Monday, November 30, 2009

Who has two thumbs and just won NaNoWriMo?

I promise I'll post more within an hour or so, but I am seriously starving (you'll find out why soon!), so I'm going to feed myself, then give you all the fun details. I just wanted to share!

(About an hour later...)

OK, now that I'm fed (thank you, Chick-fil-A, for supplying my victory dinner), I can tell you all about what I learned and how amazing this whole process was. But since my husband has missed me most dearly in the last month, and is currently waiting for me in the other room, with a blanket, a movie, and the world's most adorable dogs, I'm going to condense everything I've learned into an easy-to-digest list form (with visuals!)


Heather's List o'Awesome NaNo Lessons, 2009

1. Old habits die hard. I'm a big procrastinator. I like to say I work well under pressure, but really I just think that I'm lazy, then all of a sudden my deadlines come up and I'm like OH CRAP. Case in point: I am really excited about my novel, and got off to a great, super ambitious start with the word count. But once real life started to interfere, I feel behind. I caught up a little in the middle of the month, but then I feel behind again. Finally, with less than 48 hours to spare, I decided I couldn't let my six adoring fans down and put fingers to keyboard and cranked out the last 10,000 words. (Which is why I was starving tonight - I wanted to finish up right away, so I came home without dinner. Like a misbehaving kid.) If you think I'm making this up for the purposes of good blogging, here's graphical proof, in both line and bar chart form, because I know everyone learns differently:

2. Write as much as you can when you're excited, so that when you're not as excited, or when you're tired, or when you'd rather have a martini kthanks, it won't matter. See the charts above for a visual example if it didn't sink in the first time.

3. Knowing where you're going is half the battle. Since the idea for my novel came so close to the start of November, I didn't get to outline much before it started. I really only had time for the basic world building elements, character ideas, and first few chapters...maybe the first 10,000 words? I wrote the first 10,000 words in about 3 days, then took another 10 to write the next 10,000. Say, I wonder if another look at those charts would help demonstrate things...

4. Having a support system is extremely important.
I'd like to take this opportunity to thank all the women in my book club who did NaNo along with me, and everyone from my local group, especially those who came out to the write-ins I attended. Also everyone who reads this blog, because you people are awesome.

5. Sacrifices have to happen. I typically read somewhere in the neighborhood of 8-10 books a month, give or take. Last month, I read four, and two of them were books on tape so I feel like they shouldn't count, plus one of them I had already started when November kicked off. But I knew that, throughout the month, writing was more important than reading. (Even though reading is extremely important for a writer, too, and don't you forget it.)

6. When in doubt, write. Even if it's terrible and you know think you won't use it, even if it's the worst piece of crap ever, even if it's an ADVERB (!!) just write it anyway. You can always use a strikethrough font to note that you want to get rid of it, or just delete it in revisions. But you also might come up with the best scene/idea ever. (Unless it's an adverb, which is never, ever a good idea. Ever.)

7. A working title is just that...working. I always knew I would part with my title, but tonight I decided for sure. It's got to go. I even posted a new working title on NaNo, but since I'm sure it won't stick for long, I'm not going to share it here. Once I have something I feel confident about, I'll post it. And then I'll post it again once I have to change it for my agent/publisher's fancy.

8. It's not over til the fat lady sings. Which in publishing is when I see my book for sale. That means, even though I won the NaNo battle, I still have to fight the novel war. I need to finish the book, then revise, revise again, revise a third time, cry myself to sleep every night, let some other people read it to get some opinions, wonder why my manuscript is bleeding (oh, wait, that's just red ink because the draft is so awful), fix all the mistakes, revisereviserevise, add some more steps I'm sure I haven't thought about yet, then send it off to all my favorite agents and watch as the rejections come pouring in. But it only takes one yes (well, a series of yeses, but let's not get picky) to get published.

Hope everyone else had a great NaNo!

Support Debut YA authors in 2010!

Jessica, member of my book club, novel draft critiquer extraordinaire, and owner of Reading is Sexy wrote about the 2010 Debut Author Challenge, and I barely glanced at the entry before I knew I would need to sign up. I read so much anyway (how else can I entertain myself with no cable?), and I love YA, that I thought this would be a great chance to support some debut authors - a class I hope to join verra soon. So...

What is the 2010 Debut Author Challenge?
  • The objective is to read a set number of YA (Young Adult) or MG (Middle Grade) novels from debut authors published in 2010. I'm going to challenge everyone to read at least 12 debut novels! You don’t have to list your choices right away, but if you do feel free to change them throughout the year.
  • Anyone can join, you don’t need a blog to participate. If you don’t have a blog you can always share your views by posting a review on, or any other bookish site.
  • The challenge will run from January 1, 2010- December 31, 2010. You can join at anytime!
I haven't decided on my 12 yet...not even close. I'm sure they'll change throughout the year. I do have an official shelf set up on my Goodreads list, and to encourage everyone to participate I'll be posting reviews of all my books here! If you know of any great YA or MG books by debut authors coming out in 2010, please feel free to post them in the comments and I'll add them to my list!

And who knows? Maybe some 2012 or 2013 Debut Author Challenge Lists will feature my book! (Which used to be called The Reaper's List, but definitely needs a new name. For sure.)

Stay tuned tomorrow for an awesomely hilarious picture of me, and to find out whether or not I was able to write 10,000 words in less than 48 hours to compelte NaNoWriMo!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thankfulness overload!

When I loaded up my blog reader list today, almost every entry was full of thanks-related blogs. It got me thinking that I should be writing an entry about thankfulness....because I like to hop on the bandwagon, apparently. (I am writing YA, after all! And that joke is only OK because I made it.)

So, in no particular order, 7 writing-related things I am thankful for:

1. My 11th grade English teacher, for giving me the student of the year award, and for staying with me every day after school for almost two weeks to help me with my Catch-22 banned books research paper. Mrs. Meyer, you have no idea how much that all meant to me. Also, I'm pretty sure that awesome recommendation letter you wrote me is the only reason I got into my first-choice school, on scholarship, no less.

2. Speaking of awesome teachers, Prof. Spear, from UR, who once locked me out of class for being late. He was hilarious and awesome, and taught one of the best classes I've ever taken (journalism as literature). He also told me he saw me as a writer, which is amazing, and gave me a bunch of old books from his library.

3., for letting me publish my thoughts to the entire universe, and the blogging community for giving me such great support and advice.

4. The Offices of Letters and Light, for keeping NaNo going, and reminding me every day why I love to write.

5. The girls on my book club board, especially those who are doing NaNo with me, for encouraging and inspiring me every day, and reading my dreadful first 25 pages and helping me form it into something worthy of Dennis Lehane.

6. My husband and my dogs for supporting me. (Is it mean that I put them on the same line? Maybe.)

7. J.K. Rowling, because she is awesome, a master of her craft, and opened a whole new generation to the idea that books are fun.

What are you thankful for? (Oh, come on, you knew that was coming as soon as you saw the title of this post.)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

My very first award! *tear*

I received my very first blog award the other day, from Shannon over at the fun and informative Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe! Hooray! I may have only started this blog a month or so ago, and I may only have three actual followers (though I know more people than that are reading this, because you comment on my Facebook, or in random posts...just give in and click that little "Follow" button already! Then you can be constantly aware of my awesomeness, and I won't look so sad and pathetic.), but clearly I've made an impact on someone. I think that calls for one of these guys:

Oh, Mr. Giant Dancing Banana, how I love you.

Anyway, as part of the terms of my award, I am supposed to share 10 facts about myself. Awesome, because random and awkward facts about myself are my specialty. I'm also supposed to give the award to 10 other blogs, and I have about five in mind, but for now I'm going to hold off. I'll give them out eventually, though...when you least expect it! Muahaha! (That's an evil laugh. I'm writing some intense scenes in my NaNo right now, so I'm all about the evil.)

OK, 10 random facts:

1. I just discovered Facebook in pirate English yesterday (because the site was randomly putting my pages in German for some reason), and it is the most awesome thing in the world. Even your email notifications come in pirate!

2. I speak in Web talk sometimes. You know, JK, OMG, etc. I started it to be funny and ironic, and to make a statement about all the morons who do it for real. And then it just sort of...stuck. I know it's obnoxious, but I also think it's hilarious. I once let "J/K" slip at a meeting I was in (when I was explaining to my boss how to integrate Facebook into our magazine's Web strategy, no less), and my boss asked what I meant, then told me never to say it again.

3. Two days after I finished the last Harry Potter book, I randomly burst into tears (even though I had spent the last three-quarters of the book crying my face off). My husband freaked out, but the only explanation I could offer was, "That book-was just-so GOOD!" He laughed at me, and has never let me live it down.

4. If I can make just one person react to anything I write the way I've reacted to J.K. Rowling, I will feel incredibly accomplished.

5. I used to be a HUGE Michael Jackson fan. Huge. I even own the Michael Jackson Moonwalker video game for Sega. And it is awesome.

6. This GIF is hilarious (even if it's not true to the book).

7. I am terrified of spiders. Terrified. I can't even watch the movie version or read that chapter of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets at night, because I will have nightmares. Half-Blood Prince is OK, though, but I won't tell you why because...

8. Reading spoilers for books I haven't read or movies I haven't seen really pisses me off. As a result, I try to be really sensitive about the issue for other people.

9. My wedding was budget-friendly, and I was featured in a USA Today article about people spending less on weddings in the recession.

10. I had the flu for the first two days of my honeymoon. Most people want to spend their honeymoon in bed. Just not with a fever, the chills, and running to the bathroom every 10 minutes.

OK, back to the NaNo!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Announcing a great contest!

The First Novels Club, a great blog which daily makes me wish I had an awesome critique group (I'm working on it), is hosting a fabulous contest! Prizes include:

- set of four Leviathan postcards
- Peace, Love, and Baby Ducks pin

- Sarah Dessen magnets

- Liar bookmark

PLUS: A SIGNED hardcover of Sarah Dessen's Along for the Ride, and an ARC of Will Grayson, Will Grayson signed by David Levithan.

Details are here! (OK, you will eventually get to the part where you find out that I added this here so that I could get another entry. I won't deny it. I'm been eyeing that Levithan/Green book ever since it was listed on the Goodreads First Reads page. But it's still a great contest, and since I don't have anything awesome to give away yet, I thought I would at least spread the joy of other amazing contests.)

The dreaded bad feedback!

OK, I don't really have a lot of experience with this. But it's been on my mind lately, so I wanted to write about it.

I write freelance bar, restaurant, and concert reviews. Part of my philosophy is that almost no one gets a 100% positive review, because no restaurant is perfect. Think about your favorite restaurant. I bet there's something wrong with it, right? Not the food necessarily, but maybe the lighting is too dark, or the bathroom is a bit gross. I just have a hard time saying that everything is kittens and rainbows because I feel like it's not totally honest. You have to seriously blow me away to get a totally, no-negative-words review out of me (Green Springs Bistro in Safety Harbor, FL, is about to come close when it gets posted on the Tampa site. That place was to die for.)

Generally when one of my reviews is published, I link to it on Facebook, because I am the youngest child and obviously starved for attention. Of course, this requires me to go back and actually read the review after it's published (always noticing the way the St. Pete Times cuts it up and rewrites it, and MetroMix doesn't touch a word, leaving any careless grammatical errors online for the world to see). This also forces me to view the comments that users have posted between the time that the review went up and the time that I clicked through.

For the most part, my reviews are nice. But every once in a while, I will tear a place apart. I think it's fine, as long as it's earned. The problem comes when people reading the article don't agree with my review. I have to read people calling me out personally, saying I don't know what I'm talking about, and even suggesting that I find a new job. In the review I linked above, I actually asked the friend who went with me to confirm that the food was awful, to make sure that I wasn't living in some delusional world where my taste buds were more sensitive than everyone else's.

Then, of course, there was that review I wrote of the Killers' concert. Now, if your reading comprehension is beyond that of a fourth grader, you will note that I said both positive and negative things. I said that I ultimately had fun, but I just wished they had kicked up the energy sooner. And man did that piss some people off! I can't decide which comment is my favorite: the one that actually links to another, more favorable review, or the one where the guy gets mad at me saying that Brandon Flowers' voice cracked while completely ignoring the fact that I said it was a good thing at that point.

Whenever I see these comments, these little snarky notes on the reviews I've poured my heart and soul into, I always want to write back. Sometimes I get the urge to log in anonymously, creating an alias I can use to defend myself. "This Heather is great! She knows what she's talking about!" Other times, I want to be just as mean to them as they are to me. "Learn to read, jerk-off." or "Did your taste buds break? You think that's GOOD food? Try eating somewhere other than Popeye's and maybe you'll learn."

But I never do. Part of being a writer, especially a critic, is learning to deal with critics of your own. And if I ever am lucky enough to see my book published, I'll have to read a lot more than the lame mutterings of a random Joe on the Internet. Entertainment Weekly gave Suzanne Collins' Catching Fire, the brilliant sequel to The Hunger Games, a C!! (Let's put that in perspective: that's the same grade they gave Sarah Palin's new book, which I haven't read, but I know is crap. Also, if you haven't read those books, you need to. Like, yesterday.)

My point is, reading those comments gives me a thicker skin, and helps me get used to the many criticisms I hope to deal with one day when I'm as famous as J.K. Rowling. If EW wants to give my book a C, I guess that's fine, as long as my ardent fans write in to let them know they got it all wrong.

For now, I'll stick to punching the one-star "rank this restaurant" button to let the world know that someone out there agrees with me. Even if it's just me.

Friday, November 20, 2009

One minute writer: robot

Today's prompt over at one-minute writer was robot. It's Friday Fiction, so she encourages you to write a bit of fiction (which is what I've pretty much been using her prompts for, anyway).

Apparently, I like sci-fi. Who knew? Not only did I write something (not from my NaNo character's POV, but something totally different), but I thought it was fun enough to enter into her one-minute writer contest of the day. I should note, here, that she encourages the Friday Fiction people to take a little longer than a minute. I think this took about five.



Marcus screwed the final bolt into place, grunting with the effort. He had to make sure it was tight. Last year, all the bolts had been too loose, and his robot had fallen apart as it moved past the judges’ table, leaving scraps of metal in its wake.

He had been busy in the workshop his mom had built him in the corner of the garage for weeks, perfecting his design. But today was the day of the fair, and he had to get it right. Beads of sweat formed at his brow, but he wiped them away with the edge of his shirt. Finally, he stood back to admire his handiwork.

“Almost finished?” his mom called from the doorway. She approached his messy pile of waste and tools, wading through the oily rags. “We’ve got to load you into the car if we’re going to make it down to the school on time."

“Just a sec, ma,” he replied. He flipped a small switch on the back of the robot, and a quiet hum exuded from the machine. With a lurch, the robot moved forward, one foot in front of the other. He watched it move a few steps, his heart soaring and his head dizzy with excitement. After a few seconds, he turned it off. He didn’t want to ruin his last chance.

As he washed his hands, his mom strapped the machine into the back of the car. They drove along the bumpy road toward the middle school, and with every pothole and dip in the road, Marcus’s stomach gave a sickening lurch. Finally, his mother pulled her red sedan into the loading zone outside the gym.

“So, what do you think?” she asked, carrying the robot through the crowd of students.

“It’s my year, ma. Tonight is my night.”

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Emotionally drained

I am dying to tell someone what I wrote last night, but in the wild fantasy world in which I live, my book will one day get published and become an international best-seller, so I don't want to spoil the surprise. But I can say that writing the scene was one of the most emotionally draining things I have done in a long time.

When I was deciding what to write for NaNoWriMo, my initial story idea was based loosely on my own life. Ultimately, I decided not to write that novel, mostly because I liked my new idea better. I also strayed from my original plan because I knew it would be too hard to revisit some of the things I would have to write about. Some day, I'll go there, but not now. Little did I know that my future dystopian YA would end up being difficult, as well.

I wrote the section in question in the car on the way home from my friend's house. My husband was driving, and I warned him that I was about to write something hard.

"Are you going to cry?" he asked.

"I might."


"Just, don't."

"You don't understand, husband. These characters are mine. I've always known my plans for them, but that doesn't make it any easier. Also, if I get emotional over it, maybe readers will, too."


"Just, don't cry."

My husband got his wish, and I didn't cry. But I wanted to. It was still difficult. Writing can take a lot out of you. It can knock you off your feet and take the air out of your lungs. It can leave you up until 2am, struggling to come up with the perfect word when you know that none of the 25 you've written so far feels just right. But in the end, you've written a beautiful story, and all the sleepless nights and tear-filled days are worth it. (I just hope a publisher thinks so, too.)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Crossing my fingers, my toes, and my eyes!

Alright, it's in the mail now, and there's no going back. My submission to the Writer's in Paradise workshop. Eek!

I want to get into this workshop. (I almost wrote " I want to get into this workshop very badly," but that is using an adverb and "very," both terrible words. So I ended my sentence early. Stephen King would be proud.) Aside from the fact that Dennis Lehane is amazing, the very idea of getting to spend an entire week away from my job, working on my writing is just awesome. It's almost a career investment since I write for a living already (can you say tax deduction?) And the bonus is, if I get in, I will be sharing everything I learn with all of you readers. Yes, I will basically copy and paste my notes into my blog, so you will pretty much got a $675, week-long workshop for FREE. All you have to do is hope that I get in.

I had to send in the first 25 pages of my novel, a two-page summary, a letter explaining why they should give me a scholarship (which I hated writing - I'm bad at begging for money), and the following letter to Dennis Lehane and Eckerd College writing director Sterling Watson detailing my writing experience. Here's hoping!

Dear Mr. Lehane and Mr. Watson,

When I was 10, my brother got a computer. As I watched him pull the monitor from its Styrofoam prison, I knew I had to get my fingers on the keyboard as soon as possible. Though I had always kept a journal and enjoyed writing, I had never typed and printed anything I had written on a real computer. I begged my brother to let me use it, telling him that it was for a homework assignment. Of course, he must have known I was lying; it was entirely too convenient that I had suddenly needed to type, not handwrite, my homework on the exact day he brought home his new computer. But he let it slide. I called the story “Ortho the Giant,” and composed the entire thing in just 20 minutes under my brother’s watchful eye. It was about a giant who had no friends because he smelled bad, but one day a kind neighbor convinced him to take a shower, and he became the most popular kid in school. When I think about the story now, I can’t help but laugh at my first foray into what I was convinced would be a long and fruitful career in professional writing.

I took that same computer with me to college at the University of Richmond in Virginia, where I studied journalism. During my junior year, I spent a semester abroad in Italy and took a creative nonfiction writing class. A story I wrote for the class – about my utter shock and dismay upon discovering that Pompeii didn’t look anything like how it was portrayed on television – was chosen for publication in the travel anthology Italy From a Backpack (Pearson Venture Group, November 2006).

After graduation, I floundered a bit with my writing career, before landing a job as the associate editor of a business-to-business publication. I also write freelance bar, concert, and restaurant reviews for the St. Petersburg Times/TBT and Tampa Bay’s 10 MetroMix. I’m just starting to dabble in fiction, and loving every moment. In addition to completing my first novel, I’m also writing short stories for submission to literary magazines.

At my full-time job, I take the words other people say, copy them verbatim, and create a useful and interesting story around them. I might know how to craft a technically good sentence, but I’m afraid my creative skills fall flat. I know my fiction writing is in its infancy, but I have a love for the craft and a great desire to discuss writing with other people who share the same feelings.

Thank you very much for your time and consideration.

One word (NaNo style!): lane

I walked up the quiet path. The street lamps cast their shadows in the dark night, creating eerie outlines of the homes in Mineral Park. I took Brax's hand and held tight. We were almost to the Council.

Pretty short today, and covers something I've already written. Write your own at! For bonus points, use a character from a book or story you're writing. For double bonus points, post your one-minute response in the comments section!

Writing and Reality TV

From Nathan Bransford (a great blog, but this entry - on what he learned about writing from watching reality TV - sticks out as particularly hilarious and enlightening).

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Halfway there!

Tonight, I hit 25,279 words for my NaNo.


My hands ache a little, and I definitely lost a lot of time revising my first 25 pages for the Writer's in Paradise workshop. But my submission is more or less ready (I have some final edits left), so no more time should be wasted editing pages. Just writing my little heart out.

The hardest thing I'm coming up against right now is what to do with one of my characters. I've got him in a situation, and there are only two outcomes if I want everything else I've written so far to be believable (and I would very much like that to be the case). One outcome seems to be more logical, but from the way the people who read my first 25 pages reacted to this character, I don't think my readers would love it. The other outcome might ultimately make the reader happier, but I'm afraid that it sticks me with some big problems. It also might give me more plot fodder, which would be great, just in case I need it. However, I'm afraid of doing too many things that have been done before. But I guess there's a reason those things have been done before - they work. They make readers, agents, and publishers happy, and they sell books.

I think either outcome would be fine with me - either way I'll have written something interesting, and I could definitely see both solutions being plausible. The only reason I didn't write more tonight is because I'm trying to figure out what to do with this character. I better decide tonight, because I want to get ahead of my word count again so I can finish my novel by the end of November! (I think this novel is about 65,000 - 70,000 words, not just 50,000, so even though it only takes 50K to win NaNo, I'd like to finish the book by the end of the month.)

Friday, November 13, 2009

My Muses

Every writer should have a muse. Something that motivates them and keeps them going, something that inspires them.

One of my muses (or I guess two) are my dogs. As silly as it sounds, they keep me going. All day I look forward to just snuggling on the couch with them, and they happily sit beside me as I write. Usually it will only be one or the other of them, tucked under my arm as I sit with my computer across my lap. Observe, Evie in her natural habitat:

Please, no comments on the fact that my dog is wearing a sweater. I realize I live in Florida, but we never run the heat, and the dogs shiver or bury themselves in blankets. Plus those sweaters have LEGS. How cute is THAT?!

Sometimes, when I'm really lucky, I'll get one under each arm. I'll admit, it is a little more difficult to type when they arrange themselves that way, and I have to reach around them to get to my keyboard. But it is totally worth it for two reasons:

1. It is absolutely effing adorable.
2. I don't want to disturb them when they get all cozy like that next to me, so I don't get up, so I tend to write for a lot longer.

Unfortunately, Millie, my other little Italian Greyhound, wasn't cooperating tonight. She is still sitting, all by her lonesome, on the other side of the couch on top of a large pile of fleece blankets. But she's been around longer (7 years), and she usually sits with me better (Evie has a tendency to stand in the way of my screen, move around a lot, and be a general pain in my ass, but Millie will just plop for hours on end). It didn't feel right to leave her out of the post, but it also didn't feel right to put up one of my normal pictures of her with proper lighting and focus. So I took one of her with my camera phone so it would be just as grainy as Evie's. Enjoy! (Ignore her demon's the flash, I swear.)

Ugh, they are SO much cuter than this in person. Oh, well.

If you're a writer having a hard time getting inspired, try changing locations or sitting in a new place, or just sitting with a new person. They don't have to say anything (of course it's better if they don't), but just their energy or their presence might motivate you in a new way. Or head to your local rescue and adopt a pet! (hehehe)

UPDATE: About an hour after I posted this entry, I fed the dogs. Millie is actually a pig, not a dog (excellent example: she just burped right into my face. I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried), so she always finishes her dinner first. Since she came over to sit with me, I thought I would snap a (terrible) picture. Now I'm trying to coax Evie girl over to join us. If it happens, you can bet I will post another update with more pictures. I am going to be SO obnoxious as a mom.

SECOND UPDATE: SUCCESS!!!!!!!!!!!! Awful picture, delightful cuddling. I really need someone else here to capture the adorableness that this whole thing is. It's amazing.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


Do you remember in my first post where I said I would sometimes ask you, the reader, for suggestions and inspiration? No?

Here's a refresher.

There's this short story contest I really want to enter. The word count is only 1,500 words, which is nothing. If anything, I'll have trouble keeping it brief. I do have some ideas, but I thought I would use my blog to my advantage and see if you can suggest something interesting. It's actually a huge national contest, so I don't really harbor any delusions that I'm going to win. So if I don't win and the contest organizers run laughing in the other direction, refusing to ever publish my piece of crap story, I will publish my awesomeness here for all to see. And if I do place high enough that the story is published, I will cry with joy, thank my adoring fans, and post the link here so you can go read the story (if it's made available online).

So, all of that being said, here is my shameless call for suggestions. Post a comment with a single word, phrase, or plot point that you want to see me write about. You could even put, "write a story about me!" I might not use it (though I do plan on doing something later where I post maybe 250 words on every subject you comment on...but that's for later), but if I do, you will be thanked. If there is something you have always wanted to read about, put it here. If you hate me and have a terrible idea that you know will fail, post it here. If you want me to buy you an ice cream cone when I win with YOUR idea, post here.

One word: cone

Ice cream is a delicious treat. I love its rich and velvety texture, and the way it drips over my hands and makes my fingers sticky. But today, it is too cold for ice cream. I am wrapped up in a sweater in my freezing cubicle, wishing for a hot cup of cocoa and the warmth of a cozy blanket.

Write your own at! Post your answers in the comments!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Proof that I steal ideas from other people (but at least it's pretty!)

Shannon over at Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe wrote this awesome post yesterday, and I decided to totally rip off the idea (at least I am admitting it, giving her credit, and providing generous links to her blog. I think that's fair, right?). Basically, it's all about this great tool for creating beautiful word clouds, which you can then use to analyze which words you are using too often, whether or not your major characters are getting enough play, etc. She posted some of the wordles she created from popular books, and one from her own book. I decided to see what my first chapter, which is partially edited thanks to the awesome comments I've gotten, looked like in wordle form. When I saw it didn't give too much away (since I've already posted some excerpts anyway), I thought I would post the wordle to give you something pretty to look at. So here it is!

Some things I learned/noticed:
1. Obviously, death is a major theme of my novel. But I was very surprised to see that it took the No. 1 spot. Now I'm concerned that I should be using other words. But then, maybe this is right, since that's kind of what my book is about. Hm...
2. When your main character is also the narrator, her name isn't said very often.
3. There are a few evil adverbs in this wordle! I must remove them from my draft before they devour my soul!!
4. My first chapter has only seen two or three revisions, and it's already infinitely better than the rest of my novel. The wordle for my whole draft was too embarrassing to post, but I will admit that the biggest word was JUST (which actually makes a pretty decent appearance here, too). That is shameful, and I never would have known how much I overuse that word! Amazing. But now I know, and already I have tried to avoid using the word in this entry. See? I'm learning. Another issue in the wordle for my whole draft was that a lot of unimportant words had a huge placement, while characters and places were smaller. I think it's fixable; I need to get some more character into my plot, which is fine because I love my characters. Mostly.

To see some gorgeous wordles from the first chapters of Twilight, New Moon, The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and a few other books, head over to Shannon's post!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The verdicts are (sort of) in!

After a tense 48 hours of waiting, I've gotten a few initial comments trickling in about the pages I sent out to the women from my book club. I've only gotten one marked-up draft back, and then it was only some of the pages. I definitely don't blame anyone, since I sent them 25 pages, and these people do have lives (jobs, husbands, families, and most of them NaNos) of their own. But I was so excited about my initial feedback I wanted to share!

So far, everyone said they really enjoyed it, and they would want to keep reading it when I'm done. A good sign, right? The detailed notes I got were awesome. The person who wrote them is actually in the middle of workshopping her own YA novel, so it was really wonderful to get feedback from her perspective, since she knows exactly what to point out in a weak manuscript. The notes addressed some issues that I knew I was struggling with (my tendency to jump between past and present tense, some world-building questions I had) and some new challenges with character development which I hadn't considered before. I'm really looking forward to reading the rest of her comments, and what everyone else has to say!

Tonight, though, I was so exhausted that I didn't write much. I fell asleep at the keys. I made it a rule that I wanted to write a little bit every day, so I got a few words in. I'm still ahead of the NaNo curve, and since my husband and I are headed to Plant City on Thursday (40 minutes in the car one way) and Orlando on Friday (two hours in the car one way), I'll have time to play catch up since he offered to drive.

Finally, I've been reading Stephen King's On Writing, something I should have done a long time ago. (If you are a writer, a Stephen King fan, or want to learn how to form a better sentence, pick up On Writing. And The Elements of Style. But that second one should go without saying.) The book starts out as a memoir of sorts, explaining all about how King got into writing and telling the excruciating details of his rejections, then later his struggles with addiction. The second part of the book is my new guidebook on how to write, and I can't believe I have lived my professional life thus far never having read it. Already I'm trying to cut out adverbs, remove extraneous "thats," and make other changes he says book editors are just going to make anyway. I'm also trying to use what I learned when editing articles in my professional life, because our magazine deserves good writing (even if it comes from amateur writers).

Monday, November 9, 2009

A prompt and a confession

As I type this, there might be someone in the country reading my novel.


The other day, I mentioned that a few of the women on my book club board were going to critique the first 25 pages of my novel for me. I emailed it out to five people last night, so now I'm just waiting to hear back! I think it's better that these are people that I've never met, and that my only friendships/interactions with them are on the cyber level. That way, if they hate it, they don't have to look me in the eye knowing that they've destroyed my hopes and dreams. I'm hoping they'll be brutally honest and tear it to shreds, tell me it's awful, then help me pick up the tattered pieces and put it back together in a form that will be suitable enough to get me into the workshop.

Yesterday at my NaNo write-in, I also learned that one of the other women participating in NaNo has applied to the same workshop! It would be pretty cool if we both got in, since I would already know someone. She actually has published a book that will be coming out in a few weeks, so she falls into the more experienced authors category. I still definitely fall into the "amateur in desperate need of help and attention and a good ass-kicking."

And now, on to the writing! Today's prompt comes again from the fabulous One-Minute Writer. The word of the day over at was headband, which I thought was pretty lame, plus I'm not sure they even have headbands in my book. So what I wrote was terrible. But my one-minute writer piece was pretty awesome. The prompt was skywriter: Imagine you hired a skywriter. What message will the plane write in the sky, and where will it fly? Here's what I came up with, in one minute.


I would hire the plane to fly high over Satera, preferably right over the Council's headquarters. I would have them spell out all the treacheries that Brax has told me about, all the lies the Council has been force-feeding us our entire lives. And I would tell the people the truth about the mortality patrol. Then I would tell my mom I love her, because the regulators would surely be after me before the last whiff of smoke came out of the tailpipe.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Exciting things are happening!

Writing my NaNoWriMo novel has really made me excited about writing again. I forgot how much I loved to just write fiction, since my fiction work has definitely taken a back-burner to my job and freelance writing. But my novel - no matter how bad it is in it's first-draft form - has gotten me excited about writing again, and I can't even explain how great that feels.

So great, in fact, that I've started looking up contests, workshops, and places where I can submit stories to. There are two that I'm really looking forward to: one is the Writers in Paradise workshop with DENNIS LEHANE (insert freak-out if I get in here), and the other is the YA Novel Discovery Contest. The second only required the first 250 words of your novel. I feel pretty good about the beginning of my novel, so I cleaned it up a bit and went ahead and entered. The winners aren't announced until February, but the prizes are insanely awesome - the top six entrants get a pitch phone call with a literary agent! Did I enter too hastily? Maybe. Maybe I should have taken more time. But I have been thinking about the beginning of my novel for awhile, and I just feel good about it. Plus, if you don't enter, you can't win.

The Writers in Paradise workshop is trickier. They want the first 25 pages of a manuscript by December 25. Of course, by now I have much more than 25 pages (since they want it to be double-spaced), but the problem is that my stuff is totally unedited, untouched, and unfit for any eyes - including my own. But if I get into the workshop, I would get amazing feedback from some incredibly talented best-selling authors, plus a bunch of other amateur writers like me. I've read the WIP alumni blog, and the people that go to the workshop go on to do incredible things. I might not get in. I might be kidding myself. The people who read my entry might gouge their eyes out with forks and run screaming in the other direction. But, if I don't try to get in, I'll never know. I have some wonderful women from my book club (who are also doing NaNo with me - they have been a HUGE support system to me, and have really kept me going) who've volunteered to read my pages and give me great, honest feedback. Since I've never met these women, and if I ever do it won't be for several months, at least, I feel like the risk of utter, life-shattering humiliation is seriously lower than it would be if I let people that I had to see every day read it. So I'm going to spend some time editing tomorrow, send the copies out for feedback over the weekend, and hopefully have my application out by the end of next week!

And, here is the part of the blog where I admit failure. My original goal during NaNo was to write something, anything, even if it was only one sentence, every single day. But yesterday I didn't manage that. I got home at 6, fell asleep, drove to Katey's for The Office, came home, and went to bed. But don't worry; this isn't going to turn into Run Like a Girl. I'm already way ahead of schedule (11,436 words). I just needed one night off to rest my metacarpals, let my brain think about plots, and get some sleep. Today, I am more excited than ever to get writing again! Plus, I'm going to a write-in on Sunday, which means I'll be going somewhere with a bunch of other NaNo participants, writing, bragging about our word counts, and drinking coffee in front of our laptops like we're too cool for life. Nerdy or totally awesome? I'll let myself be the judge of that, and I pick...

Totally awesome.

One word: frog

Not NaNo style because, well, I saw the word and immediately decided there aren't any frogs in the future I created, at least not that my main character has ever seen. Sad. Anyway, once I made that split-second decision, I just started writing, and this is what came out.

On his lily pad, the frog sat contentedly all day, grabbing flies with his sticky tongue. He watched as the people passed, hand-in-hand, strolling around the small lake. He didn't understand that kind of love. He croaked his song, and wondered why no one stopped to listen.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

I'm learning a lot about my characters!

Well, I'm past the 10,000 word mark! That's right, tonight I hit 10,290 words with my novel. Hooray! So far, some really surprising things have happened. I wrote a paragraph that I actually feel good about sharing (possibly tomorrow), and the best part is, it's happy! It happens after the main character's main problem is revealed, so I think the shock gets to her and everything is just a bit happy for awhile.

I also accidentally created a hilarious character who wasn't even in my original outline! She is pretty hilarious, and now that I'm done writing her scene I'm hoping that I can find a way to sneak her in later. She is just so clueless and dim-witted that she seems to be a nice respite from the rest of the characters in my dystopian, depressing universe.

Today's character studies are taken from a prompt from the one-minute writer blog. This is a great blog, similar to in concept. But her prompts tend to be much more in-depth. For this prompt, I chose three characters: my main character, the character I mentioned above, and a character that I just introduced, who is going to become the most important secondary character and possibly a love interest (I haven't decided if I should stoop that low yet...but I probably will, because who doesn't enjoy a good love story?)

The prompt: What nervous habits do you have? I wrote one from each character's POV! Enjoy!


I run my hands through my hair, and play with my zipper. I try not to show the world my emotions, but they always get the best of me. When I am feeling especially anxious, I’ll rub my fingers against the tag embedded into my arm.


Nervous! Hm, let’s see…when I get nervous I…well, gosh, I don’t know! I suppose I tug at my hair, yes, and pace quite a bit! Ha! I must look like a loon when I get nervous! Sometimes I do get a bit jittery, but I don’t really think it’s nerves!


Showing your emotions makes you weak. That is the first thing that we learn in Council training. Keep your eyes forward and your head trained back. And keep your gaze on the person you are speaking to. So when I feel anxious, it is all internalized. My stomach turns in knots and I feel a bit queasy, but I show no signs on my face or in my body language.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

One word (NaNo style!): certain

I am so sure that they are going to find me. Even though I've removed my tag, I don't know how much longer I can stay away. I need to get out of this place, out of the limits, to a place where they won't get to me. It is 38 miles to the border, and without my tag, I can't pay for the rail.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Sneak Peek!

Yesterday, I wrote 5,611 words in my NaNoWriMo novel. (If you don't know what that is by now, you haven't been paying attention.) It felt really great, even if I'm pretty sure all 5,611 of those words were terrible. I only have 44,389 words to go before I can consider NaNo won. Of course, that won't be the end of the novel. I'll still have to finish it (because I'm sure mine will be longer than 50,000 words), edit it, edit it again, let someone read it with a red pen in hand, edit it some more, hide it in a closet, cry at how terrible I am at writing and how I'll never amount to anything, recover, edit again, then forget all about this novel, write a new one in a more normal time span, edit that one, and send it out into the universe to take the publishing world by storm. Years later, this novel will be the one that is released as the genius first attempt at writing from the best-selling author that is me. (I aim high.)

But in the mean time, I thought it would be nice of me to share at least some of what I wrote, no matter how bad.

So, here it is...a raw, random sampling from my NaNo novel! I went to a random number generation site and had it choose a number between 1 and 120 (the number of paragraphs I have written). This is the paragraph it chose, and I decided to give you two paragraphs, just for fun. Again, this work is completely and totally unedited, so if it sucks,'s supposed to. Ernest Hemingway said, "The first draft of everything is crap." So true, Mr. Hemingway. So true.


After the dispatchers have administered the poison, it is my job to leave the letter that will inform the family that their loved one has become deceased. Usually, the cleaners have already arrived to remove the body. For this, I am thankful. Once in awhile, I will get there first. The dispatchers are lazy and arrogant with their work – they almost always leave the body of the deceased exposed, limbs shriveled, eyes open in terror. It is terrible to stare into the eyes of the dead, but it is even worse to look at their families the next day at the market, knowing that you were the one who delivered the fateful register. They say the poison causes no pain, but the bodies I have seen never look peaceful. Often, there is a foul stench of bodily fluids and excrement.

But tonight, I am fortunate. Each bed I have visited so far has been cleaned thoroughly, leaving no indication that a living, breathing human slept soundly in it mere hours ago. I raise my forearm to a small black scanner on the outside of the last house on my list: the home inhabited by Edoqua, Joseth. The flashing red light on the scanner pauses momentarily, then, without a sound, turns green. The door opens, and I slip inside.

One word (NaNo style): amber

His eyes were close to amber. Joseth's silent eyes, the ones that were forever burned into my brain. As I sat in the allocation room, running name after name against the mortality patrol's database, all I could think about was Joseth. He was the reason I was here, and I knew nothing would ever be the same.

Hm...sounds mysterious, yes? Remember I said all month my one words would probably come from my NaNo main character's point of view! Well tomorrow (which I guess is technically today) I'll be posting a NaNo update, along with an exciting (or possibly very lame) excerpt from my totally unfinished, unedited, and possibly terrible (but just as possibly awesome) novel.
Copyright 2009

See Heather Write
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