Monday, January 30, 2012

How do you use Twitter?

And so we meet again, Monday...

I spent a good portion of the weekend working on my story. With some encouragement from Karen Stivali on Twitter, I participated in a #1k1h sprint Sunday afternoon. I used that time to write a new scene from a different perspective.

Poof! It was magic and just what I needed.

Anyway, back to Twitter. I've predominantly been using Twitter these past few months to interact with my other writing friends, which has been great fun. I also use it to follow a few agents and editors, but I admit I follow those who appear to have more of an online presence instead of those who are directly related to my genre.

In that same vein, I see a larger YA social media presence (blogs, Twitter, FB pages) than Middle Grade, so that might explain why I don't follow as many/enough MG people.

So, okay. I think I'm getting the hang of how this all works. I'm still not clear on retweeting, but I'll get around to that. What I really want to better understand, is how to use lists.

I first discovered Twitter lists when I started to follow Donna K. Weaver on Twitter (check out her blog, Weaving a Tale or Two). I noticed she had seven or eight lists of her own, plus she followed lists other people had created. The idea of organizing the people I followed into lists made perfect sense, but then I was stuck trying to figure out who to follow and what lists to put them in. I can see the logic of following a list made by someone else, someone who knows all the key players to follow and who has already done all the "following" work. At least, that's how I think this following and list thing works.

What I'd like to know is how do you use Twitter lists? I think since I'm just scratching the surface of Twitter, I could soon explore following non-writing related feed. Like New York Yankee feeds, for example. And then, if I'm understanding this correctly, I could drop them all in a list and read all those relevant Tweets when I want?

Also, how do you organize your lists? Editors only? Agents only? Published authors only? And how do you find people to follow? I'd love to hear how you organize your Twitter time so it can be the most effective in the shortest amount of time!*

(*--says the girl who just lost 25 minutes of her day staring into space and clicking down the rabbit hole that is Twitter. I need a daydreaming egg timer...)

Friday, January 27, 2012

Feeling like a kid again

Happy Friday, gang. We made it!

I made some great strides on my middle grade story this week, much to the detriment of anything else like work, working out, laundry, you get the idea. Specifically, I spent a lot of time thinking what would scare a kid?

There's a scene in my story that is essentially the second "disaster" (if you subscribe to the three disasters and an ending plot structure). I've been trying to find a way to make my character create his own disaster as a result of trying to do what he feels is the right thing. I realize this is all quite vague. Bear with me.

My 11-year-old MC is in this tense situation that currently reads very "A happens, then B, and then C."


I need to find a way to increase the tension and put my MC in a position where he makes a choice only to have the ramifications make everything worse. Best laid plans and all that...

To ramp up the tension, I started to think about what would scare a kid who was alone outside in nature. Swarms of large insects. Falling. Tripping. Darkness. Sounds. Voices. Hallucinations. You get the idea.

But just to make sure I'm not overlooking anything, I thought I'd turn to my blog and ask you guys:

What scared you when you were a kid? (Especially anything outside!)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

First, some housekeeping: I hit a blog milestone on Monday with my 101st post. On Tuesday, I hit another--100 followers. One hundred! Thank you, Sandra Patterson! Now, if anyone needs me, I'll be in the corner laughing manically and likely crying as I try to think of witty things to share...

On to the post!

Jury of my peers--Be nice, please?!
In six weeks, I will sit in a room in Las Vegas with my writing peers.

I will listen and scribble mad notes while two of them critique my work.

A jury of my peers: no longer online, faceless avatars, but people I consider my friends.

I'm scared.

I'm not afraid they'll be mean. These are my friends and I know they'll be nice. But they will also be honest, which is the point.

As many of you know, it's been a tricky few weeks in my writing life. After all the pages in all the stories I've written, I feel like I can better identify my weaknesses. This is a good thing--it means I'm learning.

It also means I have a long road ahead.

Yet, in the past week your comments to my blog questions have put my story (and my frame of mind) back on track. I feel so energized to write that I want to take a sick day and camp out with a pot of coffee and my computer. I want to prove to all of you that I'm not really this ridiculous of a writer. I want you to know I've listened to your questions, considered my story from the angles you helped me see, and I want my story to be all the better as a result. Especially six weeks from now.

Knowing friends will read my story ups the ante even though it shouldn't. Feedback is feedback, whether from my mom, an agent, a friend, or someone I've never met. But I feel an extra dose of motivation to put my best foot forward on this first impression.

How about you: Do you feel extra pressure when showing work to other writers? 

Monday, January 23, 2012

Middle grade Monday problems

This is not a problem with the Marvelous Middle Grade Monday (MMGM) posts. This is just my not-so-catchy title as I work through some issues with my MG story.

I have a main character (David) and his new friend (Ethan). They're both 11. 

Problem #1: Writing like an 11-year old is remarkably difficult in general. Seeing as I'm not a mom or teacher, it's even more difficult.

David and Ethan both attend a private school.

Problem #2: Since the story is set in/around a school, it would make sense for the story run the course of an academic year. But does it have to? I'm trying to be liberal with the passage of time but that has to be tempered with a saggy middle just for the sake of getting through winter.

David and Ethan must travel to a certain location, but the location in question is hidden within the riddle.

Problem #3: The riddle. Read about it here.

Okay, let's pretend I work around the riddle and get the boys to the location. But wait! Bad guys are following them! Monsters, to be exact. While David does his main character hero gig, Ethan and a Mentor-figure are left to battle the monsters.

Problem #4: I have no idea how I'm supposed to make an 11-year old boy fight against monsters in a world where there are no lasers or swords. I'm not keen on the idea of adding magic in to the story, either. But something has to happen.

 Maybe I can use the extra time in Problem #2 to train the boys in defense to solve Problem #4, but that feels convenient. I've realized that the easy answers are just that: easy. 

If you have any thoughts or answers, let me know. In the meantime, I'll be over here brainstorming all sorts of wild and wonderful ideas...

(And holy crap--this is my 101st post! I'm equal parts pleased, amused, and terrified to think what the next 101 will hold!)

Friday, January 20, 2012

Friday confessions

I missed a post on Wednesday. I could say, "Oh, yeah. That was on purpose! I was boycotting SOPA!", but that would be a lie.

Truth is, I missed it because I've been acting like mix between a jealous child and defeated dreamer. This week, I've been overwhelmed with thoughts like, "What's the point of it all? I should drastically lower my expectations. I should start to accept the fact I'll never be a writer and that I'll be stuck in my desk job until I retire. What right do I have to dream so big?"

Yeah, the whirlpool of self doubt opened and swallowed me whole. And once I was in that head space, I began to notice anything that wasn't going "according to plan" (ha!). One fact compounded upon another and another... you get the idea.

I eat well and exercise 4 times a week and the scale won't move. I go on dates and try to be myself, but no second ones (that makes me sound totally lame, I know.) And to top it off, I write a MG adventure book and start to think about querying this spring until a riddle pulled it apart.

On top of this, amazing things are happening for my friends in all areas of my life and I honestly am incredibly happy for them. They're working toward their dreams and goals and things are working out for them!

But remember earlier when I said I've been acting like a jealous child? Yeah, that. I'm not jealous in a "Why them?" kind of way, but more of a "That could've been me if I was better at x, y, or z." I feel like I'm watching the only Opportunity Bus drive out of the station without me but what I'm not seeing is the queue of busses on the horizon. I just need to keep working toward my goal.

So, I need to take my frustrations out on the treadmill then come home with a clean slate and start at the beginning of my story. I've spent all week thinking about my story and how to rebuild it. Enough thinking. Time to start writing. Time to start running faster sprints and adding the 2.5 lb plates on each end of the bar. Time to get back out there and stop hiding behind my insecurities.

Anything you need to confess? Anything happen this week that you want to leave behind you as we head into the weekend? 

To the comments!

Monday, January 16, 2012

My Writerly Reality Check.

A funny thing happened over the weekend. (And by funny I mean, "Man, that sucks.") In a nutshell, my story blew up.

First, let me tell you a quick story:
One day, in the middle of 11th grade Spanish class, a friend told me a fun word fact. I thought about this fun fact for the rest of the day and realized I felt quite smart. As I got older, I wanted this word to pop up at pub trivia nights so I could pluck this otherwise useless piece of knowledge from my brain and impress my friends.

Years passed and this fact remained stuck in my head until one day I came up with a story. But how could I tie all these pieces together? Ah ha! Eureka!

I went to work crafting riddles for my MC to solve before he could get the next clue. And at the crux of my very first riddle--the riddle that put everything into place and pulled it all together at the end--was the fun word fact floating in my head since high school.

My readers were stumped until I revealed the answer. They loved the riddle and never thought twice about the logic.

Fast forward another year and I'm back at the story, working on world building and character motivations. There's a lot of work ahead, but it's manageable.


On a whim, I thought, "Self, you should do a quick check to make sure that factoid is still correct." Off to Google I went and .043 seconds later, my riddle blew up.

Oh, bleep.*
That one shiny factoid is wrong. Incredibly wrong. So wrong that it was never right in the first place.

Back to the drawing board I go. I'm not trashing the story, but it sucks when you realize you have to go back deeper than you had hoped. I spent a good portion of the weekend feeling frustrated and simply overwhelmed by the amount of work ahead of me. But it's kind of like untangling a ball of yarn--I need to sit down and spend some time carefully following each thread of an idea and see where they all lead.

How about you... how do you manage setbacks like this? Have you ever felt like the bottom dropped out of your story?

* = (I'm reading Kiersten White's Supernaturally right now and trying to swear less. Win/win.)

Friday, January 13, 2012

Pacing your reveals: The Hero and The Mentor

It's no secret that I'm a big fan of the Hero's Journey.

I enjoy this framework because when brainstorming my current wip, I can easily draw parallels to stories such as Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, or Star Wars (the latter one being an almost text book example).

For quick reference, here is the hero/mentor relationship as I see them (you may disagree with some of the mentors):
Harry and Dumbledore, HBP

Frodo and Gandalf
Harry and Dumbledore
Luke and Obi-Wan

In my MG adventure story, my main character (hero) first refused the call and finally accepted the challenge. Yet, as I go through and rework some scenes based on comments from my writing group, they all expressed a common concern:

Why isn't Strix (mentor) telling David (MC) this information sooner? 
Why is Strix withholding so much information?

My initial reaction to this was something like, "Because, he can't tell David everything right away!"

Imagine how different LoTR would be if Gandalf told Frodo all his secrets before leaving The Shire? Or if Obi-Wan told Luke about his father when they first met? Or if Dumbledore told Harry about the Horcruxes in book two?

But once my brain stopped pointing out all these examples, I came back to what my writing group was actually saying. My mentor was keeping too much information from my main character, and therefore, the reader. They felt the story would have a stronger pull if the readers weren't left in the dark so often.

This is my current struggle: finding a balance between revealing information--breadcrumbs, if you will--but not showing my hand too soon.

Anyone else have trouble with reveals? Or can you think of a hero/mentor relationship where the mentor shared everything up front? 

To the comments!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Why I held off on resolutions

It has been a lot of fun reading everyone's New Year's Resolutions and I can't lie... I've been reading and making notes for my own plans! (If you haven't read Kiersten White's, you can read it here. Warning: don't take a drink before reading!)

I want to accomplish many things this year, about half of them are writing related and the other half lifestyle/exercise related. After some thought, here's a quick run down:


  • Finish the rewrite of my MG novel and send it to beta readers.
  • Write the query letter. Then chuck it, go through period of self-doubt, get back on the horse, and write it again.
  • NaNo 2012. 
  • Read 30 books (read more about the challenge, here)
  • Continue M, W, F blog schedule and work on blog re-design (and figure out how to format inane things like bullet lists!)
  • Improve on my 2011 half marathon time.
  • Work on getting up on time on work mornings.
  • Earn my health insurance gym credit (8 trips/mo) 9 out of the 12 months.
  • Decrease my body fat percentage.

I'll spare you the rest of the details, but that's a start. Obviously, I'll be covering the writing journey on this blog, but don't be surprised if you see a blog or two from me freaking out before the half marathon in May. 

So, for now, all sights are on the query letter process. I'm reading blogs, making notes, and making horrible drafts. But we all start somewhere, right? If you have any great resources about the query process, please post them in the comments! 

Monday, January 9, 2012

Can you be TOO mean to your MC?

Hello! I'm finally making my way back to the blogging world after a lovely hiatus. I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season and New Year.

I had an opportunity this past weekend to meet a fellow blogging buddy. I got to have lunch with Sarah Ahiers! (waves Hi, Sarah!) We noshed and chatted about about writing groups, querying, and the overall path of a writer. It was so much fun that instead of going to the gym after, I went home and sat down to work on my book. Thanks, Sarah, for the wonderful company!

I watched ABC's Once Upon A Time marathon on New Year's Day and then the newest episode last night. In a very big nutshell, the main character, Emma, moves to a small town in Maine where everyone is someone from a fairy tale trapped in time compliments of the Evil Queen's spell. The townspeople have no idea they are fairy tale characters and the town is governed by the Evil Queen who is posing as the mayor. Emma is our hero who is trying to free all the characters.
Cast of Once Upon A Time

Like I said, that was a nutshell.

Anyway. The Mayor/Queen is an amazing antagonist. Clearly evil, but at the same time, you can't help but feel slightly sad for her plight. Yet, in last night's episode, I couldn't help but feel frustrated with the show's writers. Yes, bad things have to happen to the main character in order for her to triumph over evil.

But have you ever felt like sometimes, too many bad things happen to your favorite character? In the short life of Once, people have died, people have been betrayed, laid off, and overall abused by the Mayor. As a viewer, I can't help but feel like something good has to happen, and soon.

The theme of last night's episode dealt with good winning over evil. But how much does evil have to win over good to drive home the point? At this point, I'm half tempted to stop watching the show until the episodes are all online and finish the season in one marathon viewing because this is getting ridiculous.

Have you ever read a story or watched a show where the bad things seemed to be too much that you found yourself losing interest?

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