Wednesday, January 25, 2012

blogs, blogs, blogs

So, I started classes today.
And I'm shopping like a mad woman, trying to find the perfect ones. Also, I am taking care of a zillion other school things. And I just got a job. In addition to my classes/homework/journalism/other activities.

American dream, eh?

So, when I get some time, I'm going to figure out a blogging schedule. I was thinking maybe doing a post for each genre I write each week and then publishing posts the last week of each month.

Maybe book reviews one day! I started reading The Goddess Test on my flight home. I'm excited for it to get past the "Oh my goodness I'm new and all the boys love me and why don't they just leave me alone?" Mary Sue part. I think it's going to be pretty good though. Aimee Carter definitely doesn't mess around, piling on too much back story or purple prose to describe emotions. I like that. I just hope the characters don't suffer for it.

Anyone else have thoughts on The Goddess Test?

Friday, January 20, 2012

Blogging Tips: Spam Isn't Just for Comments Anymore

So, when I came back from my impromptu mental/physical health break, I noticed that I had a lot of new blog views.

About 300 new ones. And considering I'm no blog star, I knew something was up. And because all of the referring links that the hits came from were weird broken links that had nothing to do with me or writing. A quick google search taught me that you can get "spam traffic" from this links because the SEOs who create them want you to click on their sites and try to make a few pennies. Not sure what the point of that is, but I guess if you spam enough it could be lucrative.

And I thought I was getting some blogging friends from Russia. Well, shoot! I still feel excited about getting referred from Google El Salvador though ;)

Blog on, friends!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Writing Challenge UPDATE I am 8? Over the weekend I ended up not doing as much editing as I'd like due to so real-world problems (sadly I cannot live in the writing world full-time). The reason I was so stressed about getting this short novella done and edited so quickly is that I really wanted to have it ready for a pitch contest on the 26th.

But here's the thing: there will be other pitch contests. I can always submit through the normal submission process.

I realize that if I don't get this baby edited "in time," it might actually be better in the long run. I'm the type of person that needs to let my work sit a bit before I come back to it. This is a new genre for me, and I'm not going to shoot myself in the foot by subbing too early (been there, done that). I've had a pretty rough week and my email inbox is starting to remind me that I have a lot of responsibilities at school that I'm going to need to prioritize. I'm not going to let my novel writing go completely this semester, but I will have to schedule my writing time carefully.

I guess this is learning how to make the real-world and the writing-world meet in the middle!

On that note:
I LOVE DOWNTON ABBEY. Watched an episode Sunday and now I'm hooked. I gotta see season one now! Does anyone have any good romance novel recommendations for this era?

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Notebook

Sorry this one doesn't have Ryan Gosling in it.
for your ovaries
I've been told two things since a very young age:
1) Use your indoor voice
2) Keep a writer's notebook.

I specifically remember some author coming to my elementary school and telling us how she kept a journal next to her bed to write down things in the middle of the night. And something about squirrels.

Anyway, writers often give (and subsequently get) the advice to keep a notebook. This is because we never know when our writerly brains will strike. Since we have so much going on up there in the old noggin, it's important we write it down to remember it.

The thing is, I hate journaling. Sure, I had plenty of pretty pink diaries as a child, but I never kept true to them for very long. It just didn't interest me to keep a running record of my sucky childhood.

So when my playwrighting professor this past semester made us keep a daily notebook, I was skeptical. I didn't think it would help me.

Boy was I wrong. Journaling turned out to be a great writer's tool. In fact, it ended up shaping a lot of my final project.

*voice of squirrel author haunting me*

However, I still found that I couldn't maintain a daily notebook. I never seemed to have the time to sit down and journal my whole day.

What I did have was a blackberry and EverNote
EverNote is a great app you can use on your smartphone and computer to take down quick audio, visual, and text notes wherever you are and whenever you're inspired. It transfers the notes from your phone to a notebook on your computer and PRESTO- writer's notebook.

I find it a lot more convenient than a paper notebook and since I'm attached to my phone anyway, I actually use it. Also, it's great for creepily recording dialogue you hear.

Not that I do that...

Anyway, there are a number of products like this on the market, but evernote is what my professor recommended to me and I think it works well. The free version does have a memory limit, but I haven't run into any problems yet and I use it quite a bit.

Do you journal? What methods do you use? Let me know!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Day 3 Writing Challenge Results

So, first of all, THANK GOD for modern technology:
How to Succeed in Novel Writing...

I know piracy of musicals is bad, but if ever there was ever something to get me writing sexy, romantic scenes, it's this man's voice.


It's always made me sad that they over autotune him on Glee. I saw him and Starkid in November, and honestly, he's just phenomenal live. I wish I had been at UMich for the original A Very Potter Musical (and Sequel).

*Criss Rant Over*
Word Count: 11,424 (+2858)

Pros: I am essentially done my first draft other than a quick little HEA conclusion at the end. The hero and the heroine are together and all the conflict is resolved.

Cons: EDITING EDITING EDITING. I'd like to have this story ready to pitch by January 26th, which is scary fast considering I have no beta lined up and short contemporary romance is a whole new genre for me. I'm going to let the manuscript sit for a day or two while I crank out internship cover letters (oh, those things?) and maybe study my Russian (textbook has collected dust ALL break). Spring semester is around the corner and as excited as I am to go back, I'm also getting panicky.

And I need a haircut. So there's that.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Day 2 Writing Challenge Results

привет, first of all, to all the people hitting my blog up from Russia? Not sure what that referring link's all about, but I guess I'll be refraining from any political rants just in case...

In other news...

Word Count: a whopping 8,566 (+5,238)
  • I got to write my first fight scene. Like, not a fight between  a guy and a girl, but a knock-out, physical fight between two guys. Not only was it fun to actually show males being aggressive and stupid, it was set in one of my favorite restaurants, so I got to use a lot of vivid imagery. For example:
He slugged Ben square in the jaw, driving him back into the wall of portraits behind him. The frames containing Bill Clinton and the former Miss Maryland fell to the floor, the glass shattering everywhere. One of the pages at the table next to them screamed. 
  • I wrote. A lot. And still managed to do other things yesterday. So that's good.
  • The first draft of this "short novella" will definitely be over 10K. I'm not sure if that means it will reach a full novella length or not, especially when edits will mean cutting a lot. But I'm impressed at how much I've got done already. My last novella took at least a week to write (of course, that might have been because I wrote it on my phone while on the exercise bike)
  • I can already tell the story will need a lot of edits. Pacing in such a short story is very tricky, especially when I'm bringing in side characters. I feel like the hero and the heroine aren't spending enough time together.
  • I'm not sure if I'm switching POV enough. In my last short novella, when to switch POV came very naturally. Here, I'm just doing it each "chapter." I don't think that's giving the reader the chance to really see Summer fall in love with James. They only get to see James' thoughts on winning over Summer, which isn't enough.
Favorite Line from Yesterday's Write:
Too late for the fries. James saw Summer pass underneath the iconic green and orange awning of Chick and Ruth’s.  He stood up to greet her and hit his head on one of the bagels hanging from the ceiling. He rubbed his head. Those things were like rocks. He was twenty-four and still felt like he a gangly teenager, getting used to his awkwardly tall height. 

Goal For Today: Possibly go back and edit before writing anymore. I know some people find editing before they're done counter-productive, but I find that it can save work later on in the process.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Day 1 Writing Challenge Results

So, yesterday was Day 1 of my 10 day writing push. Here are the results:

Word Count: 3,328

  • I'm a third of the way to my goal.
  • I've figured out the plot and developed secondary characters.
  • The love-hate thing between the protagonists is starting to work out. I was afraid my hero was too unlikable to be redeemed, but maybe not.
  • I love the setting of the story and, for once, it doesn't require a lot of research for authenticity because I interned in the city.
  • My quick progress might have more to do with the fact that I established these characters like these in a secondary story line in another project, so I already know some of their dialogue.
  • The two main characters are aides at a state general assembly, so keeping politics in without annoying readers is hard. I want the story to appeal to readers regardless of their politics, but obviously Summer and James are very passionate about their beliefs. But there's definitely something sexy/taboo about falling in love with someone across the aisle, so I'm trying to play that up.
  • I'm at 3,000 words and I've just established the main conflict. If this story is 10k, that's not good. I might have to up the final word count. I'm targeting it to a particular line, but the publishers also accepts longer novellas, so I could do either.
And just for fun:

My James (but with green eyes)
My Summer:

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

10 Day Writing Challenge

So, I’ve finished my last novella/short story. Yay! And by finished, I mean signed, sealed, and delivered. Of course, all of those terms are antiquated in today’s day and age of electronic submissions. It will probably be 4-6 months before I hear back about my novella.

This means that I need to move onto a new writing project. Over break, I edited about half of my YA, but stopped after hitting an editing block. I find that when I try to do too much editing at once, the quality of my editing decreases drastically. What I really need to do is get back on absolutewrite so I can find a beta. I have an account on the site, but don’t know my password (oops) and the email it is linked to was uber hacked (double oops). And since you need 50 posts to use the SYW and beta features on absolutewrite, I need to get posting on a new account!

So until I get back into my YA, I decided to write another short/novella. I had a few ideas, but decided to go with a contemporary since I have the best feel for the characters in it. I’ve found that with short romances, you’ve really got to know your characters because the sparks have got to be instantaneous. You’ve got to highlight internal conflict without a whole bunch of external conflicts to bring it out.
Historical-wise, I’d really like to do something Gatsby-era. But considering I have about twelve internship applications to complete and a new semester around the bend, I’m going to take it one new project at a time.

So, my goal is to get 10,000 words and a second draft of a short contemp romance in the next ten days. I’ll post my results and the lessons I learn along the way (I have a feeling pacing is going to be a major issue).  I also generally don’t assign myself word per day quotas, but hopefully with such a short story it will be manageable.

Does anyone else have writing goals for this month? Let me know!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

If This Were Tumblr...

Posting only this meme wouldn't be so weird. So I apologize in advance if you were expecting an informative, thoughful blog.


It's horrible, but this cracks me up every time. And I know how many of us writers/readers wish we were Belle/ grew up on Disney, so I thought I'd share

So, to any boys out there: smart bitches do indeed love libraries.

And to make yourself feel better about wasting writing time reading this post, just remember this:
Because you are fabulous!

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Art of Getting By With Movie Reviews

So in addition to all my writing, I am also involved with some film stuff at my school.

That has nothing to do with this review.

In today's winter break boredom, my sister decided to get three movies out of the Red Box . Three because apparently they give you 50 cents off for a third and she could not resist. One of the movies she got was “The Art of Getting By,” starring Freddy Highmore and Emma Roberts.

I saw a preview of this movie when it first came out in theaters and thought it looked good, but I didn’t have high expectations going into it. I figured it would be a cute teen romance with an indie feel ala “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist.”

Here’s a quick rundown of my thoughts on the movie:

A-    It had the type of mellow, indie rock music I like and  it fit the story well.

Although there is a general conflict of George almost not graduating and really struggling to feel motivation in life, there isn’t much of an actual plot.  This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I think the romantic tension between George and the love-interest Sally could have had more sparks. But it was a good character-driven movie.
angsty Freddy Highmore

Although my first impression of George was “wow, he’s emo,” his character had enough nuances to keep it from being cliché. Sure, him being a artist when he really didn’t seem to have much interest in it (or anything) was a little meh, but it would have been worse if the character was some poet or singer. Sally was definitely had MPDG syndrome, but was still likeable. Dustin is somewhat laughable, but also has moments where you feel for him. The preachy/inspirational(?) principal gets annoying quick and the whole step-dad plot is a little WTF, but it doesn’t detract from the movie that much.

Concept-wise it was underwhelming, but the acting is good and it’s a solid 50-cents-off-third-choice.

Alternatively, if you would like a more humorous review, I found this while Tumblog searching for the above pics.

Lots of lulz.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


As I've gotten back to my routine television viewing over winter break, I've realized that there are two things I'm not afraid to admit about myself. The first is my suspense over the end of Wizards of Waverly Place (I'm 18, give me a break) and the second is my longtime love of soap operas.

Yes, soap operas.

At this point, you’re probably either a) gagging with horror or b) laughing hysterically. The thing is, soap operas aren’t as silly or awful as most people think. While no one is arguing that a Daytime Emmy carries the same weight as an Oscar,  soap operas still have entertainment value in an age of Jersey Shore and Gossip Girl. In fact, you might be surprised by how much Snooki and Blair Waldorf have in common with your average soap opera heroines and villainesses.

And sure, while nobody calls sex “lovemaking” anymore and  an “evil twin” has become standard skit-show parody fare,  soaps still have their purpose.

In fact, I thinkmanye conventions that developed in the soap world have influenced a lot of YA work and certainly countless romance titles. I've been watching them since my childhood and I think, at least subconsciously, they've had an impact on my creative process.

I have yet to determine if this is good or bad, but maybe if none of my other internship prospects work out this summer, I'll try writing for a soap mag.

And if you're still not convinced that soaps are relevant to broader culture, here's my case:

1) Stars Get Their Start on Soaps
From Oscar nominee Julianne Moore to rom-com sweetheart Meg Ryan,  many stars have launched successful careers from humble soap opera beginnings. Soap operas can give burgeoning actors a place to hone their acting skills and pay the rent while they’re trying to build a reputation in the industry. But this doesn’t mean all soap actors are models who decided they want to speak, many soap actors come from theater and classically trained backgrounds.

2) Not All Storylines Involve Evil Twins
Soaps also tackle heavy storylines, such as teen pregnancy, rape, and in the recent case of General Hospital, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  Where prime time shows may only be able to deal with one of these heavy storylines with care and detail, soaps have the screen time and character back story to really make a meaningful impression on the viewer.

3) Basis of Modern Teen Dramas
You may not realize it, but you’re probably watching a form of soap operas already. Shows like Grey’s Anatomy and Gossip Girl are often referred to as “primetime soap operas” because they use a lot of the same techniques that have been keeping soap operas dramatic and fresh for years.  If it weren’t for these primetime soaps, we’d have nothing to watch but crime shows and bad reality competitions. In fact, you can still get your fix of Seth Cohen on the SoapNet, where they syndicate The O.C.

4) What Else Is On At 1-3 PM in the Afternoon?
If you’re laid out sick, do you really want to be watching the same Rachel Zoe rerun for the millionth time? Bravo and MTV programming may be addictive, but it’s also repetitive. With soaps, your chance of running into an episode you’ve seen before are slim to none. Soaps have plenty of storylines to latch onto and they’re normally not so Twin-Peaks-complicated that it’s hard to follow.
image courtesy of

5) James Franco
Sure, he plays a serial killer named after himself, but we all knew James was a little off, didn’t we? If the last Oscars proved anything, it’s that James still looks pretty no matter what the quality of his work is. And surely if James Franco thinks soaps are credible entertainment, we should as well. He’s the one getting the PhD afterall…

What do you think? Do you watch any daytime soaps? Comment and let me know what you think!

My Take On The Query Process Part Two

In Part Two I'll be discussing how to write a query and some winning examples. Once again, this was originally a post on inkpop in response to a lot of confusion I saw over query letters. Two of the queries were written by authors who gain representation with them and one is my own, which ended up getting four partials (and many rejections) before I trunked the project.

I see a lot of questions about queries on inkpop that make me want to smack my palm against my forehead. For those of you that don't realize that query formats are a google away, here are some basics:
THE LETTER:Dear Ms. Mr (Agent's Last Name),Hook Line: What is your story about? What is your MC like? WHAT IS THE CONFLICT?2ND/3RD PARAGRAPH: What happens in the book? It's like the longer pitch you would put on inkpopBiography (this is only neccessary if you have SIGNIFICANT publishing credentials(you already had a book published, you've been published in a real literary magazine, you have fancy bylines, you have an MFA, etc.) Conclusion: XYZ is a young adult novel complete at XX,XXX words. Thank you for your considerationSincerely, Author
More Detailed Query Resources:

TIPS:-NEVER MORE THAN ONE PAGE(250 words is generally the number to shoot for)-NEVER BCC MORE THAN ONE AGENT-ALWAYS SPELL THE AGENTS NAME RIGHT-ALWAYS PERSONALIZE TO THE AGENT-Don't be afraid to try a nontraditional query, but try getting it critiqued first.
EX 1:
My query which got four partials before I pulled the manuscript back in for revisions:
[I took out the personalization because it differed for each agent and left out the genre because it could fit in more than one]
Dear AGENT,Rose Jastone leads a meticulously planned life. She is the lively social chair of Delta Delta Gamma, a model student, and punk rock enthusiast who can throw on a pair of Chucks when occasioned. Trying to avoid the responsibility of planning her post-graduate future, however, she signs up for a care-free spring semester at the University of Paris, Panthénon-Sorbonne.
Paris turns out to be more than Rose's Philosophy major logic bargained for. Stuck dorming with Noemi Brousarre, a celebutante roommate with a few fifth-life crises of her own, Rose is thrown into a world of Parisian drama that makes sorority life seem like a stroll though le Jardin des Tuileries.
Rose soon finds herself responsible for planning the renowned Crillon Ball and reuniting Noemi with her estranged sister Sonia. She also has to juggle a crack-pot study group and mixed feelings for an enigmatic figure skater. Left mediating the problems of the city around her, Rose wonders if she'll ever bloom into the “Eiffel Flower” Noemi promised, or if she will be stuck following the life-plan her parents and friends have already constructed for her.
Eiffel Flower is complete at 88,000 words. Thank you for your consideration.Sincerely,ME
what I felt like after a year of querying a horrible manuscript

EX 2: Published YA author letters
Dear Ms. Schafer:In The Last Good Place of Lily Odilon, my 65,000-word YA suspense novel, seventeen-year-old Albert Morales has one goal: find his missing girlfriend, Lily. 
Albert and Lily have been dating for just a matter of weeks, but in that time they’ve formed a connection that, in the way of first-love intensity, feels like forever. From the day his family moved to town, shy, awkward Albert has been hung up on Lily, a complicated and confusing girl—and he is subsequently consumed with her after the night she leaves her bedroom after a tryst and doesn’t come back. 
Things are complicated by the fact that Lily’s stepfather and the local police are looking for her, too. Egged on by Lily’s stepfather, the authorities are convinced that Albert, the last known person to see Lily, may have had something to do with her disappearance. But Albert, with Lily’s sister, Olivia, makes two big discoveries. First, Lily wasn’t abducted; rather, spurred by emerging memories and a sudden, violent confrontation, she took the course she knows best: She vanished. Their other discovery: Lily’s secret record revealing her stepfather’s compelling reason to want her to stay gone. 
Soon after running away, Lily reaches out in a frustratingly cryptic manner to Albert for help, but at the same time, seems afraid he won’t be able to help her. She acts as if wants to be found by him, but makes him hunt for her. So, reconstructing events in Lily’s recent past, Albert and Olivia, pursued, set out to find Lily and help her understand and reveal the truth before her stepfather gets to her first and silences her for good. 
The Last Good Place of Lily Odilon is told from Albert’s perspective (third person limited POV) in thirty-one short chapters. Alternating between the past—the days after Lily’s disappearance—and the present—Albert and Olivia on Lily’s trail—these thirty-one mosaic pieces form a complete picture of what’s happened and suggest what’s to come for Lily and those whose fates are tangled with hers. 
A brief (but relevant) bit about myself: Though I was late getting there, I graduated from Albertson College of Idaho in 2003 summa cum laude with a double major in Philosophy and Creative Writing. Professionally, my publishing credits have been in the journalism arena with Boise Weekly, where over the past few years I’ve penned numerous articles ranging from feature to arts to news writing. Some months ago, I gave up journalism and my job as BW’s Arts Editor—the place was sucking up all my time and creativity—in order to devote my energies to my first love, fiction writing. 
If you’re interested in taking a look at The Last Good Place of Lily Odilon, I’d love to send the manuscript for your review. In any event, thank you for your time.
Sara Beitia
And a much more concise letter:
Dear Mr. Malawer,I would like you to represent my 65,000-word contemporary teen novel My Big Nose & Other Natural Disasters. 
Seventeen-year-old Jory Michaels wakes up on the first day of summer vacation with her same old big nose, no passion in her life (in the creative sense of the word), and all signs still pointing to her dying a virgin. Plus, her mother is busy roasting a chicken for Day #6 of the Dinner For Breakfast Diet. 
In spite of her driving record (it was an accident!), Jory gets a job delivering flowers and cakes to Reno’s casinos and wedding chapels. She also comes up with a new summer goal: saving for a life-altering nose job. She and her new nose will attract a fabulous boyfriend. Nothing like the shameless flirt Tyler Briggs, or Tom who’s always nice but never calls. Maybe she’ll find someone kind of like Gideon at the Jewel Café, except better looking and not quite so different. 
Jory survives various summer disasters like doing yoga after sampling Mom’s Cabbage Soup Diet, Enforced Mother Bonding With Crazy Nose Obsessed Daughter Night, and discovering Tyler’s big secret. But will she learn to accept herself and maybe even find her passion, in the creative (AND romantic!) sense of the word? 
I have written for APPLESEEDS, Children’s Playmate, Confetti, FACES, Hopscotch, Story Friends, Wee Ones Magazine, the Deseret News, and Blooming Tree Press’ Summer Shorts anthology. I won the Utah Arts Council prize for Not-A-Dr. Logan’s Divorce Book. My novels Jungle Crossing and Going Native! each won first prize in the League of Utah Writers contest. I am currently serving as a Regional Advisor for SCBWI. 
I submitted My Big Nose & Other Natural Disasters to Krista Marino at Delacorte because she requested it during our critique at the summer SCBWI conference (no response yet).Thank you for your time and attention. I look forward to hearing from you.Sincerely,Sydney Salter Husseman
Sites like absolutewrite and are valuable resources for query critiques. Good luck!

Do you have any query stories or advice of your own? Let me know!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

I'm Just Missing You (College)

My winter break is longer than most college's. Or at least I feel like it is. Empirically, it might not be. But considering I'm not the biggest fan of being home, the five weeks of winter break are torture. Especially when most of my friends and my sister go back before me.

Here are the things I miss the most about being on campus:

1) Freedom
This may sound cliche, but I have so much more freedom in college. Primarily, the freedom to travel. I am from a small rural area and can't drive while I'm home, so over break I'm basically stuck unless my mom will drive me or a friend can. However, I go to school in a city where I can walk or take the bus anywhere. I'm also a train away from Boston and NYC at my college. I have yet to go to NYC, but 60 minutes and seven dollars to Boston is really fun.

2) Food
Sure, going to school in New England from Maryland, I miss real seafood (crabs and shrimp) and Old Bay. I also miss some home cooking (fried chicken and slippery pot pie), but overall I eat better at school. I want more curry in my life. I want jumbo muffins and focacia bread.

3) Friends
I miss my roommate. I miss my weekly friend brunches. I miss being able to see them whenever I want (see point one). I am even starting to miss the people I don't really like. No surprise. That happened to me after graduation. I've really enjoyed seeing some friends over break who I was maybe sick of at the end of high school. That is one good thing about break: seeing old friends.
graduation goggles

The only good thing about not having anything to do over winter break is that I have no excuse not to write!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Righting your Writing: PIN number and Redundant Descriptions

One of the things about virtual betas is you sometimes  never know what you're going to get, and as someone who already gets anxious over email, having "beta" in the subject line frightens me more.

It turns out, the beta I sent my novella to was pretty fantastic. Not only did she give my positive criticism, she gave me a lot of helpful editing tips for my next round of self-edits.

One of the tips was about redundant phrases. Honestly, I never paid much attention to editing for these before because I was worrying about more important things. But weeding out redundant descriptions is a great way to tighten up your writing and make it more terse.

See what I did there? Tightening up your writing means it is more terse, so terse was superfluous.


Other examples from my own writing include:
burning flames- of course flames burn
condescending snear- a snear is a condescending look.

I've also noticed in my YA when I'm describing the advice column my MC writes for, I often put the column name before it. I mean, like every single time. Redundancies, like repetitiveness, are like hitting your readers over the head with these:
Don't Do It! (or wear these, please)
You can find a list of common everyday redundancies here:

They have ATM machine and PIN number, which reminds me of my days in high school financial literacy. My teacher really loved to point out the "number" was the "N" in PIN.

Check your own work and see what you can come up with! Have any silly ones? Let me know!