Tuesday, April 30, 2013

If Only I Could Outline My Life As Easily As I Can A Book...

May 1 is quickly approaching. Is anyone else sorta like, "Where did April go?" Because I am.

It's mostly because May has been the month of insanity (read: INSANITY) for me that I've known was coming since last year. And now it's here. I'm not sure if I'm ready, but the world does not wait for readiness. And I like to be ready.

I'm a plotter.

I started out as a pantser, but over the years that I've been writing, I've learned that I write better and quicker with outlines. They started out basic, and now they've developed into pages and pages of story before I write an actual word. Well, for some of the books. Each book is different, but I always now know what I'm going to write before I start working on it. The more I know, the better because otherwise I flounder and second-guess and get really frustrated when I don't know what's happening. I hate not knowing what's going to happen.

I hate that so much that when I was a kid (or from the time I was a kid until college *hides*) I used to read the end of a book first. The last paragraph. If I didn't like that then I wouldn't buy it. I wouldn't even finish it if I'd already started. Then, one day in college, my fiction writing class learned of my secret sin and very vocally judged me for that. They all asked why I did that and I used to say it was because I wanted the end to be worth it, and because I really liked to write endings first. (I knew all the endings before the beginnings!) But my professor said I did it because I "hated not being in control and by reading the end, it gave me back some of that control. But you can't be in control and be a reader." I stopped reading endings after that -- and I've never forgotten it because it's so true.

I'm a plotter in writing, but not in life.

Life has too many factors, too many variables, too many other people who impact where I end up.  In life, I don't know the ending. No one does. I don't know what will happen next or where each decision will lead me, and most days I feel like I'm floundering. Like things are moving and sometimes I'm standing there in traffic with my thumb out and no one stops. Other times I'm jumping on to whatever car is zooming by and hanging on for dear life and praying I don't fall off. Even more times, I'm too afraid to cross the street because I don't know if I can make it before that semi comes and smooshes me.

I often think back to what my professor told me in class and how much that lesson applies to life as well as writing. I can't read the ending of my life. I don't know if the things I'm pouring my life into, the dreams and passions that drive me and keep my schedule (and brain) in this constant state of insanity, will achieve the level of success I hope for. I move around a lot. I try to find my place. I move when the wind blows me and the moment feels right, and all that is because I don't know anything. I have no control of my future (and some days my present) -- and that's so incredibly hard for me.

I firmly believe it's because I don't have an outline. I also believe that's why I write from an outline -- because I do have to know what's happening. I thrive on control, because every writer knows that once the story is out there, we control nothing else. (Publishing is the worst industry for control-freaks, which is why I think a lot of authors are a little ADD and neurotic.)

Sometimes I think that life would be so much easier if I could plot it out like a book. If I could turn to the last page and know the ending. But then so much of that ending is the journey I get to experience in getting there.

As crazy as that journey is sometimes, as fast as those cars are when they zoom around me and as much as fingers hurt from trying to hold on, I don't know that I would trade any of that for a perfect ending. At least not today. (Ask me again if I survive May.)

Friday, April 26, 2013

Tangled Up in Conflict!

Let’s talk about conflict—those tangly, knotty plot threads that screw up your main character’s life and give us a story instead of a straight line. We don’t want to make things easy for your characters—that would be boring. But spending the whole book focused on just one conflict? That’s letting them off too easy, if you ask me. We want them to suffer for your art, despair and wail and feel hopeless before slowly, things start to fall into place, one by one.

I believe for a richly layered story, you can balance three types of conflict for maximum heartache: internal conflict, interpersonal conflict, and global conflict. Regardless of your story’s genre, if you can slot at least one conflict into each of these categories, I think you’ll be pleased with the results, and never tire of ways to torment your character on their journey to the end.

Internal Conflict. This is where you really dig into who your main character is and who he or she wants to be. Whether they are consciously pushing toward these goals or not, that doubt and determination will add interest to your character’s internal life (especially if you’re writing in first person). Does your psychic feel guilt over the harmful nature of her superpower? Does your star quarterback regret that he never made time for his secret love of painting? Does your princess question whether finding a wealthy husband is really all she wants from life? Make them question their identity, or yearn to reconcile their internal wants with the way they’ve constructed their life.

Interpersonal Conflict. Here we learn how your main character ties into the people around him or her. These people can, in turns, help or hinder your character’s other conflicts, or this conflict can be the crux of the story. She could be really close to her dad, and be devastated when he’s diagnosed with cancer. Maybe he is trying to win the eye of the talented sorceress, but she rebukes him at every turn. Whether these interpersonal conflicts form the crux of your story (like in a contemporary romance) or add depth to another conflict, the question of who is or isn’t an ally adds a great sense of tension and drama.

Global Conflict. Now the fate of the universe hangs in the balance! …Or even just the outcome of the Prom Queen vote. The “global” conflict doesn’t have to be a matter of life or death, but it should be something hanging over most if not all of your main players. College entrance exams, a war summit, an impending space shuttle crash, or the beach party to end all beach parties—everyone stands to lose or gain something, and often no one does so more than your main character.

You can weight these three levels of conflict however you like, depending on the sort of story you want to tell. Generally, I would expect different genres to emphasize different levels—an introspective and emotional contemporary may focus on internal conflicts while a high-concept sci-fi might focus on a global conflict—but a strong story will incorporate all three.

What conflicts on each level occur in your favorite books? How do you incorporate all three levels into your writing?

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Call for Contributors!

We here at Tangled, we are some busy gals! Between book deals, writing, editing and new babies we have been talking and we are hoping to add a few new contributors to the blog.

What we are looking for:

  • YA/NA writers. We like to cover a variety of places throughout the writing journey, so whether you are aspiring, pre-pub, published, or if you have a new view (like editor, agent, whatever!) then you are welcome to apply!
  • Someone who can post 1-2 times a month. We're still nailing down the schedule, but it won't be more than this.
  • Someone who knows how to use blogger. *points up* Busy, so we can't teach you. 
  • Reliability. Because sometimes, things depend on you and this blog is OUR blog so everyone has to do something. 
  • Ideas! Because running a blog is hard and we always like to do new things! 
  • General awesomeness. Because, you know, that's important! 
To apply fill out this form!!! We will close the form this weekend.


We hope to have some new people join us very soon. :) 

If you have any questions, just leave us a comment.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

My thoughts on New Adult (and a contemporary wishlist!)

There have been a number of articles written lately defining what “New Adult” is. Talking about whether it’s a new genre, a new age range, or just a passing fad. And there are people who have expressed opinions much more eloquently and have far more insightful thoughts about New Adult than I do (and if you have not read Dahlia Adler’s amazing interview with Diana Peterfreund,you are MISSING OUT! It’s about many awesome things, but has a particularly great question/answer about New Adult. Seriously, go, read it now!) but I wanted to talk briefly, as someone who is actively acquiring books, about what New Adult is to ME.

When I first started reading YA, I was about 11. It wasn’t called YA, but it was newly shelved in its own section for “Older Readers” in the library. The section consisted primarily of high school-aged series books (Sweet Valley High and the like) and about one, fairly empty, shelving section of books that had teen protagonists. Some of these were marketed by the publishers as children’s book and some as adult, but all of them were YA before YA was a thing and I wouldn’t have discovered any of them if they hadn’t been shelved together in my library and specifically designated as “FOR TEENS”. 

By the time I was in high school and then going into college I moved to the next age-appropriate section of the library (and bookstore) which was Adult. I devoured classics and chick-lit and historical fiction and magical realism – but the majority of these books featured “grown-ups” and while I loved many of them, I definitely wasn’t at a place in my life where I related to them on any kind of deeper level. And since they were written for – and marketed to – adults, they weren’t necessarily meant to resonate with me. 

By the time I WAS what society deems a “grown-up”, YA was becoming a thing and I was all too happy to dive back into reading books that took me back to what it was like to be a young teenager: dealing with parents, and high school and teachers, and changing relationships with friends, and first loves, and broody boys who just happened to be vampires…these were all things that I could relate to (mostly) because I had been there. 

But the thing is that I kind of feel like I skipped a step. I can’t help but think how great it would have been when I was in late high school and early college to have had a section of the library and bookstore to go into and be able to easily find books about 18-25 year olds and what they were going through. To have stories about guys and girls who went to college and those who choose other paths. To live vicariously through fictional friends who were navigating the changes that I would soon be facing – like falling in love and deciding whether or not to make that love a lifelong commitment, or living without the rules and regulations of parents for the first time, or deciding what to DO with my life. 

That is what I hope New Adult will grow to become for countless readers who are getting ready to hit those points in their own lives. And for readers who are past that point in their lives and want to vicariously discover the paths-not-chosen by them. For me, reading has always been both an escape and a chance to discover possibilities. And there is no time in your life when there are MORE possibilities that YOU have to make decisions about than that time at the end of high school and into college. As an editor, I want to be one of the people finding those books and putting them out there under a banner that says “FOR NEW ADULTS” so that the people who want (or need) them most will be able to find them easily.

To that end, below is a short list of some of the things I would personally love to see in my contemporary submissions inbox:

* Life in college, particularly Greek life or intensive programs in life-encompassing fields like medicine or law

* Stories with MC’s who are dealing with issues closer to the middle/end of college (i.e., internships, career choices, graduate school, “where am I going to live now that college is over” etc.)

* Life after high school stories about MC’s who choose a path other than college, whether by choice or circumstance

* High school or post-high school stories about MC’s from different social backgrounds entering a larger community (i.e., from homeschooling, closed-off community or super strict family going into public school or large college/university)

* Military stories, particularly girls in the military and/or focusing on the decision to enter the military and how that affects various relationships

* Vacation or travel abroad 

* Long distance relationships (especially told in a unique way)

* A LOVE ACTUALLY style story 

* Sweet romances with nice guys/gals who finish first 

* Modern day royalty 

* Series with large cast of characters who are navigating various types of relationships (a la Gossip Girl, Dawson’s Creek, Friends, etc.)

*Any of the above with LGBT characters


* Stories set in culinary school

* Stories with NA aged professional athletes and Olympic hopefuls/participants!
Do you think New Adult has potential as a lasting, independent demographic? What do you want to see it become/not become? What kinds of New Adult books would you be dying to read?

Monday, April 15, 2013

And Now I Have to Wait. I Hate Waiting.

You know that feeling you get when you finish a WIP? It's all sorts of flailing and happy and spinning in circles because YOU ARE DONE! It looks a little like this:

There's a moment of elation. I imagine angels singing...
Slow clap excitement
Knowing that you are awesome. Woo! 
Once the excitement has passed, then you look at it and you know that you have to fix so many things. Because first drafts are messy and complicated. But if you are like me, you usually know some areas that need to be fixed and you fix them and send it to your CPs for further mutilation.

Just last week I finished my WIP.

This was a book that side-swiped me in December. I was writing the draft of book 2 in my trilogy, and it was going horribly. I was 50k in and it was a struggle to put words on the page. This voice with this first line came at me (as most of my stories do) and I was immediately terrified. I was talking with my friend Jenny that night (we were at a party) and I was telling her about the idea and she said, "You have to write that." And I didn't want to. I was busy. I had deadlines. So, I pushed it aside.

Then, my editor and I had a call the next week. I'd been having major issues with book 2. She liked it; I didn't. She said maybe it wasn't the right story, maybe I was forcing it, and I knew immediately she was right. Our result: we threw out the entire book. I had to start over. And I didn't want to. I'd been writing those books for years--I needed a break. I had time for a break. I had a new story. So, I wrote it.

I started writing DAYS LIKE THIS (working title) in January--and last week, I finished. Now it's chilling with my CPs. And I am just sitting here like:

And simultaneously looking at all the other things I have to do and not wanting to do them because I feel like I am waiting. I hate waiting. I really do.

 But a good lesson to learn, dear writer friends, is that publishing IS WAITING. Even at the early stage before anything even happens.

The joy in waiting (er, kinda?) is that eventually everything comes back to you and you have to work really hard for months at a time. It's just getting there that's difficult. It's being patient, and listening, and working to improve yourself, your book, and honestly, distract yourself. I have to not think about it as much as possible.

When I'm waiting--especially after I've finished a big project--I usually have to take a day or so and decompress. I hide in the TV. Wander aimlessly. I don't even really tweet as much as usual. I need some time. It's my thing. And now that I've passed that moment, I have to start working again. I have edits to do, more books to write, and projects to edit! While I'm doing all that, I'll try to be patient--and I'll probably stare at Adam Levine gifs a lot. 

What do you do while you wait???

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

A Habit of Writing

This week at Tangled we're doing free topics and I'd thought I'd talk about writing as a habit. Because lately, I've fallen out of the habit of writing and I don't like it.

It's not that I'm "waiting for inspiration" or anything like that because if I only wrote when inspiration struck me then, honestly, I wouldn't write all that much. Because writing is hard. Like really hard sometimes.

Instead, life has kind of gotten in the way of writing for me lately. Amazing and great things have happened, so I'm definitely not complaining about that. But I have been distracted. I've shared on other internet outlets that I'm pregnant. The hubby and I are expecting our first baby in August, so we've both been busy preparing and all that. I've been exhausted from the pregnancy up until recently. I've gone out of town to visit family. Other family has come into to town to visit. Work is always there. So, yeah, lots of things have been keeping me busy.

And I've neglected my writing because of it. That's not to say I haven't done anything though. I worked up an outline of revision stuff for my agent and have started on them. I've added a chapter here and there to my current WiP, but nothing consistent and I'm discontent because of it.

In the moments of downtime and quiet, I'm bored or discontent. It's even effected my reading. I've been reading less, even when I have the time. I've just started picking up some MSs and books again lately. But in those moments of extra time that are rarer than ever for me right now, I don't immediately go to writing. I decide sleep is nice (b/c ppl love to tell me how I'll never sleep again after this little baby comes!), or I just want to relax and watch T.V. or something like that.

But I've come to realize that I'm one of those people that need to make a habit or writing if I want to make it a priority. I'll put if off because it's hard work, even though I love writing. Once I actually sit down, I remember how much I love writing and why I started and how wonderful it is to weave sentences together into a story all it's own. I love writing.

So why can't I remember that during the times when I take a week off? Because somehow during that week, I forget and one week turns into two into a month and so on of un-fulfilling and sporadic writing.

And this is why I need to make writing a habit. Always. That doesn't mean I can't take a vacation or anything, but I need to learn to make writing a habit again each time I take time off. And that's what I'm doing now. I'm making it a habit. I've set a new writing goal for myself and I plan on sticking to it. I'm working on writing, even a little bit, everyday now. I can't wait for when I'm not tired or distracted or for the mood to hit me. That's not how I work, b/c I'd never get anything done that way.

What about you? Is writing a habit for you? Do you fall out of the habit and push writing aside like I have? Or can you keep up with wanting to write even if it's sporadic?

Either way, I hope you all are having a great day and get to create lots of wonderful words today!