station and a fifteen-foot fence separated us from the field in the Centrals, and only Jag had an ID card. We approached cautiously, Jag holding me back with his arm. Slightly annoyed that he felt like he needed to protect me when I was the one who busted us out, I pushed up close to him.

“Do you have a death wish?” he whispered.

“Do you? Stop pushing me or I’ll kill you.”

“Vi.” He turned toward me. “You’re impossible.” His eyes danced with that sexy amusement again.

My irritation flared. “Thanks.” I stepped in front of him and peeked around the corner of the building next to the guard station. I prayed it was empty and we’d be able to walk through undetected. He joined me, chuckling.

“Stop laughing at me,” I said. “It’s annoying.”

That only made him laugh harder, and though he was quiet, his whole body shook next to mine. Our shoulders touched and after a minute, he put his arm around my waist.

If we weren’t on the run for our lives, if I wasn’t Tagged and worried about how we were going to trek all the way across the Goodgrounds to the Badlands, I might have been terrified at the thought of kissing him. His body heat penetrated the thin prison clothes, and I placed one hand on his chest.

So there you have it. Teaser Tuesday. Maybe you should post one of your own...then leave me a comment here so I can read it. You'd really be helping me out today. It's my Spring Break and I have oodles of time to read major bloggage.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Charts for Female Character Names

Just as a sidenote, I can't type female without a mistake. I always, always, type femail. And then I have to go back and fix it. Just so you all know.

Anyway, I went searching for the article I was talking about when I said agents (and obviously not ALL agents, there's like a million of them) were pontificating about the usage of the letter A in novels. I couldn't find it, and my brain broek with all the searching. So, yeah. I know I read it, I just don't...know...where. (Then Heather taught me a cool way to search in my google reader. She's kewl like that.)

I didn't find exactly what I was looking for, but I found some good stuff. Kristin Nelson weighs in on The Power of Names. And Jessica Faust posted on Alliterative Characters, which is sort of what we've been talking about.

*Snarf* That's a big sort of.

I just like to have a discussion about where we get our names and it's interesting to me to see where they all fall in the alphabet. I'm also going to really try to choose future names from the less-used letters of the alphabet.

But I'm a stat geek like that.

Anyway, here's the chart for the names you all submitted last week.

So interesting. "A" totally wins, hands down. And I only contributed one of those. Makes you go hmmm....Where was that article ElanaJ read? If you find it, let me know.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Literary Agent Contest on the QueryTracker Blog

Lookie at what Archetype made! The woman can do anything. Give her some mad love.


Now, before you go all psycho and start sending submissions, be sure to read the directions here. The contest doesn't actually open until MONDAY people. That's Monday, April 13. But use this weekend to get yours ready, tell all your writerly buddies, post in your forums, oh and have a fantabulerific Easter!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Blog Chain - Shreddage

Okay, this round's topic was chosen by the ever-fabulous Mary Lindsey. Here's her prompt:

Are you in a critique group? If so, at what point do you send chapters to the members of your group? How detailed are the critiques you receive and give? Do all members in you group write the same genre?

I've been participating in crit groups for about 15 months. And I wrote a couple of posts for the QueryTracker blog on this topic (more on how to start and how to participate in crit groups). These questions are completely different, and I think, ones that every writer should answer and contemplate in their crit groups.

Whenever I post my work for critique, I think of it as going through the shredder. Sometimes I can't wait to see what's going to come out the other side, and sometimes I'm just plain scared. (Hey, I'm human, too.) Sometimes that shreddage can be scary--but it's almost always scary in a good way. (Not like those people up there. They're shredding lettuce. Yes. Lettuce. I guess it's uber-toxic lettuce because why else would they need the lab coats, rubber boots and face masks?? They take their shreddage seriously. As should your critters in your group. Man, this was a long parenthetical.) You need good shreddage to grow and stretch as a writer. But enough about that. Onto the questions!

1. Are you in a critique group?
Yes. More than one. I have a live crit group that I absolutely adore. I also own a forum at RallyStorm exclusively for YA authors. It's pretty much me and a dear friend, because we're not really sure about adding anyone else to the group and upsetting our uber-yen balance we've got goin' on. I love my fellow YA crit buddy. And I also have a precious group of friends who will read anything I want at any time. Their input is priceless.

2. At what point do you send chapters to the members of your group?
After I've looked at them so much my eyes are crossing, I can push apple+F and type in the exact line I'm looking for, and I'm about ready to select everything and hit delete. I believe that you should really look at your own stuff and make it as polished as possible BEFORE sending to crit buddies. There's nothing more annoying that trying to crit a first draft of someone else's writing.

Of course, one of the groups I'm in, we have to post 15 pages a week. Sometimes I'm not ready for that, but I do my best to get my pages out and pasted in a new document by Wednesday (I post on Friday). I look at them. Tweak. Change. Rewrite. Save. Thursday. Look again. Re-read. Tweak. Change. This only takes a few minutes. Friday. Email to self (can't post from a Mac, grumble). Read on PC (hey, it looks different). Tweak. Post. Read in post (different still). Tweak. Post.

I think this tweaking cycle is common among writers. (Please tell me it is, even if it's not...'kay?)

3. How detailed are the critiques you receive and give?
I think it depends. If the writing is strong, I usually just have "big picture" comments. Sure, I might have places where I think a stronger word would work better, or where the structure of the writing falls away. I'm a hugely character-driven reader, so I find that my critiques are geared toward the relationships in the story, how the characters are acting (or not acting), and making sure their dialog and actions are consistent throughout.

The crits I get vary from person to person. Because every person has something different they bring to the table. Literally. And that's what makes crit groups awesome. (Look at those bales of shredded paper. Isn't that...I don't even have a word for how super-stupendous that is. That's what my novel looks like after my crit group has laid their claws into it. And that's amazing too.)

4. Do all members in your group write the same genre?
No. My live group is varied. We have YA, historical fiction, romance, and LDS fiction. My online group varies too, from YA to MG to women's fiction to nonfiction to paranormal romance. I do have the YA group and that is obviously YA.

I don't necessarily think writing in the same genre is important. I think having knowledgeable, honest people is what really counts.

So don't fear the shredder. You need it. Crave it. Will be better for it. See what Abigail had to say and Terri will be up in this chain of madness tomorrow.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Writing Throwdown a Go

Okay, so I got a lot of positive responses yesterday for the whole writing throwdown thang. So I created a forum on RallyStorm. You do have to sign up, but it's free and totally easy. I named it the Writing Throwdown! forum, but you have to use your imagination to see the exclamation point. Cuz it's not there. I'm going to have to get on Pat about not being able to use punctuation like that in forum names. Le sigh. Can't win 'em all. And you guys have awesome imaginations so I know you'll be able to picture the exclamation point on the title.

Click here to go to the forum. If you're not a member of RS, you'll need to join. I'm ElanaJ over there. (Of course. Who else would I be?kenyit) And you do have to request to join the forum, so it would be great if you would like, choose a name similar to your blogger name so I know who you are. This isn't just for everyone and their Shih Tzu. Of course, if you have a few writerly pals who you think would like to join the Throwdown, tell them about it and get them over there.

I can't wait to see what your goals and be able to post my progress for everyone to see! This is really going to help me stay on target and get EH done.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

WiP Wednesday and...A Writing Throwdown Challenge!

Okay, so this past week I decided I really, really needed to buckle down and get some writing done on the ole NaNo novel (Elemental Hunger, hereafter referred to as EH). I deleted 27,000 words from the monster last week. That was about 95 pages.


So I needed some lovelies to fill the now-blank pages. One day I wrote 1200 words and I was so proud! I hadn't written anything new in about two weeks. But I didn't write anything else for a few days. I needed some motivation. #wordathon came up on twitter. So I joined for the weekend with random strangers all over the world who were going to write.

And I wrote 9868 words!

Wow, it's amazing what I can do when there's a focus, a competition or someone else I have to report to. Or I can justify twittering...ahem.

But...there's always a downside with me. I haven't written a single word since 6 PM Sunday night. I'm one of those all-or-nothing girls. Or something.

So here's my (maybe not-so-) brilliant idea. Who out there wants to commit to writing with me? I'm thinking along the lines of Bobby Flay's Throwdown, where he claims he can out-do anyone's recipe. Sorta like that, where we claim we can write right alongside the best of them. We could be accountable to each other, report in on what we're doing, rally around to support, that kind of thing. I'm thinking of something I did with a group of people way back in the fall of last year. The challenge was to write 1000 words a day. We reported to each other (nearly) every day in a forum on Rally Storm (which is free and easy to join).

Now, 1000 words a day might be a little steep for me at the moment. Heck, anything over zero seems steep at the moment. But I'm thinking more like 500. Even people who aren't currently writing could join the fun. If you're editing, maybe your goal is to edit 10 pages a day. Or whatever. And maybe we can commit to this for the next 30 days.

The point is to get my own butt in gear and finish this darn thing up. I'm sitting at about 60 K and heading into the climax. Maybe if I have some of you to report to, I'll feel the pressure more. Cuz right now there's no pressure. I can read blogs all day without consequences, sit and wait for someone to post on my forums and then pounce, or read another 50 ABNA entries.

And we all know that's got to change. *snarf* No, really. It does.

So leave me a comment if you're interested. If the crickets show up today, I'll back away slowly to my safe place inside my head, 'kay? But maybe, just maybe, I'll create a forum on Rally where we can offer support and encouragement. And do some actual writing. ("Writing Throwdown" is sounding like a really kewl forum name...)


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Contest Winners! And So Many New Books to Read

Wow, you guys are so full of awesome. There were so many comments on last Friday's call for the best books and authors on the planet. I carefully typed them all up in a fancy Word document and did some serious printage and scouring at the library. And then I'm going to head to the bookstore. And then maybe Amazon. One can never have too many books. Or amazing authors to emulate. But enough babbling about my future plans which may or may not come to fruition (challenge: use this word in a sentence today! ha ha!).

So on to the winner!

It's Sandra!

And you can email me with your prize choice.
1. Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr
2. Looking for Alaska by John Green
3. Or a critique of the first ten pages of your novel

And the second place winner! You didn't think I was going to have more than one, didja? Ha! I like to keep you on your toes.

Sara Tribble can email me what she wants, in list form, please. Like, "1. Looking for Alaska 2. Critique 3. Wicked Lovely" Then whatever Sandra doesn't pick, I'll give you your top choice if it's available. Does this even make sense? It does inside my own brain, but you never know on the outside.

And the third place winner is Windsong. Just email me. You'll get what you get and you won't throw a fit. Oops! My inner teacher/mom just surfaced.

Email: elanajohnson (at) gmail (dot) com

Thanks for suggesting the great reads! I went to the library yesterday and they had some Patricia McKillip and some Bernard Cornwall. I put Tad Williams on request, same with Cassandra Clare (which I already had on request). And I've had Suzanne Collins' on request for like, two weeks, so we'll see if I ever get that. And I have Diana Gabaldon's book in my closet...I've really got to read that...

Monday, April 6, 2009

Mindless Musings Wins the PremioDardos Blog Award!

Can I get a woot! woot! (Woot! Woot!)

Anyway, Lady Glamis over at The Innocent Flower gave me the PremioDardos blog award. And let me just say that I would blog if my mother was my only follower. Sadly, my mother doesn't even know what a blog is, and she would never understand the word "woot." But I adore blogging so much, and I'm so glad that all of you are here to traverse (oooh, big word points!) on this journey that is Mindless Musings.

I guess I'm supposed to award it to 15 people. I thought that was a lot. I feel like I barely know 15 people. But here's my best shot. I really try to follow everyone who follows me, as well as everyone who follows the QueryTracker blog. I wasn't kidding the other day when I said I follow, like, a billion blogs. I may joke about some things, but never blogging. *stern face*

Anyway, here's my list of Bloggers Made of Win:
1. Lisa and Laura Roecker at Lisa and Laura Write
2. Carolyn Kaufman over at Archetype Writing
3. H.L. Dyer's Trying to do the Write Thing
4. Kate Karyus Quinn at The Lover's, The Dreamers, and Me
5. Beth Revis at Writing It Out
6. Rebecca at Gibber Jabber and Sometimes Useful Nonsense
7. Gretchen McNeil at Seanchai
8. Cathy Bryant at Word Vessel
9. Jessica Verday at Jibberings
10. Christine Fonseca at The Musings of Christine Fonseca
11. Brian Kell at The Eyeball Afterlife
12. Carrie Harris at The Wonder That Is My Blog
13. Emily Murdoch at Lefty In My Write Mind
14. Stephanie Boman at You Can Read My Mind
15. Annie Louden at Annie Writes About Writing

Phew! That's it! Oh, wait! Here's the award.

I guess if you've just "won" this prestigious award, you're supposed to blog it out, pick 15 of the blogs you can't live without, and pass on the love. Of course, this is purely optional. I mean, I'm not on blog patrol today.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Contest - Who Do You Love To Read?

Okay, since my readage and postage on The Book Thief, I've been wondering what other super-stud authors there are out there. So here's the deal. Leave me a comment, telling me who (the author's name) and what (the book) that you read that made you shake your head sadly, wondering how you could ever learn to write like that.

I actually have more than one. In no particular order:

Scott Westerfeld, So Yesterday. I adore everything Scott Westerfeld. I have yet to read his Midnighter's series, but it's on my list. I just find his young adult writing fresh and current and relevant. *sadly shaking head*

J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter. And not for the reason you think. I think she's brilliant, of course, but the reason why I find myself shaking my head sadly is because she "gets" boys. She doesn't try to make Harry a girl. As a woman author, I find this beyond awesome. And I marvel every time I read a scene where she captures the boyness of Harry. *stewing on how to know how a boy would react to things when I am not a boy*

Then The Book Thief, for reasons I already pontificated on in the post on Monday.

So that's it. I'm opening the comments from now until midnight Sunday, April 5, so you have about 72 hours to figure out which authors and books have you sadly shaking your head. Cuz I want to do that, too.

What will you get? I have a couple of books that had me shaking my head. Looking for Alaska by John Green and Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr. Or I'll take a critical look at the first ten pages of your book. You choose.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

What's With the Letter A?

So, onward and upward to female main character names. I read somewhere, and I can't remember where, that agents were sick of seeing female protags with a name that started with A. Yeah, in the one book I had written at the time, my MC was named Annie.

Le sigh.

I actually don't mind this. But since my post on male names with the letter K, I've been paying more attention to names in everything I read. Queries, synop's, books, manuscripts, whatev. I read a lot of stuff. And you know what? I've noticed a lot of Seth's. As the bad boy. One of my friends (Christine Fonseca) has a Seth in her WiP. I think she told me his name means something about darkness or choas or something. I'm sure she'll set me straight, and I'm too lazy to research it myself. I shudder just typing that R-word. *shudder*

But I haven't noticed that many A-names for girls. Maybe I'm just reading the wrong books, I don't know. One of my pals, Jessica Verday, author of The Hollow (which I get to read soon! Woot!) has named her MC Abbey. So there's an A. Oh, and Jenn, a real-life gal in my crit group just wrote a synop about a girl named Ava. There's two.

For me? I seem to choose pretty popular names. I wrote a book last winter with a Claire. That seemed to be a pretty popular name at the time. Lots of authors had Claire's. Sidenote: I need an eclair to get me through this week.

And of course, I have Vi, my Rule-breaking Good girl in Control Issues. And Gabby, my heroine-who-sometimes-pretends-to-be-the-hero.

Who have you got? There's major chartage in my future.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Work In Progress Wednesday

So I've been lazy. I wrote "THE END" sooner than I expected in my first-ever completely written by hand novel. And I haven't really penned another word since then. But I have done some writerly things.

1. I got Control Issues back from a beta. I made a few minor adjustments, took a page of notes, and wrote about 50 words in an existing scene to round it out a bit. Here's my hint so it makes it look like I've done a lot: Turn on Track Changes. Then I can see what I've deleted, and what I've added in. It makes me feel accomplished. No snarfing.

Then I got back another section from someone else. And now I have a lot of work to do, but I have an idea of how I want to make changes, so that's good.

2. I started typing up the hand-written novel. Got bored. I did 1500 words just to see how many pages in the notebook it would be. It was about 5. So by my rough estimation, I wrote approximately 40,000 words. It's a middle grade novel, so that's pretty good.

3. I had a major breakthrough in stewage on my dystopian fantasy. This is my NaNo novel with the girl-who-pretends-to-be-a-boy. I knew I'd really written myself up a creek and didn't really know how to fix it.

Stewage. Stewage. And more stewage.

I have to post 15 pages of this novel for a crit buddy, and I'm rapidly approaching the spot where I didn't know what came next. The Deletion Line, I'm calling it. That line you know everything afterward is trash, but you don't know how to make it not-trash? Yeah, that one. So I really needed a breakthrough.

Thank goodness for the bad weather that forced me to drive super slow behind a huge truck to work.

And then I had to work up the courage to actually, yanno, hit the delete button. I kept going around and around, copying and pasting into a new document, thinking I could "just change this" or "just take that out" and everything would come together. Um, no. That didn't happen.

So I took a deep breath and selected everything past The Deletion Line. Reached for the delete key. Pushed it down.

Whew. And now I'm free to write whatever I want. I'm not constrained by what I had written before. It could be totally different--and it probably will be. But I feel

So what have you been working on the past few weeks?

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