Saturday, May 30, 2009







(And a new book review site!)

Why Yes. There Have Been Changes Made.

You might notice the small new changes I've made to my layout here at Writing it Out.

They're minor, as you can see.

I wanted to learn how to design my own template--I really would like to make something unique to me--but that is going to take more time to learn than I have right now and, fortuitously, I found this template. Not only does it have some of my favorite colors and page curls in the layout, it's got a "night sky" theme to it, which is very apropos of my current WIP, a science fiction novel.

I've been tweaking on this thing for hours. Please let me know if you see any errors.

Also: I updated blogrolls. Also: I made separate lists for published authors, unpublished authors, and blogs about writing and blogs about books. If I have accidentally placed YOUR blog in the wrong spot, please let me know!!! I have a feeling, in particular, that I've got some of the pubbed and unpubbed authors mixed up, but I'm too cross-eyed now to be able to catch it.

Oh, and ignore the two posts below this one. I only did them to have a static link to those links for sidebar stuff. But the post below that is a nifty one dealing with blogging.

I hope you like this new template!!

Fall 2008 SCBWI Links

Below is a collected list of links to my posts on the Fall SCBWI Carolinas Conference. This list will be linked to my sidebar for your convenience.


This post will be kept updated and linked to the side bar. It contains current book contests that I think would interest y'all.

Blogging is a Conversation

Sometimes I wonder why I bother with blogs. It's not that I don't enjoy it--I really do--but it's also a time suck, and between job, life, and writing, I've got little enough time as it is. Currently, writing this blog post is taking the place of opening up my manuscript and taking another stab at that difficult scene I've been struggling over.

But, blogging has it's rewards. And the greatest one, in my opinion, is opening up conversation with writers.

First, there's the interesting back and forth between posts and comments. I love reading your comments--every single one. If you leave me a link, I click on it. Even if I don't comment back to your comment (it started feeling a bit repetitive to me--I didn't think I was really contributing when all I had to say was "I agree!" "LOL!" or "ditto!"), I feel as if I am opening up dialog with a post, and that we're striking up at least a coffee-house conversation here.

Not only that, but I've found that commenting on other's posts have helped me grow as a writer, too. Take, for example, KLo's recent post about writing anger. When I first read it, my initial response was "Yup! I agree! Writing anger is hard!" But then I got to thinking (in part from reading the other comments to the post). Why is writing anger so hard? It's something I struggle with. I think I've written a character in a very real, emotionally raw, angry state, but my beta readers always say "Why isn't this character angier?" (Robyn, I'm looking at you! ;)

By thinking about KLo's post a little more, and by writing out a response--which forces you to come up with something more than just thinking "Yup! I agree!"--I was able to figure out my own source of problems when writing anger. The thing is, I'm naturally a very loud, passionate person. I easily flip emotions, and I don't hide any of them. But I'm rarely truly angry. I can really only think of less than ten times in my entire life that I've been well and truly mad.

I think because I'm so loud, chaotic, and emotionally bare in my everyday life, my anger comes forth in a very different way. The last time I was mad was at a class (the only class I've ever been mad at in five years of teaching). It was a rude class to start with, but we'd just begun the Holocaust and one of the kids made a very disrespectful "joke" about Jews.

I did not yell. I did not scream.

My voice dropped to a low whisper.

This class, which would Never. Shut. Up. fell instantly silent. Every head watched me. I did not move. I stood in front of the classroom and enumerated the reasons why such a joke was so inappropriate and why I would never tolerate that sort of thing again. I did not once change the tone or volume of my voice.

That class was so terrified, it didn't talk for a week. Two years later, and those sophomores are now seniors--and they STILL talk about that time I got mad.

But, in responding to KLo's blog post (see? I can totally get back on topic.), I was able to realize that my sort of cold, hard anger isn't the normal sort of anger. On the page, when my characters get mad, they don't show a lot of reaction--because when I get mad, I don't show a lot of reaction. But I--and my characters--are seething inside. Problem is, although I know my characters are seething on the inside, the reader doesn't.

As a writer, I've got to push my characters into more violent anger--whether I show it internally or externally, I've got to show it.

And that's not a realization I think I'd have come to if it weren't for this whole coffee-house conversation we've got going on with our blogs. So thank you, all of you, for your wildly wonderful blogs!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Chinese Fortune Cookie

In case you can't read it, my fortune cookie told me that my present plans will be successful.

As my present plans are to a) finish my novel, b) sell it for a million dollars and c) become so famous that JK Rowling is jealous, I can only assume that this will all happen tomorrow.

*taps foot impatiently at China*

Today in Class: Odd Spellings

I've been collecting odd spellings. Maybe because I read so much, I'm a pretty good speller. But English phonetics works against my students.

Take, for example, the kid who want to spell "true" with a "ch." Sound it out--that actually makes sense "Chuh-roo," he said, and I couldn't argue.

Or the kid yesterday who wanted to spell pizza with a "t." "Peet-za," he said, and he had a point.

Me? I was always tripped up as a kid by "visit." For some reason, that extra "i" always looks weird to me.

So what unusual words can you just NOT spell?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Book Review: Sarah Prineas's The Magic Thief

What can I say? The short version of this review is: I loved it. No...I love it. This is the kind of book I strive to write: simply beautiful, with a clever plot and cleverer characters and, at it's heart: true.

This book is one that I was hesitant to pick up. I thought the cover looked a little childish, and I was uncertain that this book with wizards and orphans would stand out from the crowd.

Boy was I wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. This book has an inventive of a plot as the book it will inevitably be compared to: Harry Potter. But don't get tripped up by the wizards and orphans: this book is unique and different from nearly every one on the market.

And don't forget, be sure to check out my interview with Sarah Prineas if you've not already.

Are you interested yet? Keep reading for a chance to win your own copy!!

Five sentence summary: Conn's living on the streets as a thief after being orphaned. Then he steals from a wizard--and when what he steals doesn't kill him, the wizard takes him on as an apprentice. Conn's skills as a thief (as well as some natural magic tendencies) aid him on his quest for a magical stone that will hone his abilities. And he's going to need those abilities--he and the wizard are on the path to finding whoever it is that's stealing magic from the land, even if the thief is much closer to home than Conn would like.

So what can we, as writers, learn from this book?

[as always, highlight for spoilers]

1. Voice. If any book shows voice as well as this one does, I don't know it. Conn jumps off the page at every turn. As a narrator, his voice is infectious. The story is clearly interpreted through his narrative filter, and that enriches the story even more. If you need more evidence, consider this: when I finished reading, I found myself using Conn's terms of phrase. I've actually had to eliminate phrases such as "clear as clear" from my own novel because his voice bled into my own!

2. Intrigue your audience. Sarah added a code to the wizard Nevery's coorespondence. If there's one thing I know, it's that kids love codes. And even better: when Sarah signs copies of her book, she adds code! (Do you want a signed copy for yourself? You can get them here.) The addition of the code was engaging, and certainly added a new layer of entertainment to the story itself.

But--and this is important--it wasn't integral to the story. You can read the whole book without the code. Unlike Eoin Colfer's Artemis Fowl, which had an implied pressure to crack the code and read it, the code in this novel is just a small aside scattered sparingly throughout the book, like easter eggs in a movie. It encouraged--but did not require--you to go deeper into the novel.

3. New perspectives. When I first saw that Conn's chapters were separated by letters and journal entries by Nevery, I wasn't sure that it would work. Actually, I felt pretty indifferent to them throughout...until Nevery started to doubt Conn at the end. That was the point where seeing Nevery's side made the whole story a bit more tragic and poignant. I don't think this would work with every novel--but it absolutely worked in this novel. It not only broke up Conn's strong voice, but added dimension to the story. Furthermore, it prevented the "As you know, Bob Conn," dialog.

Quibbles: Very few. As I mentioned above, I'm not a big fan of the cover--it makes the book feel a bit too juvenile for me (but considering it's a book for juveniles, maybe my opinion shouldn't count on that one). My only other quibble...I felt that the revelation of the bad guy/evil plot was a littl obvious. Not to the point where it wasn't enjoyable, but I did guess the ending.

Final word: If you're a MG writer, read this book. If you like fantasy, read this book. You know what? Just read this book.

ANNOUNCEMENT: So, now that you know all about the book, don't ya want a copy? OK! After I bought a signed copy from here, I found myself with a spare first edition hard cover of the book. What to do? Give it to you! If you'd like to get my spare copy of the book, just comment here with what recent MG or YA fantasy you're most excited about reading or that you most want to read right now. If you commented on the original interview that I posted (and linked to above), then you get an extra entry!

Contest ends June 15.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


...only 11 more days of school...

...only 11...

...I can live through school for 11 more days...


Monday, May 25, 2009

So there's this

First things first: it's Memorial Day! And while I love the day off work and the cookouts outs and etc., there's also this: Why we celebrate memories of those in battle for us.

On a completely different topic:

There's also this: my query was posted on Ask Daphne! I sent it awhile ago and had actually forgotten about it (actually, my friend Christy found out about my query online before I did!)--I thought that mine hadn't been selected and that was that. But instead, here is Kate Testerman's take on my query--and it's mostly painless!! :) (PS: Speaking of, that same query will be going up on Evil Editor's blog sometime's third in line, I think.)

Also, there's this: I've updated the contest links on the sidebar.

ETA: OMG you guys, have you seen the pics for the Avatar movie? If you've never seen the show, GO OUT NOW AND WATCH IT. Best Nickolodeon cartoon EVAR. Umm....actually, best cartoon show EVAR. There's martial arts, and elemental-based powers, and a kick-a storyline.

Ummm....but I am a bit skeeved out that the dude from Slumdog Millionaire is playing an evil Firebender. I just don't see it.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

You Know You're a Writer When... rush home from a family dinner, wondering if you can teach yourself how to fingerprint and debating how quickly to kill off someone (in your book).

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Redesign Features

I'm considering a revamp of this blog (and my website)... are there any particular things you'd like to see? Any particular website styles/designs you like more?

ETA: Is this too girly? Guys, would you read a blog with this template? Or shun the girly-girl?

Friday, May 22, 2009

Author Interview: Cindy Pon, Author of The Silver Phoenix

It's one of the most blogged about books this month: Cindy Pon's The Silver Phoenix.

And it's not hard to see why. It's a fantasy, set in China, with a female lead and a (hot) male counterpart. And the food. Oh, the food. This book makes me want to risk some of Ai Ling's demons just to sample the food!

Now, obviously one reason for The Silver Phoenix's massive amount of pub is because of the brilliant story. Some of it is also because of the beautiful cover (which Cindy blogged about recently--click this link to see some of the photographer's other art, including a BEAUTIFUL set of mermaids). Or perhaps it's the MOST AMAZING TRAILER I'VE EVER SEEN FOR A BOOK EVER. But surely some of the reason why Cindy's been blogged about so often is because she's sincerely such a sweet, wonderful person.

Clearly, you want this book right now. Well, if you've not yet, be sure to check out Cindy's blog, where she's giving away an awesome set of prizes, including a signed copy of her book!

Like I said, there have been a lot of interviews with Cindy recently. One of my favorites is the one with The YA YA YAs (as part of the Summer Blog Blast Tour), where Cindy reveals she's working on a picture book. The next best interview? The one she did for Writing it Out!

We can all read about your bio from the back of your book or your FAQ online. So, what's a completely random fact about you that most people don't know?
i sleep with the sheets tucked around my neck.
to discourage vampires. =)

As a child, what was your favorite book? Have your tastes changed since growing up?

island of the blue dolphins by scott o'dell and
a little princess by frances h burnett.
they are still favorite books of mine to this day!
i do love historicals and i also love quiet determined

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
a teacher -- because i liked to write on chalkboards!
a model -- because it sounded glamourous.

How much of you is in your book? Is there a character like you? Is a situation in the book derived from real life?
i think as a first-time author, many of us mine our own experiences
and traits to put in our book. for me, i put two particular personal traits
into my heroine, ai ling--her love of food, and the fact that she is also
a student to brush painting. she is also stubborn like i am, but much more
rash in her actions. i think she is braver than i am as well.

and really, the whole book is me. it's inevitable.
you will learn a lot about me as a person by reading my

What was your timeline for the book? How long did it take to write, revise, submit, and finally, get published? How did you feel at these stages?
it took probably 5 months to write the rough draft (but not a straight
five months). i stopped after writing forty pages as i was scared of the
dreaded MIDDLE. i finally made myself sit down with nanowrimo and wrote
over 30k in words november 2006. i then took a year to revise the manuscript
at least six times.

i began querying agents in january 2008. after querying 121
(with nearly as many rejections) i was fortunate enough to catch
bill contardi's eye. he offered to rep me in early april. we went on sub
two days later. and about four weeks after that, Silver Phoenix went to

i would never wish the gut wrenching process of querying agents
on anyone. but understand it's something that ALL published authors
had to suffer. and it's important to always remember your love for your
novel. it's a fine line of maintaining confidence in yourself but also be
willing to revise and improve on your writing.

i was elated when agent bill asked to represent me.
and terrified and thrilled when i sold the book to greenwillow.

If your reader could only take away one emotion, theme, or idea from the book, what would you want that to be?
i hope that they were able to escape and trust me as
a writer. i hope that they find themselves thinking about
the book, the story and characters days after finishing the
novel. to dwell and linger on a story is probably the biggest
compliment to a writer, i feel.

i would hope they close the book with a sense of longing.

What are your goals as an author? Where do you want to see yourself as a writer in 5, 10, 15 years?
to constantly learn and improve and challenge myself as a writer.
in 5 years time, i would have hoped to sold my 3rd novel and written
my fourth. and so on and so forth. i'm not one with a MILLION ideas like
many writers. they come one at a time for me. and i'm not a fast writer
nor am i slow. but i'd love to be an author as a career for life.

What's the most surprising thing you've learned since becoming a writer?
that i can write a novel. and then get it published.
i did it all as a challenge to myself. i'm living the dream
and it's amazing and humbling and thrilling!

Beyond the typical—never give up, believe in yourself—what would be the single best advice you'd like to give to an aspiring author?
i'd like to share my personal motto :

i are allowed to write utter poo.
i are allowed to write utter poo.

everyone's rough draft is...rough.
it's not pretty until you polish it. the point
is to have a novel to polish!

What do you consider to be your strongest talent in writing? Your weakest?
i don't outline and i don't make flash cards...but my intuition of
how a story should take shape seems to work for me.

my weakest point in writing would be the quiet scenes. they
really scare me. ha! i'm much more comfortable amongst
demons and action.

What's a writing pet peeve that you have?

i really despise the middle. as a writer who mainly
wrote poetry and short stories, that darned middle is
pretty intimidating! i really have to force myself through it!

Thank you again, Cindy, for doing an interview with me!

Now, for a chance to win some stuff!
I recently came into possession of an extra bookmark that Cindy has been giving out in conjunction with her book release...and I'd like to give one to you! The bookmark features some of Cindy's beautiful brush artwork, and let me just say this: reading The Silver Phoenix with this bookmark between the pages will help transport you straight to China.

To enter for a chance to win Cindy's bookmark, just leave a comment below. Winners will be drawn May 31st. (and as postage will be much smaller for a bookmark instead of a pile of books, open to anyone, anywhere!)

And don't forget to enter Cindy's (much cooler) contest here!

Thursday, May 21, 2009


Just a quickie, so I can clear out my tabs.

Re-imaged covers for The Chronicles of Narnia
. As Narnia is my most favorite books ever, I'd hoped these be good--and they are--but I still prefer the Harry Potter covers in terms of coolness.

Writing exercises to do when you get stuck.

You know I'm obsessed with this: An article on the value of giving away free e-books to increase sales of print books.

omg. OMG. Shatner vs. Shatner. This is going to be HUGE. Or at least Shatnerly.

Cool: check out where the debut novels of this year are coming from.

One of a series: debut authors interview their editors.

Do you hate Faulkner? I hate Faulkner. This comic made me laugh.

Today, In Class

Kids are reading a short story.

Another teacher steps in to ask me a question--fairly loudly.

Kid: Excuse him, but we're reading!

*sigh* I love it when the kids actually prefer reading!!!

Off Topic: Can I Just Say...

...that I'm really really glad American Idol is OVER so now I can finally stop hearing about it?

It sucks being the only person in the entire friggin' country who could care less about that show.

(Side note: 14 more days of school!!!!!! Maybe then I can finally get back to a regular writing schedule! I'm swamped with school; it's invaded my subconscious...)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Today, In Class: The Journey

[Kids are supposed to be working on their Holocaust research projects.]

Kid in the back of the room: *quietly, under his breath* ...just a small town girl.

Kid in the front row: *head snaps up* Living in a lonely world!

Kid on the other side of the room: She took the midnight train--

Kid beside her: --going aneeee-where!

ENTIRE CLASS: Don't stop--believing!

Principal (who's just stepped into the classroom): *blink*


Tuesday, May 19, 2009


You know, really, we're all winners here. You, me, everyone. There's so much to find *winning* in, yanno?

Take, for example, how when Trisha mentioned she wasn't sure who Nathan Fillion was. This led me to look up more pictures of Nathan Fillion and sigh over them (making me, obvs, a winner). And then I was inspired to download a picture and post it here! Which, of course, makes YOU all winners (as you get to see not only his pretty face, but also his pretty pretty legs.)

Nathon Fillion's bare calfs ftw

Oh. You're not here about those kinds of wins, are you? You're here for the kind of win that involves me giving away books, aren't you?

You only love me for my books, don't you? *tragic sigh*

Fine, fine. You want books. I see where I stand in this relationship.

So, without further ado....

The winner of Book Group 1 is...


The winner of Book Group 2 is...


(Ladies, please contact me at bethrevis (at) for prize info)

BTW, Aerin's win was on one of her extra points because she referred someone else (Jessica, I'm sure Aerin's really glad you came here via her blog!)--so spread the word and get more points and win like Aerin did! :)

Now, before y'all get all depressed about not winning (unless, of course, you're either Aerin or Katie, in which case you're not depressed about not winning at all), there's MORE!

Casey recently honored me with an award, and so did Ashley (for which I've been terribly late in posting)

Casey gave me these:

And Ashley gave me this one:

Now, to assuage all those who may be upset about not winning books, here is how you, too, can be a winner! Each of these blog awards are supposed to be passed on to seven people...but I'm like the little old woman who lives in a shoe with so many children she didn't know what to do--and I love all my children blog followers equally! So...the first seven people to comment on this post are WINNERS and receive any/all of the above blog awards!!

And if blog awards and books don't do it for you, there's always Nathan Fillion's bare legs :)

Monday, May 18, 2009

It's Not You, It's Me

[ETA: Clarification: the manuscript I'm talking about in this post is NOT the manuscript I worked on this weekend--it's the one I put aside in order to work on the current manuscript.]

I should be tallying entries for my book giveaway, and I will, I promise, but the universe is conspiring to make me write a post that I didn't think I'd actually write.

Confession time.

Last summer, I finished a manuscript for a middle grade fantasy. It wasn't the first manuscript I'd ever finished, but it was the best. I went to a conference with that manuscript, and at the end of it, I rewrote the entire thing with the advice of an agent. I sent the manuscript through critique group 1, added polish based on their crits, and sent the manuscript through critique group 2, and added more polish. I went through word by word and big picture changes. I found some amazing beta readers (who I still adore), and gathered their comments for a final polish.

In front of me was a manuscript I thought I adored. The story was complete, whole, polished to a shine.

I sent it off to agents. I had four requests for fulls and two requests for partials right of the bat. I've never done this well in the query stage before ever.

And then the rejections started to trickle in.

Some of the agents mentioned that the voice felt lost about the middle of the story.

It did.

Because about there, in that middle, is where I fell out of love with the manuscript.

Somewhere in the process of writing and revising and polishing...I fell out of love with that manuscript. I wasn't going to say anything here--I felt very guilty for seeking so much advice from beta readers and critique partners, and I didn't want anyone to think I'd given up. This is about the time that I wrote the post about being in love with your manuscript, because that's about the time that I realized that I really wasn't any more.

Here's how I knew I wasn't in love with it:
  • Critiquers gave very real, valid, and harsh advice for changing the manuscript. It didn't sting at all. I just looked at the advice, thought "Yeah, that's true, I do need to change that," and wasn't terribly inspired to make it better or worse.
  • The first chapter of the manuscript went through an online critique workshop, where the criticism was even more snarky. It did not phase me at all--not in that I was confident in my work, but it was almost as if I were reading something written by someone else, I felt so disconnected from that manuscript.
  • The agents who rejected my full gave a reason why (the voice felt lost in the middle), and I was reluctant to change it, not because I was in love with my words, but because it felt almost tedious.
I am perfectly aware that all of this sounds as if I gave up on that manuscript...and maybe I did. I've put it aside, along with all my notes and critiques, and if I feel that old spark for that manuscript again, I know I'll pick it back up.

And I do have a history of doing this. My first manuscript was clearly a Narnia rip-off--but because I wrote that one, I was able to write the next one, which I still love. The manuscript after that was one I wrote in response to a death in my family, and although the story isn't well written, I had to write it in order to move on to other stories. I could easily put those manuscripts aside because they were clearly practice novels--something I realized almost as soon as I finished writing them.

But this last manuscript wasn't a practice novel. It was the one I wrote specifically because I thought it was a publishable idea, and I spent months polishing it.

But I didn't love it any more.

And you can't force love.

So, why am I telling you all this? Well, first, Michelle at The Innocent Flower posted about how she was considerin divorce with her manuscript. Then Courtney Summers posted about the painfully long editing process she took with her last manuscript. Michelle's post made me realize that I was not the only one to fall out of love with my manuscript, which (although I hate that it's happening to her) made me feel a little better about my own situation. And Courtney's manuscript made me realize that if I had to go through that much revision with that manuscript I didn't love...I couldn't do it. I don't care about it enough to do that level of revision to. (But I would do it for my manuscripts that I love...there's a distinct difference between the two.)

What made me fall out of love with my manuscript?
  • I was writing an idea that I thought would sell. It started off as a fun idea that I wanted to write, but turned into thoughts of "Hey, this is pretty marketable! I can sell this!" Unconsciously, I started shaping my novel into my perception of what would be popular, not necessarily the story I loved.
  • I took every criticism to heart. I didn't make every single change suggested by critiquers, but I do think that part of my novel was critiqued to death: a part of it became no longer mine because I was so intent on what others thought of it.
  • I was absorbed with this one manuscript. It occupied every writing thought for several months straight, to the point where I'd read the thing so much that I was simply sick of it.
  • I got another idea. One I loved. And there's really no comparison between working on something you don't love and working on something you do love.
  • I became a little ashamed of this manuscript. It wasn't good enough. I wouldn't want that one to be my debut novel. It felt cheap and easy and sloppy.
  • Changing the manuscript from one I didn't love to one I did was forced, like kissing a mannequin.
So, what now?
  • I've put that manuscript aside. I had to, before my not-liking-it turned into hating-it.
  • I've kept all my notes...but in a separate folder.
  • I plan to go back to this manuscript after I finish the one I'm working on now. My theory is, if I can spend some time away from that manuscript, I may realize more specifically what parts of it I've fallen out of love with...and then I might be able to fix it. Also, by spacing working on this manuscript with working on the one I'm currently writing, I might be able to give myself some editorial distance from both.
In the end, I don't have any real words to say. Just that, falling out of love with a manuscript does happen. Now, I'm ignoring the manuscript. Not quite forgotten, but we're like two best friends who have drifted apart, waiting to see if, when we meet again later, we can reconnect.

Sunday, May 17, 2009


Just a quick update.

I think I might have fixed the big plot hole in my manuscript that was preventing me from going forward (finally). This required that I delete about 5k words and add about 8k more. I had to add two chapters inbetween my original chapters 3 & 4, which not only made me renumber all the other chapters, but I then had to go back and change everything from CHAPTER THREE ON in order to make those changed fit.

I'm at about 57k words now...and I think I might might just be on the home stretch here. With that big plot hole fixed, the end is certainly in site. That, or the light at the end of the tunnel I'm seeing is an oncoming train.

OH YEAH. And I haven't yet drawn winners for my massive book-giveaway---but I will! I've been sooooo focused on this that I haven't had time to get the names organized in a list...and that's a LOT of names to organize with mutliple entries! Please don't hate me if I don't get to this until tomorrow! *ducks angry glares*

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Live-Blogging Writing

Today is Writing Your @$$ Off Day. I was unable to participate, and I blame the husband. He wanted to go flea market shopping...and then visit his parents....and go out to eat.

But in amidst all this drag-me-away-from-my-computer time, the Husband also set up another boys' night out. Last time I dead asleep on my laptop. So let's see how progress goes this time!

Goal: Last night, I found a major problem with the ms.--one that has put progression on the ms. on hold until I can fix this problem. I've separated the text that needs rewriting--and it's about 12k words that I've got to move from near the end to near the beginning, which will effect the way every scene written between then (about 40k words) will work out.

Start time: 9:36 pm. I am actually a bit tired--I did have to wake up at the crack of dawn 8:30 am to go to the flea market, remember. And I'm a bit intimidated by the 12k words that I've set aside to rearrange/rewrite before I can start writing again. Oh, look, shiney distracting Interwebs!

9:41. Disconnect Interwebs.

9:44. OK, really disconnect Interwebs.

10:07. Chapter One was easy--only a few sentences had to be changed. Chapter 3 is looking like a total rewrite. I've had trouble with this one before--it's a "moving" chapter, and I don't like those. Basically, I've got to get a character from one place to another, and I've got to show that movement, or the story will make no sense. I've had the character walk, ride in a rickshaw, and fly in a science fiction device to get to this place in various other revisions. Now I'm going to change the location where he ends up! (And Robyn, I'm gonna try to bring back that rickshaw...)

10:09. Nathan Fillion is on twitter? OMGOMGOMG! *spaz fest*

10:10. Right. Book. *gets back to work, despite the online presence of Captain Tightpants*

This is a shout out to MATT LEWIS!! I know you are out there! Accio, another movie! 
10:12. RIGHT. Book. *sigh*

Thank you, PRACTIKILT, for providing my wardrobe for the Late Late Show last night. Kilts are the new pants.
10:14. Curse you, Nathan Fillion, and your book-distracting hotness!!!!!!

10:16. *turns off Interwebs again*

10:30. Am optimistic about this whole thing.

10:34. Research on biometric thingummies for stupid science book.

11:00. Caffeinne break. Loves the caffeinne. Hates the world-building.

11:20. Crap! Orange Crush has no caffeinne! *switches to Mountain Dew*


12:16. Split Chapter 3 into two chapters, so progress. Also, just discovered that the character I had in a rickshaw won't work, as I want a horse pulling it, and by definition, a rickshaw is pulled by a person.

12:32. Finished with first third of the book revisions: rewrote Chapter 38 as Chapter 3, the moved original Chapter 3 to Chapter 5 (rewriting all this so it fits in the story). Am now skipping to Chapter 20, which needs more tension and focus on the main problem.

I'm not done with the ms, btw. I figure I've still got about 10k words left to write. The problem is, I can't write those last few words until I fix these other problems.

1:03 AM. Regain energy with caffeinne and pizza. Snack of champions.

1:25. Fixing Chapter 21 means going back and fixing Chapter 14. Argh. ARGH.

1:36. Chapter 14 is now too long--but I've laid the groundwork here and can cut it down in revisions. I'm not worried about perfection so much as getting the words down so I can get to the ending of this book!

1:57. And rewrote Chapter 16, because Chapter 14 changed so much. NOW I can tackle Chapter 21. Gah! Change one thing, change the whole book!!!

2:39. I'm calling it a night. That was more time than I expected to spend on this, but I did get less work down. I've got Chapter 22 almost finished, but I'm starting to struggle with simple words, and that's a sure sign I need sleep.

In the end, I started the revisions that need to happen for the rest of the book to fall into place, and I'm sure I'll finish tomorrow. I also had a great online conversation with my writing buddy Robyn, and I'm definitely set to make the corrections needed. So even if I didn't meet my goal of total rewrite/revision, I'm certainly not where I am at 9:36 tonight, when I was feeling overwhelmed and unsure!

...and, coming when I wake up...the results of the drawing for my massive book give-away!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Serves Me Right

I hate outlines. Wait, that needs italics. I hate outlines.

But I do see their point.

Take, for example, this.

Critiquer R pointed out that about mid-way through the book, the characters are exploring the world, looking around, talking...but not really focused on the murders happening on the ship. But, I thought, that's where I'm putting in all that pretty world building.

Critiquer E pointed out that in the first couple of chapters I need more world building. But, I thought, I didn't know enough about the world when I first wrote those chapters. I added all that pretty world building later.

Flashforward to tonight. I'm staring at the book, wondering how to add more action to those world building chapters in the middle, more background to those first chapters. Oh. Oh. OH. I've got to move the world building in the middle chapters to the beginning chapters, and then rewrite those middle chapters to focus more on the action.

That's 12,000 (or so) words that need to be rearranged and rewritten. It's like chopping off a foot and attaching it to a shoulder. We're talking major surgery here.

I talked it over with the Husband, in part because he reads more sci fi than me, and I wanted to make sure my world-building-method wasn't cliche for the genre.

"That makes so much more sense to put all that middle stuff here at the beginning," says he.

"I know that now," says I.

"Why didn't you just do it that way the first time?"

Me: *growl*

"You know, I think this would have been so much simpler if you'd just thought this through. Like with an outline or something."

Me: *stabs husband in the face and traipses off to collect insurance money*

Just kidding! (They don't give insurance money for face stabbings. I know. I checked.)

OK, OK, OK. Enough whining. I've got 12k words to rearrange. *karate chops manuscript*

Linkspam! Clearing up my tabs...

Here are the links that I've kept up on my tabs in Firefox for the past week, when I kept thinking "Hey, this'd make good linkspam!"

Writing Advice
  • Truth is Consequence: A great and snarky and blunt look at getting your writing from critique-worthy to publish worthy. Direct quote (curse words and all): "First of all, throw the goddamn writing reference books away."
  • Here's a free e-book on writing for publication. I've not read it yet, so be warned: it may be worth exactly what it costs.
  • Speaking of e-books....I recently won a copy of Agent: Demystifed, and will be reviewing as soon as school lets out.
  • Joyce Wolfley has a good article on using slang in writing.
  • And Jenna's got about the best advice I've seen on cliffhangers. Call it Cliff Notes on Cliffhangers, if you will.
  • MIG Writers discusses whether or not there are any original plots left. My favorite quote from this article:
    In Where Can I Find An Original Plot, Richard Young theorizes that there is really only ONE plot in literature:

    ‘The central character needs something, very, very badly. Failure to get this thing or do this thing will have dire consequences for this character or his or her loved ones. To begin with, every effort she or he makes to get this thing only adds to the complications and makes success look even less likely, but in the end there is a resolution, and either the protagonist gets the thing, and avoids the dire consequences, or doesn’t, and the feared dire consequences come to pass.’

  • Whoa. I've been using Wordle for ages, but Screaming Guppy found a feature I'd ignored.
  • Carolrhoda Books compare writing to bread. Trust me, the analogy works.
  • You need to know good description? Tara Maya posted the best description I've ever seen:
    So what does hakarl taste like then? It tastes like crying. It tastes like broken promises. It tastes like the Lord God Almighty ripping the Bible out of your hands and saying, "Sorry, this doesn't apply for you. I think you want "Who Moved My Cheese?" It tastes like the Predator wading into a Care Bears movie and opening fire.

Agents, Editors, and Publishing
  • "Have you ever considered turning this into a novel?" Wendy said when I was done.

    "Uh, no," I said. "I have a novel. It's completed." In my head, I added: And it's not funny. It's dark and sad.

    "But this could be a novel," she said. Others in the class nodded.

    "But I have a novel," I repeated, all the while, thinking, what is she talking about?! Why would I want to turn this funny story into a novel? How could I even do that?!
  • Speaking of author interviews, this one on My Favorite Author with Janni Lee Simner (author of Bones of Faerie) is so brilliant that I had to repost an entire Q&A:
    MFA: The premise of BONES OF FAERIE is quite unique, it is post apocalyptic, social commentary, but also a fantasy. Was it hard to find a genre under which to market this book?
    JLS: When I first started writing Bones of Faerie, I remember worrying that no one would want a post-apocalyptic story. Writing about the end of the world seemed ... a little dated, harkening back to my own late cold war childhood perhaps. Yet by the time my agent and I sold the book, young adult fiction had become filled with both post-apocalyptic tales and faerie stories. It's sort of like the market for Bones of Faerie came into its own while I was off writing the book and telling myself not to worry about the market.

    If I'd waited until there was a already a clear place for a post-apocalyptic faerie story before I started writing, though, that never would have worked--the market would have moved on by the time the book was written. Which is one reason I think writing to our fascinations--and hoping others will share them--can often work out better than trying to write something that seems safer or more likely to sell.

    We really never entirely know what will sell, anyway--but if we write the books we want to write, we get the experience of having written them, and no matter what happens next, no one can take that away.
  • Let's just round out the author interviews with Enchanted Inkpot's interview with Tamora Pierce.

Books I Want

Thursday, May 14, 2009

You Know You're A Writer If....

...supper = throwing whatever crap you find in the fridge into a pan and calling it a day so that you can get to work on writing sooner.

Tonight's supper:
  • Some chicken, cut into pieces
  • Tofu that the label says expired in April, but the day I cave to TOFU LABELS is the day I hand in my ninja badge
  • A sweet potato, cut into pieces with a jack hammer as, for some reason, it was harder than a FREAKING DIAMOND
  • Leftover peas
  • Leftover green beans
  • Rice (cooked)
  • The remaining contents of a tub of chive and onion cream cheese
  • Whatever's left in the bag of shredded unidentifiable white cheese
  • Cinnamon, garlic powder, salt, pepper (here's how I administer spices: I open the jar and turn it upside down over the food for as long as I feel like it)
Throw it all into a cast iron frying pan, then go watch the Daily Show (until they get to the interview, which is boring). By the time that's done, so is supper.

(OK, so it sounds horrible, but it was actually pretty tasty...and quick enough so that after supper I was able get straight back to my manuscript!)

[ETA: Not all writers cook as if they're still in college! Check out Nomadshan's tasty dinner here!]

Today in Class

Background: The kids are reading Night, a memoir by Elie Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor.

Kid: I want to know the ending so bad! Is he going to make it out of Auschwitz alive?

Entire class: *blink*

Kid: Oh, yeah! He wrote the book! Of course he survives!

Quote of the Day

To write is to plumb the unfathomable depths of being. Writing lies within the domain of mystery. The space between any two words is vaster than the distance between heaven and earth. To bridge it you must close your eyes and leap. A Hasidic tradition tells us that in the Torah the white spaces, too, are God-given. Ultimately, to write is an act of faith.
-Elie Wiesel

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Agent: Demystified

Authoress, the genius behind Miss Snark's First Victim, has recently released an e-book called Agent: Demystified. If I did this right, I've got the trailer embedded above. *crosses fingers* But really, I think the proof is in the pudding: check out the glowing praise from agents on her website.

Sekkrit Confessions

This I do not like telling people.

I secretly like reality tv.

*hides in shame*

...but I do!

Project Runway, America's Next Top Model, Top Chef. I try to avoid them...but I always come back. (Darn you, Bravo marathons!)

What attracts me to these shows? It's not the "writing," that's for sure. It's not the "quality" (of which there is little, I admit). It's not even the brain-dead-ness of them, although I do appreciate that after a long day of work.

It's seeing people strive for their dreams.

Look, I think modeling's stupid. Really, I do. But when America's Next Top Model comes on, I find myself oddly sucked into the show. Because, even if I think their dream is stupid, I like seeing them strive for their dreams. In these kinds of shows, some people fail--and I sympathize, because I strive and fail, too. And sometimes who I want to win, doesn't--and there are good writers out there (I know, I've beta read some of them) and they aren't getting published (yet). Sometimes the contestant tries and tries and tries, and still fails...and then I look over at my pile of rejections.

But when the winner is announced, and their joy explodes on screen, I think about how it will be to get the Call.

And that's why I like reality tv.

Off Topic: A Good Day

Warning: This post is a sugar-sweet one. People with sour dispositions (like me before coffee) need not read further.

I've been crazy-hassled most of this week. Mother's Day put me behind, and then I've had lots of work to do with the paying job. But lots of good things happened today:

  • Finished proof-reading the kids' literary magazine. I started the Creative Writing program at the high school where I work, and for the past three years, we've been collecting student stories to put in a literary magazine. The first two volumes were slender and comprised mostly of the same handful of students who were in the club, but this year's volume was 70 pages, with so many different entries that three pages were the lists of students' names who contributed!!!
  • Got back students' writing test scores. And my students had a 90% pass rate. Freakin' A, man. (Full disclosure: my scores are bit a skewed in my favor because I taught honors students this year, but still....90% pass rate?! Personal best.)
  • Yelled at my third period kids. This doesn't sound like a positive thing, right? Trust me, it is. See, I was reading aloud "The Yellow Wallpaper" for the students and they were supposed to be following along in the textbook. I look over and see that three--three!--kids have some other book hidden in the textbook so it looks like they're reading the textbook, but they're not. So I start yelling...and then see that all three of them are reading the copies of the novels I'd assigned for homework: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. They liked Speak so much, that they were sneaking class time to read!! How cool is that?!
  • My friend gave me cake. How could that not make me happy?

So, yeah, none of these things have to do with my own writing...but it still makes me feel like this:

You don't have to comment. I'm just having such a good day I want to smile at the world. :)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Difference Between Showing and Telling

So I was talking recently with Robyn about the difference between showing and telling. And I realized a simple truth:

The difference lies in the verb.

It was cold. = Telling

Amy shivered in the cold. = Showing.

An active verb connotates a showing sentence. But this isn't always true. I could have said, "Amy thought it was cold," and that does employ an active verb--but the beef of that sentence lies in the passive verb, not the active one.

To figure out what to show, ask: How do you know this?

It was cold. = A simple fact. Ask: how do you know it's cold?

Answer = Amy shivers.

Now, obviously, that's the ultimate in simplicity. You can't just stop there.

The difference between boring showing and good showing is in the emotion.

Amy shivered in the cold. = Boring showing.

Amy shivered: the cold seemed to reach all the way through her skin and into her heart. = Good showing.

Notice how they get longer? A picture's worth a thousand words--so to show that picture, it might take all thousand words.

Does this mean everything you write should be "showing"? NO. Lemme say that again: NO. Sometimes it's just cold. Say it and move on. But if this is a point where you can and should show character development or enhance the story, show it.

Monday, May 11, 2009

I got up for five lousy minutes, and this is what I found...

Reviewer X's Epic Giveaway

Reviewer X is having a HUGE giveaway: She's got 50 (yes, FIFTY) hardcovers of the book The Chosen One to give away.

From the review:

In thirteen-year-old Kyra’s world, a man must have three wives in order to go to heaven. In Kyra’s world, she’s got two mothers besides her own, twenty brothers and sisters, and more on the way. In Kyra’s world, modern medicine is forbidden, books are burned, and people like her fifteen-year-old sister Emily, with mental disabilities are seen as God’s pariahs.


And then Kyra’s whole world is shaken when she finds out she’s been Chosen to be her uncle’s seventh wife.

CLICK HERE TO ENTER. So simple--and such good chances to win!

Off Topic

These are the things that make me think: "Hmm, I would like to share this with my blog readers, but they are not entirely on topic with my blog."

Ah well, I will share anyway. These are strange and not really connected but...

A book I am SO GLAD is out of print.


See? Not connected at all. Unless the bear cubs are boys and girls, and the boy bear cub says "I am a boy and I may grow up and eat people," and the girl cub says, "Uh, yeah, I can, too, stupid."

Just Entered!

I just entered the Online Pitch Contest being offered by Query Tracker.

This contest is limited to:
Young Adult Thriller,
Young Adult Horror,
Young Adult Fantasy,
Young Adult Science Fiction,
Adult Thriller

So, does your genre fit--and if so, did you/will you enter? (Share your pitch here so we can discuss!)

This contest happens to be limited to a select few would y'all feel about me holding an open contest for one-line pitches open to all genres, with project critique as a prize? I'm looking for a way to thank everyone who helped me perfect my pitch this weekend...

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Is This Better?

I cut and pasted all your suggestions into Word, then tried to mash them all up. I tried to focus on the important things: 1) wakes up early, 2) murder!, 3) consequence. I felt that the sentence would be tighter/shorter by taking out the parents, but then that seemed to lose some of the threat to me, so I decided to keep it. I'm still not comfortable with the length of it, but I know that this is miles better than before-- SO THANK YOU ALL FOR YOUR HELP!!!!!!!

Edited with an (even further) updated version:

After waking up decades before her cryostasis was supposed to end, seventeen-year-old Amy must stop a murderer from killing the other frozens trapped on the space ship before her parents are unplugged.

I am absolutely not opposed to rewriting again, so feel free to rip this sentence up, too! :)

Ironically enough, your comments have also inspired me to entirely rewrite my query letter too! I am going to create, essentially, two pitch sentences (one for each POV character, as this story switches between them), and use that as a launching point for the query summary. Even if I don't end up placing in the pitch contest with this sentence, I'm thrilled that I now have a stronger query just because of the help you all have given me this weekend!

Thank you ALL so much for your help!

Thoughts on Seeing the New Star Trek Movie

Non-spoilery Thoughts:

-Wow. That was complicated. And crazy. Crazy like a fox.

-Spock rocks my socks.

Spoilery Thoughts (highlight to see):

-You know what's worse than being on a ship about to be eaten by a Romulan ship? Being pregnant and giving birth on a ship that's about to be eaten by a Romulan ship.

-Why does Kirk keep falling off crap? Seriously, he's like a dog on ice--whenever he jumps, he just sort of flops back over.

-I totally called the time travel plot. Not all the way, but I knew it was involved. (The Ahora thing, though, totally blind-sided me.)

-Seriously, how awesome is it that they've totally figured out a way to create a whole new series of movies that won't contradict the already decades-old established plotline? Freakin' awesome.

-Only one red shirt died? What the crap.

-Best line of the movie:
-Kirk: *sits in captain's chair*
-Spock: Get out of my chair.

-That green chick freaked me out. Even more than the chick with super-big eyes.

-Dude! Zulu with a sword = freak yeah!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Read a Sentence and You'll be my BFF

So I'm pretty excited about this.

See, he's specifically asking for YA SF. And I'm specifically working on a YA SF (it's a murder mystery--set in space! That's so my working title for it, punctuation and all.)

The contest asks for a one sentence pitch--he will select a winner based on that pitch.

Here's my original:
After a teen girl wakes up early from cryogenic freezing, she must work with the future leader of the space ship to find the person who is unplugging (and thereby killing) the other cryogenically frozen people...before her parents are unplugged.

I think it's too long--and I'm worried the second character is distracting from the main plot.

So how about this as a revision:
After a teen girl wakes up early from cryogenic freezing, she must stop whoever is unplugging (and thereby killing) the other cryogenically frozen people...before her parents are unplugged.

Which is better? Any suggestions for improvement?

Yup, You Heard Right

(movie poster credit: Saudra Mitchell)

The Forest of Hands and Teeth will be made into a major motion picture.

Alan Nevins of Renaissance Literary & Talent has just closed film rights on Carrie Ryan's YA novel, The Forest of Hands and Teeth. Nevins, who brokered the deal on behalf of Jim McCarthy at Dystel Literary, sold the book, which Delacorte Books for Young Readers published in March, to Seven Star Pictures (K-11, forthcoming). Nevins said the book, a zombie thriller set in colonial times about a girl who lives in a religious community in the woods and is equally worried about a zombie invasion and her planned marriage, is in line to "do for zombies what Twilight did for vampires." Supposedly Seven Star is developing the project for an-as-yet-unnamed A-list starlet, and fast-tracking the project with a first draft of the screenplay already in the works.

Author Interview: Sarah Prineas

Sarah Prineas is a sweetheart. When I asked her for an interview last month, she mentioned that her book, The Magic Thief was going to be released as a paperback in mid-April, and could I post the interview then. I agreed--of course--and I thought I'd scheduled the interview to post automatically on April 18th. didn't. Yesterday I thought of something in this interview, and went looking for it, and realized it never posted. I'm so sorry, Sarah! Here it is--a bit late, but here nevertheless!

I'll be posting a review of The Magic Thief next week--but I will say this: it's my favorite MG read so far this year. is the book that capture the magic--both of fantasy and of writing--that will leave its readers in awe. Do yourself a favor: read this book.


We can all read about your bio from the back of your book or your FAQ online. So, what's a completely random fact about you that most people don't know?

This isn't that random because it is writing related, but I absolutely love to write. It's just about my favorite thing to do.

As a child, what was your favorite book? Have your tastes changed since growing up?
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle was my favorite. I also read and re-read T.H. White's The Once and Future King. Back then there wasn't a whole lot of fantasy available for kids, and I would have read more of it if I could. Now I read a lot of MG and YA fantasy and I must still be about 12 years old, because I love it just as much as I did then.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Kid readers often ask me this question, and my answer is that I never really thought about it; I was too busy being a kid to think that far ahead. I certainly didn't plan on becoming a writer!


How much of you is in your book? Is there a character like you? Is a situation in the book derived from real life?
There's a little of me in both Conn and Nevery. Like Conn, I love biscuits and bacon, and I'm rather ruthlessly pragmatic in the same way he is. Like Nevery, I like a good cup of tea and I'm even more impatient than he is. None of the situations in the book are derived from real life.

What was your timeline for the book? How long did it take to write, revise, submit, and finally, get published? How did you feel at these stages?
Here's a blog entry about that: Pretty much during the whole process I felt hopeful that things were going to work out. I was incredibly lucky that they did.

If your reader could only take away one emotion, theme, or idea from the book, what would you want that to be?
Just one? Yikes! Let's see. I guess the very Tolkienish idea that one person can make a difference in the world.


What are your goals as an author? Where do you want to see yourself as a writer in 5, 10, 15 years?
It took a long time, but I think I've mastered the novel form; that is, I feel confident in my ability to construct a readable novel and meet whatever due dates I've been given. My goals are to go on from that, to become a better writer, specifically in the area of plot. I'd like to stretch myself with every book. I'd like to write a book that isn't fantasy and I'd like to try a YA book.

What's the most surprising thing you've learned since becoming a writer?
That kid readers are the BEST. I hadn't planned on becoming a writer (I had a fulfilling career before writing), and I definitely didn't plan on writing for kids, but I love it, and it's mainly because of the kid readers.

Beyond the typical—never give up, believe in yourself—what would be the single best advice you'd like to give to an aspiring author?
Write it, send it off, and then start writing the next book.

Also Never Surrender, but that probably counts as "never give up".

What do you consider to be your strongest talent in writing? Your weakest?
Oh, my weakest is plot. One of the reasons I write fantasy is because it has an inherent plot structure, individuals striving to overcome the bad things in the world. I try to tweak that a bit ("is the evil truly evil? And is its defeat truly a victory?") but I have a hard time with it anyway. My strength is that I'm very observant and I have a knack for evoking a scene using specific, telling details. I didn't realize that I had that strength until reading reviews of Magic Thief that said the setting had depth and authenticity.

What's a writing pet peeve that you have?
I try very, very hard to never begin a sentence with "It was" or "There were" because these are empty pronouns and weak verbs. Actually, that's a peeve that sets me off when I read others' work. If I see it, I think, "lazy writing!"

THANK YOU SARAH, for agreeing to let me interview you! Come back next week for a book review of The Magic Thief!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Writing Contest

Can you make a good cliff-hanger? If so, the Girls with Pens would like to see it--and give you prizes for it!

Speaking of Contests...

This one is amazing.

Cindy Pon, author of The Silver Phoenix, is giving away an original framed brushpainting and a signed copy of her novel, or $100 gift card to a book store of your choice and a signed copy of her book.

Contest ends June 8.

Check This Out

Have you seen the Pub Stories on Reviewer X's site? They are so good. Totally worth reading.

So far:


One thing I'm spending a lot of time focusing on in my current WIP, a murder mystery (in space!), is pacing. Because I'm inside my characters' heads so much, I have really been struggling to keep the story both focused on their internal struggles and their fast-paced external conflict. Sometimes it feels like I'm taking turns: in the charcater's head, out of the head, in, out, in, out. And I don't like writing that jerks the reader around--and I'm sure my readers won't like it either.

In order to focus this, I've come up with a couple of strategies that have helped remind me of maintaining a steady--but fast--pace.
  1. Show motivations and reactions through action, not thought. I found that some of the biggest blocks of internal thought were when I was trying to spell out the characters' reason for doing something or explain how they felt about something after it happened. That's boring. A simple example of how to fix this would be changing "Bob was scared of the clown" to "Bob's stomach clenched as he looked upon the evilly grinning face of the clown." Use action (clenched) and adjective (evilly grinning) to explain the reaction and cause of the emotion, rather than just state the emotion. That way, you're still focused on the character, but you've not forgotten the pace, either. A simple mantra to remember: When in doubt about pace, use active verbs.
  2. Evaluate how much time is spent on the page talking about something vs. actually doing it. This one has been key for me. As the story is a sci fi, I'm always debating just how much science and world building should go into the manuscript. Do they need to know about the nuclear reactive core that provides heat? What about the science behind their transportation system--should I explain how it works, or just show it working? My rule of thumb for this has become: If it takes more time to explain it than do it, just do it. When I saw that I'd written a page explaining the science of cyrogenic freezing, but only a few sentences on the character's experience beind frozen, I cut the science and beefed up the experience. This rule of thumb works for more than just sci fi--when my characters spend a chapter talking about who they think the murderer is, and then a page going to another room to look for more clues, I've got an uneven amount of talk vs. action. So I cut all the non-essential talk, and let them talk about the remaining points while they were walking to the other room. Characters sitting around and talking--about the world, about the plot, about anything--is boring.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Today in Class

The kids are reading an excerpt from Primo Levi's book on the Holocaust.

Kid 1: (reading from book) "...this is not a rabbinical school..."

Kid 2: What's "rabbinical"?

Kid 1: There's a footnote.... um, it means it's not a school for rabies.

Me: *blink*

Kid 1: Rabbis! Rabbis! It's not a school for rabbis!

Kid 2: Boy, that was dumb.


Do one thing every day that scares you.
-Elanor Roosevelt

Kathleen Duey is doing something pretty amazing. She's writing a novel on twitter. In her words:

A novel. A whole novel in Russet's voice, written in Twitter's 140 (or less) character bursts.

In public. Real time. No revision. (via Cynsations)

Why would she do this? After all, so much could go wrong. She's writing on the fly, without an outline--and while I do that, too, I also know I could drop the story and quit writing it if it doesn't work. And--even crazier--she's posting immediately as soon as she writes it. Which revisions. No changes. Once it's up, it's up. You can't unpost.

So why is she doing this?

In a word: fear.

She said that
At a conference, I heard myself giving advice that I hadn't followed in a long time.

I wasn't experimenting with anything that scared me to death anymore. (via Cynsations)
I've been thinking about this since I read it yesterday.

I've always been a bit afraid of my best writing.

And my writing that's dry and stiff--that had no association with fear. I was just getting words on the page.

And it shows.

I can pinpoint scenes that gave my heart a squeeze or my stomach a clench. That scene where the characters kiss? Terrified--what if I didn't make it sincere enough? What if my readers laughed at the awkwardness of it? Oh, and that final battle scene--I was on the edge of my seat, in part because I was scared of not making that scene good enough for a last battle.

And there's other kinds of fear in writing. Breaking outside of your norm is one way. I'd once blogged about how much I hate first person POV in present tense. I like fantasy, not sci fi. But this most recent novel I'm working on? A first person POV present tense science fiction novel.

And I'm terrified.

More scared of this one than I've been in a long time. I don't know what I'm doing--and all those old fears of writers keep cropping up. I'm not good enough, I couldn't write my way out of a paper bag, who do I think I am to be putting these words down? And then there's the actual writing. It's a murder mystery (in space!), so is my killer creepy enough? Are my characters Nancy-Drew-enough? And then there's the genre. Will anyone even like this book? Will an agent? Will an editor? It's a weird little novel, a strange little thing that I'm not sure could even find a home with anyone but me.

See? Terrified.

But oh. It's been fun.

I feel a bit like Kathleen:
And when I thought about all the ways it could blow up in my face I felt almost sick. Bingo, eureka, perfect. I was scared to death.

Still am. But it has been worth it.

So, what about you? Are you doing something that scares you? Is it working?