Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Completely True Story of Rubber Bands

I made an awesome discovery. I never knew how important this minor information would be until I learned it, and now, I will never look at the rubber band the same way. Do you know the history of the rubber band? It's a very awesome story full of inventiveness. Let me tell you so it can change your life.

Apparently, the Mayans discovered them by using latex, which is the sap of plants (and the rubber tree!) When it is exposed to the air it hardens into a springy mass, and the Mayans learned to mix the rubber sap with the juice from morning glory vines so that it became more durable and elastic, and didn't get quite as brittle.

That's the completely true story of rubber bands!! Isn't it exciting?! 

Okay, maybe not.

You probably thought I was going to tell you something more interesting. That I was going to do something more interesting.

It's understandable. I did build up that opening so you would expect something extraordinary, which I failed to deliver. And sure, I could've done so it was more interesting. I could've amped up the details. I could've made you care about the topic by introducing a reason to care. I could've made it personal. But I didn't. I built the tension, and then let it crash to the ground

Tension is a big issue for me--and I do exactly this ALL THE TIME.

Over the years (and the drafts!) I've become more aware of this problem. If there were awards for teasing readers with tension, I'd win them all. I have no problem introducing a situation, but I do have a problem playing it up and building it.  Christina was actually the first person to point it out to me, and ever since then, I have to always be on guard. I have to look extra hard to see if I'm building or lowering the tension. (Whether it's sexual tension or emotional or physical! It's a consistent thing.)

Tension exists raise the stakes for the character, to work with the conflict to raise the emotional level of a book. If I'm not using it correctly, then I'm killing my novel.

I have an example for you. This selection is from the first draft of my current MS. (Although, since I've written seven drafts and changed the title, I'd say it's probably a different book altogether. And I've changed the names here, just because it's weird.) 

The flickering light above us dies. Thomas is quiet and I look around. The road is dark. Still. I grab his arm, ignore the spark of our touch, and take a deep breath. 

“Run,” I say. 


“Because. It’s happening again,” I say.

He raises a questioning eyebrow, but I shake my head. 

“Now. We need shelter.” 

There are no other words exchanged between us as we both take off in a run. It was almost like being at home, smiling as we run across the beach, sinking in the sand, the wind in our face. Only there was no beach, no sand, no smiling. There was wind—a shrill pitch brought it here. It screeched around us in a fast motion, bringing up trash and tree branches with it. 

I run, feeling Thomas beside me. He was always beside me, even when he could run faster than me in his sleep. His breaths are steady in my head and somehow, I hear his feet hitting the concrete louder than the roaring wind. I turn to the left and he follows. We jump into an empty dumpster. It smells, despite the decades of not being used. I pray that it still bolted to the ground and Thomas closes the lid. I make out his eyes in the darkness and he wraps his hand in mine, for comfort, just as he has done since we were children. 

“What is that?” 

“The Cleaner,” I say. 

I encountered it three times already. The journey from the southern-most region has not been an easy one. There were many delays, delays that had thrown me off the precious timeline. Five days have passed instead of three. One of the delays was the Cleaner. 

From what I understand, from what I had seen, it acts as a vacuum. It searches the remains of the empty regions for survivors, for any form of life and it removes them, like a speck of dust on a clean mantel. Like they aren’t living. 

An old woman I encountered in underground Georgia told me it sent them to the Compound. That alone would explain the sudden entry of a new member to our home—and why there was no memory of their previous lives, memories that would cause a rebellion. The Cleaner cleaned everything and left no evidence. There weren’t many new members though, maybe one person every couple months. Rogues were careful. They had to be.


We are part of them now. We are rogues, traitors. I am already fated with death; it is my price to pay. I can feel it slowly stealing parts of me. My fate, but it isn’t Thomas’s. He can still escape, go back, and be safe. He can…but I don’t want him to. I want him stay here, beside me, even if we are hidden together in a smelly dumpster while imminent death moves around us outside.
After this happens, the characters kiss. (Yes, in the dumpster. I know. WEIRD.) And then they're outside again, back to what they were doing before. **Note: This scene no longer exists in my MS. I think I lost it at third draft.**

The problem? I build this tension and then drop it before it even matters. It's bad here, but it's worse in the context.

You ever flick a rubber band? I've been told, tension is like that. You're supposed to stretch a situation to the furthest point possible and then let go. The more you do it, the more the reader gets scared, gets invested, gets ready for something to blow up. That's tension.

When we wait for Lola and Cricket to kiss? Tension. When we wait to see what Katniss will do when Prim's name is called? Tension. When everything is building and we want to see what happens when Tris chooses her faction and meets Four and what is her life now? Tension.

I have to always be on guard with tension. There are so many types all working together in the story, that it's overwhelming sometimes.

Unfortunately, I've found just knowing how it works doesn't help. I don't always see potential places to build existing tension. I go into a piece of the story fully prepared for A and B and C to happen, which will lead to D. But often times someone points out what I missed at A-1 and B-3 and C-2 where I can amp up this moment or that moment to make the next one even stronger.

Which is great. It is. But how do I get to a place where I know how to see tension that I didn't plan on?  How do I know when I'm dropping tension too soon? When I'm missing the potential to build something else? Does anyone else struggle with this or I am alone?? Like the completely true story of rubber bands, how can I always make sure I'm delivering the tension well, so my characters don't end up making out in the dumpster?

Monday, January 30, 2012

A Tangled Guide to Kill Your WIP in 6 Ways (An Introduction)

In case you haven't noticed, we started doing segments on Tangled where each of us talk about the same issue over two weeks. Today starts another. This time we're talking about this thing called death. (And no, that's not what you think it is.)

Every writer has that thing they struggle with when telling a story--whether that's conflict, action, character, or something as simple as structure. It's really important to know what your weaknesses are as a writer so you can be aware of them AND overcome them. That's what our new segment is about. If you don't know what your problem areas are, then those areas have the power to completely destroy book you've written or are writing at this moment.

We're each going to address a unique area that she personally struggles with that has the power to destroy a WIP. And then, two weeks from now, we're going to tell you how to save that WIP by fixing the things that can kill it. But you have to know what you're saving it from before you can save it. We're all really excited about this one!

We need your help. For the next four Fridays, we're going to do crits of your first 500 words. If you want to submit, all you have to do is go here and follow the guidelines. We'll randomly select a person each week and offer up a critique on the opening. We want you to submit--and to get involved with our struggles and connect this week. That's what we're here for.

Speaking of connection, it's time for another Monday check-in. Make sure you let us know
what YOU are working on this week too in the comments.

Christina: I had to rework the last chapter I wrote so I didn't get as much done last week as I wanted. I wrote about 3k in total and hope to get 4k or more done this week.

Danielle: I've completely finished my final(ish) round of edits and now I'm just analyzing every little line, which usually means I'm finished. A final round of readers is looking at the story and while they do that, I'm going to plot out some of my new WIP this week---and I'm very excited about it.

Cindy: I'm working on the same thing and trying to figure out how to be productive. Still making revisions per and brainstorming other revisions for the completed MS and have also been plotting the new WIP I'm working on.

What are you doing this week?! 

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Query Perfection

Okay, so you've written a novel. You've revised said novel. And you've probably rewritten and revised some more. Maybe you have done this multiple times and you've finally, finally gotten to that point that your manuscript is .... *gasp* .... perfect. Or as perfect as you can make it anyway. You probably look at lot like this:

Your next step is query agents. Should be pretty simple. All you have to do is take the last few months (or years in my case) of your life and summarize it in a few brief paragraphs.

Sounds easy, right?

Pffft. As if anything is easy when it comes to writing and publishing a book. So what do you do now? You think about it and you mull it over and you brainstorm some more. You write bits down. You erase and start over. You show it to crit partners and they suggest changes. It's an awful lot like the manuscript writing process. It's a lot of second guessing and reading and rereading. It's challenging, but when you do it right, when it's just about perfect, it can be so worth it.

Maybe you're just so excited at this point because you've written such a great manuscript that you're not worried about your query letter. Maybe it comes easily to you and you're not plagued by the perfectionistic gene that hovered over you the whole time you were drafting. If this is you, I'm happy -- so happy for you!

But if you're more like me, you started writing your query MONTHS in advance. You've researched and bookmarked and saved all of your dream agents in a folder on your computer for when that magical moment comes and you finally hit SEND. And maybe you have over twenty versions of the letter saved on your computer and maybe you lost sleep over just the right wording. After all, you only get one chance to impress. Your dream agent can read that  query and be so wowed that they ask for the full immediately. Or your dream agent could send you a form rejection within the hour of sending off the letter.

There are hundreds if not thousands of websites and posts out there dedicated to writing the perfect query letter. I have over thirty bookmarked on my own computer. Here are a few of my favorites:

Formula for a Query Letter 

How to Write a Query Letter

The Biggest Mistakes Writers Make When Querying

It's overwhelming, this need to be perfect. It's frightening to know that someone can reject you after only reading 250 words. But it's also exhilarating. This is your chance to shine. Your chance to show off the world and the characters you've created.

Be proud. You've finished that novel. You can handle the query letter. Maybe it's not a perfect process, but like we've been saying all along, perfection is never really attainable. Let your query letter say what it needs to say and make sure you know who you're querying. Then, even as scary as it is, let that baby fly. See what happens. Maybe it doesn't work out this time around, but you know what they say about practice....It makes perfect.  :-)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Eyes OFF The Prize

First, a disclaimer: I am not a published author. I'm a marginally successful and marginally sane academic. This post is primarily about maintaining your sanity, and not about success in publishing. It seems to me that if you want to be successful in publishing, it may help you to do the opposite of what I advise.


We all have those dreams of perfection in writing. The draft that makes you so passionate, so gleeful, it writes itself over a long weekend away at your cabin in the mountains. The editing process that is so productive, so take-no-prisoners, that you emerge with attractively rugged battle scars and a finished draft gleaming and sparkling like the holy grail. The query process that involves just one letter to just the perfect agent who then sells your book the next day to just the right publisher for more money than you've ever earned doing miserable menial labor all your life. And the book is optioned for film before it is even released in print, and preorders alone put you on the NYT best sellers list, and your favorite actor is cast as the hero, and you win the most prestigious award, and every author you've ever admired approaches you at industry events to give you a pat on the back and ask you to team up with them for an anthology. And everything you ever write from then on is better than the last, and sold on pre-empt, and politics and the economy don't matter anymore because you can spend the rest of your days writing from your cabin in the mountains and being loved for it

I've had these fantasies. If you haven't, then you don't torment yourself enough with stories of others' perfection. Good for you! You don't need to read this and you can go back to your bliss.

These fantasies come from bursts of success we observe in others. We piece together the glory stories from many into one grand expectation for ourselves. But perfection has a very ugly side, and that's the bitter, rancid discomfort it makes the rest of us plebeians feel. It's easy to get sucked into the perceived race to perfection in publishing. Every day we are assaulted from both sides with stories of the immense success of others and stories about how publishing is imploding and sinking into its own special circle of the underworld. This makes perfection seem even more urgent because it feels like it's Black Friday all the time and supplies won't last and we need to disfigure ourselves racing for the prize or get trampled to death trying.

This feeling of simultaneous inadequacy and being terribly behind in the race got me so agitated that reading agent blogs and publisher's weekly and even listening to the success of others at events made me feel like I'd just downed an entire franchise of Starbucks worth of caffeine and I'd wander about in a crazed semi-consciousness, rending my clothes and writing maniacally. I had to write the best thing and I had to write it now or I'd DIE. I'd lose the publishing perfection race and I'd DIE.

And this is when, as is often the case, elementary school mandates come in handy. The only mantra that can shake me out of this rabid foaming frenzy is this:

Eyes on your own paper!

But Julie just wrote a book in seven days!

Eyes on your own paper!

But Tim just got a three book deal!

Eyes on your own paper! 

But but but! 

You know what I'm going to say. 

For me, living this mantra meant that I cut back significantly on the industry blogs I read. I got rid of my twitter account. I stopped going to so many events. And when certain friends who liked to regale me with their success called, I sometimes let it go to voicemail.

Maybe that makes me a bad friend. But you know what it means I have been doing a lot more of? Writing. Breathing. Sleeping. Things other than panicking.

Maybe, as I said, this is not the best strategy to getting published. This means that if an agent does bite at a query, I'll need to look them up because I don't know what every agent I query had for breakfast that morning anymore. This means that if I ever do publish a novel, I'll need to start over on my twitter and all of that.

But those are doable things. And in the meantime, I can wrap myself in the fluffy robe of my sanity and write something I love, and let it breathe and grow organically.

And that is its own kind of perfection. 

Ariane is our resident guest poster at Tangled. She is a grad student who loves urban fantasy and romance. She enjoys mythology, psychology, and playing with her dog. Ariane excels at video games, public speaking, and making macaroni and cheese. Her favorite authors are John Steinbeck and Anne Bishop. She lives in Boston.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Word Count Perfection

Word count is such a huge thing when it comes to writing, isn't it? Making sure your overall MS fits within a certain count. Hitting your writing goal for the day, or week, or month (or whatever). Word counts for your scenes or chapters. Adding or subtracting during revisions, and so on!

But I'd like to talk about two aspects of word count when it comes to trying to be perfect.

The first is something I did with an older manuscript of mine. I should preface this by saying that sometimes I get a bit OCD with making things neat and organized (I'm not an uber-neat person or anything though.) There are just certain areas where I like order and apparently one of them was in my word count with chapters. I used to be so fixated on making my chapters around the same length. I liked seeing each chapter come out to being around ten pages or so when written on Word. It made me happy.

Until I realized it was only hurting me and my story. I was trying to fit my scenes and chapters into nice, neat little boxes that they didn't want to fit in. I ended up rushing scenes or adding in extra unnecessary stuff just to fill in space. I know, I know, this is probably something that not many of you struggle(d) with. But I did. Then I read somewhere (and I can't even remember who or where it was to give credit) that as much as you want variation in your story and characters and all that good stuff, it's also beneficial in your word count. How boring it would be to read 10 pages chapters one after the other after the other all the time, none shorter or longer ever. That's when I learned to let go of the un-needed order of my word count in chapters. Variation is more refreshing and I don't stifle my writing by trying to fit it into a little box.

Which kinda leads into my next point. Number 2: Don't let your need for word count hold back your writing. This is something I'm struggling with lately now that I have a specific word count goal for each day (which, Eek!, I've been lax on today). I spend my writing time trying to hit that goal and sometimes my focus turns from the story and my characters to that--to have I written enough, not have I written this the best I can.

That's not saying that you can only write amazing stuff all the time (HA! I wish!) I write a lot of stuff that needs to be edited and revised (and edited and revised). I'm talking about not letting my focus shift from trying to write the best story I can--for my character, my reader, and myself--to worrying just about my word count, making my goals.

So that's what I've struggled with in the past and what I'm learning to deal with now too. Any of you have similar situations with trying to perfect your word count (in whatever way) over your the quality of your words?

Word count matters...but not as much as your story. Write the best you can and then worry about the count. That's my new motto lately.

(Also, while searching images for word count meters, Google gave me this--and I just couldn't not post it! Happy Tuesday, everyone!)

Monday, January 23, 2012

Congrats on Monday!

This morning I had a conversation with myself that went like this:

Me: Good morning!!!!!
Other me: Why are you so perky? Go away.
Me: It's MONDAY!
Other Me: I know. Go away.
Me: Mondays are new days full of adventure. Yay Mondays!
Other Me: Go away. I hate Mondays and mornings and you.
Me: But I made coffee.
Other Me: *takes coffee* Now go away.

Anyone else there with me?

But since it is Monday, that means it's time for a Monday check in, where we post small updates on what we accomplished last week, what we want to do this week and sometimes, what we didn't do. It's a great way to stay accountable and cheer each other on. Make sure you let us know what YOU are working on this week too in the comments.

Christina: This week I actually got quite a lot done. I worked on crits for some people and got over 4k written, which is so much for me! Some of it was reworking older chpts on my MS a little and some was new chpts. All in all, I'd say last week was productive for me. This week is the same goal basically: another 4k.

Cindy: I've continued reading through feedback from my amazing crit partners over the course of the last week and have been making revisions based on their suggestions. I've also started working on a new WIP, which I am super duper excited about.

Patricia: I made a definite breakthrough in my story this week but still did not dedicate as much time to my writing as I would have liked. My goal for this week is to make time for writing at least 5 days this week. I'm shooting for 40 minute sessions, after which I'm allowed to go back and edit.

Danielle: I'm altering this huge plot thread in my MS based on feedback I received and I spent most of last week and all weekend working on it. I only have one more scene to alter and three more to write to expand on the ending, and then I'll be doing some line edits. Once that's finished, two more people get to read before I call it finished. It's exciting and this has been the longest process EVER. (Writing is not quick.) I'm going to work on those remaining pieces and crit for Cindy this week! Hopefully, I can finish it all by the weekend.

And, some super exciting news was announced on Friday for our lovely RPA, Jennifer.
"Jennifer L. Armentrout's DON'T LOOK BACK, pitched as Black Swan meets Pretty Little Liars, featuring a teen girl who had it all until the night she and her friend go missing, and she loses all recollection of who she is, but must piece together a life she no longer wants and the events that led to her friend's disappearance, to Emily Meehan at Disney-Hyperion, in a pre-empt, in a two-book deal, by Kevan Lyon at Marsal Lyon Literary Agency (World English). Foreign rights: Taryn Fagerness Agency."
Congrats Jennifer!!! We're all very excited for you and your new adventure! Thanks for hanging out with us on Tangled and we can't wait to read DON'T LOOK BACK!!

And this week, it's some more posts on Perfection from the other girls. Don't miss out on last week's topics.

What are you doing this week? How can we cheer you on?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Mask of Perfection

I'm an expert mask wearer. In fact, I've spent a large portion of my life wearing masks.I have them in every color, for every season, and I never run out.

When I was younger, I learned the art of mask wearing so no one would know all the pain in my life. If it could be hidden then it didn't exist. If I could smile, could keep going, could convince one more person that everything was "perfect," then I succeeded and could fall into a deep, comforting sleep for one more night.

Then, of course, you grow up.

You learn that masks aren't all they're cracked up to be. They're stuffy, hot and truthfully, very lonely. No one is perfect. In fact, perfection is subjective and quite possibly, doesn't exist at all.

I don't know about anyone else, but for me, perfection is one of those masks that's so easy to put on. Even my own job told me once to "Be a duck on a pond." They encouraged me to have this calm, everything is perfect and peaceful way about me on the outside--even if underneath the surface I'm kicking my feet just trying to stay afloat. In other words: be perfect. So I do that every single day at work.

But you know, even as a writer I feel like sometimes I have to wear a mask. For some reason, it's almost like we can't be discouraged. Like we can't feel like other people are succeeding and we're just stuck here in the nowhere/in-between. No bad days are allowed for us. No pouting, no complaining, no whining about where we are. We're just supposed to tweet fun things, be happy and perky so everyone likes us because everyone has to like us or we'll never succeed, keep talking about how awesome it is get to write, about how trials make us stronger and all the things we're learning. We have to keep up the smile, when sometimes all we want to do is cry over a bag of cookies in our pjs under the covers.

We're not alone. Once we move past this inbetween stage, we'll still face the same trials. I have published friends who get discouraged. Just like everyone else, they have bad days. Sometimes things don't go the way they planned or a book deal falls through last minute or they read six negative reviews in the same hour. They're not supposed to be discouraged either, they're supposed to wear the mask of perfection. Most people in life have to wear a mask at some point; we have to hide how we're really feeling.

There are three really important things to know about wearing masks. 

First, they're exhausting. 
Second, they're not always pretty. 
Third, you can take them off.

"Wait? Take off my 'perfect writer all of life is good and I am awesome' mask? I can't do that. People will know that I'm not having a fantastic time, that I'm sad or discouraged and my super fun tweets are super fake! I can't."

But, you know, you can. And I think sometimes we have to. If we ever want to truly succeed at this writing thing, if we want to create relateable, vulnerable characters for readers to connect with, then I believe we too must be connectable. That means sharing our weaknesses as well as our strengths. That means creating real friendships with other writers, with people we can talk to who understand. That doesn't mean we bash everyone and everything, or start being rude to everyone just because we're having a bad time. (Vulnerability and meanness are two different things.)

The mask must come off and in the end, you must be yourself.

In fact, let me start.

Sometimes writing is really hard and I wake up and wonder what the heck I am doing. I wonder if I could find something else that makes me just as happy and saves me a lot of heartache--but I know deep down that I can't. I watch people succeed and I always wonder when that will happen for me. Then I work harder. I watch TV when I'm depressed about it, because it's an easier place to go than to a book. When I tell people I'm a writer, I hate that look they get that--that "way to waste your life" look. I hate answering the question "Are you published?" and "how long will it be until that happens." Because you know what, I love writing. Even on the hard days. Especially when I overcome the hard days. I love sharing things here and meeting other people who have hard days. I love how I can say all that without condemnation because I'm sure that I am not alone.

At least, I hope I'm not alone. 

What about you? Are you wearing a mask of perfection? Do you feel like you have to hide sometimes in the writing life? Is there someone in your life that you don't have to be perfect for? Can we all just take off the masks for a minute?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Perfection and the Merry-Go-Round of Ridiculousness

Perfection is a scary thing.

I’ve been working on first drafts for what feels like forever. Once I get to the stage where I’m writing (this is after weeks and weeks of brainstorming, plotting, over-plotting, and more brainstorming) my process usually goes something like this:

Step 1: Write a beginning of between 500-5,000 words.
Step 2: Read over said beginning and start editing it. And then edit it some more. And then a little more.
Step 3: Write another 500-5,000 words.
Step 4: Go all the way back to the first 500-1,000 words and edit some more.
Step 5: Begin to think that the beginning really isn’t where it should be.
Step 6: Write a scene that takes place before the beginning (thereby creating a new beginning).
Step 7: Edit the new beginning and edit some more.
Step 8: Start to think that this beginning isn’t any good at all.
Step 9: Throw it all out and start from scratch.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

Then, as if that Merry-Go-Round of Ridiculousness wasn’t bad enough, I then go through a phase for a few weeks where I find myself having trouble putting pen to paper at all. And it’s not because I didn’t want to (I do) or because I don’t have time (I mean I don’t have a lot, but I have SOME). And as anyone who has spent time lamenting an inability to write knows, this phase always leaves me with quite a lot of time to wallow and think about WHY I couldn’t write. So I spend a few weeks thinking and lamenting my brain block.

But it wasn’t until I stopped whining and actually started talking the issue through with writer friends that I realized what was really going on. 

I’m scared.

I’m scared of putting time and effort into something that I want and having it turn out badly. I’m scared that the crappy first drafts I’m working on are going to be so crappy they aren’t going to be worth editing. I’m scared that my books are never going to be worth reading. I’m scared that I’m going to discover that I’m not good at writing and that my dream is impossible and not meant to be. I’m scared that I’m going to discover that something I’ve wanted to do since I was little isn’t in my future.

All of which brings me my most recent rationalization, the Catch-22: If I never write a book, I’ll never know if I can do it. BUT if I don’t know if I can do it or not, I won’t have to face the possibility of finding out that I can’t do it. And this week I finally admitted to myself that this way of thinking is yet another ride on the Merry-Go-Round of Ridiculousness.

I have come to realize something: When I first starting writing my dream was to “write a book”. It was not to “write the perfect book” or “write perfectly on the first try”, in fact perfect was never part of the dream at all. Of course, I want the book to be perfect, I want it to be worthy of sharing shelf space with so many of the wonderful books that made me want to be a writer in the first place, which is a terrifying and daunting goal. And that’s perfectly alright. There is nothing wrong with being afraid that my dream won’t turn out perfectly, I think most people worry about that, but there is something wrong with allowing that fear to control my ability to create anything at all. Allowing my fear to stop me from doing something that I love to do: write stories.

I don’t know if understanding this is going to help me break out of the first draft cycle I’m in, but like they say, the first step is admitting you have a problem. Hopefully, my second step will be writing a book. But even if that's my third, fourth, or fifth step, I'm ok with that, as long as I'm moving in the right direction. And at the end of the day, it may not be perfect, but it will be mine. My book, that I wrote, from beginning (to beginning, to beginning, to beginning, to beginning) to end… and my dream of writing a book will be perfectly fulfilled. 

In the meantime, I've hung the quotation below on my wall to remind me I need to keep fighting.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Thing About Being Perfect

Let's start with the facts:

No one is perfect.
Heroes aren't perfect.
Heroines aren't perfect.
Writing itself isn't perfect.

If you're like me, you're probably staring at that last fact and thinking to yourself, "But I want my writing to be perfect!"

Well, guess what? It's never going to be. You can't write the perfect story. Your heroes/heroines can't be perfect. Just like you and me, they have to make mistakes. It's what makes us interesting. It's what makes your story interesting. No one wants to read a perfect story about a perfect character who has no need to learn from his/her mistakes because that would be BORING.

And let's add another layer to this whole "you can't be perfect so neither can your writing" theme:

Not everyone is going to love your story/writing.

There are humongous bestsellers that have people that hate them just as much as others love them. It's just the way of the world. You can't please everyone. It's impossible, so you should stop trying.

What you should do is write the story that you would want to read, imperfections and all. And yes, you're going to make mistakes as you're writing it. Yes, you're going to have issues that you'll have to rewrite and fix later. Yes, it's going to take a massive amount of time because that's how writing works.

You write
You learn.
You rewrite.
Your story gets better.
You become a better writer.

And, really, isn't that what we all want?

I say embrace your imperfections. Write what's running through your mind right now and worry about making it as good as it can be later.

Monday, January 16, 2012

It's Monday!!

Hope you're enjoying the month and not freezing!! It's 10 degrees in Boston this morning. Brr....I'm so cold.

It's Monday again and you know what that means. Mondays we (try) to post small updates on what we've accomplished in the past week with writing. If we've gotten a lot done, or accomplished some of our goals, we cheer each other on. If we've not gotten enough done, or are in writing slump, we still cheer each other on. Sometimes you just need someone to remind you that you really can do it, right? Make you sure you chime in with your goals for the week, too!

Christina: Last week I got a fair amount of writing done, a little more than 3K! My goal for the rest of this WiP is 1k every Monday-Thursday until it's done (which would hopefully be March) or the equivalent of that amount of writing by the end of each week. So this week, fingers crossed, my goal is 4k! (Ack, that's a lot for me!)

Cindy: Doing minor revisions as feedback comes in from readers and working on drafting my query letter.

Danielle: Well, I was surprisingly productive last week. I spent the week in NYC with some friends and then with Patricia and Christina! P and I talked about my MS and figured out some plotting/ re-organizing to fix a couple details. (See picture!) So, my goal is to continue working on these changes. I want to spend one hour each night working on the revisions, and that will start tonight.

Patricia: Having spent the last week doing all manner of fun plotting/planning type things with Danielle (who was visiting), I am excited to work on applying some of those newly invented (and VERY colorful, literally) methods to my own projects. Also working though some writing-related mental blocks, which I'll share more about in my next post.

What are your goals for the week?? Did you reach the ones you set last week?

AND, one more thing to share...this week on the blog we're talking about the double-edged sword: Perfection.

Each of us will be sharing something based on this, whether it's positive or negative, writing, revising or living. We hope you'll join us!

Happy Monday!!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

2012 Writing Goals

Writing goals can be fun or scary, depending on how you look at them. I kind of like them. They help keep me on track. Sometimes. But I do think you need to set yourself a goal. It can be how many words a day, week, or month. Or something on a broader scale like: I will finish the manuscript in 2012 and be ready to query. Writing goals mean you’re taking control of writing, turning it into something more than a hobby.

In 2011, I wrote 3 novellas and 6 novels. Yeah, that’s pretty much not happening again. I was like on writing crack or something. This year, I’m cutting back. Not on the amount of writing, but on the amount of novels. Probably… we shall see. 

My goal for 2012 is to wrap at the Covenant Series by writing the last book in the series, finish my adult series (which releases in the Fall under pen name JL Rogers), and finish writing Opal (Book 3 in Lux Series).  I think I’d like to write 1 more book during this. So that’s 4 books. Or I’ll write 3 books and 1 novella. 

So that’s my goals. What’s yours?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Goals...who needs em?

Oh, y'all...I don't even want to talk about goals. I'm sitting on a good portion of the 20 extra pounds I've packed on in the last 2 years. And as I'm writing this, I realize the beds haven't been made yet. *sigh* But my butt is what happens when you vow to get healthy "soon." And the absence of my name on the front of any book in the Barnes and Noble bookshelves is a result of planning to write said book "someday." When life slows down, when I'm not working full-time, when the kids are older, etc., etc. But it's time to get off that crazy train, peeps. Especially when it comes to our writing.

If you're a writer, particularly one who is writing around their "real" life, believe me -- you NEED goals. I know, I know. If you make a concrete goal it makes for some serious crazy when real life starts intervening. Kids WILL get sick. YOU will get sick. Vacations will happen. Friends will visit. You will always need to make a grocery run for whatever you forgot the LAST time you made a grocery run. But a set writing goal will help hold your feet to the fire when all you want to do is watch every DVRed episode of Big Bang Theory while eating an entire can of Pringles (or is that just me?). 

Anyhow, just so you know I'm practicing what I preach. My goal for 2012 is to complete a draft of the story I've outlined. ONLY this story. Meaning, I don't get to dabble with some other story I've started and abandoned or some shiny new idea on the side. I'm going to be lean, mean and focused. 

I have to be. I'm a wife and a mother to 4 very young children and my everyday life is no cakewalk. But you do what is important and setting goals helps elevate our writing to a level on par with the rest of our "real" life responsibilities. Like dragging my giant butt to the gym. 

Good luck to us all in 2012!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


Last year, I had one resolution. Read 100 books in the year. I really thought that goal would be wayyyyy too much for me. So when December rolled around and I'd already hit 100, I was shocked! So yay for hitting last year's goal...now hopefully the same will happen in 2012!

This year, my resolution won't be about reading though. I'm going to focus more on my writing. I've decided that my resolution for 2012 is to finish this WiP that I'm working on--first draft, edits, revising, all of it--and get it into the dreaded querying phase. (I'm at about halfway through writing my first draft for this WiP) Which means, a lot less slacking for me. In December, with all the holiday preparations and such, I barely got any writing done. So you can see that I need to step it up a bit.

My, hopefully realistic, goals will be to finish this first draft by the end of March. (Which means I really need to get back into a writing regime) Then take a month or so off before starting edits. I haven't started working on my query letter yet either, so I'm planning to do that while on break before starting those edits.

So that's my resolution/plan. What about yours? Any other reading or writing related resolutions out there or any just in general? I'd love to hear them!

(side note: I plan on 2012 being a great year! I'll be turning 27 this year and that's my favorite number so that has to mean something, right? Right?! lol)

Sunday, January 8, 2012


Hope you're enjoying the new year and making goals like the rest of us! One more week of goals coming your way, and then we're starting an exciting new writing segment. You can learn more on that this Friday. :)

But today is Monday--and on Mondays we (try) to post small updates on what we've accomplished in the past week with writing. If we've gotten a lot done, or accomplished some of our goals, we cheer each other on. If we've not gotten enough done, or are in writing slump, we still cheer each other on. Sometimes you just need someone to remind you that you really can do it, right? Make you sure you chime in with your goals for the week, too!

Christina: I didn't get any writing done this week. It's been a rough week at work. But I did work on some more plotting for the second half of my WIP. I'm hoping to get another chapter written.

Danielle: I'm traveling today to spend the week with Patricia and Christina, so I'm going to do some reading on the bus. I have a lot of ambitions for Tuesday-Thursday. I wanted to do crits for other people, revise my own work and write. However, I need to be realistic and know I won't get all that done. I just want to write a new piece of my WIP and brainstorm some ways to revise my MS.

Jodi: This week will be another plotting week. Thankfully, I discovered and eliminated a blind alley last week, but that means I'm still not much closer to "happy writing time." But it certainly hurts less than scrapping thousands of words later in the process.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Hello, 2012!

I am really good at setting goals and not reaching them--mostly because I get bored with them or I forget. This year, I made a really over-arching personal goal for 2012. I'll share it because I think the more places I put it, the more likely I am to remember it. But it's a bold statement. It's a big, scary statement for me. That's why I know I need it.
Happiness. No looking back at what was. Only looking forward, finding something to achieve and never giving up.
See, there's this time after something big changes and it takes you a while to regain your footing. This has been me. Most of the time since college graduation I've been trying to figure out life. I've moved a lot. I've tried a lot of things. I've searched for whatever it is I lost in the transition of everything and for whatever reason, I haven't found it. For me, I want what I used to have before. It's easy to look back on before and wonder if you can ever have life as good as that. But that's the problem. You can't. It can't be what it was before because you are not who you were before. You have to be different, find yourself and everything else. This is what I'm learning and why I think I need to resolute myself to this statement. Life is a forward motion and I think I spend a lot of time looking backward. No more, 2012.

Writing is also a forward motion. And guys, I've been stagnant. Just like in life. (Funny how those two things are connected, right?) I've thought about what I want to achieve this year and here's what I've come up with.

Do one more round of edits on current MS in January
Because I know my MS needs it. I have some notes en route and some people reading now. I can't wait to dive in and make it better.

Query current MS
Since I've been working on Darkness for so long, I'm in the stage where I want to query it and move on. You know, I love this project but at some point I have to step away and work on new things. So, this is the plan. Once I'm at the point where I can query, I won't necessarily have to be thinking about it all the time--at least in the writing aspect--and can focus my attention in other places.

Write TWO new projects
Maybe this is ambitious. BUT I can do it. That's 12 months, and since I'm currently just starting a new WIP, I should (theoretically) be able to write two first drafts in 12 months. I mean, I can do it. It's all about diligence. And I'm not so good at that all the time.

Find ways to support other writers 
I'm not sure what this entails yet, but I want to be a person who is supportive, encouraging and friendly in any way I can be. I'm on the lookout to define this still. 

Do things better
What things? All the things. I half-a** some things too much and I know I need to be better. It's because I do too many things at once. So, I want to refine a little, bring in my focus and be better at each thing.

What are some things you want to do this year? Have you told us yet? If not leave a comment with your goals or a link. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Setting Goals and Making Wishes

I love the beginnings of things. The beginning of the school year (even though I’m no longer in school and now experience it as a parent) with all new books, schedules, and the potential to get straight A’s. The beginning of the summer, with unlimited potential for vacations, reading time, and visits to the pool. And, of course, the beginning of a new year, a year where no mistakes have been made yet, no days have been wasted by laziness, and where there is the potential for all of my life-changing, magical dreams to come true.

I also love planning and making resolutions. Most years, my resolutions are more along the lines of grandiose wishes than actual attainable goals. And the problem with wishes is that a) sometimes they don’t come true and b) they make TERRIBLE resolutions because many times the things we want most are not totally within our own control (like say, getting a book published or winning the lottery!)

So this year I spent some time thinking about GOALS. When I was in high school we all had to memorize the way to determine if a goal was “SMART” or not, meaning it needed to be:

Results Oriented 
Time Bound

Now, do all of my goals fit this exactly? No. But using this helped me to figure out some goals that make me excited about what *I* can do this year to help improve myself.

In 2012 I plan to:
  1. Enjoy my time… With my husband, with my kids, with the rest of my family, with my friends, writing, reading books, cooking food, taking walks, watching TV and doing nothing. I spend a LOT of time stressed about time, schedules, and to-do lists. This year I really want to work on being better about living in the moment and enjoying all of the wonderful experiences (big and small) I am lucky enough to have.
  2. Write… Something. Anything. If I have to spend weeks draining my brain of every last SHINY NEW that’s stockpiled in there before I can write a full first draft I will do that, but this year I want to really focus on making writing a daily habit. To this end, I’m starting with 30 minutes a day of no-internet, no-tv, no-distractions, don’t-bother-me-unless-the-house-is-burning-down writing time. Once I’ve done this for 30 days IN A ROW, I’m going to try to up it to 45 minutes and continue building from there.
  3. Walk… Somewhere. Anywhere. Aside from trouncing my sisters at JUST DANCE 3 every now and again (ha!) I don’t exercise anywhere near as often as I should and to that end I’ve decided to start with walking. It may seem like a small step, but it’s better than nothing and it’s something I can do inside until the weather decides to cooperate by being warm. Bonus: It’s excellent for brainstorming and plotting! Nothing gets ideas flowing like a good, brisk pace-back-and-forth in the basement. 
  4. Be a real-life person more… And an internet person a little less. I spend a LOT of time on the internet, on Twitter, on Tumblr, etc. And I’m not upset about that, it’s how I’ve met some of the best friends I have in real life now. But this year I would like to focus on deepening my relationships with my online friends in the real world. Spending time talking on the phone, on Skype (yes, I realize this is still internet based, but you know what I mean), visiting and having people visit, going to lunches/dinners/happy hours, organizing a writers retreat and all around having real-life adventures. I started doing this last year and it led to some of the best weekends I’ve ever had with friends, so I’m looking forward to even more epic get-togethers.
So those are my 2012 goals and as of this first week of the year things are looking pretty successful already. And for the record, just because I’ve decided to differentiate my GOALS from my GRANDIOSE WISHES, doesn’t mean I’ve given up wishing on every star, watching for 11:11 twice a day, and hijacking every unattended birthday candle around. But that’s a post for another day…

What are your goals this year? Link us to your resolution post or leave them in the comments! 

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

New Goals for the New Year


We are now three days into 2012 and I'm already putting things off. As any procrastinator knows, that's probably not a good sign, but at least this time I can honestly say I'm procrastinating for a good reason.

Which brings us to my very first and most important goal of 2012:

Finish this manuscript. 

And it's happening. I'm really, truly going to finish another manuscript (maybe even today!!!) and it's something I'm pretty dang proud of.  It's also scary because that means I will be tackling other goals that I have set for 2012, but hey, any way you cut it, this is a very good thing.

For some reason mentioning what those other goals for 2012 are is hard for me to do. It's like saying them out loud will somehow curse me. Like I need to just not say them until they've already come true. Not every goal is like that. Some of them involve no luck at all, but are more about practice and dedication.

So goal number two for 2012 is:

Blog more. 

I've heard of other authors and bloggers scheduling posts months in advance and having so many ideas for blog posts that they just don't have the time to post them all. That is so not me. I struggle on a daily basis to post on my personal blog. What do I say? Is anyone even reading it? Do I sound stupid?

Well, I'm dumping all that self doubt out the window and I'm going to commit to posting at least twice a week from here on out.

Other goals for the year include:

Writing a great query letter.
Sending out that first query.
Starting my next new shiny idea by the end of January. 

What about you? What are your goals for 2012? If you've made a blog post about it, please leave us a link. We'd love to check it out. You can also just post your goals in the comments. That works too. :-)