Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Albums, CDs, Books, and eBooks...What I learned at Best Buy

I have to admit I meant to post this story yesterday, which is when it actually happened. But life got in the way, so I decided to post it today, a Wednesday, which is literally the busiest day of my week. (Evidenced by the fact that when I originally posted this, I neglected to give it a title. I am awesome.) I usually get up early to go into the office for a very important meeting (read: watch LOST with a co-worker), then I work until 5:30 and head straight to my part-time job, where I sling pizza and wine until 10 or 11, depending on when people feel like being nice and leaving the restaurant. Usually I get home at 11:30 or 12 and am totally exhausted, but I try to squeeze in a little writing, because that's how I roll.

Anyway, about yesterday. Yesterday I went to Best Buy to pick up the new Barenaked Ladies CD. Yes, that's right. The CD.

You see, folks, Barenaked Ladies is my all-time, No. 1, most favorite band EVER. When Steven Page (who is no longer a member of the band - but it's OK, I've always been partial to Ed's songs anyway) sings "Break Your Heart," it breaks my heart every.single.time. I used to sit on my porch in high school and let my favorite BNL album du jour waft through the open window while I did my math homework in the sunny afternoon. I've seen them live seven times, which is hardly enough for me, and the time I went alone I had more fun than any of the times I brought friends (no offense to my BFF Katey, if she's reading this, who attended the majority of those seven concerts with me). I seriously love BNL. They're my musical Harry Potter, if you will.

So, to me, owning a BNL CD is like owning a hardcover book will be to most people in 10 years. For the most part, I head straight to my iTunes store and download the mp3. But every once in awhile, I want to go old school and feel the weight of the CD in my hand, watch the glint of the sun as it reflects off the disc, feel the anticipation as I wait in line, CD already in my palm (which doesn't at all compare to the wait time for a download), look over the album artwork and read the lyrics and dedications. Of course, this isn't nearly as cool as the weight, smell, feel, and look of a brand-new hardcover book - but when it's your very favorite band, it comes close.

So I went to Best Buy and, not even paying attention to where I was going, headed right for the area where the BNL CDs are. Only they weren't there. Instead, I saw row after row of Wii games. WTF? So I looked up toward the ceiling, where huge signs told me what section of the store I was in. Then I headed toward the one labeled MUSIC, which was subtitled mp3s and iPods. Nothing about CDs, but I didn't think too much of it...until I found 0 CDs in that section.

After about 10 minutes of aimless wandering, I finally found the CDs - shoved into the corner of the store by the discount movies, like some old castoffs that no one cares about. Just to show them, I picked up a Bloc Party CD, too. I'm so cool. Then I had this awesome conversation with the cash register attendant:

Her: "That will be $20.02."
Me: "Here you go!" Pause. "I have to admit, I felt really antiquated when I couldn't even find the CDs." *awkward laugh*
Her: *gives a look that clearly says "That's because you are."
Me: "I mean, I have an iPod. I just like to get CDs sometimes. You know, go old-school."
Her: "Whatever. Receipt?"
Me: "Thanks."

So that's my story. And I immediately felt like I was looking at the future of books. In 10 or 20 years, is it going to be so supremely outdated to buy regular books that young people will look at you like you are super lame, even though you're actually only 25 and are, in fact, a young person yourself? Will it be impossible to even find real books in the store? Or will hardcover books be like vinyl albums - only those who really get books and know how to appreciate them will have them, and everyone else will just plug into their Kindles and let that be that.

What do you think?

Also, you should go buy the new BNL CD, because it's pretty great. Or at least listen to this song, "You Run Away," the first single off the album. KThx.

Monday, March 29, 2010

So....woot!!!!! (A success story for the masses)

OK, I know that about 99% of you follow her anyway, because she is clearly way more awesome than me, but I needed to share it here because I have been bursting to say it ever since she told me and I couldn't tell anyone but now she told everyone so I can tell people too...SHANNON from RAMBLINGS OF A WANNABE SCRIBE HAS AN AGENT!!!!!!


Looks like one of these is in order:
I made it extra huge for the special occasion.

Congrats, Shannon! Don't forget about us when you're famous!

Fun fact: Shannon was my first follower/regular commenter who wasn't a friend or family member or someone I already knew.

Go read her post for all the details, because her agent is amazing and you wouldn't want to miss out finding all about who it is! Also there is a picture of Shannon signing her contract, which is fabulous.

Also, I'm pretty sure this means we're all in for an awesome round of Shannon-shame in the form of a vlog.

(Also, Shannon, you're really not that coy...all those hints you dropped about a BIG SECRET...we knew what you were talking about. Obviously.)

Success stories like this should keep us all going, and remind us that one day we too might be posting this kind of EPIC NEWS on our blogs! And soon enough Shannon will have her first book on shelves!


Sunday, March 28, 2010

Sunday Funday (20)

Happy Sunday everyone! It's rainy and gross in Florida, but I'm trying not to let it dampen my spirits. I spent today painting (OMG I actually did something creative aside from writing! It will probably turn out like crap, though) and researching low-residency MFA programs...because I think I'm going to go for it. Right now I am eying Vermont College of Fine Art's low-res program in writing for children and YAs with some serious envy, but who knows? I did send away for more info, so we'll see what happens. Not that I think you need to have an MFA to be a good writer; I know plenty of writers that I love who don't have MFAs. But I would love to teach at the college level, and you pretty much need to have a masters or higher to do that. So I'm thinking about it.

Anyway, here are what some of my favorite blogs have been up to this week:

Shannon Messenger is a talented writer, one of my favorite bloggers, and quite the inspiration to me. She is also, apparently, a very talented artist. In one of the most inspirational blog posts I've ever read, Shannon shared some of her old artwork, and talked about her struggle to become a good artist - both drawing and writing.

Heather Z. at Secret Adventures of Writer Girl posted a list of reasons you know you've been querying too long. I haven't even started querying yet, but I can already see myself facing some of these...

NPR is hosting a very serious read-along of Twilight. This week's discussion included a dissection of the writing style which really is a must-read because of its hilarity and truthfulness. 

Market My Words had a wonderful teen panel on their blog this week, discussing how to market to teens. This is part of a series, but links to previous posts and dates of future posts are included, and readers are encouraged to submit questions!

Read a 110-year-old rejection letter at Brooklyn Arden (via CA Marshall)!

And finally, from Janet Reid's blog, a video which details a day in the life of a writer. Shift the wake up time up about three hours, change the bed time to somewhere in the 2am range, and switch the Jack to red wine and I'd say it's about accurate for me. Also, I have dogs, not cats, because we all know that dogs make better muses.

Have a great week, everyone!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Flashback Friday: Daniel Pinkwater (and a suggestion)

Alright, I have a Flashback Friday this week, but before I get to it, I have a proposal...

How do you feel about a musical blogfest? I know a lot of people are inspired by music when they write. I'm thinking the fest would involve you either posting a scene inspired by a song (can be a brand-new scene or a scene from your WIP), or a scene that somehow involves music, or just post a scene from your WIP and the song that is on your WIP playlist that corresponds to it. You can post the actual MP3 or the lyrics. Thoughts? If there are more than two people on board (because that was the overwhelming response I got on Twitter when I tweeted the idea last night...I rule at life) then I'll create the link list and post tomorrow! I'm thinking later in April for the date so as not to run into Anne Riley's totally awesome murder scene blogfest on April 10, which you pretty much need to sign up for yesterday. So...April 21? (And don't worry, I'm really good at being annoying, so I'll give plenty of reminders.) 

And if you think this idea is really lame, you can just not respond at all and I can pretend like you never read this entry, k? K.

Alright, now it's time for FLASHBACK FRIDAY!!!! Flashback Friday is hosted by Jacki at Lovely Little Shelf. It's a chance for everyone to highlight one of their favorite books/authors from childhood. I don't participate every Friday, but lately I've been thinking about Daniel Pinkwater, and I wanted to share his awesomeness with all of you.

Daniel Pinkwater is the author of amazing titles like Lizard Music, The Worms of Kukumlima, The Snarkout Boys and the Avocado of Death (and the sequel, The Snarkout Boys and the Baconburg Horror), and The Hoboken Chicken Emergency. His books range from picture books to YA to adult novels, and all of them are witty and bizarre in a way that only Daniel Pinkwater can be.

My fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Driver, introduced me to him, and I will never forget how taken I was with him. I checked his books out of the library so much that librarians would comment on it. I identified with the misfits he wrote about and longed to join them on their crazy adventures. For my reading class, we even had to make a board game out of a book, and I chose The Worms of Kukumlima for the project. In fact, I'm pretty sure I wrote what can only be classified as fanfiction about Kukumlima; a short story about two girls who travel there and befriend the worms and end up living there for the rest of their lives.

Now that I'm all grown up (relatively speaking), I can listen to Daniel Pinkwater on NPR and feel really awesome. He also has some books for adults, one of which I've read and thought was pretty enjoyable. But nothing will ever compare to the joy I found discovering his books for the first time, sneaking out to the movies with his characters, going on African safaris, and more.

If you want to participate in Flashback Friday, visit Lovely Little Shelf and leave a link to your Flashback Friday post.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Does It Ever End???!!!

I recently finished round one of revisions.

Hooray for me!!!! Right?

Wrong. Let's not break out the dancing banana, folks. I've still got about 7,000 rounds of revisions to go. I've got a whole lot of mess in my manuscript, some problems to deal with, and then there's my crit partners...what will they think?

I'm starting to think that this whole revision process will never end. You get little milestones along the way, sure...hooray, I finished the first draft! Hooray, I reached the end of the novel! But there's always more to be done. In fact, I've created an awesome MS paint rendering of the CYCLE OF REVISION to show you how it really is never-ending:

OMG my arrows are so perfect.

Notice that revision is on there TWICE, and that's just in one round. You write the book, you read it, you see some problems, so you revise. Then you let the crit partners read it, and they see lots of problems, which require major rewrites and revisions. So you revise and write again. Then you read, and notice more problems, so you revise. But by now, your story has changed a lot, so you send it to  your crit partners, who make suggestions (maybe not as many as before, but still a lot), which require revisions and rewrites, and on and on ad infinitum. Right now I feel like I'm tumbling around in circles and will never, ever get my story finished. *sigh*

But, eventually, it will be shiny and sparkly. It will be so shiny and sparkly, in fact, that it will be ready for the next cycle: the agent/editor cycle! This cycle is way less predictable, and therefore can't actually be cyclicle:
More perfect arrows! You guise, I win the arrow-drawing competition.

 So you're querying, and you get some feedback - maybe that feedback is in the form of constant rejections, or maybe it's actual feedback. Either way, you know something isn't working. So you revise. And you keep querying. Then you get an offer. Squee!!!!!!!! And your shiny new agent has notes on 26 of your 27 chapters. So you revise again. Then you go on sub, and guess what??? A publisher loves it!!! Except for chapters 3, 8, 9, 12, 13, 16, 17, 22, and 27. Also, your main character should have a dog. Also, your love interest is too ugly, he needs to be cute. Also, a main character from the planet Zortab will never sell at Flourish and Blotts bookseller, because the CEO has a morbid fear of the letter "Z," so change that. 

But then, finally, after all that, your book is published. Your name is on a glossy dust jacket beside the likes of (insert your favorite author's name here...I didn't want to leave anyone out.) All of the months and years of revising and making up awesome MS paint renditions of revising maps were totally worth it because you have a writing career.

Well, sort of. At least, you'll have a writing career when you start on that next book. You just have to write it, then read it, then revise it...

Honestly, though, I do get discouraged and exhausted sometimes. But at the end of the day, that big pink PUBLICATION keeps me going. If there is even a chance that I could make my dream come true, it's totally worth it to me. I'll revise until my fingers bleed and my eyes get fuzzy from staring at my computer screen, just as long as I get the chance to make this happen. 

So, just how shiny can I make my MS? Let's find out...*dives into round two of revisions* (I fully expect to lose count of my revision rounds at some point, by the way. I've already lost count of the number of times I've revised the first 25 pages.)

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Revision Tango

Today, I got my much-anticipated feedback from the lovely Weronika Janczuk's query and 10 pages contest. It was a mixed bag of notes - some positive things, a lot of suggestions for things to improve, but overall I feel really great about what she suggested. It's totally manageable, and I feel completely capable of handling the revisions she's suggested for me. (For the MS anyway. Query wrangling is another story...but I still have time on that one.)

One notable comment she made was that, at one point, she wasn't quite sure what was going on, and she wanted a little more background about the world and where Kaia was coming from. I couldn't help but smile when I read this, and think back to the first major set of critiques I ever my conference in January, where three of the ten people reading my pages said there was a little too much info dump and that I needed to take some of the background stuff out and integrate it throughout the chapter a little better. So I took their advice and cut out the background stuff.

Apparently, I went a little too far.

Fortunately, this is a relatively easy fix. I know my world. I have notes on it, and I saved my deleted scenes - although my writing has grown so much since January none of those words would make it in as-is. Still, this whole revision process reminds me of a complicated dance - a tango, if you will. Just when you think you've taken all the right steps forward, you have to take three steps back.

You need to dance with the words. Play with them on the page until the feel right to you. Then let someone else take them out for a spin and see how they feel. Do your words make for a smooth partnership? Or are your readers going to be left confused, dancing with two left feet?

Sometimes, you'll do something to your WIP, and you'll be convinced that it's the right decision. You might cut a great scene - or leave one in. But when you step back and look at the book as a whole, maybe that one decision - that small bit of choreography - throws off the rhythm of your entire project. Instead of waltzing along a moonlit path, suddenly, with just two or three sentences - or even words! - your book is doing the Macarena. (And this is sooooo not 1998.)

So don't be afraid to dance with your book. When you add a few steps in, look at it as a whole and make sure it still works. And know that sometimes, the dance has to start over again, and the steps you took out need to get put back in.

And, just for fun, because this video is totally awesome, and I once saw this guy perform live at a sorority convention (OMG yes I was in a sorority, no judgment - in fact, I was the president, because I was awesome.), I give you The Evolution of Dance: 

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Sunday Funday! (19)

I really need to make an awesome Sunday Funday graphic.

Welcome to another edition, dear readers! Here are my favorite posts from around the blogging world this week!

Frankie is hosting a 400 followers giveaway! She's giving away a signed copy of The Body Finder, plus additional SWAG!! If you enter, tell her I sent you! 

OK, this one is actually from last week, but I wanted to mention it here because it's from my new favorite blog, Hyperbole and a Half. In this post, Allie describes what it's like to get PLAGIARIZED. OH NOES!!!! (Special shout-outs are due to my writing friends Jessica from Forever YA Lit and @ampersand86 for introducing me to this fabulous blog!!)

I mentioned in my post about teen voice how you might want to stalk teens in the mall to get a feel for their voice. Frankly,  felt a little creepy saying that. I mean, what kind of weirdo DOES that??!! Apparently, Megan Burke, who guest posted at Steph Bowe's Hey! Teenager of the Year, totally stalks people to observe as well. Awesome.

The Rejecter explains why you should be nice to your agent. Duh.

In one of her most hilarious posts yet (and that's really saying something), The Rejectionist rewrites an awful Cosmo article into helpful advice for finding your dream boyfriend agent.

Anne Riley has an adorable new Web site! More importantly, she let us ask her agent any question we wanted, and then posted the answers on the aforementioned adorable new Web site.

Steph Bowe is a young adult. She is also a YA writer, which means she has some valuable tips. She has thoughtfully put those valuable tips into a handy list of 32 points for newbie YA writers.

If you only watch one video, ever, in my Sunday Funday posts...
Please make it be this. (via Editorial Ass and BookNinja):

Friday, March 19, 2010

Writing a Novel is Like Playing the Lotto

Hello, blog-followers!! Let me start off by apologizing for my extended absence. For the past several days, I was holed up in bed, stuck in a sweaty, fever-induced cocoon of sickness that looked something like this:
Image source. I tried to make a hilarious Paintbrush rendering of my state, complete with sweat and stinky sick breath, but apparently those renderings are really hard! I have a much greater respect for people who can master hilarious MS Paint art now. 

Anyway, now I'm fully recovered...or at least recovered enough to update my blog, which is really all you people care about anyway. 

While catching up on my emails (98 missed emails in 3!), the hubs came over and handed me his lotto ticket. He asked if I could please check the numbers when I got a chance. 

Every time he does this, I get a little frustrated. It's not like we have a lot of money, and I always think - what else could that four dollars buy that would show measurable results rather than this gamble of a lotto ticket, which literally has a 1 in 20,358,520 chance of wining (which I know because I looked it up)? 

But as I'm waiting for the flalottery Web site to load, I still get a little squirm in my stomach...what if we win?? I could probably quit my job and write full-time, at least for a little while. Or at the very least I could pay off all my debt and not have so much pressure to work as much. I could buy as many books as I wanted, and build a giant home library. I wouldn't have to worry about how I'm going to pay for SCBWI-LA - I'll just pay for it. 

This excitement is the only thing that has kept me from telling the hubs not to waste his money on lotto tickets anymore. He doesn't buy them every week, so if he wants to pick them up once in awhile, so be it.  

Today, I couldn't help but be reminded of the publishing industry, and how writing a book is a little like playing the lotto. You dedicate months, possibly years of your time to writing. You shun parties and social events. You pay to attend conferences and get to know crit partners. You pour your heart and soul into a book...what happens if it never gets published? Does that mean it doesn't matter? Was all of this time poorly spent?

I definitely don't think so. Even if you query away and no one bites, you've still learned a lot just throughout the writing process. I'm a firm believer in the philosophy of "the more you write, the better you become," so even if your novel is never published, you've still learned plenty to get started on your next one. Plus, unlike the lotto, there are many factors in the writing process that you can control - talent and craft and industry knowledge. If your gamble isn't paying off, maybe you need to just reevaluate your hook or tweak your query. Or maybe the first half of your book is great, but something isn't clicking in the ending. The point is, though you can't change your lotto numbers, you can revise your novel every minute until it gets published (though you might want to avoid changes in the page proof stage - it tends to piss publishers off because it's so expensive...though I did learn that Dennis Lehane doesn't really care about that rule and will submit changes right up to the day the book is printed, expenses be damned.) 

Obviously, we haven't won the lotto - yet. And I haven't had my book published, either - yet. But I'll let the hubs buy his lotto tickets, and I'll keep revising and perfecting my book until I think my gamble isn't so much a gamble as it is a safe bet. 

Monday, March 15, 2010

Sunday Funday! (18) (Sh, don't tell me it's really Monday...)

Apparently, I should just change the name of this feature.

But I promise I have a good reason this time!!! And it has nothing to do with Daylight Savings Time, which seems to be the default excuse. So I told you last week about how I've joined the Mac world, and I love it. Well yesterday I went in for my first one-to-one session, and to do the data transfer from my old computer. I thought the data transfer would take a few hours, then I could come home and update the blog. Little did I know that the data transfer takes 48-72 hours, not two or three like I thought. LIFE=SHATTERED. I couldn't write or updated the blog yesterday, but now I'm at work and posting this on my lunch break all quick like. So, here are all the most awesome posts from around the blogosphere this week.Feel free to post some of your faves in the comments!

Jennifer Barnes talks about the five things you'll think about while writing sequels.

Karen Hooper posted a hilarious video about why editing is very impotent.

Maggie Stiefvater posted all about queries.

Briana from Poetic Serendipity has a series going on where she gives the ABCs of writing. Here is a link to B for Believability (and A for Ambition), but I bet she's got the whole alphabet coming up (and she's a new-ish blogger, so hop on over and check her out!)

Remember those old Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books? I used to love those. Nathan Bransford, in his infinite awesomeness, has created a choose-your-own-adventure (a functioning one) about the future of e-books. In my first round, I ended up in the dreariest future. I guess I'm a pessimist, which must be why my book's main theme is death. I'm an awesome chipper person in real life, I promise.

Also, I know I'm about 10 blog awards behind on things I need to pass out and thank yous, etc. I'll get on that soon, I promise. In the meantime, thank you so much!! It really means a lot to me when people let me know this little blog is actually helping them. So thanks :)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Heather's No-Nonsense Guide to Common Grammar and Usage Foibles

Grammar Snob

Today's post is about grammar and usage. Now I'll admit I'm not totally perfect in my usage - I've been known to utter an OMG or two (thousand), which I'm pretty sure isn't actually grammatically correct (especially since I'm 25). And I couldn't tell you the differences between a past participle and an infinitive verb. I know, so you're are you even qualified to give any kind of guidance on grammar?

I'm a journalist and magazine editor. A large part of my job is to turn the crap that gets turned into me by amateur writers and non-writers and make it readable. But when I was in college, my copyediting teacher didn't bother explaining to us the different terms for the parts of speech (granted, we probably should have remembered these things from high school). What he did do was give us little tips and tricks to help us remember the biggest, most irritating, and most confusing mistakes that people often have a hard time with. And today, I'm going to share some of those tips with you. Some of them are pretty basic, but I hope you'll get at least a little something out of it (or, at the very least, enjoy the hilarious clip from The Office that I'm going to include).
Me vs. I: This is a big one, and something that your parents and teachers probably corrected you on all the time. You might have said to your mom, "Hannah and me are going to the mall to scope out hot boys." And your dad said, "Hannah and I" and you rolled your eyes and left anyway. The me vs. I issue comes up all the time, but fortunately there's a very simple way to figure out if you should be using me or I: simply take out the other person from the sentence. In my earlier example, you wouldn't say "Me is going to the mall to scope out hot boys." That doesn't make sense. So you know that it should be I. But, if you were going to say, "The cute boys at the mall bought sodas for Hannah and me," that's correct, because you wouldn't say, "The cute boys at the mall bought a soda for I." Got it? 

Who vs. whom: I love this one, mostly because of this video (which contains the correct usage explanation, but mostly it's just hilarious):

OK,'s who when's the subject of the sentence and whom when it's the object. But what does that really mean? And if you're not sure, do you really want to spend the time to think about it that hard? No? So here's the little trick I use: if you want to know whether who or whom is correct, simply replace the whom/who with him/he or them/they. (I like to use him or he since him, like whom, ends in "m," but you can also use she/her.) Sometimes this requires altering the word order a little, but the trick still works. Check it out:
Who is that totally hot girl? (Is she that totally hot girl?)
The dancers, four of whom have pink hair, look just like Cyndi Lauper. (Four of them have pink hair.) 
Everyone differed as to who they thought had the best bow-fighting skills. (They thought he had the best bow-fighting skills.)
Sarah is dating a boy whom she met at a dive bar. (Sarah met him at a dive bar.)
Affect vs. effect: I still struggle with this one and have to take the time to really think about it. Affect is a verb, and effect is a noun, but both can technically and occasionally be either. In general, though, effect is just a noun, and affect is just a verb (unless you're talking about affect, the just remember that as the exception). And what's the easiest way to tell if you're dealing with a noun or a verb? Stick an article in front of it. If the sentence needs (or can have) an article, use effect. Otherwise, use affect.
The effect of the alcohol was slow. ("Effect of the alcohol was slow." doesn't make sense.)
His ability to dance well will affect his role in the school play. (His ability to dance well will THE affect...what? That makes no sense.)
His ability to dance well will have an effect on his role. ("An" is also an article, so in this case, use effect.)
She wanted to effect change on the world. (Annoying exception No. 1: effect meaning "to change")
He displayed a happy affect. (Annoying exception No. 1: generally only used in psychology, and best left alone.)
Peak vs. Pique vs. Peek: I'm going to go ahead and assume you all are smart enough to figure out to/too/two and their/there/they're, but this is one that I see used incorrectly all the time, especially at work, so I thought I would give a little refresher. I also see agents complaining about it a lot, so I know it's a problem in the noveling world. Peak means top, like a mountain peak. Peek means a glimpse, or to see. Pique is a French word meaning to stimulate or tempt. I use those words specifically to help you remember the difference between peek, peak, and pique:
Peak -> mountain -> both have an "a" in them "Heather's MS is so fabulous, she will rise to the peak of YA writers in no time!"
Peek -> see -> both have an "ee" in them "I can't wait to get a peek at Heather's MS!"
Pique -> tempt -> both have five letters "Wow, Heather's query is so great, it's piqued my interest in a full MS!"
Trust me, I could go on and on, but those are some of the main ones I see. I hope you learned something!

Are there any grammar or usage rules that you struggle with? Or are there any that you see misused often that really irritate you?


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

I Love Making Out

That's right, you heard, read that. I LOVE making out.

Well, I love writing about it at least.

Today, I was revising some chapters and I discovered a TOTALLY SECRET MAKE-OUT SESSION which two of my characters apparently decided to have, then forgot to tell me about. (Actually, I wrote it in the first draft when I was clearly half asleep, which was evident because I used "and" when I meant "had" and "if" when I meant "is" and other sound-alike changes that I always do when I'm starting to get too tired but am dying to type out just one...more...sentence. I guess my sleep-deprived self decided to let the characters OMGTOTALLYMAKEOUT, and then I forgot about it the next morning...until I read it today.)

The thing about this kissing scene, though, is that I decided a few weeks ago to take out all the kissing scenes between these two characters, and save them for the next book. For reasons I'm just not going to divulge here because I harbor delusions that you all care about spoilers or will even remember these tidbits when my book is published, I decided it was best to keep these two apart for the time being. But as I was reading it, not knowing that I had written a kiss in, thinking it was just a tender moment, I kept thinking to myself, "Oh, man, it would be SO PERFECT if they kissed here!!" And then BAM! They do! And it is kind of perfect, actually, even if it's maybe not totally right.

I thought about taking it out. Part of me still thinks I should. I'm telling that part of me to shut it right now, and will see what my crit partners think when I hand it over to them. Because the fact of the matter is, I love kissing scenes. I love reading them and I love writing them. I love that moment when you know there's going to be a sexy kiss and then it totally happens and you just want to smile and jump for joy. I love (to hate) the moment when you think there's going to be a sexy kiss and then it doesn't happen for reasons tragic or just plain embarrassing. I love the way I get all tingly inside when people are kissing on the page and I'm rooting for them because I knew all along it would happen, or because I never guessed it would. Kissing is awesome.

When I write kissing scenes, I try to think back to the great kisses in my life and describe them on the page to make everything sound more authentic. Then I might go through and change things to protect the innocent. I also have distinct kissing styles for each of my characters. One guy kisses and tastes a certain way, and the other kisses and tastes a different way. I have to make sure they are distinct and match the character, otherwise things are just going to get boring. And no one wants to read about (or participate in) boring kisses.

Writing kissing scenes can definitely be tough. When I emailed a group of writing friends about finding my super-secret kissing scene, I got a very diverse reaction about how much they loved - or didn't love - writing kissing scenes. And just because you enjoy writing about kissing doesn't make you instantly good at it (kind of like kissing itself...) One of my crit partners pointed this out to me. (Not because I was kissing her! Get your mind out of the gutter, people, and read on.) I sent her a chapter from my WIP to look at, a scene that involved some sexy kissing. I wrote about (among other things) sloppy kisses and raw lips, and overall I thought the scene was pretty sexy. It's funny how people have totally different definitions of sexy, though, because the notes I got back from her made it clear that she wasn't totally clear if FMC was supposed to have enjoyed the kiss, and that my descriptive words were not really getting across the va-va-voom of the whole experience. And she was totally right. When I reread it from her perspective, I almost laughed out loud. "Really, Heather? REALLY? This was supposed to be earth-shattering??? It sooooo isn't," was all I could think. So I rewrote.  And it's way better now (I hope!)

I guess that's just another reason you need great crit partners. Because not everyone kisses the same way, and sometimes you need someone else to tell you how to be a better kisser.

What do you think about making out? Do you like writing kissing scenes, or do you dread them? As a reader, are they awesome, or not awesome? What is the appropriate length for a kissing scene, anyway? A paragraph? A chapter? 248 pages?

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Sunday Funday, including contest winner! (17)

Happy Sunday, everyone! And what a happy Sunday it is...for many reasons. The most important to you being, of course, that I'm going to announce the winner of my 100 followers contest today!! *throws confetti* But before I give out his or her name, I'm going to give the Sunday Funday links, and tell my super-awesome good news!!!!!!

Good news first...which actually came about because of some dreadfully awful news. A few months ago, my Dell laptop bluescreened (if you don't know what that means, it's essentially the death rattle of an old computer). A few days after that, it happened again, and I got depressed. But then it didn't happen again, and I thought I would have plenty of time to save up for a new computer.

Then last night I plugged my WIP flash drive into my computer, only to be met with, you guessed it THE BLUE SCREEN OF DEATH. I was terrified, and vowed to never turn on that laptop again, unless it was to get all of the data off it. So today I took a trip to my local Apple store, and I am now the proud owner of a brand-new MacBook!!! It's gorgeous and I love it, and maybe I wasn't totally saved up for it, but this is my livelihood (freelance writing) and future (the novel) we're talking about here, so I feel it's justified. Plus this officially puts VLOGS on the table, as I now have iMovie and a video camera. Awesome. 

I also have a fun announcement. Awhile ago, Sara McClung dared me to post a video of me from my embarrassing days starring in high school musical theater. I more or less ignored her comment, but the whole time I was thinking...I've made my deal with the universe, but I haven't made my deal for when I find an agent. So, to make it official: when I get an agent, I will post a video from my theater days. Whether it be a snippet of my college performance in the Vagina Monologues or my duet from Footloose, you will see me...onstage...*sigh* I might even put up a poll and let you people decide how best to embarrass me. I get the feeling you'd enjoy that.   

OK, now for the Sunday Funday links!

On Friday, I wrote a post about what gold medal winner Evan Lysacek taught me about writing. Frankie Diane, one of the most inspiring yet-to-be-famous authors I know, was inspired by this and wrote an amazing post in response. I was touched by what she wrote, and agree with her completely - I've definitely had similar experiences to hers.

Sara McClung is having an amazing contest!! Seriously. You need to check it out.

Jenn Johansson discussed what a trip through the McDonalds drive-through taught her about writing and plotting. 

Speaking of pop-culture references, Shelli from Market My Words gave a few rejection lessons from American Idol.

Have you seen Maggie Stiefvater's rant about YA literature? No? You should. for what you're actually reading this post for...the winner of my 100 Followers Contest!!

I used to calculate a winner. Everyone got one entry. And picked No. 30, which is...

Sarah! (Falen Formulates Fiction)

Congrats, Sarah! Here's what you won...
  • The Art of War for Writers by James Scott Bell
  • Self-Editing for Fiction Writers (Second Edition) by Renni Browne and Dave King
  • 2 Moleskine notebooks for jotting down your writerly ideas
  • A homemade seedbead bookmark, made by yours truly, to mark your place in your favorite works of fiction and non-fiction
Sarah, you have 48 hours to get back to me with your address! If I don't hear from you, I'll select a new winner. 

Thanks to everyone who entered! In the past two weeks, I've gained almost 40 new followers (welcome, everyone!), so it seems like the 200 followers contest isn't far away...

Friday, March 5, 2010

What Evan Lysacek Taught Me About Writing

Right now is your ABSOLUTE LAST CHANCE to enter my 100 followers contest!

I hear people ask sometimes (new writers, mostly), "How can I possibly find the time to write? I'm dealing with a full-time job, family, friends, a house to clean....I just don't have the time to dedicate to working on my novel! What should I do?" I usually give a typical answer, but I saw something today that really hit this point home for me.

Today, for the first time in an embarrassingly long time, I went to the gym. I'm staying in a hotel (which I had to pay a lot of money for because my brother is getting married in Daytona Beach during Bike Week), so I felt  like I wanted to get the full hotel experience - right now I'm even sipping free coffee and using free Internet. Anyway, I read a story on the elliptical, then moved to the floor for crunches and turned on Ellen, where I was able to catch the following interview: 

What struck me the most about this interview is the sheer dedication - seven hours a day of exercise, working on his body (for writers, this would equate to writing exercises, outlining, etc.) and practicing on the ice (for writers, of course, this is the actual story writing and revising). But not only was he out there every day, all day, working his butt off, but he was glad to be doing it. You can tell because, not only does he say that nothing makes him happier, but the joy on his face is completely apparent - his eyes are lighting up, he's animated; he's happy to be talking about what he loves.

Lysacek proves in this interview what I always tell people when they ask me where I find the time - if you love something, you make it work. He said he sacrificed everything; parties, nights out, holidays, all of it, in order to reach his goal. Sure, his full-time job was training, but still; he obviously made some other changes, and even thought about his sport when he wasn't on the ice. It influenced every decision he made. He never wanted to get home and feel like he hadn't accomplished anything. He made a schedule for himself and stuck to it. And if there was something else he needed to do (like wash his car on Tuesday), he worked it in around his training (even if all he had was eight minutes). 

If you want to write, you'll find a way to make it work. You'll stay up late. You'll wake up early. You'll stop watching TV or rearrange your schedule. You'll let the dishes pile up in the sink. Writers write. It's what we do. If you can't find the time, it's not your schedule that's the problem - you just don't want it bad enough. Lysacek wanted it bad enough, so he changed his life. And now he has a gold medal. I want it bad enough, and I've changed (and continue to change) my life. It's what you do to make it work.

On a side note, I love his bit about watching the birds. Just awesome. You really can get inspiration from anywhere - even if you think it's a dumb idea at first, sometimes all it takes is exploring it from a new angle to see that it could be something truly amazing.

What about you? How have you had to change your life to make time for writing? Or is this something with which you continue to struggle?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Why I'm Taking a Break from my Favorite Genre

Just a few quick things before my post gets underway...
  1. I have a guest post today on Steph Bowe's Hey! Teenager of the Year! It's about dystopian YA literature (which is what this post is about also, in a different way). 
  2. You might notice I have a new background! If you were visiting between 8:30 and 10 ET, I apologize, because you got to see the Great Changing Background Spectacle of 2010. I have a graphic designer friend who is working on something custom for me, but she's in school, so I don't pretend that I'm the most important thing in her life. And my black background was getting a bit depressing. So I hope you like the new background! If you have problems reading it, etc., please let me know - nothing bugs me more than when I can't see content through a blog's background, so I won't be offended by the truth. 
  3. Have you entered my 100 followers contest? It ends tomorrow! Enter to win two books on craft and some additional goodies.
OK, now let's get down to it...I have a huge dillema, and I am so upset about it. I've had to give up reading my favorite genre, dystopian literature, because I know reading it right now will make me absolutely crazy. Why?

My WIP is a dystopian YA novel. And, like most neurotic totally sane writers, I'm so paranoid that I'm going to read an idea that's similar to mine, have a major meltdown, and collapse in on myself like a dying star that I've decided my best course of action is to just avoid the genre altogether.

For awhile, I was OK with this. It meant I had to put off The Handmaid's Tale, and The Maze Runner, as well as some other dystopian books I've recently discovered that I've added to my TBR list (Life as We Knew It, The Knife of Never Letting Go, Unwind....just to name a few.) And I thought I could handle it. My experience reading The Giver while I was working on this project only cemented my resolve.

Then March 4 rolled around, and a little book called The Line by Teri Hall hit bookstores. I cannot tell you how excited I have been to read this book. It's been on my radar for quite some time. I probably would have run out today and immediately purchased it, except that The Line is a dystopian novel, and I don't want to break my rule.

Then I had a thought - what if August comes, and I'm STILL not done with this project? (Which would be totally unacceptable, according to the new Timeline for Success I've set up for myself, which includes attending SCBWI-LA with a completed MS.) Does that mean I can't read Mockingjay??!!! (I decided it does not. I already know that world, anyway. Besides, it's MOCKINGJAY. I'm even contemplating taking a day off work to read that one.)

Here's the great thing about this rule, though; as my list of dystopian literature to-read grows, so does my desire to finish this WIP faster. I want to be able to get back to the genre I love so well. I miss it. That doesn't mean I'm rushing through revisions, but it does light a fire under my butt to get them done.

Another great thing about this rule is that I'm reading a lot more contemporary novels than I might have otherwise. I just finished Thirteen Reasons Why, and next up is Some Girls Are (apparently I am trying to get in touch with my moody, tortured teen side - the side that makes you squirm it's so awful.) I would have read both of these books eventually, but it's safe to say they got moved up the pile because of my desire to stay away from any and everything that might remind me of my WIP.

So what about you? Do you try to read books similar to yours while you're writing? Or do you stay away from them, like me?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A community of my own

Not totally related to today's post, but sort of. And I love Inky Girl, so I don't need an excuse.
Last night I was feeling very lazy. My dog was sick, I was exhausted, and I was deep into Thirteen Reasons Why, thinking it would be a better idea to just keep reading someone else's, obviously far superior, work then try to make sense of my own (bad nights almost always equal low self-esteem for me, in both myself and my work). Then 9pm rolled around, and like I do every Monday at 9, I logged into a chat with a group of writer friends I have. Some of us are revising, some are writing first drafts, some are querying. We just like to take time out every week to vent, talk about problems we're having, and motivate each other to get through the week. And last night, just like every Monday, after I logged off that chat, I felt invigorated to write, ready to attack my WIP head-first and get it moving. I wanted to catch up to those who were querying, and play along again with those who were in their first drafts (because I'm the type of freak of nature who likes the first draft more than revisions). The chat ended, and I loaded up my WIP and got to editing. And it was all about the community. 

Having a community of writers has helped me move forward so much with my writing. After all, it was a community that got me writing again in the first place. Every Wednesday, I go on to YALitChat on Twitter and walk away with the same feeling I get on Mondays - renewed energy and excitement about my WIP. We all need support systems, because when you're having a particularly hard day, there's nothing worse than being by yourself and not knowing where to turn. It's a sure way to stop your writing career in its tracks. I'm not neccessarily talking about crit partners here - though you need those, too. I'm talking about people to chat with, share your joys and sorrows with, people to learn from, that kind of thing.

So how exactly do you go about finding a community? For the most part, it happens naturally, but you can seek out some writer friends by using some of the following resources:
  • Blogging. You're probably already doing this, but blogging is honestly one of the best ways to make new writer friends and find a support system. I know I've made several. But it's not just about writing posts on your own site. You also need to read other people's posts and comment thoughtfully on what they've said. I don't comment on every post I read, but whenever a post makes me think, or if it's something that I really appreciated, I always make it a point to leave a little comment to say so. It's the best way to reach out to your fellow bloggers. Then, if someone holds some kind of awesome "let's all motivate each other" fest, you can get in on it, and move your WIP right along.
  • Twitter. #Twitterisawesome, but more than that, it's downright useful. Not only can you have daily interaction with regular writers (like me), but actual, well-known, published authors might just talk to you, too! I definitely think that's motivating. Better than that, of course, are the Twitter chats for writers! There are a ton of different ones, but I frequent #YAlitchat (and the awesome corresponding Ning group), #kidlitchat, and #amwritingparty. Inky Girl has an extremely helpful guide to Twitter chats for writers. If you want to learn more about chats, check it out; I definitely suggest you do. 
  • In real life. OK, this might seem obvious, but honestly, meeting other writers in real life can be hard. I only have one writing friend that I met in real life, and we actually met through the NaNo forums, plus she has a family and a life and is out promoting her book, so I don't see her too much. But having real-life writer friends can be so useful - talking in real life provides something that, sadly, Internet chats just can't. (I still love my Internet besties most of all though, don't worry.) It's also harder to lie to people in real life than over the Internet, so the pressure is on to produce some work. If you want to meet some other writers, check out, or look into writing organizations in your area - local SCBWI or RWA chapters, or just general writing groups, like the Tampa Bay Writers' Association in my area. 
  • Other writer community Web sites. There are a TON of writing community Web sites out there - so go join them!,, - the list goes on and on. Agent Nathan Bransford even has a community on his blog. For more communities, check out the Writer's Digest list of communities.
What about you? How has having a sense of community helped you grow as a writer? And what is the best way to establish a community with other writers? Any great sites I missed? Feel free to link them in the comments!
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See Heather Write
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