Tag Archives: writing life

One Book To Rule Them All

14 Sep

by Susan Dennard

~~

One book to rule them in all, and in the greatness bind them!

So, I got this idea from Molly O’Neill’s blog, and it’s such a COOL thing to think about, I wanted to share it here. That is:

If you could only ever publish one book (or one more), what would that book be about?

She calls it the One Book To Rule Them All (it’s a LORD OF THE RINGS reference, btw), and I knew instantly what mine would be. Which in turn, made me stop and consider why that one book isn’t the book I’ve already written or plan to write next.

The answer is pretty straightforward: I’m a coward. I fear I can’t do the concept or the genre justice. I fear that I do not have the skills needed to execute what I would want to be my crowning story.

And no, I won’t tell you what that idea is–what my One Book To Rule Them All is about. Suffice it to say it would be middle grade and so deliciously magical (though with no actual magic or fantasy in it) and brimming with atmosphere you would think about it long after you close its covers.

Well…that’s my dream about it anyway. Clearly, I don’t consider myself up to the task of actually producing that. YET.

What about you? Do you have an idea for that One Book To Rule Them All? Or do you even have an idea like that in mind? If so, what keeps you from writing it now–or have you written it?

~~~

Susan Dennard is a writer, reader, lover of animals, and eater of cookies. She is repped by Sara Kendall of NCLit, and her debut, SOMETHING STRANGE AND DEADLY, will be available from Harper Children’s in 2012. You can learn more about her on her blog or twitter.

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Victory Fist Pump!

20 Jul

 

by Susan Dennard

~~

So, the first round of the Nautilus Writing Workshop Writing for Young Adults came to a close last week. Sarah and I hope (and think!) our six diligent students learned a lot, but there’s one thing I’m absolutely certain they all came away with. I know it because I came away with it.

And that is this:

One of the most important pieces of your writing life is TO TALK about it with other writers.

This same maxim applies to other crafts–interior design, knitting, water colors, whatever. There’s really nothing that will motivate you to work, stimulate your creativity, or make you smile quite like talking about your art.

From sharing your experiences and dreams to discussing your toolbox to bemoaning your frustrations–you’ve just GOTTA talk about this stuff. But more importantly, you need to talk about it with someone who knows what the heck you mean.

It’s one thing to have your idea-bouncer-offer-person–someone I do believe we all need in our creative lives–but it’s quite another to have your writing buddy who knows the terms, the trials, and the terror.

So I’m coining a new phrase.

Victory Fist Pump Buddy: a person who is also a writer, and therefore knows just how freaking hard this whole writing biz can be. This person is qualified to Fist Pump over your victories and share a tissue over the roadblocks. This person actually knows what it takes.

I mean, we all know how it feels when you see that dude at the supermarket…

DUDE

Oh, so you’re a writer?

YOU

(proudly)

Yeah, I just finished my first novel.

DUDE

Awesome! When’s it come out?

YOU

(uncomfortably)

Um, well…it doesn’t quite work that way.

Or how about this conversation?

YOU

I just got an agent! Oh my gosh, this is the happiest moment of my life!

DUDE

(staring stupidly)

Why? Aren’t you the one that hires them?

YOU

No. It’s a really competitive thing–like, thousands of writers all have to send query letters and… Oh, what’s the point. Forget it

You throw your hands in the air and storm off.


Or maybe even this one:

YOU

Oh. My. Gosh. My book has SOOOOLD!

DUDE

Sweet! I’ll go buy it! Does Amazon have it?

YOU

(frowning)

No, it takes an average of 2 years for a book to reach stores.

DUDE

(stupidly)

What? Why?

YOU

Because! That’s just how it works. And no, it is not a reflection on the quality of my book! I’m really proud of my novel.

DUDE

Oh, well that’s still awesome! So your book will be the next Harry Potter, right?

You just roll your eyes and stalk away.

But then you have your writer buddy–your Victory Fist Pump Buddy who knows EXACTLY what you’re talking about. When you tell them that an agent requested a partial, they squeal with delight. When you groan over lack of self-motivation, they offer to keep you in check. When you feel like jumping off a bridge, they talk you down.

I never knew how much I was missing until a year ago, when I joined some online communities and suddenly felt connected–felt like I’d found people who really understood.

And since then, my relationships with other writers–the LTWF community, in particular–have grown stronger and more valuable. I can’t live without my Victory Fist Pump Buddies! Sorry to my husband, but when it comes to writing, your ever-willing-to-listen-ear just isn’t enough. I need someone who’s been there too! Someone who’ll nurture my creativity while also challenging it.

That said, I challenge YOU to find your own Victory Fist Pump Buddy. If you don’t already have one, go out and meet some other writers (online or in person) TODAY! If you do already have some buddies in your life, then drop ’em a line and tell them how much you appreciate having them around.

I appreciate all of you guys–all of you readers who leave us comments that let us know we’re not alone. I appreciate my fellow LTWF gals who answer my panicked or joyful emails with unwavering support and love.

So let’s all do it together in a super cheesy made-for-TV movie moment:

::victory fist pump::

Huzzah!

Susan Dennard is a writer, reader, lover of animals, and eater of cookies. She is repped by Sara Kendall of NCLit, and her debut, SOMETHING STRANGE AND DEADLY, will be available from Harper Children’s in 2012. You can learn more about her on her blog or twitter.

Perspective and Wonder

18 May

by Kat Zhang

~~~

If you’re a visiter to my personal blog, you probably know that I left for Madrid, Spain yesterday and arrived this morning 🙂 Can’t say I’ve done much yet, but just walking around the city, it seems wonderful. And the weather’s fantastic. But you’ll have to go to my blog if you want travel posts; here on LTWF, it’s all about the writing and the story-telling (weeellll, not entirely true, lol). So what does my trip to Spain have to do with writing? Especially since I’ve barely gotten off the plane?

This: 

And this: 

And this: 

Yes, I have a bit of an obsession with photographing scenes outside plane windows. But it’s not just about looking at a pretty cloud or the way the sunrise looks from 4300 meters. It’s about a different perspective. It’s about wonder.

Perspective and wonder. Those are two very important things for a writer, I think–the ability to see something in many different ways, to look at something not just from your own perspective, but from someone else’s. To look at the cloud bank not as a 21st century girl who has been zipping around in planes since she was three, who should really be long jaded by the scene outside a plane window, but as a 14th century worker who can only dream of seeing what clouds look like from above, or as some nymph of the skies, who has seen nothing else her entire life–who sees this as home.

Well, I’m off to read my orientation packet and try to at least get a vague sense of the metro layout before I need to meet up with the other people tonight 🙂 I can’t wait to really explore the city: its museums, parks, shops, restaurants…

Perspective and wonder, right? :]

~~~

Kat Zhang is a Spoken Word poet and a Creative Writing major. She is represented by Emmanuelle Morgen and her book HYBRID–about a girl with two souls–recently sold to Harper Children’s. You can read more about her writing process and books at her blog.

How do YOU write?

2 May

Today’s post is actually a repeat from my personal blog, but it was so interesting to see people’s responses, I thought I’d share it again here! I mean, sure, we LTWFers know you guys through comments, emails, and chats, but it’s always nice to get to know you better! So, I’ve put up a bunch of polls, and if you’d care to share which answers you chose in the comments section, then we can all learn a little more about each other.

So yeah, today the floor is open to YOU.

🙂

~~~

This is my office space. Do you have one?

~~~

I spend over 40 hours a week writing. I KNOW, I’m kinda crazy, but I treat it like a full-time job. My goal is to get at least 2 books written a year. So far, so good…

~~~

For this next one, you can choose more than one (since, you know, you would work on weekdays and work 5-7 days a week). I work every single freakin’ day–even on weekends. The week is devoted almost solely to writing/revising, and the weekends are for blogs, crit-work, and website stuff.

~~~

If I could go anywhere in the world to write, I’m thinking this place looks pretty nice… Where would you go?

~~~

I’m half-and-half. I like to have a beginning, middle, and end in my mind before I start, and I typically sketch out a few scenes before I write them. Yet I also let myself follow a random idea and give my Muse freedom to run wild when she wants.

~~~

I definitely have a critique partner–a few, actually. They each have different styles of critiquing, and as such, they each catch different problems–I ♥ them very much.

~~~

Oh man, if I could have lunch with any of these three… I think I’d pick Isaac Asimov, Agatha Christie, and William Faulkner. Not only did they live in such exciting, changing times for publishing and writers, but they all had such distinct, kinda crazy (in a good way) personalities!

~~~

And so, my dear friends, what did you choose? You tell us in the comments–I can’t wait to find out!

Discouraging Decisions

27 Apr

Sometimes shit happens.

Sometimes shit happens and it really sucks.

Sometimes shit happens and it sucks so much you just give up.

But other times, shit happens, it really sucks, but you grit your teeth and keep on pushing.

~~

As some of you know, I recently received an incredibly discouraging blow (I lost a giant chunk of my first draft, and it is utterly and completely irretrievable).  Trust me when I say it sucks.

DAY 1:

OH NOOOOOOOOO!!! MY LIFE IS OVER. I’M GOING TO BINGE EAT THIS CHEESE, CRY MYSELF TO SLEEP, AND NEVER LOOK AT THAT STUPID MANUSCRIPT AGAIN.

I HATE MY LIFE.

DAY 2:

Wait, huh? Oh snap…yesterday sucked.  I’m going to gorge on those gummy bears, watch mindless TV, and feel really sorry for myself.

DAY 3:

I still hate my life.  ::gives sideways glance to remainder of manuscript::

DAY 4:

Okay. Life = crap, but you know what? Maybe it’s not the end of the world.  Let’s take stock of the damage and figure out what needs to be done to fix it.

DAY 5:

Yeah, that’s a lot of pages lost, but…I did it once. I can write it all again. I’M NOT GONNA GIVE UP.

DAY 6-12:

I’m taking a break from the manuscript. I’ll work on all the other crud that needs doing in my life and in my work, and I will deal with that later.

DAY 13:

My heart has mended enough that I can approach this fresh.  LET’S DO THIS.

Dealing with discouragement takes time–you need a few days or a few weeks for your heart to heal.  But there is a simple solution, and you know what that is?

Hint: it’s a decision.

It’s the decision to NOT GIVE UP.  You are deciding that ultimately, your writing or your painting or your cooking or your marathon training matters more than the crap thrown at you.

It’s the decision TO LET IT GO AND MOVE ON.  You choose to push through that stomach cramp, to take the negative critiques and learn from them, or to throw out the crappy cake and start over.

You love what you do, you have a goal, and you will do whatever it takes to reach it.  I’ll be honest–I gave up on the painting and the marathon training.  Discouragement won.

But give up on writing? Never.

Writing matters to me.  Seeing my name in bookstores matters to me.  Sharing my stories with readers really matters to me.  And as such, I will not give up because of some bump (or enormous collapsing bridge) in the road.

So here’s the deal: sometimes, shit happens and it really sucks, but because you love this–because it matters to you and you have GOALS–you are going to grit your teeth, decide it is worth the pain, and keep on pushing.**

You’re not going to give up.  And neither am I.

WE CAN DO THIS.

Have you ever dealt with something discouraging that almost made you quit?

Are you feeling discouraged now or have you recently?

**And you might also consider binge eating cheese–I swear, it works wonders for the aching soul.

Never Forget WHY You Write

6 Apr

When you first begin writing, you do it for various reasons…  Maybe it’s an escape.  Maybe it’s for entertainment. Maybe it’s because if you didn’t you would just die.

Whatever the reason, it gets your butt into a chair and your fingers onto a keyboard. As you BICHOK away, you may or may not finish what you start…but ultimately it doesn’t matter because at this point you are writing mostly for YOU.

But then, at some point, you decide you want to write to get PUBLISHED.  Suddenly, your entire approach to writing changes–as it should!

You learn about writing.  You build your tool-box of characterization, plotting, scene-construction, outlining, voice, and more…

Then (or more likely at the same time) you start to learn about the PUBLISHING INDUSTRY. You accept that it’s not going to be easy, but by golly you won’t give up!

And maybe, if you’re obsessive (read: ME) you spend every hour researching agents, refining your query letter, joining another society/crit group/workshop–all meant to help you jump that first hurdle in publication: AQUIRING AN AGENT.

And then…one day–maybe one year down the road or twenty–you are retrieved from the slush.  Your MS is good enough, the agent makes an offer, and…

BAM! You have an agent! Now what…?

Oh, there’s still more for your obsessive nature to dwell on.  First, you’ll probably go through revisions with your Shiny New Agent, and then, lo and behold, you GO ON SUBMISSIONS.  To editors!  It’s out of your hands now, but that doesn’t mean you won’t check your email with psychotic determination.  That you won’t spend every waking hour daydreaming about that second giant hurdle in publication: SELLING YOUR NOVEL.

And then…one day–maybe one year down the road or twenty–your novel does catch the eye of an editor.  Your MS is good enough, the editor makes an offer, your agent negotiates the deal, and…

BAM! Your book has sold. Now what…?

And here, my friends, is where–if you’re really like me–you may suddenly have to revaluate everything. Technically, by all your friends and family, you’ve MADE IT.

Selling  your novel was your dream!  You’ve spent sooooooooo long and spent soooooooo much energy trying to reach this point, you never really thought beyond.

Um, well, if you wish to make this your LIFE (as must of us certainly do), then you’re going to have to write another book.  And another book after that and another after that…and multiply that by infinity.

But even harder, you have to write good books.  And that’s really freaking scary.

To quote my agent,

Second Book Jitters ares viewed as…cliche almost? Like it’s become such a normal discussion topic that many people don’t acknowledge it anymore. But that term has its roots, and in my opinion, is always worth bringing up.

The Second Book Jitters are undoubtedly real, and I think they come from the sudden realization that all that energy you’ve focused into steps 1 (Agent Acquisition) and 2 (Selling the Novel) has now got to go somewhere else: a good second book that readers will enjoy.

But truly, I think “second book jitters” could just as easily be renamed “First Book Jitters” or “Eighty-seventh Book Jitters” or how about just BOOK JITTERS!

Why? Because readers are notoriously hard to please, yet when we seek to be published, we take a vow to write for our readers.

And now we get to a point where you have to rediscover the “spark”.  You have to get back to the whole reason you started writing in the first place:

YOU.

That’s right.  Writing started with YOU, and now you’ve got to bring it back to YOU.

First drafts are for you. Revisions are for readers.

Yes, you may write for publication and for your readers, but when you BICHOKing out your first draft, you’re writing COMPLETELY FOR YOU.  You must tap into whatever it is that compels you to write, and you have to use it to get that first draft out!

I write because I have a feeling to share.  Just like a piece of music moves me, a story will burn in my heart until I have to tell it.  And finding those feelings, nurturing those stories, setting aside commercial-concerns and self-doubt for a few months while I hammer out a first draft–all of it is CRITICAL for me to write a novel.

And it took me a few months of chasing my tail to finally sort all that out…

But now I know what motivates me to write.

I know that, ultimately, writing is my career, and that means staying in touch with MYSELF.

I know I have to focus more of my time on WRITING than on All The Other Crud (social networking, obsessing over foreign rights, dreaming of selling future books I haven’t even written yet!).

Ah, now if only I had stayed in touch with myself throughout the querying/subbing process… I’d have saved a lot of time (and some crippling self-doubt) later on!

MORAL OF THE STORY: No matter where you are in the journey to (or on) publication, don’t lose sight of why you write.  Writing is for you; editing is for your readers.

So why do you write?

What is about storytelling that attracted you in the first place?

~~~

Susan Dennard is a writer, reader, lover of animals, and eater of cookies. She is repped by Sara Kendall of NCLit, and her debut, SOMETHING STRANGE AND DEADLY, will be available from Harper Children’s in 2012. You can learn more about her on her blog or twitter.

Writing Tips for the Horrifically Over-Scheduled

16 Mar

by Julie Eshbaugh

~~~

In the last few weeks, things have gotten out of control as far as my personal schedule is concerned.  My “online presence” has really dwindled – I’m rarely on Twitter, the blogs, or even my own email – and it’s rare if I get a few quiet minutes in front of the computer.  Despite this epic time-crunch, I still consider myself to be “writing,” and I’m still making forward progress on my current story.  It’s definitely not easy to keep going when you find yourself having to choose between writing and sleeping, but there are other ways to keep up the momentum besides living like a sleep-deprived zombie.

Here are some tips for my fellow HOSWs (Horrifically Over-Scheduled Writers):

  • Remember that every month isn’t November.  Don’t live in the midst of a never-ending NaNoWriMo.  Don’t feel you have to add 50,000 words to your manuscript each month.  The key is to work on the manuscript.  One day you’ll add 2,000 words.  One day you’ll delete 1,000.  But even on the days when you edit out most of what you added the day before, you’re making progress!
  • Write in the shower.  Maybe you can’t take the laptop in with you, but you can brainstorm with (hopefully) minimal interruption.  Once you’ve dried off, take a minute or two to write down a few words that can act as memory triggers later.
  • Invest in a handheld digital recorder.  Hit the record button while you’re stuck in traffic and dictate your latest idea for a key plot twist or describe a character in depth. If you feel particularly frustrated with the traffic, describe how your characters deal with frustration.  Use the circumstances that threaten to prevent you from writing and turn them into writing prompts.
  • Don’t forget that handy-dandy notebook!  Carry a pocket notebook at all times and don’t preserve it for only your best, most notebook-worthy ideas.  Even a moleskine can handle your worst!  Give yourself permission to write down ideas that might embarrass you later.  Notebooks are also great places to sketch maps!
  • Keep in mind that writing is not a race!  Very little in life is improved by haste.  Write your book in the time it takes.  After the first one gets published, you’ll have plenty of publisher-imposed deadlines to meet.

Do you feel overwhelmed by an oppressive list of time-consuming obligations?  How do you make the most of the time you have?  Please share your ideas in the comments!

~~~

Julie Eshbaugh is represented by Natalie Fischer of the Bradford Literary Agency.  You can read her blog here and find her on Twitter here.