Thursday, June 28, 2012

I Write...Therefore I am Crazy?

Writing can make you, well.....crazy. As if hearing voices inside our heads all day long isn't enough, there are plenty of other things about writing that can make us writerly types more than a little loco. Here's a (short) list of things that may make me a little crazy.

In the name of writing:
  • I've skipped meals and/or eaten pita chips, grapes and a Clif bar throughout the entirety of a day in order to get the most writing done with the least amount of distraction;
  • I've given up sleep--like enormous amounts of sleep that before I began writing I could have never imagined I could live without;
  • I've fist bumped the air in excitement over a particular idea/line/scene/character;
  • I've danced, like full-on cabbage patch (please tell me you know what that is), in excitement over a particular idea/line/scene/character;
  • I've given up on TV shows that I once never missed a single episode of;
  • I've allowed my children to watch *way* too much TV;
  • I've gotten up at 3 a.m. to work on a scene that just won't leave me alone (yes, I know this is similar to giving up sleep, but waking up at that hour for any reason is just crazy in and of itself);
  • I've started the four hour drive home from a writing retreat at 1 a.m. just so I didn't have to give up a single moment of writing time;
  • I've cried, screamed, paced, erased, rewritten, and just generally freaked out at various points during the writing of a novel;
  • And despite all that, I'm still doing it and LOVING it. 
How about you? What have you done that's crazy in the name of writing?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Missing the Target: A Lesson for Writers About How BRAVE Failed to Deliver

In the trailer to Brave, the story of Merida looks really awesome and intriguing. The young princess, who loves adventure and is an excellent archer, is bethrothed and three princes have to fight for her hand. But Merida is stubborn, and determined to change her fate, and she steps up to fight for her own hand in marriage. Also in the trailer, there's mention of her world being a land of magic and a brief nod toward "a spell to change my fate", but it's such a minor detail and glossed over that it doesn't seem as important since they spend more time painting the princess as stubborn, than anything else. (You can see the trailer here.)

I went into this movie with high expectations. I mean, a Disney/Pixar film about a girl protagonist who is a) a Princess b) knows how to shoot arrows and be awesome c) is Scottish/Viking and d) takes a stand to fight for her own hand in marriage and change the course of her life. It can only be good. However, I don't think I've been so disappointed in a movie for a long, long time.

As a writer, editor, and general reader/movie lover, I had to write this post. Ever since my viewing of the film on Sunday, it has bothered me so much. Brave was full of potential and missed opportunities--and this is something that every writer can learn from.

Disclaimer: This post contains spoilers to Brave (and Brother Bear) so if you haven't seen them and plan to and don't like spoilers, then you should probably stop reading this.

Based on the trailer, the story really seems to be about Merida fighting for herself. But, that's only the case for the first 30 minutes of the movie. After an argument with her mother, who fiercely wants her to marry, Merida storms off into the forest and the magic wisps lead her to a witch's house. There, Merida tells the witch she wants to a spell to change her mother so she can change her fate. And then, when the queen takes the potion, she turns into a bear. The rest of the movie is spent re-building the mother/daughter relationship as daughter/bear and trying to break the spell before time is spent.

(Note: There's also a subplot involved about a past king and his princes who were in battle with each other and destroyed the previous kingdom, as well as the current King who wants to get revenge on a bear who ate his foot.)

The major, over-arching problem with Brave was the "Promises Made Promises Kept" I talked about Monday. Brave had so much potential. So many things were introduced: the magic of the world, the wisps, Merida being bethrothed, her archery skills, the tournament for her hand, the story of the past kingdom with the princes, the witch, the bears, the mother's tie to the magic and the dad's disbelief in the magic. However, none of them were developed.

The focus of the story was not Merida's quest for to change her fate, but the story of her and her mother. While this isn’t a bad idea for a story, it’s already been done. Can anyone say Brother Bear? Instead of a boy turning into a bear and trying to save himself before he’s stuck as a bear forever, a girl turns her mother into a bear and they must save each other or be stuck that way forever.

In many ways, it was as if the writers had three ideas for a story: a girl fighting for her own hand, the story of the bears and the mother/daughter relationship. There was a lack of cohesion between story lines, and while they try to bring them together, the strongest story (the one Disney advertised) was left abandoned. It's the curse over plotting and unneeded subplots.

The major promise of the movie, which is part of the tagline, Are you brave enough to change your fate?, was the biggest disappointment. Merida was brave enough to change her fate--but the attempt of it is what causes all the problems and she was only brave when faced with loss. Did her fate actually change? We don't know because while she changed tradition (in a thrown together and unbelievable sort of way) we never see what was supposed to happen. I think, for me, I was promised this awesome adventure of a girl fighting for her own life and place in her world--but we never see that.

Again, she's painted as brave, but she was only brave when facing the bear who was really her mother. When she was facing actual danger, she never saved herself. She was saved by her mother or her father or her triplet brothers or the entire clan--but she never does anything to actively save herself. What is this bravery that she's supposed to have? Even in the end, when she is taken down by the bear and he's inches from her face, all Merida does is scream. Then, someone else saves her...again.

There was also a lack of character development. The queen and Merida are excluded, because since they were the major characters then they were the ones that changed. But the brothers, the boys who were fighting for Merida's hand, the other Vikings, the witch--none of them were more than side characters. They had lines, comedic relief, and names, but their involvement in the story was more decoration that an important aspect of moving the plot forward.

There was also no clear antagonist, which I believe you must have to move a story forward if you expect the antagonist to overcome something. They tried to make the antagonist the bear, but it wasn't an effective threat because it was not seeking to destroy or thwart the specific plot line. The mother was originally the antagonist, but only for the first 30 minutes. Once she becomes a bear, they attempt to have Merida play the role of antagonist but the protagonist can’t effectively be against herself for an entire movie.

By the end of the story, most of the promises were kept, but most of them were kept in unsatisfying ways. The major theme is that she didn't get to change her fate. Here's a story line, here's another, here's another--and here's the end. It was sloppily tied together as if it was one thing, but it obviously wasn't.

Disney/Pixar really missed the mark with the story, and blew a lot of potential. But they also failed to hit their target audience. Not only were things that were really inappropriate for small children, but the six year old that came with us didn’t like the movie. His favorite part was when the bears were fighting at the end—which had no relevance to the story. It was the subplot that they failed to develop and one of the moments where Merida was “brave” without being brave at all.

While I didn’t enjoy the movie, I think there are a lot of things writers can learn from Brave. All of them are what NOT to do. This movie could have been saved. It could have been an amazing movie. If they could have picked one plot line and developed it (preferably the one they advertised) then Brave could have lived up to the promise they made to me.

Writers, if you promise something and promote something, please, please, please deliver. Don’t have extraneous plots that don’t go together. Don’t have characters that you do not develop. Have clear roles for the world and the characters in the world you’ve created. Your story (and it’s audience) will thank you for it.

Did you guys see BRAVE? What did you think of it??

Monday, June 25, 2012

Promises Made, Promises Kept

There's a concept that, when I edit (or write) a book, I share with every author I work with. It's something I learned during my (almost) semester of graduate school from my professor, Jacqueline Davies. I'm not sure if she penned this idea or just carried it with her, but it's incredible and so important for a writer. I'm sharing it with you now because it's completely applicable to every story. (And honestly, I can't believe I haven't yet!)

It's called Promises Made, Promises Kept and it's pretty simple: Promises that are made in the book must be kept by the end. I'm going to use two examples to explain: Doctor Who and a children's picture book.

Doctor Who. 

**major show spoilers ahead! I'm warning you.**In the beginning of season one, we are introduced Bad Wolf. It's a minor thing throughout the season, mysterious and random, but as the season ends, we learn that Bad Wolf was a warning sent from Rose back into time. It's a perfect example because something is introduced, and resolved in one series arc. *end spoiler*

Anything that is introduced needs to be resolved. If you make a promise, then throughout the story the promise must have a purpose and must be resolved before the ending. There should be nothing that’s left unanswered if it is introduced. (Thought it's not exact, a promise is similar to a plot thread because each plot thread is sort of a new promise that has to be resolved.) 

Making a promise and keeping it, however, doesn’t mean that the answer cannot be changed later. As a story develops and characters grow, the promises can be answered in failure, in the character changing their mind, in someone deciding that what they want isn't really what they thought, etc. 

Back to Doctor Who **another spoiler ahead** jump ahead to season four and Bad Wolf makes a return. We learn then that what we thought it meant in season one has changed a little. Before, it was sent to the past as a warning, it then becomes something bigger that it is sent across universes as a signal. This is just one example. DW has a lot of them where something appears to mean one thing, but then ends up meaning something else, like Doctor Donna and “he will knock four times”. These are examples of promises that change, but are still kept. **end spoiler** 

 Doctor Who isn't the only example of this concept. In fact, look at any children’s picture book and you will see examples of a promise made. I'm going to talk about this book, because it's a simple example of promises made, promises kept. 

Kitten's First Full Moon by Kevin Henkes

The picture book, Kitten's First Full Moon by Kevin Henkes, (which you can click here and read it on youtube) is a prime example. The promise made: Kitten wants to get the moon because it looks like milk. Throughout the book, Kitten attempts to reach the milk (the moon) and fails. The promise kept: Kitten returns home to find some milk waiting outside. Despite the trials, Kitten still gets the one thing she wanted. 

Promises Made, Promise Kept is a valid concept that's true (or should be true) in any story--be it a YA novel, a short story or a movie. The promise can't be compromised. It's much like in the theater where if a loaded gun is brought onstage it must go off before the final act. If there's a door, it must be opened. If there's someone seeking a cure, it must be found or not found by the end. If a character is seeking something, then by the end the character must find something--even if it's not what the character expected to find. 

The point of all this is to say: anything you introduce in this book must be explained and/or serve a purpose that is accomplished in the same. If you find you cannot explain a reason for something or have a use for it later, then reconsider its importance. Do not set your readers up to expect something big and then not deliver. 

It's the best writing advice I've ever received, and it's changed the way I read, edit and write a book. 

Friday, June 22, 2012


The best part of being an Associate Editor at Spencer Hill Press is being part of the incredibly talented team involved in all of the behind-the-scenes preparation that goes into bringing their amazing books to life.  Today I am thrilled to take part in the reveal of the GORGEOUS cover and the jacket copy for my (first!) client Kimberly Ann Miller's debut novel, TRIANGLES. 

I cannot wait for you all to read this incredible debut -- it has been a blast to edit! TRIANGLES is the kind of story that pulls you in and doesn't let you go until it has taken you for the ride of your life! 

Are you ready?



A cruise ship. A beautiful island. Two sexy guys. What could possibly go wrong? 

In the Bermuda Triangle--a lot.

Hoping to leave behind the reminders of her crappy life--her father's death years ago, her mother's medical problems, and the loser who's practically stalking her--seventeen-year-old Autumn Taylor hops on a ship with her sister for a little distraction. When she wakes up in the Bermuda Triangle, she fears she's gone nuts for more than one reason: that loser's suddenly claiming they're a happy couple... a hot guy is wrapping his arms around her and saying "Happy Anniversary"... and suddenly, she's full of bruises, losing her hair, and getting IV medication. Autumn visits the ship's doctor, hoping for a pill or a shot to make the craziness go away. Instead, she's warned that one of these "alternate realities" could become permanent.

She just has to ask herself one question--how the hell is she going to get out of this mess?

Title: Triangles
Author: Kimberly Ann Miller
Publisher: Spencer Hill Press (
ISBN: 978-1-937053-36-9
Release Date: June 18, 2013
Formats: Paper, e-book

If you'd like to request an ARC, please use the reviewer form on our website. ARCs should ship in early 2013.  

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Sometimes You Need to Pause

Sometimes you just don't want to do any writing.

And it feels wrong. Like you're betraying your characters and your story and your dream and yourself by giving in to the desire to do no writing.

I'm here right now.

Partly because I just moved and nothing really makes sense. Partly because I'm swamped with things that have to be done. Partly because I'm not really sure if this subplot of my book is supposed to be there or not supposed to be there and do I take it out or leave it in? Because one requires A LOT more work than the other and can't I just quit starting over?

But really those things aren't the reason either.

The reason is that I am tired. I am tired...of waiting, of trying, of failing, of watching others, of loving/wanting this thing that may never happen for me.

And sometimes, those feelings, they affect how well you write. Or if you even can write.

It feels wrong, to feel those things, to wonder about things that I have built my life around. But sometimes, part of the process is questioning yourself. Part of the process is also testing yourself. And part of the process is success and other parts failure and other parts...pausing.

I'm pausing.

Sometimes, you just need to. And I hate it. I really do. But maybe it's only in pausing, in not writing for a week or two, that I discover just how much I *really* need to write. Maybe in pausing I can figure out that weird piece of the subplot and decide what's best for the story. Maybe doing that will rebuild some confidence and make me want to write fervently again.


This isn't a post to whine or anything. I'm not whining. I'm just in the pause mode. And this is a weird/scary place to be, but sometimes, you need to take a step away from your story in order to figure out the issues with the book and with yourself. I've learned that they are usually related. Maybe to figure out one answer, you need to figure out both.

Don't be scared to pause if you need to. Sometimes you have to.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

All Good Things

First of all, a HUGE thank you goes out to all of the Tangled girls for their support and congratulations yesterday. The Carlton! And The Glow Sticks! Ahhh! <3

Did you ever hear that saying that good things happen in threes? Or maybe it's bad things happen in threes? Let's go with good things because that is what this post is about.

The last few days have been a whirlwind of excitement and not just for me, but for other writer friends as well. One just announced her book deal with Spencer Hill Press. You can check that good news out HERE. Another is doing really, really well in a few pitch contests and we're all holding our breath for more good news to come for her. Because it will come.

That's the thing with writing and deciding you want to do this for a living--or at least to be a small part of your living income. You have to believe. Even when you don't believe, you have to have other who do believe that will push you and not let you give up. Because rejections happen. And they suck and it's hard and can make you seriously doubt your abilities as a writer. You can give in to those feelings for a day or two, maybe even a week, but after a while you have to pick yourself back up and learn to believe again.

So what this rambling post is really saying is good things happen, even when you least expect it. So, you know, make sure you keep your teeth brushed because when those congratulatory hugs come you're not going to want to scare them away with morning breath.

And remember: Good things will come. Believe you can do it. I do.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

In which Cindy has EXCITING news

There's this really cool thing that happens when your writing friends have awesome news. What is it? Well, you get to share it too! It's, like, the best. So, with that said, all of us at Tangled are really excited right now. And we are thrilled to share in this exciting day as our very own (and awesome) Cindy Thomas has exciting news! 

She has an agent!!!  


Cindy is now repped by Marcy Posner of Folio Literary Management!

To read the full story about how Cindy landed her agent, check out her blog. You can also catch her on twitter @CindyIsWriting and give her happy thoughts. 

Congrats Cindy!!!
We are so happy for you!! 

**Now, excuse us, while we flail and dance in gif format**

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Best Intentions

The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

That's something everyone has heard. I was thinking about writing this morning and how, in all the things that I put into my life, my own path is (more often than not) paved with good intentions. I always have the plan or the drive, but I have so much drive for so many things that there's no way everything can be accomplished. These are my good intentions and they are lining my writing path. My fear? I sure hope the path of my good intentions doesn't lead me to failure.

Good intention: I will encourage all my friends as they write.
I'm listing this first because I spent a large portion of my afternoon encouraging my friends. Now, don't get me wrong: I love encouraging people. It's so joyful to offer up something (even if it's gifs of Tom Hiddleston and Jensen Ackles) to friends who need some rewards/motivation/encouragement. Seriously. LOVE IT. It's the best part of having friends who write: I get to look at hot boys for them. (SEE THE BOYS. CAN YOU BLAME ME??????) Win. 

Yes. I would. Ah..

 Plus, I'm a total encouragement hog, I love getting and receiving, so if me spending time with the hot boy pictures helps them in any way, I'm good. 

I often let myself use my own time seeking out ways to offer encouragement to others. Maybe I'm scared. Maybe I just love my friends so much that I don't think about it. (Both of these are kinda true!) However, I need to make sure my good intention of encouragement doesn't become a crutch that I carry so I don't have to write. Because, let's face it, we writers love excuses to not write. Weirdly.

Good intention: I take on this project because I have time. 
I love editing. Part of this goes to working at Spencer Hill, and part of it to the last point of helping my friends. But I love it. I already have three projects coming out next year for SHP (two in October, one in November) so between that and writing and moving, you know, sleep, I shouldn't be taking on side projects for free or for friends, but YET I AM. 

"Sure, I have time to edits for you by Monday." No, I don't. "Oh, you need a beta--I can help!" No, I can't. "I'd love to do it, sure!" I would, but I don't really have time. Danielle, you're an idiot.

So I have these good intentions, but I take on more and more. I can handle it all. I'm a good multi-tasker, but this is probably a week where nothing will be accomplished in my writing. Because though my intentions are good, my time is limited. 

Good intention: I'll write a blog post.
I have a stack of edits to do, two more waiting, an MS to read, a friend's book to beta (WHICH I CANNOT WAIT FOR!), and a job search to start. But you know the thought that crosses my mind? I haven't blogged since before BEA. I should do that. So here I am.

Oscar Wilde once said, "It is always with the best intentions that the worst work is done."

I really hope the next two weeks aren't killer for me. The last thing I want is bad work. I'm a firm believer in doing things WELL rather than many. But yet, as much as I believe that, my good intentions are stacking up. I need to work harder to make sure they aren't lining a path to failure. 

Does that mean I quit having good intentions? Absolutely not! I'm not going to stop editing, or revising, or writing, or sending hot boy pictures to my friends. There's just no way. So for now, I need to re-evaluate the things I don't need to do--and maybe have a little dog that follows me around and bites me each time I think about saying yes. That would be helpful.

What about you? Do you find yourself taking on too many things, even though your intentions are good? Do you know what those things are? Do you know how to evaluate what things are important and keep yourself accountable? If you don't have this issue, tell me: how do you say no?? 

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Revision Cave

So often I've heard authors say they've been in the revision cave as an explanation for why they haven't been blogging/tweeting/facebooking/sleeping.

I don't know that I've ever really known what that feels like. I mean, sure, I've been through revisions more time than I care to count, but during most of those revisions, I felt like I needed to be connected to people to survive it. Now, though, I can totally understand it. I have absolutely no mind for blogging. Facebooking consists of onliners from my children, and even tweeting takes much more effort and thinking than normal.

Even when I'm not actually at my computer working on the revisions that I need to be, I'm still in my head and thinking about them. It's hard to focus on much else besides said revisions, so yeah. I guess this is what the revision cave is like. It's a little alarming to be so disengaged from the outside world, but on the other hand, it's kind of nice too.

The quiet is nice. The time to think is nice. I can see why authors let themselves get pulled into the cave now and I can also understand why it's so necessary. There are so many distractions for writers as it is. The cave is probably a good idea every now and then.

So...until I'm out of this cave, happy writing everyone!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

BEA jealousy and Waiting

So, is there anyone else besides me and, like, the four other people in my twitter feed that aren't at BEA? Seriously, I think 83% of my feed on there and with blogger has something to do with BEA. Not that I'm *jealous* or anything. Nope. Not at all...okay maybe a little. BEA should have been a week later. Don't they know my students don't get out until the end of this week, so I can't go?

Anyway, with so much (exciting) talk already going on about BEA this week, I thought I'd post about something different today. So, let's talk about Waiting.

Alright guys, I'm one of those people that when I'm going somewhere new or doing something that's new to me, I like to research at least a little bit about whatever it is so that I don't feel blindsided by something that could have been avoided. So when I started writing and really thought about doing it as more than a hobby--as something I'd want to do professionally one day--I started researching the whole business side and publishing industry. And I realized that if this was something I really wanted to do, then I'd have to learn how to wait.

You have to wait for so many things. Really, it starts with your own writing. Sometimes you have to step back from your story and wait to look at it with fresh eyes. Other times you have to wait for responses from your critique partners (you do have crit partners, right?! B/c they are invaluable. Seriously.) And then you also have to (should) wait once you're finished your draft to start revisions/editing.

But it doesn't stop there. Sometimes this whole business can see like one looong lesson in patience. Because once you have that perfect, shiny, polished-as-can-be manuscript and you've started querying, you still have to wait. And if you get requests to see more of your ms, guess what? More waiting. This one might be the hardest waiting experience I've had so far.

It doesn't even end there, I know that. I haven't had to deal with this yet, but you have to wait for agent/editor responses, edits & revisions, book covers, the actual book release date and so much more! And sometimes you can't even talk about that stuff for a while!

Whew, that's a lot of waiting. What do you do in that time? For me, when I'm waiting to start revisions/edits I'll catch up on my reading or social life. Other times,when I'm waiting for responses, I'll brainstorm or write new stuff.

Waiting is hard, but it's a part of this business that I want to be in. Heck, it's a part of life in general, right? But I really do believe that the things you have to work hard and strive to get, that you have to learn to be patient and wait for, end up being so much sweeter and more wonderful because of the time and effort you put into it. So when you're feeling bummed about the wait, remember why you're here doing this. Hopefully you're like me and it's because you love this and you can't stop writing--hard parts and all.What do you do when you have to wait? Any fun things you do or tips for surviving the wait?