Friday, September 30, 2011

I wish I knew this before...

So I’m going to do a “I wish I knew that before I got Published” series. 


Now, I knew there were still going to be edits and revisions once the ink dried on the publishing contract, but I don’t think I was prepared for the amount of edits and revisions.
So let’s rewind time. You submitted your perfect manuscript. It’s beautiful. Ready for publication, right? Because the publisher accepted your MS. They must love it the way it is. Just like your momma says she loves you just the way you are. Soon, your work of art is going to be on shelves. It’s going to hit the bestseller lists EVERYWHERE. You are a star, because you’re MS was just super-duper perfect.

Um, no.

Sometimes an editor or agent takes on your work because they like the voice, premise, plot, and characters but it needs major work. Which equals major revisions. There’s a phone call preparing you for the “editorial letter” that will be coming your way along with your edited up MS. I find that sometimes the call sort of under exaggerates the amount of edits. I don’t blame that tactic. No one wants you to actually freak on the phone with you. 

You get off the call, feeling good. Excited even. You get the “editorial letter” and…it’s 5 pages long. Single Spaced. Or 19 pages long, single spaced. Your breath gets stuck in your chest. Your heart stops. Your first thought is, “Oh, my God, I suck.”

Take a step back and breathe. An editorial letter is not telling you that you suck. It’s just telling you how they, as a team, are going to make your book better. I don’t really freak out with the editorial letters. I don’t personally get why people do, but I think it’s shocking to see how much has to change.

Then you open the MS…and you actually see what it looks like in track changes. And holy moley, your MS is full of red lines, text and comments on the side that say, “What the …?”
After downing a couple of glasses of wine, you do your edits. Sometimes this takes days, others it takes weeks. Depends on how fast you are and the extent of edits. Time to celebrate. You’re done your first round of edits. Wheee!

Guess what? You get to do that two or three more times. Sometimes even more than that. You read your MS so much that you probably end up hating it by the time it actually makes it to proof pages. One novel of mine was edited around six times before it hit copy edits. Six whole times. 

And then you get the final version of your book back. Sometimes it’s NOTHING like what you submitted. It’s a different book, with better character motivations, a tighter plot, and stronger writing.

So if I knew how much better the book would be after edits before I got pub’d, I probably wouldn’t have freaked so much when I saw my first edited MS.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

My Creative Juices are Pumping....

I am still thinking through my character and plot, but I was inspired by some images and music this week.

I love the sense of place I get from this photograph. My WIP has two main settings - Georgia and the Pacific Northwest. This image really got my mind working for the Pacific Northwest setting.

My WIP also deals with fire so I was drawn to this image. It seems as if the fire dwells within this person, which makes for an interesting literary concept.

My musical inspiration this week is from Massive Attack. I love the sound of the music and vocals. It puts me right into the moment with Thora as she is on the precipice of her life changing in ways she has never expected. I love that it almost sounds like a heart beat. I also like the line about teardrops on the fire - it lends itself nicely to the fire elements of my WIP. The idea of black flowers blossoming is also something cool that I might choose to explore somehow in my work at some point.

Research is .... fun?

I've heard writers talk before about how much fun researching can be when writing. I have always politely disagreed. I'd much rather dig right into the writing. Research has never been something I've enjoyed much, which is probably why my story isn't based on anything I'd have to research to begin with.

However, now that I'm revising and my story is taking a definite shape, I am finding that research really CAN be fun. I know, I know. I'm surprised too. But really, I spent over three hours last night reading about chest and abdominal wounds and healing times. It was fascinating.

I got absolutely no writing done, but I understand how important it is to be accurate when talking about injuries and the last thing I want is to ruin my WIP because I was too lazy to do a little research. 

And can I just say, that if you ever stumble upon online forums that are mostly populated by medical professionals, be sure to set aside a few hours of your time, because you're sure to be pulled in. Reading what they know and about their experiences is almost as enjoyable as reading a book.

What about you: Do you enjoy doing research for your WIP?

Monday, September 26, 2011

Monday Check-in

Drea: I spent several hours this weekend researching mythology and added 1,000 words to WIP. 

Danielle: Last week, I bumped up my pages to 65 and my word count to...uh...a lot more? I can't remember now. Around 20K or so? This week my goal is homework. Homework. A break to go to the So You Think You Dance tour stop tomorrow! (EEK!!) Then more homework. Some edits on what I wrote last week that's due for homework. Oh! And did I mention homework? That's my life this week. And next week. Homework. And I get to meet Laini Taylor on Friday if I survive until then.

Patricia: This week I finally found my way out of my recent reading slump and read 7 books in 5 days. It felt good to spend most of the weekend curled up on my couch with a book. I did meet my goal of three writing sessions, so I'm going to up that this week and try to get at least 5 hours of writing done before next weekend.

Christina: I got a chapter written like I planned to and plan to write two this week!!

What are YOU doing this week? How was last week?

Friday, September 23, 2011

Castle Crashers: Video Game or Writing Lesson?

I am not a gamer. I know nothing about video games--unless you count the old school glory days of Mario (all versions), Sonic, Mortal Kombat and anything else invented for the Super Nintendo or the Sega. I can even hear the theme songs from all of them, including the Sega, in my head. I liked them. I can maneuver my way around the Wii, but all this new stuff I know nothing about.

Story time: I live with boys. They like video games. We have an awesome TV to play the video games on and they can instantly bond over their love or hatred for these games. Don't even ask me what they play because I couldn't tell you. They have conversations and try to explain to me. But me? I'm like this:

And then...AND THEN. They showed me the world of Castle Crashers.

If you don't know this game (like I didn't) it's simple. You're a knight. (I love knights.) You have to save princesses. The point is to hit things with your sword and not die. If you're lucky, you hit lots of things and get lots of XP and get more power. And there are these super cute little animal companions that help you get better at things you are lacking. (There's a giraffe= :) But I never get to have him. It is sad.) Together, you travel through the world, defeating evil water cat trolls and bad guys with swords. (I promise! There's a point to this.)

This game is not only FUN (so, so much fun), I can also pull out some parallels for writing.

My roommates are awesome at making me write. I have learned that this week. One of them goes to the gym in the morning and this week we've made a deal: the amount of time he spends at the gym, I match with writing. I like this because there's accountability--for him and for me. He doesn't play around either. There's something great about that. It reminds me of this game, because in Castle Crashers, we all work together as a team. We keep each other alive because when more of us are playing, we can go further.

There are other things I can pull out too. The knights are facing lots of bad guys. I think these bad guys for writers are things like: procrastination, discouragement, all the other commitments we make and the things that are distracting us from our goal. This last one is a big one. There are so many things. I know for me I've learned how much I miss writing all night. I get up at 5am already--so there's no way I'm getting up earlier. When I'm home around 4, I'm so done with thinking. Then people come home and things are happening--the last thing I want to do is leave it all and go write. It's a challenge that having accountability really helps me overcome. This week anyway. Next week may be a different story.

In the game, there are those little animal companions. They are called Animal Orbs. Cute, right? They do things like add XP or keep health up or make magic stronger. I think these are like other writers. What else is there than being surrounded by other writers?? This is what we do. We make each other stronger.

The game has also taught me the best thing ever about writing: rewards. I mentioned earlier that in the game you get XP and your power increases. This is awesome because you can do things better and the better you get the more you want to do it. This is a reward. When we're writing, we need rewards. I think it's totally perfect to say, "I'm going to write for one hour today and then eat a cupcake." Or "I'm going to write 1.5k and then watch a show." Or, my new thing, "I wrote can I play too?"

What are some things that you have in your life? Do you have accountability with writing? Do you give yourself rewards? What are some "bad guys" that you're facing and what can you do to overcome them? How can we help? Do you have people who can challenge you to try new things and push yourself? What are some things you can "trade" with someone to make sure you're both working toward your goals?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Character Descriptions in 5 Words or Less

So one of my critique partners, Danielle (yes the very same Danielle we have here at Tangled), believes that people, and therefore, characters can be summed up in five words or less. At first thought of this, I balked. Just five words? You want me to describe my characters in only 5 words? Pfft!

But the more that I think about it, the more I can kind of see her logic. As much as I could use dozens of words to describe my characters, I could also narrow that list down to the five most prominent.

You can find Danielle's original post on this HERE

First, I think I'll try my hand at Noah Shaw from the Unbecoming of Mara Dyer.

Well, let's see. He's a very complex character. He's as desirable as fictional characters can be, and he's mysterious too. He's arrogant, even if it's rightful, and he's British. Did I mention sexy? 

Okay....okay....Five words: Smoldering, Conceited, Direct, Passionate, Wealthy

Okay, so now that I've done it for Noah, let's see how I do with my own characters.

Karina: She's lost a lot. She's convinced she's seeing things. She's unsure of who to trust. But she's also determined and strong. She's a devoted friend and will do anything for those she loves. 

Her words: Resolute, Remorseful, Loyal, Loving, Forgiving

Tina: Where do I even begin with Tina? She's lovable and fun. She's constant and loves shopping. She's a bright spot in the darkness and just an all around typical teenage girl.
Her words: Affectionate, Thoughtful, Shop-a-holic, Perky, Flirtatious

Eli: He's been around the block and has seen pretty much everything. There's hardly anything that can surprise him anymore, or so he thinks. He's handsome in that devastatingly dangerous way. He's charming when he needs to be and he knows more about you (read Karina) than you're comfortable with. 

His words: Experienced, Hazardous, Audacious, Enigmatic, Hot

So how about you? Can you sum up your characters in 5 words or less? Give it a try. You might be surprised. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Inspiration on Wednesday!

So for this inspiration post, I thought I'd post a few pictures that I just think are pretty awesome in general. Hope something in them inspires you to write or create art in some way!

(How amazing is this?! I thought it was a b/w photo at first glance!)

I can just imagine an old masquerade dance gone wrong with these photos. What about you?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Revision Game

Today for our craft element, I'm going to talk about revision. At some point in the writing process, everyone has to revise. It's sorta like the "lather, rinse, repeat" or the "reduce, reuse, recycle" we hear a lot growing up. Except, for writers it's not always as formulaic. In theory, it should be "plot, draft, revise" because that's what we'd all like it to be---but more often than not it's different. For me, it's probably "idea, draft, draft, revise, draft, share, get critiques, freak out, think, revise, revise, delete, draft, revise..." Or something like that. 

The point is that revision is ALWAYS necessary for a draft. For everyone. (Even God revised. hello--Adam and Eve? The flood? Just saying.) The problem with revision is that is a never ending thing. Especially when you have critique groups--or school. Opinions always change drafts, or they change your opinion of your draft. 

Revisions are a big game. You can't start before the draft is ready. You have to know the way the pieces all fit together. You have to be willing to change, to grow and to lose. You can't hang on too tightly. You have to be ready and the story has to be ready. Once you're ready, you have to strap in and hang on. It's a bumpy ride.

Over a year ago last month, I started this novel. It came from one little line. One little line that turned into three lines that turned into a page and then six months later, 101K. Those first lines: 
"There's never enough time. It moves too quickly, signaling the end of everything. The end is the thing I fear the most.  Eventually, though, all things end. Days. Nights. Life. Even love. The fear of this loss is greater sometimes than the truth—that he lays here beside me, breathing, his arm resting over me.  Truth is undeniable....truth. One day they will find me and on that day, time will be quick and slow at once. Time is my enemy."
I can still feel the elation I felt when I wrote those lines down on a napkin in the Border's coffeeshop where I was working. Those words sent me on an adventure--a long, long, long, long adventure of discovery and writing that I didn't get to experience as much with my first novel. When I wrote the last lines of that first draft in January of 2011, it was the best feeling ever. It was done!

And then I got critiques. I got notes from agents. I got input from writer friends. People read it. And I learned I was far, far, far from done.

Five rewrites (or revisions) later, I'm only 15k in. The story is the same (mostly) it's just being told differently. Things are being cut out. Things are refined. My character is stronger because I know her more. I know what I can leave out, what I can keep in and what I want the story to be. Trust me though--it is not easy. Not easy at all.

There are days when I look at my word count and I think about what it used to be--and I want to cry. I mean. I've been writing and revising, deleting, revising, writing, revising, rethinking, experimenting, revising, writing...for over a year now. But I tell you, I know that in the end ALL THE REVISIONS WILL BE WORTH IT.

If you're revising, if you're about to revise, if you're thinking about revising--make sure it's ready. Make sure you're ready. Make sure you know how much work it is and how satisfying it is to see your draft change and become something incredible. If you're doing it right, if you're willing to lose and grow, it can only be better.

Where are you in the process? What is the most times you've ever revised the same story? How do you know when it's ready? What's your least/most favorite part of the revision game?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Monday Check-In & Thank You!

First of all, we'd like to thank everyone who bid on our Read For Relief critique donation. We are blown away and so grateful for all your generosity and cannot wait to begin our critique. Thank you!

Now for our check-in:

Christina's Check-In: Oh...well...this week I haven't gotten any writing done. And I don't even have a good reason. (shame face) I've just been so tired after work that I've been taking naps instead of writing. Hopefully this week will be different! I plan to get one-two chapters finished!

Drea's Check-In: Drea is still struggling through her first few weeks back at school with her new students but should be back to writing very soon. (If not, I'll have to hound her!)

Danielle's Check-In: For me, this week, I want to write. Guys, for real. I want to move forward and write new words and love it. Maybe I'll go crazy and read a book. I don't know what will happen, but for some reason I've been completely unable to focus on writing. So...I want to write.

Cindy's Check-In: After playing around for a few days with a new project, I have come full circle back to my draft of the last WIP and am making some necessary changes to that story.  I'm still waiting for full feedback from my betas and crit partners, but in the meantime, I'm busy adjusting a few things that I know need some work.

Patricia's Check-In: This is week I face my greatest challenge of the year: the return of ALL THE TV SHOWS! I also volunteer and teach 5th graders for two hours one evening a week starting this week. In anticipation of this wonderful time of year, I'm going to set my goal a little lower and aim to write at least 3 nights this week, for at least an hour each night. In a perfect world, I would write one hour for every hour of television I watched. Thanks to my DVR I can use the shows as rewards for writing, so if I can stick to my plan I'll be able to get a LOT of writing done. 

What about you? How has your last week in writing been?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Read for Relief: Win a critique from the Tangled Girls & our RPA!

Happy Thursday Peeps! I am interrupting our regularly scheduled Thursday "Character" post (which will be up tomorrow!) to let you know about a fantastic charity benefit that Tangled Up In Words is participating in!

Read for Relief is an online charity auction run by a group of wonderful MG/YA authors to raise money for the victims of Hurricane Irene. They have facilitated an incredible group of donors from the writing community and are auctioning off critiques (from MAJOR editor, agents, and writers!), books, ARCs, and MUCH more!

Where I live in Maryland we were very lucky when Hurricane Irene passed through. Aside from a lot of wind and rain, there was no real damage. I am very grateful that my house didn't even lose power (though we have a mini-leak in the basement, but not bad)! But this was not the case for many people all up and down the east coast and that is why we are so excited to be able to participate in donating to such a great cause. It's awesome to be joining such a great group of people from the writing community who are coming together to offer aid to those in need (Both the item donors and the bidders!).

Tangled Up in Words is donating a 30-page (or 3 chapter) critique. This is a group critique so you will get notes from at least four of the five Tangled girls AND our fabulous RPA, Jennifer L. Armentrout! All proceeds will go toward the Red Cross to assist in providing Hurricane Irene relief. Our item goes up TOMORROW and you have until Sunday at 10pm to bid. We'll update with you with a direct link as soon as we have it. Update: Here's our item!!!

To learn more about Read for Relief like on the button above. Good luck to all and thanks for bidding!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


You know what's amazing about inspiration? There are so many many different things can make you feel inspired! For me music is a key component for me when writing. Usually I get music that has the same feel of what I'm writing or a specific playlist for my WiP that I listen to over and over again! (Seriously! My last WiP has one song that I ended up listening to around 600 times!)

So here is a song from my current playlist that I love listening to while writing.

And since I talked about how there are so many different things that can be an inspiration, here's a photo that reminds me of my main character. I love getting a photo album together for a WiP. Having those visual reminders can make me want to write even when I feel like I'm in a funk!

What inspires you?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

That Awkward Moment When...

you start obsessing over something and you want to talk about it all day but can’t because other people don’t understand.
THIS. Let's talk about this.

Today is supposed to be about craft--and for some reason not only does this (as well as the whole blog I took it from) crack me up--but it also seems to be VERY plausibly about craft.

What is craft? Craft is:  
1. Skill in doing or making something, as in the arts; proficiency.
2. An occupation or trade requiring manual dexterity or skilled artistry. b. The membership of such an occupation or trade; guild.
3. To make by hand.
4. To make or construct (something) in a manner suggesting great care or ingenuity. 

Everyone here is presumably "a writer" and thus one who determines, develops, and crafts a world, a character, a plot. As such, we are obsessive! We get lost in the world. We know it. We can smell it, taste the air, walk on the ground. We feel what our characters feel, think and wonder as they do, worry and fight. We are consumed by our craft. (And I think that's how it should be.)

The problem with it is that not everyone else--if anyone--is in that world with us. They don't care (to an extent) what's going on there or what your character ate for breakfast (scrambled eggs) or how that breakfast is really foreshadowing something that happens later (day where everything is messed up and shattered into pieces!) People who aren't writers don't usually understand what goes on in our heads. They can't if they aren't consumed by this intense world and lives of all these other people that have to survive and thrive alongside your own. 
Which brings me back to the opening of this post: When we are obsessing, when we love something, we want to talk about it all day long! (Like me with Doctor Who.) and sometimes, we can't do that because the people in our lives don't understand.

So what now?

How do you balance the obsession of your fictional world with the reality of your life? Are there people you can turn to that share the obsession? Do you have a group of writers (and/or readers) that you can pour all these things out to?  How do you develop and balance all the things so you don't get completely lost?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Monday Check-In & Giveaway Winners

Each Monday here at Tangled, we will be posting a check-in to keep us accountable for the writing we've accomplished and to receive encouragement for those of us who have struggled. And let's be honest, when aren't we struggling as writers? We could always, always use a little encouragement, right? 

This week we are also posting the winners from our author week giveaways. Check for the names below.

So here is our check-in for this week. Please feel free to leave a comment with your own check-in. We'd love to see how you're doing. :-)

Christina's Check-In: This last week I finished about 2k on my WiP. I was hoping to get a little more done but got kinda lazy. Eep. This coming week though I plan to do about another 2k at least, maybe more. I'm not sure exactly b/c this week will be a bit busier for me.

My winner for the copy of Haven by Kristi Cook is MINA! Congrats Mina! I hope you enjoy the book as much as I did!!

Drea's Check-In: I got nothing. I need to make it through this week and then I hope to get back on a normal writing schedule. The first few weeks of school are killer.

Danielle's Check-In:  This week I'm going to finish my paper (due Tuesday) and read a book! I haven't read a book in like three weeks that wasn't for school so I'm very excited. I'm going to write 2-5k this week. That's a smaller number for me but I'm hoping to finish by the end of November and anything is better than nothing. Plus, I think work will be insanity. Last week I survived--which was my goal--so as long as I read a book and write SOMETHING beyond this scene, I'll be so happy.


Patricia's Check-In: I just finished my week off from writing and it was definitely the right thing to do! I read a new book on craft that gave me a lot to think about and I'm going to be implementing some of the ideas I got while reading it this coming week. I also spent the weekend in Boston with Danielle (which was SO MUCH FUN!) and was lucky enough to have dinner with Cindy and Ariane while I was there. It was a wonderful evening of book, industry, and writing talk. More than anything else I did this week, it got be excited to start working again so I thank all three of them for that! This week I am going to drive right back in and focus on moving forward in my draft without looking back and editing as I go. I'm also going to try out drafting in Scrivener (which Danielle was kind enough to give me a tutorial in while I was there!)

Winners of the TORN give away:

Grand prize winner: Melinda Williams

Two runners up: glitterword, mermaidvision 

Cindy's Check-In: I finished the first draft of my WIP. I sent it off to crit partners and now I'm waiting as patiently as possible for feedback. I've started a new WIP to keep myself distracted and am getting caught up on critiquing. Overall, I'm really excited for the finished WIP and can't wait to dig into revisions. 

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Sunday Teaser!

It's time for another Sunday Teaser! But first, if any of you are writers as well then we'd love to share some teasers from you guys too! So, if you have a project you've done or are working on, and want to share a little bit of it, send your teasers to: christinaferko(at)gmail(dot)com

We'd love to see and share what you guys have too!

And now here is this Sunday's teaser. This one comes from my own WiP. I hope you like it. (It's a bit morbid though...)

My knees buckle and I fall to the ground, right next to Elder Gale. A hollow feeling creeps into my chest. The sound of Declan calling my name and Supervisor Dresden shouting in the doorway reaches my ears like an echo, distorted and distant. Declan tugs on my hand. His warm skin stings against the cold that has taken over my body, and I rip my hand out of his. My fingers tremble as I reach out to Elder Gale. They hang in the air above him, not touching but so close.
His blood crawls across the floor to me, still warm as it leeches into my clothes and covers my skin. A scream sounds in the room, long and piercing. It isn’t until the pain sears my throat that I realize it’s me. I’m screaming and I can’t stop. It pours out of me like the blood that pours out of Elder Gale. The same thought fills my head over and over again: Next to me is the body of a man I killed.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Patience v. Revising

You've slaved over your MS for months (years?) and you've finally, finally typed the very last line. It's rough. You know it's rough. You've been thinking about, but not allowing yourself to fix any holes until you actually finished the book.

You're fingers itch to start revisions right now. You don't want to wait. Why wait? You know everything there is to know about your characters and your story.


You don't need to wait for feedback from your CPs or betas. Just do it now and get it out to agents as soon as is humanly possible.


Have you been here? Does it sound familiar?

This is exactly where I am. I just recently finished the first draft of my MS. I stayed up until 3 a.m. to do it. I *had* to do it. I couldn't sleep anyway because it was all I could think about. I needed to get this story down on paper before I lost all my momentum. It felt great!

For about 3 hours. Then...I just wanted to dive right back in and revise, revise, revise. I'd emailed it to my  betas and CPs as soon as I'd closed the draft. My plan was to wait. Let them read it. Read their thoughts and THEN begin revising.

The problem with that is I really want to do it now. Like, right now. So what did I do? I asked a CP her opinion.

She said to wait. To draft a query letter. Try to get to know my characters better that way.

I did that. Then what?

Well, now I've decided to try my hand at an idea I've been putting on the back burner for about a month now. It's a bit frightening to start a brand new WIP, but at the same time, it feels good. Really good. And it's totally keeping me distracted, which is what I need right now.

Patience is not exactly one of my strongest attributes, but for this, for my dream...I will be patient.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Character Love

There are characters out there that you simply love and then there are characters that you love to hate too, right? Well, I want to tell you all about a character that I both love and hate.

Cole from Everneath by Brodi Ashton (Jan.2012)

Meet Cole:
'I had been in his arms, but I hadn't seen his face for a century. It was the same. His blond hair framed dark eyes--eyes that were wide open in surprise. His gaze roved over my face, my body.'

And here's why I 'hate' him:
'"Why? YOu wanted to know what happens at the Shop-N-Go. Let's find out, shall we?" He forced me closer to the window.'

And here's why I love him:
"Sometimes..." He pauses and squeezes his eyes shut. "Sometimes our hearts...crack a little."

Yes, I love and hate Cole. I think he's an amazing character for this too. He's layered so well that throughout the book I rooted for him, I couldn't stand him, and then all of a sudden I liked him again. He shows so much about himself piece by stubborn piece throughout the book. All of his faults and his little endearing bits kept me going and wanting more of him! I think it takes an excellent, well-written character (and amazing author, of course) to do that.

So what about you guys? Any characters out there that you love to hate?

Friendly Inspiration

I have been trying to pin-down what it is that inspires me for a few weeks now (especially once I realized I was going to have the inspiration post this week! ;)

I think one of my favorite things about being part of the YA writing community is that I’m not only inspired by the journeys famous, amazing, legendary writers, but also the journeys I see unfolding before me, those of my writer friends (many of whom are amazing and soon-to-be famous and legendary!) I’ve found that my excitement when I’m sharing in celebrating the exciting news of my friends as they reach milestones in their own writing inspires me to continue on my own journey. For me, feeling inspired to write is significantly based on my mood. And when I’m cheering on my friends, on the days they have big news (a book deal!) or just regular, everyday news (a good writing day for them!) it makes me happy, which in turn puts me in the mood to work on my own projects.

To give you an example of what I mean, I’ve asked two of my writer friends to do micro-interviews for this post sharing some of the happy moments and lessons learned of their journeys to publication. Both of them are gearing up for their debut years in 2012 and I am very excited to be cheering them and their fabulous books on! The answers they were generous enough to share are below, I hope that they will inspire you to ask the writers in your life to share their happiest moments as well! :)

Jennifer Rush’s debut ALTERED will be published by Little, Brown in Fall 2012. You can find out more about Jennifer on her blog or twitter.

What has your favorite part of your writing journey been so far?
Jennifer Rush: My favorite part was the agent querying process. I had submitted enough manuscripts over the years, that I knew how hard it was to catch the attention of an agent. So when I had several requests that first week out, I was pretty excited. BUT…I knew not to expect too much.

When I read the email from my (now) agent asking if I was available to talk on the phone, I went numb all over. This was what I’d been waiting to hear for years. And to finally hear it was amazing.

What is the one thing you know now that you wish you had known starting out?
Jennifer Rush: I wish I had been more patient. My writing in the beginning was trash, but I was so eager to be published, I didn’t take the time to practice the craft. If by some fluke, I’d gotten a book deal five years ago with the manuscript I was submitting at the time, I don’t think I would be as proud of it today. I see its flaws now. I see a lot of amateur mistakes in the pages. 

I am so glad that my debut novel will be ALTERED. My writing has grown so much in the last few years.

Jessica Spotswood’s debut BORN WICKED will be published by Putnam on February 7, 2012. You can find out more about Jessica on her blog or twitter.

What has your favorite part of your writing journey been so far?
Jessica Spotswood: I think my favorite moment was when my husband woke me up last Tuesday with a box of ARCs. My book! Book-shaped! With my name on it, and my dedication to my grandmother, and all my words inside! It made it feel startlingly real. I've been a writer since I was a little girl, but I felt like a Real Author when I got to hold it in my hands and pet the pretty cover. 

My favorite thing, though, is that I now have a team. I have this amazing editor and her genius assistant who love my story, and they're there to cheer me on when I need that and challenge me to do better when I need that. I have an awesome agent and a handful of brilliant, wonderful critique partners too. So, when I doubt myself (which definitely doesn't stop just because I have a book deal), I trust them. I know that if I make a wrong turn in the story, they'll be there to help me fix it. That's immeasurably comforting. 

What is the one thing you know now that you wish you had known starting out?
Jessica Spotswood: I wish I'd known how common it is that the book that snags you an agent doesn't sell. My first book (a YA fantasy called INHERITING GAROLASS) didn't. I was so disappointed in myself, and worried I'd disappointed all my friends and family who believed in me, and scared that my agent would lose faith in me. Now that I'm more involved in the writing community, though, I know that it happens all the time. And honestly? It was really difficult at the time, but I'm glad. I learned an awful lot from writing that book, and I'd love to revisit it someday, but BW is much stronger because of the mistakes I made and the editor feedback I got with GAROLASS. 

Where do you get your inspiration from? If you’d like to share a story about your own writing journey to inspire others, we’d love to hear it!

A BIG thank you to Jennifer and Jessica for today's inspirational stories! You guys rock!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Monday Check-in on Tuesday

Sometimes things happen. Today is a complete example of this theory. Drea worked really hard on an awesome--and it was really, really, really awesome--post on craft (that's Tuesday's focus). I went to post it and then--bam---it was gone. Seriously. Blogger ate it. We have no idea what happened. And since today is her first day of teaching, there's no way to get another one. 

Then yesterday, when were supposed to post this post--Cindy was unable to escape her writing vortex. She's been swept away! 

So, here's a Monday check-in on the Tuesday that blogger ate our original post! Huzzah!

Drea: I don't have an updated word count for my new WIP. The school year is getting ready to begin and my energies have been focused on preparing for my students to arrive next week. I really need encouragement to stay on track in spite of the stress and long hours.

Danielle: The last two weeks have been an adventure. I read some books for school, wrote some papers for school and I broke 15K on my draft. My WIP is all a big puzzle that I'm putting together and it's been a lot of stress, tears, fun and rewards. I've been going back and forth with some of my crit partners about how/what/when/why I should do things. It's stressful, but it's so good to be challenged. This week, I have one more massive paper to write on two books that I haven't read yet that's due on Friday for school. Then, Patricia is coming to visit for the weekend! I also start full time at my job this week. So, if I get any writing done then it will super awesome. My goal is to survive and get my homework finished!!

Christina: I took the week off from writing. My twin sis was in town and since I don't get to see her often, I spent my time with her. So, I didn't get any writing done but I have been brainstorming on my plot for my WiP. I also plan to try and write two more chapters this week!

Cindy: *is stuck in a vortex of writing* I didn't do much writing the last two weeks. Until the last three days. Now, all of a sudden, I can't seem to pull myself away from writing for more than eating. I have seriously not stopped thinking about my book and how it's going to end, and well, it's sucked me in so much that everything else has just sort of faded into the background these past few days...I can hardly sleep at all because I suddenly can't get the plot lines out of my head! With that being said, I am actually ONE scene away from ending the book.

Patricia: Like Drea, I don't have an updated word count as the past week was consumed by things for work and getting my son off to a very happy start in Kindergarten! (Very happy for him, kind of teary/stressful/overly-emotional/happy-ish for me!) I think the overwhelming events of the week kind of threw me into a bit of a slump, both with my reading and my writing. I have been doing a little plotting and brainstorming, so not a total failure on the writing front. While I'm giving myself the rest of this week to get out of my funk (and to have a fabulous weekend visit with Danielle!), I am hoping to jump right back into my productive plans for the rest of September.

What are your goals this week?

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Don't Tell Me

Show versus Tell is one of the dreaded ones in a writer’s dictionary. Sometimes your editor will mark up your entire manuscript in red text that looks something like this

<------- Telling here. Need to show what is happening. 

This is pretty much where you bang your head off a wall or keyboard. Many times you don’t even realize you’re telling instead of showing until someone points it out. It’s that hard to see when you’re writing. 

So what’s the problem with telling instead of showing? Well, typically, telling a story can be very dry to a reader and at times lacks creativity in the writing. It doesn’t allow the reader to FEEL want the protagonist is feeling. And you want the reader to be in the protags shoes. Not three blocks down from what’s happen. 

Here are some examples of Show vs. Tell.

  • Emotion is SO important. You want to reader to feel it. Not see it on paper.
Tell: I was angry as I got into my car.
Show: Blood boiling, I whipped open the car door and slammed it shut behind me.
Tell: The ghost scared me.
Show: Ice slithered through my veins, pooling in my stomach. My breath hitched as the shadows pulled together, forming the upper half of a man wearing an old Confederate uniform, but there were no legs. He was only half there, floating in air. 

  • A common one in manuscripts is this one. Sometimes all you think you have to do is say someone is good looking and everyone believes you. Ah, no.
Tell: He was really hot.
Deep brown hair the color of bark fell over his forehead in wild waves. His face was arresting and intriguing, with high cheekbones and a determined mouth. Not conventionally handsome, but universally alluring.
(The showing is from CURSED) 

Need more examples? Comment in the comment section and I’ll make up some more

Here’s where I’m going to throw you two curve balls. Because that’s how I roll. 

  • First curve ball to the face:
Sometimes telling is okay, when you need to get to the good stuff. You’ll see this happening with passages of time. 

Example: A week crawled by before I saw him again.  

You can’t write an ENTIRE novel in showing. It would be the longest piece of over-written work you’d ever read. Sometimes it’s okay. And the more you write, the easier it is for you to figure out when a quickie and to the point sentence is needed.

  • Second curve ball to the gut:
I recently read a book that was ENTIRELY in telling mode. It showed absolutely nothing. Everything, and I do mean everything, was told to the reader. Oddly, it worked for the book. Maybe because it was in 3rd person, but I couldn’t help but put on my writer hat every time I was told something. It was frustrating for me, because I’m the type of reader/writer who wants to be showed something, but like I said, it kind of worked for the book. 
Also, I believe this book garnered a 6-7 figure advance at auction. Why am I telling you this? That rules in writing are ALWAYS meant to be broken. Now I don’t suggest that you run out there and write an entire novel in “telling” mode, because seriously, it is very rare to pull it off, but some people have. 

Friday, September 2, 2011

Interview with Lauren Oliver

I'm so honored to have had the opportunity to interview one of my absolute favorite authors for our author interview line-up. I asked Lauren Oliver to tell us a little bit about her writing habits and how she's gotten where she is today as an author. I hope you enjoy it!  

If you live under a rock and haven't heard of or read her amazing books, she has two books out right now from HarperTeen: Before I Fall and Delirium. Her third book, Pandemonium, comes out in early 2012.

My interview with Lauren: 

1. How have you noticed your writing styles/skills/habits changing since you first wrote Before I Fall?

I’m sure they must have in some way—I like to think I’ve improved, at least a little!—but to be honest, no, the process feels much the same to me, and my tendencies, flaws, strengths, and habits feel very much the same.

2. Are you a plotter or a pantser?

I’m a plotter now, by necessity. I didn’t used to be, but I also used to write 800 books with next to no plot. So now I do try to rigorously outline my books. I find it forces me to think rigorously about character, too, as I am essentially plotting the evolution of character as I think about the evolution of the plot.

3. Do you have any tried and true methods for finding and fixing your own plot holes?

Hmm. Well, I try to plot my books pretty rigorously before I begin writing, because I find that the best way to fix gaping plot holes is to avoid them in the first place. But of course, that doesn’t always work. What functions in an outline might not have a place in a manuscript, or might just be boring or cliché. I always take a break between drafts, because I find a new perspective helps. Other than that…there’s no magic formula for me. I just think, and think, and think about it, and eventually a solution occurs—most of the time, at least!

4. Do you have a designated writing place? Can you share a picture? Does it change from day to day or are you pretty consistent with where the magic happens?

It definitely changes day to day. I often write at my dining room table, but I am very busy and I travel a lot, so I am equally as likely to be writing on my laptop on a plane or in the backseat of a car. I am also notoriously for doing a ton of writing on my blackberry. I wrote the majority of Before I Fall on my blackberry during my commute.

5. Do you have any writing mistakes that you just can't seem to break? Any words that you almost always have to look up the spelling of?

I can’t stop using the word lowly when I mean softly, as in: “He spoke softly.” It drives my editor crazy. Also, I use the words “seems” and “suddenly” far too often, and in general am overly verbose and descriptive. I mean, really, if I start thinking about it, I could probably point to about a million of them.

6. How many rounds of revisions do you go through on average before passing your MS on to your agent?

Probably one to three. My first drafts are incredibly, incredibly messy—character names change throughout, geographical locations are designated by TK…my first drafts are almost hieroglyphs. So I always do one major clean-up revision, and then usually another, closer edit. 

Thanks so much for the interview, Lauren! 

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Interview with Kristi Cook! (Author of Haven)

I had the awesome opportunity to interview the amazing Kristi Cook. She was so nice to do this interview for me and I want to thank her for that! (my very first author interview!)

Kristi is the author the of the awesome novel, Haven:

One month into her junior year, sixteen-year-old Violet McKenna transfers to the Winterhaven School in New York’s Hudson Valley, inexplicably drawn to the boarding school with high hopes. Leaving Atlanta behind, she’s looking forward to a fresh start--a new school, and new classmates who will not know her deepest, darkest secret, the one she’s tried to hide all her life: strange, foreboding visions of the future...

Doesn't that sound awesome? (I absolutely LOVED this book!) For a full description from Goodreads, click on the cover image. Now, for the interview with the lovely Kristi Cook.

1. When did you start writing?
As far back as I can remember, I was writing! Even as far back as kindergarten, I was writing/drawing little picture books. In sixth grade, I wrote the first two chapters of a sequel to GONE WITH THE WIND (early fan-fic, I guess?). In college, I took a creative writing class where I wrote several short stories. But I didn’t attempt to write for publication till after the birth of my second daughter—I was at home with a one year old and a two-and-a-half year old, and figured, why not give it a try?! Writing that first book was what kept me sane!

2. What is your favorite part about writing?
I love that sense of control! I mean, let’s face it, there’s so much in our lives that’s just totally beyond our control. But when I’m writing, it’s all on me—the characters, the set-up, and the events that take place. Also, like most readers, I love to “fall” into an imaginary world—it’s really the same for me when I’m writing. I love getting lost in my own imagination, “hanging out,” so to speak, in the world and with the cast of characters I’ve created.

3. If you ever get stuck, do you have anything specific that you do that helps?
Listening to music! Finding a song that really fits the mood of the scene I’m writing can be a big help getting me unstuck. Otherwise, it’s generally a sign that I need to get to know my characters better (in my mind) before I can press forward.

4. Is there anything about the writing process that surprised you when you first started?
Other than how hard it is, LOL?! Because yeah…writing an entire book is exhausting!

5. Have you ever had to do a lot of research for any of your writing?
Oh, yeah! Before I wrote YA fiction, I wrote historical romance set in Regency and Edwardian England. Lots and lots of research—everything from history to social issues to clothing to transportation. You should my office bookshelves! I majored in history in college and graduate school, so historical research is fun and familiar for me. I really enjoyed delving into those eras.
For HAVEN, I did a lot of research on psychic powers, another topic that really interests me.

6. What does your writing process look like? (ie-do you plot, do characters or story come first, ect.)
Unfortunately, I’m not much of a plotter. Characters definitely come to me first—they draw me into “learning” their stories. Now that I’m writing a multi-book series, plotting is becoming more and more important, though I’d say I’m still a character-driven writer. At times, it’s really a struggle for me to find the plot with which to structure my characters’ story around (if that makes any sense!).

As a 'Thank You' to Kristi Cook for doing this interview (and because, seriously, I really did love this book) I want to share it with you guys. So, here another contest! One winner will receive a copy of Haven! Yay!

Rules and Info:
To enter, please leave a comment letting us know your name, a way to contact you, and how many points you got (see below).
U.S. Contest only
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)

And if you don't win, don't worry! You can order a copy of HAVEN at Amazon! And don't forget the second book in the series, MIRAGE, is set to come out summer 2012!