Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Things NOT to Miss

We girls are ALL over the place this week. Literally. Christina from house A to house B. Cindy to Seattle and home. Patricia from school to work to more work to more work. Danielle to DC/Boston/NYC and back and forth. Basically, we're all in transition right now (mostly from place to place.)

So excuse us as we post a little less this week and next. 

Instead, there are SO MANY things happening on the internet. So many good, emotional, powerful things. Here's a recap of some things. 

(EVERY writer reading this must go read this one!!!)
There is a phrase I'm hearing more and more: "book of my heart." It's a term writers are using to explain to others that the particular project they're working on is one that is very personal and dear to them. All books are works of art and take some of ourselves to write, but a "book of your heart" is one that is ripped from your very soul. It's the important one, your baby, the one that you wrote with blood, sweat, and tears; the one that means more to you than any other.

I have 120 extra copies of SHATTER ME that I want to give away to libraries/teachers/programs-that-support-reading all across the country. Which means I'm looking for 120 librarians/teachers/schools/etc., who are interested in a free copy of SHATTER ME for their readers. I will cover all shipping costs, and will ship anywhere in the US.
3. Days of Blood and Starlight by Lani Taylor has a cover!

4. Two other AWESOME COVERS.

Whispers in Autumn                                                    Let the Sky Fall 

Both of these are on my TBR...and now I'm more excited! eek!!

5. You can buy Hourglass by Myra McEntire for $1.99 on the Kindle. Just go here

6. Patricia and Danielle will be at BEA! 

If you see us, make sure you stop by and say hello. One sure fire way to spot us will be at 1) Teen Author Carnival 2) Jennifer Armentrout's signing of Cursed ARCs on Wednesday 3) Victoria Schwab's signing on Thursday 4) Spencer Hill Press booth at any given moment. We'd love to meet any of you who are around.

7. All of this was obviously a ploy to make us feel better for not posting quality and it's Wednesday. And....

What else is going on the YA world? In your writing? In life?? 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Strength in Cheese Fries and Beth Revis

I had dinner with my friend last night and we always tend to talk about books, writing and publishing. We were talking about querying and agents and just the exhausting process that can be. Last year, she queried her book about ten times before she decided she couldn't handle that at the moment and took a break. And I'm no stranger to querying so we were brainstorming for the summer.

Anyway, we were talking about the eventual things and the things we want and the what ifs. I was talking about a recent experience and she looked at me and said "Beth Revis." I faltered a little because I wasn't sure what she meant. "You know how many books she had to write before she published Across the Universe? Wasn't it like twenty? That's going to be you." (It was 10, I think!) Now, no one wants to hear that so I said "What?" My friend elaborated.

"Beth didn't quit. She knew what she wanted and she kept trying and it made her stronger and look where she is now. I don't think she regrets any of her struggles. I think that's you: you're like Beth. I'm not saying I think it will take you twenty attempts, but I think you're always going to keep trying and then one day it will be better than you thought and you will be stronger for it than all the people who are handed their dreams."

I'm surrounded by these people who tell me how it is--and I love it because there are things we never realize about ourselves until other people point them out. And even sometimes after. Because me? I don't think I'm like Beth Revis. I don't know if in ten failed books I could keep trying. But the thing about it is that other people think I would, other people believe in me, and even on days when I don't know why or how I'm doing this, those people and their belief in me keep me going. Someone telling me I have perseverance like Beth Revis, when I don't feel like I do at all, is enough to keep me trying for another day. (That and cheese fries, which I ordered extra of after this conversation!)

I'm sharing this story not be all "look what people think about me!" because I am not that person. I don't think these things about myself most days. I don't feel like the type of writer that people should love or the editor that people praise or even much of a friend sometimes. I don't feel extraordinary or advanced in any way as awesome as Beth. I'm sharing this story because, ultimately, this is Beth's story. It's Beth Revis who kept pursuing, who never quit, who succeeded--and because of that I think there's strength that we can all find in what she did. 

Sometimes other people succeed before us. Sometimes we feel like we've worked harder or longer or "deserve it more." We pour our hearts out into book after book after book only to be rejected. We can't find the words to keep going or the story or we have to re-write again or start over or (insert situation here.) During this, it's important to find strength to keep going. And after my friend's comment, I now have another place to find strength to keep going: Beth Revis...and some delicious cheese fries!

Where do you to turn to for strength? Is there anyone in your life who's offering encouragement, inspiration, perseverance? What keeps you going?

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Why I Write: Kimberly Derting, Dan Wells & Jill Hathaway

A few weeks ago we ran a really fun segment called "Why I Write." We had tons of amazing authors here to tell us why they write and we shared some of our experiences as well. Oh, and you may remember that embarrassing little video we did to show you what we do when we're not writing.

Well, also a few weeks ago I had the extraordinary pleasure of interviewing three fabulous authors as part of the last leg of the Pitch Dark Days Tour. I Kimberly Derting, Dan Wells and Jill Hathaway the same question: Why do you write? And they gave me their answers. Check them out below:

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

I Want To Hold Your, Maybe You Can Hold Mine??

I've been thinking about the writer I want to be someday--some distant and future version of "me." In doing that I have to think a lot about the writer I used to be. I used to be that writer who wrote just because I had stories to tell. It seems like forever ago, when I didn't have twitter or blogs or crit partners. It was me and a pen and a character. (Literally. I used to write by hand.) I wrote what needed to be written. I told the story. I didn't doubt, didn't worry, didn't question myself or my story. I was free. I looked forward to writing, to spending time doing what I loved so much. It was a lot like The Beatles song.
And when I touch you I feel happy inside. It's such a feeling that my love. I can't hide. I can't hide. I can't hide. 
Yeah, you've got that something, I think you'll understand; when I'll say that something. I wanna hold your hand. I wanna hold your hand. I wanna hold your hand.
That's what new ideas, new stories, new characters...that's what writing was like for me in the beginning. And then somewhere along the way, it changed. Every journey does that. It runs along smoothly and quiet and alone, then it shifts. Things get rocky or you get lost or you meet new people who are going the same way and you walk together. You learn from each other, challenge each other, keep each other moving forward. It's a good thing.

I am no longer the writer I used to be.  I've become better at a lot of things, but I've also become someone who wants. And it's not my story or my characters. I have become someone who, instead of hoping and living in the writing, wants other people in my writing bubble. I need to have my hand held.  I need people to tell me that I'm good, that this will happen, that I can figure out the story, that I can overcome this obstacle and the next. I'll be honest: I hate that about myself. 

And while I know there's nothing wrong with it, it bugs me so much. What happened to independent Danielle and when did she get replaced by this girl who needs people to tell her what she's doing matters? That it's good? That there is hope? When did I trade my pens for my Scrivenor and my time with my characters for twitter? 

I think there are few reasons. I think it's twitter (huge distraction). It's the YA community (hugely awesome). It's being so involved and embedded into this culture, seeing my friends and people I don't even know, succeed. It's the doubts that plague you along the way. It's the revising, revising, revising so many times your head will explode. It's the querying and the passes and the hoping and the failed hopes and the belief (which usually comes from everyone but me at this point.) It's watching others get their dream and wondering if I will ever get mine because I've worked harder and longer and am better--or whatever things we tell ourselves to justify these feelings. I'm not saying all these are bad things--they're not--but I do think that sometimes they can (subconsciously or not) alter the way we perceive ourselves.

I'm definitely in the middle of a perception problem. Maybe it's the re-writing. Maybe it's life. But I know that each step I take, I look over my shoulder (or click on my gchat screen) and hope there's someone around to talk me into writing or out of a corner or out of my own crazy head. I need someone to hold my hand, to lead me out safely, to keep me going. 

As I'm writing this post, I'm realizing I'm not really sure what I'm trying to say. All I know is somedays I strive hard for something. I want this more than I want air. I go foward, climb up, work harder. And I know no one will tell me I can't have it. And other days? Well, other days I'm climbing and then bam--the rock under my feet crumbles and I tumble toward the ground. I can't catch my breath. I get hurt. I need someone to help me up. To give me a hand. And, sometimes, I don't want to let go. Letting go is scary.

Is it wrong to hold someone's hand? No, I don't really think so. But sometimes I feel like I'm less of writer because I need to. Especially after days like yesterday, after I struggled through a MERG day of dreary grey and failed to really write anything fresh. I feel like I should be that girl I used to be--who wrote lines on the back of napkins and then frantically found ways to bring them into her stories. I am a different kind of writer now. I'm in a community, I have support, I have friends. They are not the weaknesses that my mind likes to tell me; they are attributes. They are the polish that makes me shine and the glue that keeps me together. 

So why am I ashamed of needing them so much? Sometimes I feel like a burden. That's the truth. I feel needy. The writer I used to be wasn't needy. But the writer I used to be (the one before I learned about agents and publishing and all that jazz) is still inside of me. And maybe, if I want her to become part of the writer I want to be someday, I need to let her reach out. 

When I fall,  I need to take the support. I need to not be afraid to let someone hold my hand.  I need to not be ashamed to want other people with me. I need to not worry so much about what other people think or do, or who I used to be. I need someone to hold my hand. 

And I want to hold your hand.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Convo with a CP: Brainstorming

Brainstorming is an important aspect to every story. You need to have other ideas and solutions to conflicts, etc. Some of these things are big (like figuring out character motivation) and some are small. You don't always have to work with someone else, but I've found that we all tend to work better when we brainstorm together. Here's one example...

Cindy:  SO
I had an idea for the shop beside my MC's
it's a coffee shop
 me:  okay
 Cindy:  and I was all excited
thinking the shop would be called "The Other Black Bean"
 me:  hahahhahhaah
 Cindy:  With the Other being all swirly and the O being the top of the coffee mugh
coffee beans are brown
 me:  lmao
thats hilarious
 Cindy:  Yeah
I'm laughing too
I was all excited
and yeah
 me:  hahah
 Cindy:  fail
 me:  call it
The Other Beanstalk
or The Beanstlak
or Joe and the Beanstalk
 me:  they DO grow on a stalk
 Cindy:  I'm laughing SOOOO hard right now
 me:  lol
 Cindy:  into a corne, ehe?
 me:  yup
im stuck
Cindy:  Husband is looking at me like i'm nuts
 me:  hahaaahahha
nuts and beans
Cindy:  I like Joe and the Beanstalk actually
 me:  they are half hardware store, half coffee shop
me:  lol
Cindy:  Beanstalk Joes
Joe's Beanstalk
me:  hahah
the latter
Cindy:  yeah
Joe's Beanstalk
 me:  Joe's MAGIC Beanstalk
totally using that
that's hilarious

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Ask Box

Today I thought I'd answer one of the question that we got in our Ask Box.

Nicole asked: What was your best tool to get concrete, accurate research for any of your novels?

Thanks for the question. I actually did quite a lot of research for one of my manuscripts. It was a siren/mermaid story, so I ended up needing to know lots about the waters around Florida. I did a lot of research on deep sea creatures, bioluminescence, the layout of the sea floor, and on and on.

So how did I find out about these things? I went to the library. I ask for books and found some that gave me the information I needed. Now, the library is always a safe bet, usually there will be at least one book there for you--I hope--but it is a lot of work. I spent hours at the library, searching through books and finding all the stuff I needed.

Another option you could have is to speak to someone that is a professional in the area that you need to know about. Fortunately for me, a family member of mine knows a lot about sea life and all that stuff. They also found articles for me, giving me even more information.

But what if you don't know anyone like that? For my newest MS, I needed to know if some Latin that I had in my story was accurate or not, but I didn't have any family or friends that I could ask. I was also pretty sure I didn't want to just search online and hope that I got the info right. So, what I did that time was just Googled professors of Latin and found someone. All I did was email him, letting him know I had a few questions on Latin for a book I was writing and then I waited to see if he'd help me. I think I was really lucky with this too. I got a quick response from the professor, agreeing to help me. I emailed him my questions after that and he was great with answering them.

So that's what I've done and what I'd recommend. Go to the library, ask for books that can help you and then invest the time into that AND/OR ask a professional, someone you might know or someone you find online.

What about you, guys? Is there anything you do when you need to research something for your manuscript?

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

When Your WIP Isn't Working (A Very Sad & True Tale of Ignoring the Clues)

I've been writing Hotboyalicious (not real title) for a few months now. One chilly weekend in February I only had 10k--and now on this chilly day in May I have 50k. But for months now (seriously, months) I've been stuck. (That should have been a clue.) I would write a chapter or half a chapter and be so completely stuck. The idea that was so warm and loud in my head, suddenly chilled. That's not to say this doesn't happen--because it does--but when it does you have to ask why. (This is a clue also.) But I didn't ask why. I didn't stop to figure out what was going on beneath the surface of my story. I kept writing. 

I would write until I got stuck, then complain about being stuck for days, then take action (which usually consisted of brainstorming my problem with my roommate, Derrick) and then I'd have a miraculous breakthrough and bust out 3k and then another chapter and then...I'd be stuck again. And repeat the cycle. I knew, I knew, something was wrong with the story--but I had NO IDEA what it was.  (Sidenote: I think sometimes I did know the problem, but I didn't want to admit it. This should've also been a clue.)

It wasn't until this weekend I got an objective party (not one of my CPs) to read the story. She gave me some feedback and asked some really hard questions. Questions that I should've been able to answer--and couldn't. So after spending hours redrawing my plot with markers and paper--and then a whole day of thinking--I figured out three basic questions. Three questions that I asked my CPs. Three questions that I couldn't answer. And after a couple hours of phone calls, gchats and text messages--I had the answer to those three questions. Unfortunately for me, the answers (which all deal with my MC's motivation) aren't ones that I can fix. They can only be fixed by re-writing the story.

Now, of course, I can see how her motivation is the problem. I think I knew was her all along, even if I didn't know what to call it. There was something wrong. And, in hindsight, I look at the last three months and see all the ways my WIP felt off. All the clues were there, I just ignored them. I plead with you now: do not ignore them.

(Some) Clues that your WIP may not be working: 
  • When you are constantly getting stuck
  • When you don't want to write it (which is different than being lazy because not wanting to write is literally dreading it)
  • When the story gets quiet/cold/feels distant
  • When you can't answer simple questions about your MC 
  • When the MC's voice changes dramatically from the beginning to the end (which is different than character growth)
  • When someone asks what the main conflict is you don't know the answer
  • When you don't know the MC's motivation
  • When you have no idea where your story is set and you're halfway finished
  • When you dislike your MC or a love interest 
  • When you feel like you have to write this chapter in order to get to the next chapter where things don't suck as bad
  • When your reader doesn't understand how something is working/why something is happening
  • When you don't know how your character would respond to a situation
  • When you are bored
  • When it feels wrong
Now that last one pretty much summarizes everything on the list. When something is wrong with your WIP you know it. You can tell yourself it's okay, that it's all in your head, that it's not as bad as you think, that if you just pour out the words you can fix them later. And sometimes, all those thoughts are valid. 

Sometimes the problem is merely pouring the story out on the page and then seeing where it's wrong. Or it really is all in your head because you're scared or too close to the story or stressed. And other times you know, for a fact, that you are going the wrong way--but maybe you don't know how to fix it. But it's important to look at your story. 

If you are in your WIP and you're stuck, and you can answer or agree with any of the things on our short list, then maybe you should step away and take a good look at what's really going on in your WIP. Don't be afraid of admitting that's something not working. As much as it sucks to write 50k and have to start over, it sucks more to write 150k and then spend two years revising. (Trust me. I did that once. Blerg.) 

We've ALL been there. So much of writing is re-writing.  That said, I am not very excited about having to start over. BUT I know that this is what the story needs. It feels right where nothing has ever felt right. So, tonight, I start over with a new motivation, and a new direction. Hopefully this time, if something isn't working, I won't ignore the clues.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Conversation with a Crit Partner

As you all know, critique partners are sorta awesome. Me and mine (which are these lovely girls here!) all approach things differently. Since my post on Tuesday proclaiming my writing transition blues, Cindy so happily volunteered to have writing dates with me. So now, every Monday and Thursday night she's forcing me to write words with her for an hour. No matter what. No excuses. Isn't she great?

Last night, I was brainstorming with her in a pre-writing session. My big issue with this story is that it's so simple I make it complicated. And it's so complicated that I get lost in it. Of course, all this is in my head! In reality it's not so bad. (At least, that's what we keep telling ourselves! I think Christina will disagree once we go at this MS with shearing scissors.)

Anyway, this is what happens when we brainstorm. At least sometimes.... *ahemALWAYSahem*

 Cindy:  hahaha
what was your idea?
you said you had an idea for what to write next?
are you going to go with it?
 me:  just an idea. idk
 Cindy:  stop thinking about the sub plots
and write the idea
 me:  hhahahaha
im not. now im talking to X. lol

Cindy:  I command you!

 me:  bahahahha

 Cindy:  Did that work?

 me:  no

 Cindy:  lol
 me:  hahahahaha
 Cindy:  I just emailed her
 me:  hahha
 me:  emailed about what?
 Cindy:  shakes wand
 me:  stuffs fingers in ears
 Cindy:  to apologize for not getting her MS back to her yet
me:  i think she's got a whole revision now
you should check before you start that
expecto patronum
 Cindy:  damn you!
and your Harry Potter knowledge
I must re-read those books
 me:  heheheheh
we must say that
anytime we get a bright idea
get it?
 Cindy:  I do!
 me:  im punny.

Life changing stuff right? AH. As a side note, we did actually write was just later.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Distraction Evils

Sometimes distractions can be a good thing. Sometimes you need a good distraction to clear your head and to be able to step away from a manuscript for break. But, lots of times, distractions are bad, evil things that keep you from being productive.

Recognize any of these???

Oh sure, Twitter, Facebook--Words with Friends, anyone?--blogging, Tumblr, email, Gchat, Pinterest can be fun. And certainly they can be entertaining and even sometimes necessary, but they're also huge time suckers that before you even know it, can zap up all that time you had set aside for writing.

It happens to me and it probably happens to you. You're just sitting down to write, but then you remember you forgot to respond to an email.

BAM. You lose ten minutes.

You write three sentences, then decide you'd like to just "peek" at Twitter. BAM. You've lost another seventeen minutes.

You write for thirty minutes, and check-in on Facebook. There goes another twenty six minutes.

And don't even get me started on Pinterest. I lose like thirty five thousand six hundred million minutes every time I log on.


Like I said, distractions can be good. But, they can also be really, really bad. Try setting aside time to write where you unplug from the internet for a while, and if you have to, hide your cell phone downstairs while you do it. It will be hard at first. You might even have some awful side effects like twitching and uncontrollable reaching for things that are no longer in your reach, but you'll be happy you did it. When you've written that 1K  or 2K for the day, you can reward yourself for taking the distractions away for a while.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Leave Me Wanting More--but Don't Leave Me Hanging and About to Die

As I'm sure I've mentioned here before I am not a fan of the cliffhanger ending. I like to close a book feeling as though the story and characters I've invested my time (and money) into have come to a satisfying close. 

When I first began reading YA, I was coming from a phase where I read a lot of adult literary fiction and British chick-lit. The majority of the books I read in these genres tended to be standalone stories. As I began reading YA, I suddenly found myself, unknowingly in the middle of more series that I could keep track of. I also ended more books by throwing them against the wall in frustration. ...Unless I was reading on my Kindle, in which case I just shut it off in a huff! 

As my phase in YA has turned into a permanent addiction, I've learned to accept that books come in series, and that means learning to live with (and even in some cases, love) a well-crafted cliffhanger ending.

What I want to talk about today however is the difference between "Book 1 of 3" and "Book-sized Part 1 of 3". 

"Book 1 of 3" is the first in a series, it clearly states on the cover that this is a book that will have books that follow it. It's a book that sets up a larger series arc, while telling a story all its own. The key to a successful "Book 1 of 3" is that even though it is the beginning of a series arc, it completes it's own standalone story arc within its pages. You close the book, satisfied that THIS story has ended, but still wanting to know what happens to the characters as the series continues in the next book. It leaves you happy to have spent time reading and deliciously excited about the next book coming out!

"Part 1 of 3" is the trickster of novels. It looks like it might be a standalone book, sounds like it is a story complete in itself, but it IS NOT. It's a book that is a very long first third of ONE story. It's a book that you close and think WHERE THE HECK IS THE REST OF THE BOOK? It leaves you feeling ripped off, all the time and money you spent on this book and its story has no resolution at all, no feeling of satisfaction once you reach the end. The worst part is that many times you don't realize that you've picked a book like this until you notice there are only a few pages left and you are no where near the climax of the story. 

I'm not naming any names here, but if you read YA you can probably think of a number of titles that fall into one category or another. And to all the authors out there who create stories that strive to give resolution at the end of each book in their series, THANK YOU. You make books worth buying and reading.

How do you feel about cliffhanger endings? Is it important to you in your own reading/writing to have a complete story arc in each book of a series?  Have you read anything amazing lately that you would recommend?

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

A Plea to Help in a Fight Against a Creative Soul Sucking Evil

I move to DC in fifty-six days. This isn't a huge deal, as I move a lot, but it is a huge deal because one thing I don't do well is transition. That's odd to say, considering my whole life since 2009 has been one really long transition. But it's true. I'm a creature of habit and when you take the creature out of the comforts of the habit, the creature doesn't really know how to respond. Especially when it comes to writing.

When I moved into my current apartment, I didn't write for two months. I read--a lot--but I didn't write. And now, with that number looming over my head, I'm already starting to feel the anxiety and disgruntlement of transitioning. 

"But Danielle," you say, "you aren't moving for fifty-six days. You shouldn't be stuck in transition-mode already." Ah! I say to you, you're correct. However, I move everything I own save my computer, my nook and a suitcase full of clothes to DC in twenty-four measly days. Twenty-four days. And in that time I have so much to do. Edits, reading, packing--and then once I do move I have BEA and couch surfing for three weeks since I'm not going to be in my apartment. And job searching! Oh, job searching. 

Needless to say: my time in those fifty-six days is filling up. And already, already, I find myself plagued with that soul sucking evil called "transition." Nah, not soul-sucking as much as creativity sucking. I have opened my Scrivener document countless times in the last week, countless. Do you know how many words I've written? That answer is like countless, as it is zero. (just go with it)

In this post today, lovely blogging friends, I do not offer an opinion or a thought or anything that could be construed as something aside from a plea. And my plea is this: How do I write in a transition? 

The thought of not writing another scene for sixty days is terrifying. But I also can't seem to clear my mind of all the things that are crowding it, all the things I need to do, want to do, look forward to doing. It's hard to be in the moment enough, to not worry or hope or wonder, and be able to write. I'm not making up excuses either. I'm enough of a restless, nomadic soul without being in the midst of a major transition. I don't want to lose sixty days on my WIP either. That's a lot of time.

Am I the only one unable to write while life is transitioning? Do you have any ideas for me and how I can combat this evil? Any small steps or exercises or ways to focus on my story and not on my life? I'm totally open to anything. Let's make this a war, because I really don't want to be stuck for so much time.