Wednesday, June 30, 2010

WriteOnCon Goes...Apocalyptic?

Or grocery shopping? Maybe undercover? Oooh, I know! Clubbing!

Dude, you guys. Registration for WriteOnCon is tomorrow! That's right, tomorrow, July 1!

And you know you wanna find out if we're really going shopping or undercover or apocalyptic or clubbing, so watch this...

Check out the WriteOnCon website, where we've updated our participant list. Get ready to register tomorrow.

And, uh, any questions? (And not about my high voice or some such.) Email us at writeoncon(at)gmail(dot)com.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Quitting -- The Good Kind

So I've decided to quit. That's right. You read it right. I'm quitting.

Here's what I've given up in the past couple of months.

1. Farmville and Cafe World. I told myself to give it 15 days. Cold turkey. If I missed it too much, I could go back.

I haven't played since April 8.

2. Forums. I just decided to get off all the forums I visit. Just last week I decided this. I went into forced forum hibernation on Wednesday, June 23. I told myself 30 days. So far, I don't miss it.

3. I've quit a third thing -- a huge thing. It terrifies me, yet liberates me at the same time. When I can share, believe me, you'll be the first to know.

So what do I do instead? Twitter, Facebook (no games!), blogging and get this -- WRITING.

I'm sitting here at 9:50 PM, wondering what I should do. I open a new tab, and see all these places I usually go. Most of them are off-limits now.

So I do what writers do. I write. Last week I wrote about 10K, and that's about 10K more than I've written in a very long time.

What could you quit and be better off for? I challenge you to do it. Be a quitter. The good kind.

Monday, June 28, 2010

What Makes A Good Writer?

So most of you who read this blog are authors (aspiring, preagented, agented, published, whatever).

I've been stewing over something recently. Over the last week or so, I've had two separate conversations with people about writers -- and how "good" they are.

Things like, "She's a better writer than me." Or, "You're a great writer."

And I want to know: When you're reading a book, what makes you close your eyes and go, "Ohhh, man, s/he's a great writer."

And I don't mean good characterization or a compelling plot. Those are aspects of writing. No, I'm talking about what makes a good WRITER. As in, me myself Elana, is a good writer. Not that my story is good. What would make you say, "That Elana Johnson, she's a good writer."?

Can you see the difference? Is there one? Am I over-thinking (again)? Help a sistah out.

Friday, June 25, 2010


So I'm a teacher. We set goals and stuff for the progress of our students. I'm a huge goal-setter. I've blogged about setting goals for your blog, your audience, etc.

Today, we're going to add something to that goal. A time limit.

In teaching, all of our goals are time-bound (it's what the T stands for in S.M.A.R.T. goals). So you should have a time limit on your goals as well -- real-life or writing.

For example, I made a goal to get published. I set a time limit of 5 years. Now I'm not saying that if you've been trying longer than 5 years, you should quit. But you should set a limit and work toward it. Readjust if necessary.

The same goes for blogging and social networking. Set a time frame, and then let go of the guilt.

Let me repeat that: Set a time frame and then let go of the guilt.

For me, I've decided that it's nigh to impossible that I can get to everyone's blog every time they post. It just isn't happening. So what have I done? Spiraled into summering, not reading anything. Then what happens?


So, here's my solution to that. If you're struggling with this, please join me.

I'm setting a time limit. I will devote 1 or 2 hours a day (depending on my schedule) to social networking. This includes reading blogs, commenting on facebook status, and updating twitter.

That's it. Once my time is up, I'm done.

And I refuse to feel guilty about it. If I miss you one day, I'll try to get you the next.

So who's with me? If you feel like you'll never get it done, you're right. You won't. But set a goal to do as much as you can for that one hour. And then let the guilt go.

Are you ready? How much time will you devote to social networking this summer? And how will you push that guilt away? I definitely need some tips for that.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

How To Write

Dude, I've got it down to a science. And I'm going to share it with you. You wanna be a writer? Publish books?

Here's what you do.

1. Sit down at the computer.
2. Open Word.
3. Type some words.
4. Keep typing until you get to the end.
5. Repeat for book #2.

That's it. It's not that hard, really. *dodges Coke cans* (Of course, there's more to it than that, but really, that's it, right? If you boil everything else sit down, open Word and type. If you're struggling, try this formula.)

Well, how would you do it? What am I missing?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Breaking Down the Fear

Today we're tackling the fear. Head on. No pads. Right between the eyes. So if you're not quite ready for that, you might wanna locate your mithril and pick up some extra chocolate.


Let it be known that any author, at any stage, has fear. This thing, that, the other.

Me? What am I afraid of?

7. Mediocrity
6. The unknown
5. Ghosts
4. Sushi
3. Living up to expectations
2. Failing as a wife/mother/sister/friend/teacher/writer
1. Dogs

Yeah, so-and-so said "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." but he wasn't trying to publish a book or raise a child or keep a rabid yellow lab from tearing into his thigh. So whatever.

I do think once we recognize what we're afraid of, it's not so scary. Once we look it in the eye and try to deal with it, the horror isn't as real. We're in control then. The problem is, it's easier to put on the headphones and ignore the raw fish, lingering spirits and antsy canines.

Easier, but not better.

So spill. What're your top fears? How will identifying them help you move past them?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

First, then Second

Okay, first things first. Winners.


SCONES and SENSIBILITY by Lindsay Eland: Sarah Fisk!

PRINCESS FOR HIRE by Lindsey Leavitt: Kathryn Jankowski!

Yay to you guys! I'll be emailing you later today to share the good news. WriteOnCon gets better by the hour, so be sure to join us on July 1 for registration. Check out the website for full details.

Second things second: Tell the Truth Tuesday

1. I'm summering. Yes, it's a verb. No exercise (not that that's a stretch). No stressing. I pretty much lay around reading or watching TV. So sue me.

2. I may or may not be addicted to Dreyer's lemonade bars. So it's tell the truth Tuesday. Fine. I'm totally addicted and have put a limit on myself of one per day. Sucks.

3. I cannot tell a lie: I started writing again. New project. Goal: 50 pages + synopsis by July 12. I think I can, I think I can, I think I can...

4. Just gotta say: WriteOnCon is gonna split the core with it's frawesomeness.

5. I have officially read 52 books this year. And it's only June. This is about 4 times as many books as I read last year. Rawr!

6. I am a total and complete loser. No, I mean it. Since I've been summering, I haven't been reading your blogs. But I'm going to. Really, really. It is tell the truth Tuesday, so I have to, or be like condemned or something.

What's your truth?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Blogging 201

Okay, so I've done a bunch of posts on blogging. Things I think make the blogging experience better for everyone. Well, I'm back after a convo last week with some fabu friends.

One of them asked (and I get this question a lot): "How do you have time to read so many blogs?"

Are you ready for the answer to that? I'm not sure I'm ready to spill (besides my speed blogging method). Instead I'm going to give you some tips that make me READ your blog.

1. Length. I can't remember if I've brought this up before. For me, length plays a hefty role if I'm going to read your blog or READ your blog. You know?

I think you should be able to get your point across in 300 - 500 words. Any more than that, and I'm well, you know.

2. White space. Break up your paragraphs a little. Long blocks of text freak me out. If I see a paragraph that goes on and on like the worst wedding on the planet, I read, I don't READ.

So give me stuff in short chunks. It makes it easier to read quickly, and since I have a million + one blogs I'm trying to read each day, I'm all for getting in, reading, commenting and getting out. Sounds rushed, doesn't it? Yeah, I know. I want to read your blogs, but I also want to read hers and his and theirs...

3. Video. Consider it carefully. I don't post a lot of videos, and here's why. Many times, YouTube is behind a firewall. Number two, they take more time. I can usually read a blog, comment and get out in under two minutes. If your video is longer than that AND it's accompanied by mucho text, chances are such that I won't stick around.

Rude? Definitely. Sorry! Just consider video carefully, and especially the length of the video.

I think that's it for now. Just a few more bloggish things I've been thinking about. While this is not my first opinion column on blogging, what did I miss? What bloggy things have you been thinking about lately? Things you've seen you like? Things you wish people didn't do?

Friday, June 18, 2010

Real Writers Write

Okay, so I went to a keynote address by Mary E. Pearson yesterday afternoon. I heard some great things that really reverberated with me, but the best one was "Real writers write."

Well, crap. I haven't been doing a lot of that recently. But it's okay. I can get back into it. In fact, some dear friends of mine (Suzette Saxton and Nichole Giles) practically held me down and made me pinky swear to write for a certain amount of time. They were like, throwing out "one hour" or "thirty minutes" and I'm all thinking, Can I start with say, one minute? Cuz that's about all I get before I retreat to twitter like we're long-lost friends.

And some of you know my hatred of twitter. So you know I'm really desperate.

In the end, I said fifteen minutes, because that sounded do-able. Until I opened the document. And proceeded to stare.

So whatever. I wrote this blog post instead. Ha!

But here's the pinky challenge for you: how long will you write this weekend? I'm aiming for 15 minutes/day. That sounds like a pathetic amount, but when you've been at zero for days, freak, months, it's pretty high.

So pinky-swear with me. How long will you write each day this weekend? Maybe I'll find motivation in your numbers. I certainly won't want to let any of you down!

Oh! And if you're here for the clue to The League's super-amazing ultra-awesome, super-fabu scavenger hunt, here it is. It's actually TWO clues in one, because the MC's name is mentioned...

For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.
~Luke 8:17

Oh, oh! Winners of the amazing books for WriteOnCon will be announced on Monday. Have no idea what I'm talking about? Go here. Watch. Conquer. WriteOn!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Holy Randomness

I know, I know. I said I wouldn't be around. But whatever.

Here's some random for you:

1. I am a volley whore. In tennis. I love to play the net, so I always get in the line that will get the volley feed.

2. Conversation at tennis: Friend: "Elana and I live in the ghetto."
Elana: "We do not live in the ghetto."
Friend: "We had the SWAT team and Hazmat van at our house."
Elana: "Okay, so we have a few drug dealers."
Other Friend: "Every neighborhood has a few drug dealers."

3. The email convo's about WriteOnCon are fabu. Exactly what every email addict needs. *salivates for more*

4. I'm being interviewed on the GotYA blog today. Go read about my FAIL. Good times.

5. I get to hear Mary Pearson speak this week. She wrote The Adoration of Jenna Fox. So I'll be able to die happy tomorrow night.

Got any random for me today? I'd love to hear it!

Monday, June 14, 2010

WriteOnCon: The Mother Of All Pay It Forward Events

Dude, you guys. It's time for the next Pay It Forward event. And this time, we've pulled out all the stops.

That's right. I said we. And when I say "we" I mean me, Casey McCormick, Lisa and Laura Roecker, Shannon Messenger and Jamie Harrington. If you're not avidly following all of these people, you so should be. So go follow them. I'll wait. (And they all have giveaways too...)

Back? Okay. Are you ready for the Awesome to the Epic?

It's a...well, I could bore you to death with a written explanation, but luckily (or unluckily, depending on how you look at it) we put together a vlog.

Just watch:

But that's not all. I can't just let June go by without a giveaway. (There will be one in July too!) This month's giveaway is also an opportunity for YOU to pay it forward. Instead of giving you extra entries for tweeting, facebooking, blogging, etc., I'd like you to do that of your own free will and desire to pay it forward. Do whatever you want to spread the word about WriteOnCon. I'd be forever grateful.

So everyone will get one entry to win THE DARK DAYS OF HAMBURGER HALPIN by Josh Berk (who'll "be" at the conference!!).

Someone else will win SCONES AND SENSIBILITY by Lindsay Eland (also a conference presenter).

And yet a third person will win PRINCESS FOR HIRE by Lindsey Leavitt (yup -- she'll be there too!).

You'll need to do a couple of things to enter this giveaway:
1. Watch the vlog.
2. Tell me the last spoken word in the vlog. ENTER IT IN THE FORM BELOW -- if you put it in a comment, you'll be like, killed 'til you're dead. Enter it in the form.

That's it. Decide how you want to pay it forward to spread the word. See that new countdown widget? Click on "Get Widget" and you can put it on your blog or website. Click on it to go to our awesomesauce WriteOnCon website, designed by equally amazing Jen Stayrook. And feel free to post our embarrassing epic vlog on your site as well.

I hope to "see" you at the conference!!!

Oh, and I'm going to be off the blogosphere this week until Friday. We're running a contest on The League blog this week, so go check that out.

Friday, June 11, 2010


Today's one liner: It is impossible to do everything, but it is possible to do everything you can.

Thoughts? What is your "everything" and are you doing it? Where do you draw the line between "everything" and "everything else?"

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Friends for the Journey

Today's one liner: Writing is not meant to be a solitary journey, so make sure you pack a lot of friends.

Who do you need to email right now and tell them how glad you are that you're on the same path? Do it. I will be.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Way to Suck Less

Today's one liner: The more you write, the more you suck less. Word.

Do you think you get better the more you practice? Or do you have to learn something new and apply it before you'll become a better writer?

Oh, and I predicted the future yesterday...go check it out!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


Today's one liner: It only takes one yes.

Check out Sara's blog if you don't believe me. Embarrassing Encouraging stats from yours truly.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Snack It Up

It's one-liner week here at ye olde blog. Frankly, it's all the energy I can muster at this moment in time. I hope you stick around until next week when (dare I say it?) you'll get to see me LIVE. (Oh, contain the tremors already. Freak!)

Today's one liner: When writing, it's best to have an entire bag of pretzel M&M's nearby.

What do you have nearby whilst writing?

Friday, June 4, 2010

Determining Character Motivation

Okay, so I asked you yesterday to give me some character motivation. I'm paralyzed with fear that my second book will have the exact same motivation as the first. And can you say YAWN?

So I've been soul searching the past couple of days (really, like five, cuz I write all these posts on the weekend), and I turned to a post-it stuck to the computer next to me.

It's a quote from GLEE, believe it or not. I scrawled it out in red Sharpie as soon as Jesse spoke it. Because it's exactly the question you have to answer to determine your character's motivation.

When you lie awake at night, what's missing?

I wish I could answer that for Gunner right now. Le sigh. Soon, maybe. Soon.

What about you? How do you figure out your character's motivation?

PS. I'm up on the League of Extraordinary Writers today. And I'm donning a cape here...

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Goin' With My Gut...

Or whatever you guys say.

I'm starting a new project. Well, let me back up. "Starting" isn't really the right word. I wrote a bunch of words on this project before I realized the sucktitude of it. That uncompleted MS is now sitting on my hard drive.

I started over.

I'm about 50 pages in now, and had one of my besties read it. Her feedback was FRAWESOME (freaking awesome).

But now I'm stewing, and if you've been reading here for any length of time at all, you know that this is both good and bad.

So I just have a couple of questions for you. Feel free to answer any way you want, but back yourself up!

1. First person or third? Or both...?
2. One POV or two? Or more...?
3. Past tense or present? Or both...?
4. Female MC or male? Or both...?

Oh, and if anyone could identify, very succinctly, the main motivation of my characters, I'd appreciate it. kthxbai.

So what do you think? When you sit down to write, what comes to you naturally pertaining to those four things? What do you like to see when you open a book (girl, first person, past tense?)? And why???

(And I just realized this has nothing to do with guts. Dangitall.)

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Getting to 100%, Part Two

Okay, so a couple of weeks ago (was it really only a couple of weeks ago? Feels like a lot longer than that), I blogged about getting to 100%.

It sparked some interesting comments and a few of you tackled the issue on your own blogs. I'm going to elaborate a bit further.

Some of you said you didn't think you could get to 100%. I disagree (don't get all riled up -- read on). Because it's not about the writing. Take it from someone who did multiple rounds of revisions before going out on submission. Or from someone (who shall remain nameless) who has to do multiple rounds of edits for their editor.

Sure, the writing has to be good. The story original. The characters well-developed.

But that's not what I mean by getting to 100%.

That's an emotional state. You must absolutely get yourself to the 100% belief that your query and manuscript are as good as they need to be to land an agent or a book deal.

That's the 100% I'm talking about. That belief will give you the confidence you need when the rejections come. You'll be able to say, "Well, s/he wasn't the agent for me." and you'll keep querying and submitting until you find the one that IS for you.

It's emotional.

You'll be able to do the rounds of edits, because when you get to 100%, you'll be able to do anything your agent/editor asks of you. Because you're THAT GOOD.

It's emotional.

Please don't misunderstand me. Those close to me know the emotional mess I am 23/7. But for that one last hour, I'm at 100%. And that's when I query, rewrite, edit or read difficult emails.

So what do you think now? Are you an emotional tangle 23/7? Can you get yourself to 100% emotionally for at least a little bit? Lemme know.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Hey, You Asked...

All righty, then. Here's round one of Ask Elana. I'm going to archive these on that handy "Ask Elana" page up there. Got a question for me? Ask away!

Question #1:
I recently finished my first novel and sent its first query. After getting a request for full (!), the agent wrote back to say she liked it and she wants to "get some other reads." I'm thrilled about the positive response, but I'm wondering about the other reads. Is she talking about other agents? Does that mean she's planning on passing it to someone else in her agency? Any guesses?

To which Elana said:
Excellent question.

When an agent says they're getting other reads, it means she's passing around her office. She might have an assistant read it. Her boss (for lack of a better term), if she has to get everyone in the agency on board. Or simply her fellow agents in her office. Many times, you'll work with different agents for foreign rights, film rights, etc, and those people all read your book. Editors do the same thing, BTW.

Lots of times, they print your MS and pass pages around, which is why it's important to have your name, title and contact info on every single page.

And holy congrats!!! This is big news!

Question #2:
I have a manuscript critique w/ a very high profile (at least as far as twitter/blog/writers boards go) agent at a conference. (I'm trying to control my breathing and not go all fan girl!)

My question is this -- I submitted my first 10 pages back in February to the conference coordinators and, of course, it's been fairly heavily revised since then. When is it appropriate to tell the agent during the critique that I've got a revision? At the beginning of the meeting? Or is it more polite to let her comment and then reveal that I've revised? I'm thinking at the beginning, but I don't want her to think she's wasted her time critiquing the original version!


To which Elana answered:
This is a tricksy one. I would think that the best thing to do would be to let them know that you've made revisions up front, but that you're still more than interested in what they have to say, because you're always open to improvement. So you could say something like, "I'm grateful you took the time to critique the first ten pages for me. I've done a revision since then, but I'd love to see what else I need to improve."

You know? That way, you don't come off sounding like you've done all you're going to do, that you're still willing to learn and that you're grateful for what she's done.

And that's it for today! Got any questions? Agree/disagree with my answers? Lay it on me.

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