Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Interview with Michelle Hodkin

Today I get to interview one of my favorite people. I met Michelle Hodkin on twitter forever ago. I knew her before I even lived in Boston. But I got to meet her in person at the Teen Author Carnival, and she was completely amazing. We had some fantastic conversations when we ran into each other all week at BEA and her bubbly smile, positive attitude and super awesome hugs made me love her. Plus, she wrote this little book--you may have heard of it--called The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer. It releases next month and it's superb. In fact, this little blurb completely captures all the reasons it's so remarkable.
"The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer strikes a rare balance of darkly funny, deliciously creepy and genuinely thoughtful. One minute I was laughing out loud, and the next, I was so scared I wanted to turn on all the lights and hide under the covers. Michelle Hodkin's talent and range are obvious, from her chilling descriptions to romantic scenes that almost crackled on the page. I've never read anything quite like it."--Veronica Roth, New York Times bestselling author of Divergent
It was pretty easy for me to decide who I'd want to interview. You can connect with Michelle on her blog or on twitter! I hope you enjoy this interview of writerly proportions as much as I enjoyed it.

How do you get to know your characters?
This is so hard to answer, because in some ways, I feel like they simply exist. The book began with the characters, so I knew who they were in some cases before I even knew what would happen to them.

Are you a plotter or a pantser? Why/how does that approach help/hurt you?
A pantser, but I wish I wasn’t. For THE UNBECOMING OF MARA DYER, I began with a very vague premise based on the true events that inspired the story, but that was all. And so I found that 3/4 of the way in, the book was going in a very different direction than it needed to, and so I threw out 60,000 words. Several times over. For the sequel, I actually had a vague outline since I had to write a synopsis for the auction, but I’ve deviated from it significantly. I love being surprised by the words that end up on the page, and I think for me that’s part of what keeps me interested.

What's the most surprising thing about writing a book? How does a sequel differ from a debut?
The most surprising thing about writing a book is still the fact that I’ve written a book! Two, counting the sequel, though I’m still revising the second one. But I never in a million years expected to be a writer, so to find out that I am? And that I love it? It’s the most surprising (and most wonderful) thing about this whole experience.

Writing the sequel was a different process than writing THE UNBECOMING. Originally, I had no idea my story was going to be published, so I felt very free to put anything on those blank pages. Not only didn’t I care if it was good or bad, I didn’t even really know the difference. Which made it pretty fun. Then, of course, I fixed the book during revisions. Many revisions. But for the sequel, I’ve been so much more self-conscious about the words I’ve written, even during the rough draft stage, because I know that it’s going to be read by everyone from my agent to my editor to the wonderful people at Simon & Schuster to total strangers, and that’s actually kind of scary in a way. I want every word to be perfect for them, but of course that’s not possible for a rough draft. So I think the biggest challenge for the sequel was simply getting out of my own way.

Which aspect of craft is your weakest and how do you overcome that?
Probably structure. I find structure to be sort of mathematical, and I suck at math. Which is why I go to one of my brothers for his help and advice whenever I’m having a structure issue, and one of the reasons I had many different types of first readers take a look at THE UNBECOMING for me, to help catch my weaknesses and reinforce my strengths.

What's something that keeps you encouraged? (Especially back before you had a book deal and an agent.)
For THE UNBECOMING, it was, simply, the need to write the story. I couldn’t not write it—the idea took me hostage. That’s one of the reasons I think it’s so, so important when you’re writing to write the story you have to write and to tell the story that only you can tell. No matter what publishing trends are, no matter what the market looks like, if your book is a true passion project, finishing won’t be a choice. It will be an obsession.

In MARA you do a great job of building suspense and mystery. How do you maintain that throughout a whole novel? Is it something you plan from the beginning?
Let’s be best friends? :D

I’m honestly not sure I can say that I consciously planned it; the story itself is bursting with tension, so I feel like I wrote it the only way it could be written. Also, I’m a huge fan of Stephen King, Michael Crichton, and John Grisham, authors of incredibly suspenseful novels with pages that beg to be turned, and I believe in the advice that you should write the type of book that you love to read. 

What's the best and worst piece of writing advice you've ever been given?
Best: Finish the book.
Worst: Never spend more than a page on a single scene.

This is a blog for writers but we don't give advice. So I'm not going to ask you to do that either. I will ask: what's something you know now that you didn't know when you began writing?
That not having confidence can be almost as damaging as having too much confidence.

THANK YOU so much for taking some time out of your insane schedule to do this interview. I'm glad to have you as my official first guest here.

And now I'm opening up a contest for you lovelies. 

--ONE grand prize winner will receive a signed (personalized) finished copy of THE UNBECOMING OF MARA DYER. (available after the release date)

How to enter: 

--YOU MUST leave a comment with your email address & your favorite part of the interview.

For extra entries: Tweet, follow us and fill out this form! 

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Interview with Mindi Scott (Author of Freefall)

Mindi Scott was kind enough to allow me to interview her. If you haven't read Freefall (2010), its a YA novel that I highly recommend. Mindi's writing is contemporary fiction that speaks to the tough issues facing teens. Her second novel, Live Through This, will be published by Simon Pulse in 2012. I chose to interview Mindi for the blog because she's awesome and I wanted to get the perspective of someone who writes in a different genre than I do. Learn more about Mindi on her website or follow her on twitter.

Drea: Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?

Mindi: I wouldn't say that I wanted to be, but when I was younger, I always thought I would write a book after I got really, really old. Instead, I got started when I was around 26.

Drea: Why did you choose to write YA books?

Mindi: I used to think it was because those were the books that spoke to me as a teen. I recently realized that I read a lot of middle grade when I was younger, and then switched to John Grisham and women's fiction and such. I read very little YA when I was a teen. So, I think my revised answer is that when I was making the decision about what kind of book I wanted to write, I connected with the dozens of YA novels that I read more than any other type of book.

Drea: What do you do when you find yourself telling instead of showing in your writing?

Mindi: I usually open up The Bookshelf Muse and scan through their ideas. That will usually trigger an idea for me of how to show something if it, in fact, needs to be shown.

Drea: Where do you get inspiration for your characters?

Mindi: I honestly don't know! Occasionally, after I've finished a book, I'll reread it and say, "You know, [this character] kind of reminds me of [this person]." Most of the time, though, I have no idea where they came from.

Drea: Do you think you will stick to writing realistic fiction or would you like to try another genre?

Mindi: I don't have story ideas for another genre at this time, but I am interested (perhaps!) in trying realistic Middle Grade.

Drea: Are you an outliner? If not, what do you do to plot your novels.

Mindi: I definitely outline. My outlines consist of a paragraph (or more) summarizing each scene that I anticipate appearing in the novel. It changes as I go, of course, but for better or worse, I always have a detailed map to follow.

Drea: What traits do you believe a writer must have in order to be a successful YA author?

Mindi: Ha, well, success is relative, right? I think to be an effective YA author, one has to strive for authenticity and truth. A path to success is harder for me to define.

Drea: Where and when do you do most of your writing?

Mindi: Sometimes I write scenes in a journal wherever I happen to be, but the majority of the work is done at my computer in my home office. I work a part-time job, and I pretty much write whenever I'm not there!

Drea: Who are your top 3 favorite authors?

Mindi: Courtney Summers, John Green, Carolyn Mackler

Drea: What are you currently reading?

Mindi: I'm reading the draft of Live Through This while I revise it. (Sadly, I've had very little free time so far this year to read.)

Drea: Do you listen to music when you write?

Mindi: Most of the time. My iPod broke several months ago, followed by my CD player. That pretty much leaves Pandora or the regular radio until I replace one or both of those.

Drea: What is the biggest challenge you've faced in your writing career?

Mindi: Managing my time has been a huge, huge challenge for me, especially in 2011. I feel like every day is go, go, go! and I'm always behind no matter what I do.

Drea: What is the hardest thing about being a published writer?

Mindi: Hmm. I saved this question until the end because it was the hardest one for me to answer . There are things I want to say, but I don't know if I really want to say them. And that actually sums up my answer on lots of levels! I've observed many communications that have gone so wrong over the past couple of years that I've become kind of paralyzed online.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Interview with ERICA O'ROURKE (Author of TORN)

I am so pleased to welcome YA author Erica O’Rourke to the blog today! Author of the YA novels TORN (available now), TANGLED (Feb 2012) and BOUND (Fall 2012), from KTeen/Kensington Books. You can find out more about Erica and her books on her blog and on Twitter.
Patricia: Has your writing and process changed since you went from writing for yourself to writing under contract? If yes, how?
Like so many debut authors, I had all the time in the world to write and revise TORN. It was kind of idyllic, and very much a hobby -- I wrote when I felt like it, spent a lot of time hanging out with other authors and learning about their processes, read nearly a book a day. If my life were a movie, this would have been the montage shot in soft-focus, with me looking pensively out at the trees, hands poised over the keyboard, or talking earnestly with friends over coffee, or finding inspiration during a particularly touching moment with my kids. The soundtrack would be an indie-female singer songwriter. I’d be wearing earrings and my hair would look nice.
Once I got serious about publication -- and especially after I had a contract -- I needed to change my mindset and treat my writing as a job. I’m much more disciplined now. I write every day, barring family emergencies. My agent has gently and lovingly pointed out some of my lazier habits, so I make a conscious effort to avoid them in the drafting stage, rather than waiting until revisions. But the biggest change is that I plot the book out in much greater detail than I used to, right off the bat. Knowing what happens before I go into draft means much less work at the revising stage. And while I LOVE revision -- far more than drafting -- I no longer have the time to do endless rounds. The more I can get right the first time, the more I enjoy the process later on.
If this part of my life were a movie, it would be the rock music montage, and I’d be falling asleep face-down on the computer, wearing sock monkey pajama pants and a ratty t-shirt, or serving my children frozen pizza, or talking to myself as I did the laundry.  And my hair would look AWFUL.
But I love it. Like, insanely, deliriously, love it.

Patricia: In your FAQs you mention that you outline (which I take to mean you are a plotter rather than a pantser) Can you tell us a little bit about your process and how detailed you get at this stage?
Erica: I am most definitely a plotter, not a pantser. I envy pantsers, actually, because they always seem like they’re having so much fun. But for my own peace of mind, and to enjoy the process of writing a book, I need to have an outline -- a clear idea of where I’m going.
I use a really big sketchbook, and I hew pretty closely to Michael Hague’s screenplay structure. The sketchbook allows me to reword and cross out and be messy -- which helps with the brainstorming aspect. The screenplay structure helps me decide what’s next, and ensures the overall pacing of the novel is on track. Breaking it out like this usually takes me two or three days, and five or six panicked phone calls to my critique partner, and a fair amount of bad language.
I don’t get super-detailed, although if I think of something I’ll jot it down in the appropriate spot (another reason big sketchbooks help here). But if I don’t have the turning points nailed down -- the dilemma, the choice the character makes, and the direction it spins her in -- I’m pretty well doomed.

Patricia: As a mom of little ones, I'm very interested to know how you approach finding time to write when kids are always yelling, "Moooom! I need you to [insert anything and everything here]..."
Erica: Oh, I know that noise. That’s the battle cry of the pseudo-neglected child. We hear it a lot at our house.
Juggling family and a writing career boils down to three things: figuring out what you need, in terms of time and environment, getting your family on board, and deciding what you can live with.
I need big chunks of time to write well -- a couple of hours at a time is ideal -- and I need to know I won’t be interrupted. I’m a stay-at-home mom, and while I love my super-special snowflakes....writing during the day, especially when the younger ones weren’t in school, was impossible. I couldn’t focus, because I always had one ear cocked for disaster. If they were all playing nicely or watching TV, I could jot down some notes or answer email, but no actual writing got done.
Once we realized this, my husband stepped up in a huge way.  As soon as he walked in the door from work, I would escape to my basement lair and work like crazy. Ditto on the weekends. (It’s amazing how focused and productive you can be when you know your time is limited.) Having his support made all the difference in the world. I absolutely could not have done this without him.
Now that they’re all in school (the baby goes to preschool) life is a lot easier. I try to make my daily wordcount before the kids get home and save the evening for things like blogging and emailing. This allows me to help with homework and drive them hither and yon without freaking out about how much work I still need to do.
Except when I’m on deadline, of course.  That’s when my kids learn to be independent and self-starters. As in, “start the toaster yourself, because I do not have five minutes to come up and make that bagel for you.” And when the baby dresses herself for school in hideously mismatched clothing, I remember that it shaved ten minutes of fighting off our morning routine. That’s when you decide what you can live with (mismatched clothing and pizza for dinner four times a week) and what you can’t (unchecked homework and poor dental hygiene).

Patricia: Can you tell us a little bit about your agent and her role in your process?
Erica: My agent is amazing -- incredibly smart about both the craft of writing and the business of writing, and generous with her time and attention. I am so fortunate to have her in my corner. And if that weren’t enough, she works with an incredible team -- from her brilliant junior associate, who reads everything I write and makes it a zillion times better -- to their subsidiary rights agent, who knows everything there is to know about social media -- every single person at the agency has gone out of their way to help build my career.
She helps me at every stage of the work -- from brainstorming to revisions to marketing and promo. She reads every draft of my story, and we’re very in sync -- I will have a feeling that something’s not clicking, but not know the exact problem, and she will pick up on it immediately and be able to offer suggestions about potential fixes. She’s always very clear that her ideas are suggestions only -- if I have another way to solve it, she’s totally on board. (But her ideas are so good, I’m usually happy to take them!) It’s a very collaborative relationship, and always focused on making the book as strong as it can possibly be.

Patricia: Similarly, can you tell us a little about your publisher, K Teen/Kensington Books, and their role in your process?
Erica: My editor and I brainstorm together a little bit as the book begins, but I’m very fortunate that she trusts me to tell the story I want to tell. Once she gets the first draft, she’s excellent at looking at big-picture stuff -- arcs in the series as a whole. She’ll say, “I think you need to refine this theme or this major symbol,” and that sort of question has a cascade effect -- the answer changes each scene a little bit, but cumulatively, those changes transform the story. She’s also outstanding at detailed edits -- little tweaks to up the tension in a scene, or ensure a character is acting consistently.
The rest of the KTeen team is awesome -- savvy and enthusiastic and incredibly hard-working. They help me with everything: social media, publicity, sales, copy editing, cover art. I was fortunate enough to meet some of them this summer, and they’re absolutely fantastic. I’m very lucky that I get to work with them.

Patricia: What is your perfect atmosphere for writing?
Erica: I used to be pretty high-maintenance: Clean office, the right snacks, notes arranged just-so nearby, soundtrack playing in the background, coffee piping hot and made just right.
Now that I’m on deadline, I’m happy if my desk is clean enough to find a spot for my coffee cup and my kids don’t interrupt me. I am less concerned with “the right snack” and more concerned that my family hasn’t eaten them first. And I’ve developed a pretty high tolerance for mediocre, lukewarm coffee. I still really like having a soundtrack, though.

Patricia: What types of scenes do you get most excited about writing? What scenes are the hardest for you?
Erica: Oooh...I really love banter between Mo and either of the boys. And if that banter leads to kissing, so much the better. Actually, banter between the boys is fun, too. Clearly: banter wins, especially if there’s a lot of emotional stuff that’s under the surface but not actually talked about. I subscribe to the notion people don’t often talk about their feelings -- they talk AROUND them, until there’s a crisis and they have no other choice.
Fight scenes are tough for me. So much stagecraft goes into a fight scene that it’s sometimes hard to keep it all straight in my head. Also, there’s a lot less dialogue once fists start flying -- and unless you want to sound like a superhero movie, you can’t banter. It ruins the tone completely.

Patricia: Your book, TORN, has a kickass heroine and two very hot boys, what is your favorite thing about each of them? (Mo, Colin, & Luc)
Erica: Favorite thing about Mo? I really love how tenacious and loyal she is. She looks so sweet and nice and manageable, but she’s actually really strong-willed, and that quality puts her in danger and also saves her, in the end.
Colin: He won’t let Mo get away with anything. He catches her when she sneaks out, he calls her on her BS, he won’t let her make excuses, and yet, he’s always there for her. It’s a very appealing combination.
Luc: He pushes Mo. Once he realizes that she’s not going away, he pushes her to become something she might not be ready for. Partly it’s self-serving -- he needs her to save his people -- and partly, it’s because he knows she IS capable of doing something amazing.

Patricia: Anything you can tell us about what you are working on right now or what's next from you?
Erica: Right now, I’m working on the last book of the TORN trilogy -- BOUND, which comes out in sometime in the fall of 2012. Once that’s done...I will probably clean my office. It’s pretty bad in there right now.

Patricia: Because I love any opportunity to mention and geek-out about Merlin and Doctor Who, I have to ask... Do you have a favorite BBC show you recommend?
Erica: Doctor Who, of course!!! Here’s the thing: it’s a fantastically entertaining program. It manages to be campy and smart at the same time. It has a ridiculous amount of heart and truth to go along with all of the time travel and flatulent aliens. People ask me where to start watching, and I think you either need to begin with Christopher Eccleston’s Doctor -- the reboot of the series -- or Matt Smith’s Doctor. David Tennant was indescribably wonderful, but because Rose Tyler’s storyline is so important to the show, I think it’s important to start when Rose does. But if you’re pressed for time, The Eleventh Hour is a great place to begin, because you can learn about the Doctor alongside Amy Pond.
If I had to choose a non-Doctor Who show, I’d pick the Vicar of Dibley, which is about a female Anglican priest who gets sent to a quirky little village in the English countryside. They are not thrilled about getting a liberal female priest, and hijinks ensue. Also, there are SO MANY dirty jokes, which is kind of unexpected in a show where the heroine is a member of the clergy.
Can BBC’s Sherlock be considered a series? It’s more of a mini-series, since each episode is a movie. Regardless, it’s fabulous, and done by the same people who write Doctor Who. Benedict Cumberbatch is so gorgeous he doesn’t even look human, and the writing is some of the tightest I’ve ever seen. I have watched it countless times, and I will continue to do so. (Though the second episode -- the Blind Banker -- was much weaker than the other two.)

Erica also had some questions for me!
Erica: What’s your favorite part of the writing process? Least favorite?
Patricia: My favorite part of the writing process is revising. I love taking the incredible draftiness of my first draft and re-shaping them into something so much better and cleaner and more awesome.  Honestly, my least favorite part so far is drafting, I have a hard time getting my stories out and when I do I want them to be polished and beautiful. It’s difficult for me to get my internal editor to shut-up and allow myself to write enough bad stuff to get to the good stuff.

Erica: What craft books do you think have been most helpful?
Patricia: *Searches through 40+ craft books on shelf* I think the two books that I learned the most from were WILL WRITE FOR SHOES by Cathy Yardley and SEE JANE WRITE: A GIRL’S GUIDE TO WRITING CHICK-LIT by Sarah Mlynowski and Farrin Jacobs. Both books are geared toward chick-lit (which is what I was writing when I started) but they were actually great resources about the craft and having fun with writing.

Erica: What has surprised you most about your journey as a writer so far?
Patricia: That I can do it. :) It continually surprises me when I reach different milestones in my WIPs. The closer I get to finishing my first draft the more excited I get about the fact that I really *CAN* do this! (And of course, all the encouragement I get from my writer friends is a spectacular part as well!)

Erica, thank you so much for stopping by Tangled Up In Words today! It was wonderful to have you!

GIVEAWAY! Erica has generously provided me with copies of her FANTASTIC debut TORN and swag. To enter, please leave a comment letting us know your name, a way to contact you, how many points you got (see below) and the best piece of advice you took away from this interview with Erica today.
You can earn extra points by:
+1 if you follow @TangledUpNWords on Twitter.
+1 if you follow our blog!
+2 if you tweet/blog about this interview! (Leave links in comment)

1 GRAND PRIZE WINNER will win a signed copy of TORN and swag!
2 RUNNERS-UP will win a copy of TORN and swag!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Sunday Teasers!

Every other Sunday we want to share a teaser with all of you from what we are writing and working on, BUT we don't want to share only our stuff. We want to hear from you and see your amazing writing as well! So, if any of you want to send in a snippet of your writing to have up as a Sunday Teaser then feel free to email me at christinaferko(at)gmail(dot)com You can send something to me at anytime! We can't wait to hear what you guys have and share a little bit of our own. And feel free to post teasers in the comments.

On the Sundays we don't do teasers, our RPA (Resident Published Author) Jennifer Armentrout will be offering up critiques and posts from an author's standpoint! Be sure to stop by on Sundays for all those opportunities.

Today's teaser comes from Danielle and her current WiP Here it is:

I don’t answer. I look around this place. I study the metal bars along the ground the best I can. I count the pieces of trash we pass. I hum inside my head. I listen for the sound of his boots clomping. But even all the distractions can’t stop the words from coming out.

“I die.”

He doesn’t hear me. The words are barely whispered. Inaudible and lost in the darkness of the burrows.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Writing Prompt (1)

Every Saturday we want to offer some sort of weekend challenge to keep you writing or something we're calling resources. So, we'll be alternating weeks to bring you writing prompts, fun or encouraging resources (articles, blog posts, books, etc) that we've found.

It's a weekend---which means that you'll probably be writing at some point and that WE will probably be writing at point. The writing prompts are supposed to act as little brain teasers to get everyone thinking.  If you have something you want to submit, check out our Resources tab at the tab and just fill out the form.

The sound of the night wind through the hole in the screen door whistled. Despite myself, the noise brought back all the memories from that night. I swore to myself I'd never remember, but....
If you use this, leave us a snippet of what you did in a comment! And otherwise, happy writing

Friday, August 26, 2011

Distractions Galore

So you sit down on your couch (or at your desk, or at your favorite table in your favorite coffee shop or wherever you go to write) with your computer open and you're completely ready to kick that word count in the butt...

Until distractions galore hit you.

Did you ever see Finding Nemo? When all the seagulls see the fish and want it for themselves?

Sometimes I feel like that poor little fish. A flock of hungry birds all clamoring to get it. I'm the fish and all the distractions I face are the seagulls, waiting to consume me. And just like that flock there are plenty of distractions to whisk me away from my writing: other books to read, crit partners stuff to edit, the internet, t.v., work, family, friends, chores even! Yes, sometimes I'd even rather do chores than write! Blasphemy, right? But it's true...sad but true. But the list could go on and on.

Some days distractions try to take over my writing time. The T.V. (which I don't usually watch much of) and other books that I want to read have been, in particular, a main problem for me this week (Also, this week has been THE week of distractions for me).

So the question is: What do you do when faced with distractions?

What I always end up having to do is figure out a reward system for myself. If I really want to watch a movie/tv show or read a book or something like that then I make that my reward AFTER I finish writing a set amount (whether it's after a certain amount of time or getting a chapter done or making word count goal).

Except, sometimes distractions can't be helped. You have to get some things done like work or errands or whatnot. What then? Do you just push your writing to the side? Usually when that happens to me, I try to double my goal (or okay, sometimes I only increase it a little) but still, I set a reward for myself. Usually this reward system works for me. We get along. He (yeah, I just referred to my reward system as a 'he.' Why, is that weird?) is like my own little pelican saving me from my distractions. (See, bringing it back around to Finding Nemo again.) As long as I stick to my reward system, I change those pesky little seagulls from distractions into profits.

So what about you guys? What do you do to fend off the distractions? Any methods that really work for you or maybe ones that you're hoping to implement? I've also found that accountability (like what we do on Mondays here at Tangled Up in Words) works wonders too!

(So, now that your done reading my post, stop getting distracted by blogs and go write something all you creative people!)

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Guess Who?: The Game of Characters

Getting to know your character is like playing Guess Who?

You have this image of what your character looks like in your head, but figuring out exactly what the character looks like on paper is another game all together. You have to know exactly who your character is before you can start throwing her into situations. I'm a pantser. I don't know the plot before I write--but always know my main character. Or I try.

If you don't know your character then you won't be able to tell his or her story. I don't think you have to know EVERY detail of your character, but you have to know enough to get a good picture of him or her. That's how it's like Guess Who?

In the game, you have a pictures of all the characters and you have to figure out which one your opponent has. To do that, you have to ask yes or no questions. "Is your character a boy?" "Does he have glasses?" "Does he have a mustache?" "Does he have red hair?" You have to know the basic fundamentals before you can jump into the deeper layers of figuring out who the character. That's where Guess Who? analogy falls apart--because there is no chance to delve deeper into your character. It's a game. But when you're writing, asking the questions is only the first step.

I have this method. I believe that a character--real or fictional--can be summarized in five words or less.

That's pretty crazy to think about when you start thinking about a character being a person and a person being so complex and individual. When you think about someone's life, about the essence of who they are, you could probably make a list of all the aspects of that person's character. In five words or less you can sum up their character. It may not be EVERY aspect of who that person is, but it's the things that are most recognized by you when you think of them.

I did this for my grandma just to prove it. My list for her is about sixty-seven items BUT when I started to look at these things and narrow them down, I ended with four words: passionate, loving, strong, generous. My grandma's character can be summed up in four words because underneath everything she did in her life, these were her driving forces. They were the things that powered all the other things.

I took this method and applied to some of my favorite characters from television and books.  (If you know me, you'll probably wonder why Doctor Who isn't here. Simple: I couldn't decide who I wanted to use. So, I have some goodies with DW coming up later. Promise.)

Merlin from MERLIN
Merlin is a great character. From the first episode, he's this strong force of a boy struggling with who he is. Even as his character grows and faces new challenges he remains constant while learning from it. His words: Loyal. Determined. Genuine. Courageous. Honest.

Eric Northman from TRUE BLOOD
I haven't read the books, so I can only base this off the show. But Eric Northman can definitely be summed up in five words or less. His words were challenging because there are so many layers and so much growth as a character. Each season he's a new person because a new side is revealed, but he's still the same Eric underneath. And the beautiful man is overflowing in swagger and super sexiness. These are the five I picked for him: Dangerous. Unyielding. Arrogant. Haughty. Wealthy. Depraved. Super sexy.... (Oh. That's more than five. Sorry. He's just so fantastic. He's the GOD of Hot Boys and hot boys=WIN. Fine. I'll underline the five I pick most.)

Mrs. Weasley from HARRY POTTER
Mrs. Weasley is the mama everyone wants to have. I mean, I don't really have to explain her to anyone do I? Her words: Compassionate. Smart. Generous. Protective.

Sawyer from LOST
Sawyer is another challenging character to summarize in five words or less. Each season we learned so much more about James "Sawyer" Ford aka James LaFleur. (He even had multiple names!) He starts off rough around the edges and then he evolves into something so incredible. His words: Tormented. Driven. Committed. Surprising.

Katniss Everdeen from THE HUNGER GAMES
Is it any surprise that I included Katniss Everdeen? I mean, how do you talk about characters and not include her? Suzanne Collins built a fantastic character. I'm re-reading this book right now and I read this line today: "My father knew he taught me right before he was blown into bits in a mine explosion. There was nothing even to bury. I was eleven then. Five years later I still wake up screaming for him to run." My five words for her:  Ardent. Perseverant. Jaded. Intense. Survivor.

Emerson from HOURGLASS
I really wanted to include a YA book with a strong female protagonist who was so different than Katniss. Emerson Cole is that person. She's a kick-butt character and I love her completely. Her words: Delightful. Fire-y. Sarcastic. Honest. Gentle.

The people we bring to life on the pages, the characters we read, the ones we watch on television--each one can be summed up in five words or less. Like I said, it's not going to be every quality of that person, but they are going to be the most important ones. These five (or less) words--qualities of character--are the things we must portray on the pages. It's not something we can leave out or we'll leave readers (and ourselves!) playing Guess Who? It won't be a deep relationship and it won't tell anyone anything important.

Something I've learned about my main character--she has her own opinions. She didn't tell me her name until I was 10K into the first draft. She's always a surprise and I really had to get to know her and adjust the image I had of her in my head. The best way to do that was by figuring out her five words: Conflicted. Stubborn. Affectionate. Hopeful. Sacrificial. 

Do you know what words you would use to describe your character? If so, chime in below and tell us. If not, how can you figure it out?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Musical Inspiration

Cindy and I have had numerous discussions about music and writing. She chooses to write without music because it serves as a distraction. However, I don't think I could write a decent sentence without it. Music has writing power. I love how a melody or a set of lyrics can trigger the perfect character emotion or send my mind in a new plot direction. Each of my main characters has their own playlist. This helps me get into their frame of mind before my fingers touch the keyboard.

I wonder how other writers approach the issue of music and their writing. Is it an inspiration for you or does it only hold distractions?

I thought I would share a song from the playlist of the main character from my WIP this week. Youtube was being a punk so I just grabbed a video with the song - the dolphins while cute - have nothing to do with my WIP.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Best Laid Plans...

Photo Credit:
I am amazing at planning.

When my parents decided to homeschool me, I was going into the 5th grade. And every year in September from 5th-9th grade I would get all my new books together, make myself a daily schedule (like the ones teenagers had on TV), and plan out all my assignments and homework for at least half the year. 

And then I wouldn’t do any of it. Instead of I would go to the library and read from the time they opened until they kicked me out at closing. 

I was the same way in college. Every semester I would get a new planner, new notebooks, new folders, and new binders with pretty tabs. I would be perfectly organized. I printed out all my syllabi, wrote all my assignments for the whole semester into my planner, and print out the first few weeks’ worth of readings and handouts for my binder. 

And then I wouldn’t do any of it. By about week 3 I‘d generally start to fall behind and from then until the end of the semester my planner would be buried and forgotten under a pile of clothes or books as I rushed to catch-up. (I also do my best work under crazy-pressure!)

So when I first started writing it was the same way. I’d buy gorgeous notebooks. I’d print out every method of outlining and plotting and file it. I’d buy every book on craft that I came across. I’d have stacks of colored index cards with matching colored pens. And all of these materials were perfectly organized on my bookshelf. And then I wouldn’t write anything. 

I am amazing at planning, but not nearly as good at DOING.

It has taken me a long time to realize (and an even longer time to accept) that there is a real difference between the desire to do something and the self-discipline to GET IT DONE. Once I realized this I knew that it was going to mean re-training my brain to continue with a plan once it was made. So I bought a new planner (I know what you’re thinking, just bear with me for a second) and I started to make a list of everything I wanted to do on each day for my family, myself, my house, and my writing.

And at the end of each day I check off what I did and cross out what I didn’t do. Some days all those cross outs are pretty depressing, but the days when everything gets checked off are awesome. Even better are the days that I can add things to the list that I got done without planning to do them. An extra hour of writing I wasn’t expecting to do or a blog post I got done during lunch that I had scheduled for the next day.

Looking back at what I’ve done (and haven’t done) over the past few months has really helped me to evaluate my priorities and learn what I’m capable of accomplishing. In turn, this knowledge has helped me set goals that are realistic. Last week I checked off every single item on my list for each day. And the sense of accomplishment I felt after realizing that put me in such an inspired mood I ended up writing an extra 2K that evening. 

Photo Credit:
I am amazing at planning. And I am getting better at doing. But it wasn’t until I was honest with myself about my own shortcomings and fears about writing (the real things that were keeping me so focused on the “planning” stuff) that I was able to let go of the extra stuff and just start writing. Some days it works really well and I do a little mini-celebration. And other days, I fail miserably, and I remind myself that tomorrow is another day with unlimited possibilities. 

So now I want to hear from you! How do you organize your time? How do you hold yourself accountable? And how do you celebrate when you get everything done? 

Monday, August 22, 2011

Monday Check-In

After much discussion and planning, everyone here at Tangled agrees that accountability is a huge part of achieving goals. So in order for us to be accountable to one another, each Monday we will have a Monday Check-In for us to keep track of our progress. We'll talk about our word counts for the past week, any shiny new ideas we have and admit when we may need a little encouragement to get back on the writing horse so to speak.

Without further adieu, here is our very first check-in:

Danielle says: My novel and I have been going around and around--and I think we've finally reached a point we're both happy with. I'm so excited. My goal for this week is to reach 10K. I currently rest at 6.5K--which when you're rewriting something that used to have 102K words, it's really a sad number. BUT in reaching 10K, my story will be at new twist and have this new layer of tension that will be so fun to write. I'm also re-reading The Hunger Games and writing a paper for school! If I get all that done it will be an awesome week!

Drea says: So, this week I randomly stumbled upon a new idea that has gripped me and refused to let me out of it clutches. I have decided to pursue the new idea and spent some time this week researching various components and thinking through the setting. I also have started to spend some time fleshing out my main character, Thora. Currently, I have about 1000 words written which isn't a ton, but it's a start. I am pretty good at coming up with ideas and characters, but I have a really big problem with writing confidence and stamina. I often talk myself out of writing or convince myself that my WIP isn't working out. I don't want to do that with this project so I need more people like Cindy who keep pushing me. I love this idea so I am hoping this will be the one that finally gets me from start to finish.

Patricia says: After lots and lots of brainstorming, research, and procrastination I finally buckled down and made it to a little over 12,500 words on my (spectacularly drafty) first draft this week! After getting some very positive and energetic feedback on the chapters I shared I'm very excited to keep going and I am aiming to pass 20K this week. Here's hoping I can keep up the momentum!

My (Cindy's) Check-In: In the past week I've written about 5K in my current WIP, which puts me up to just under 48K. As I tend to write more concisely in my first draft and then build the story up during revisions, this is super exciting because I feel like I'm almost done. I suspect within the next two weeks I'll be completely done with this draft. I also had a new idea this week, that I'm more than a little happy about it. It's completely outside the realm of what I've written before, so it should be lots of fun to play around with when the current WIP is complete.

Christina's Check-In: Lately I've been editing my last WIP and I'm almost done and happy with it but I also feel like I need to take a step back from it so I can go back to it with fresh eyes. So, for now, I am going to work on my draft of my current WIP. As of now it's just a little baby draft with only 6500 words and this week I'm going to try to hit 10k on it. Which is a little intimidating to me because school starts this week too so my students will all be wearing me out and I'll really need to be held accountable to not come home and push my writing to the side with the excuse that I'm tired. I'm so excited for this WIP though!

Now we'd like to hear from you. How was your last week in writing? Did you make amazing progress? Do you need some encouragement? Either way, we'd love to help cheer you on. Please leave us a comment with your current status. Happy Writing!!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Get to know our RPA: Jennifer

Right now you're probably wondering what the hell a RPA is. Well, let me tell you. 

RPA stands for: Resident Published Author

Since all of us here at Tangled are aspiring authors, we figured it would be helpful to have someone around who knew what they were talking about from time to time. You know, someone who had been there and done that. It wasn't difficult to decide on Jennifer as our RPA for several reasons.

First, she has amazing talent. Her debut YA book, Half-Blood, comes out in October. She's already signed on for a second YA book, Cursed, which is set to release next year and if that isn't enough, she's also just signed a deal for three adult books with Entangled Publishing. There will be eight books from in the next couple years---and you don't want to miss her.

Every Sunday here on Tangled, she'll be talking about things she wished she knew before, writing, offering helpful suggestions and holding some special critique contests. She'll also be helping us answer your questions and help connect this awesome web of writers. She's amazing and so, so sweet. We're glad to have her! 

If you could be any item on Mexican restaurant menu, what would you be and why?
Enchilada smothered in cheese. Because who doesn’t like melted, yummy cheese?

When's your birthday?
June 11th 1980

Why do you want to write within the YA genre?
I think YA novels capture the emotional intensity that as adults we sometimes forget. It’s all about firsts: first kiss, first love, first loss, first fight, first decisions, etc. There is something powerful about ‘firsts’. And there is no audience more passionate about their books than the YA audience.

Which YA book character are you most like? Explain.
Kaylee Cavanaugh from the Soul Screamers Series. Because my scream (and singing) makes people want to cry and cover their ears, too.

Plotter or Panster?
Fly by the seat of my pants

What do you like to do when you get stuck while writing to help work through it?
When I get stuck, I either go to a scene I want to write and leave the scene that’s tripping me up alone for awhile or I push through it.

What is your single most favorite thing (feel free to be as vague as you like) about you're current WIP?
“Sometimes you have to lose everything to gain it all.”

Two truths and one lie about yourself.
I once talked to movie star on the phone, and it took me 15 minutes to realize who it was. Awkward.
I have an obsession with the Civil War.
I want to have a buttload of children. 

 Get to know more about Jennifer and how to connect with her on our About Page.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Get to know our RGP: Ariane

If you haven't perused around the blog yet, then you've probably never heard of a RGP...and you're probably wondering what it is.

RGP stands for: Resident Guest Post-er

There are five people behind Tangled, but really there are seven. We have our RPA (who you will meet tomorrow) and my lovely friend, Ariane. I met her online at Maggie Stiefvater's website back when I was looking for a crit partner. Then, I just so happened to move to Boston (where she lives) and she's one of my closest friends. And she's a dang good writer. 

Why do we have a RGP? Well, everyone is more than a writer. If we weren't, we'd have more to time to spent just on Tangled. Sometimes life happens. Sometimes we have no ideas or time or Ariane has something she wants to share. So, we've recruited her to fill in for us. You'll see her around here a lot--she's totally part of the family--so we wanted to give you a chance to get to know her as well. Because, well, she's pretty spectacular.

If you could be any item on Mexican restaurant menu, what would you be and why?
I'd be plantains... sweet and savory at the same time.

What quote inspires you most?'
"The best moments in reading are when you come across something - a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things - that you'd thought special, particular to you. And here it is, set down by someone else, a person you've never met, maybe even someone long dead. And it's as if a hand has come out, and taken yours." -History Boys

Why do you want to write within the YA genre?
I don't, specifically. I write plots and characters that compel me, and more often than not, the story ends up fitting YA. I'm not sure why that is. I think I like writing characters in flux, and formative years are a prime occasion for that.

Which YA book character are you most like? Explain.
Lyra from His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman. We are both stubborn, well spoken, and make friends easily. We both like brown-haired boys. We both have crazy yet awesome parents.

Was there a specific book you read that inspired you to start writing?
Many books have inspired me, but after reading the Black Jewels trilogy by Anne Bishop, I knew I wanted to try my hand at writing.

Two truths and one lie about yourself.
I write poetry as well as prose.
I used to play chess competitively.
I had a pet rat named Ulysses.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Get to know Christina

If you could be any item on Mexican restaurant menu, what would you be and why?
Flautas, because I just like how the word sounds. It's fun to say.

If you were an item of clothing what would you be and why?
The missing sock. It's a constant game of hide and seek.

When's your birthday?
Feb. 11

What quote inspires you most?
I don't really have any quotes that I can remember that inspire me. But I do often see things that other people write that inspire me--I just can't ever remember them off the top of my head.

What's a pet peeve you have?
Water rings. They're the reason that the whole top surface of my coffee table is made of cork.

Something about you that no one would know just by looking at you?
I'm seriously and irrationally afraid of choking to death on a slug. They're just terrifying and disgusting. Both Slither and Harry Potter back this fear up. Slugs + Mouths = Terrible Things!

Who's your favorite princess and why?
Ariel, because I've always wanted her hair.

Why do you want to write within the YA genre?
I love how everything is new to the characters in YA. It's all about their first love, fights, experiences and so on.

Which YA book character are you most like? Explain.
Um...Ash from Wildefire? Because I'm secretly a volcano goddess. Shhhh...don't tell anyone. But really, umm we both play with fire. Although she's a lot more hot-tempered and spunkier than me. So, I guess it's not much of a similarity.

Plotter or Panster?
I'm mostly a 'panster.' Kind of. Haha. I usually end up plotting half a novel and then not the other half when I write. And it's different for each novel. I've plotted just the first half of a novel before, then for another just the end, and for another I had no plotting done at all. Each work is just different for me.

What do you like to do when you get stuck while writing to help work through it?
I like to go driving and let my mind wander while listening to music.

Was there a specific book you read that inspired you to start writing?
If I had to pick a book I'd have to say that Twilight is what originally got me into the YA world because I didn't start reading or wanting to write until those books, but all the amazing YA books that I continue to read only inspire me more and more. There are so many beautifully written and well thought out books out there.

What is your single most favorite thing (feel free to be as vague as you like) about you're current WIP?
Scary action.

What book from childhood do you most wish you had written? What book from the past year?
The Giver by Lois Lowry from my childhood and recently, Hourglass by Myra McEntire

Two truths and one lie about yourself.
I have a twin.
I have 2 brothers.
I have 6 sisters.