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Too Many Ideas

I have a stupid problem: I have too many ideas for books.

Before you cuss me out or throw things, think about it this way: I have ideas, but that doesn’t mean I have a book. Sometimes I start writing all excited, then I get to page 11 and I’m like “well, that was fun, what happens next??? Oh right, I don’t know.”

I’m having a hard time focusing on one project. I have my trilogy, but I’m also inspired to work on another MS. However, I also really want to get published so I should edit that first book in the trilogy. Oh, but what about this cool idea. I should write that first. (And so on.) It’s strangely frustrating. It’s nice having options since I can’t write without being inspired, however I want to work on editing my trilogy versus starting another book.

Again, it’s a stupid problem.

Part of the issue I think is that I’ve spent so much time editing the first book in the trilogy I’m getting sick of it. I’ve queried but I’m taking a break to get some feedback on the opening and work on the synopsis. I think it’s improved, but i don’t want to burn out all of the agents I want to query before it’s where it should be. I have the query, it’s solid, but I don’t want to keep sending it out if the material still needs a little extra something.

I want to be motivated to edit this trilogy since I have a history of abandoning projects. I’m so far down the road I know I won’t abandon it, however it’s been a while since I’ve looked at it. Every time I try to edit I keep skimming and getting nothing done. I’m waiting to hear from one more person on the book, hopefully then I’ll have enough feedback to put in the final touches and start sending it out again.

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Fox Cities Book Festival!

Today was the first day of the FCBF. There are so many great authors attending, including Leonard Pitts Jr., Michael Perry, and Jacqueline Mitchard to name a few. I want to attend at least one event a day while also spending my week in WI with my family and friends from college.

I saw Leonard Pitts today and, although for me it wasn’t an eye-opening speech, it was a good talk. Most of what he talked about I have heard or experienced before, but it was fun to hear of another author whose characters wrote the story for him. My characters always have surprises in store for me. They get in fights, form relationships/bonds with someone unexpected, die, etc. A true writer lets the characters run the show. (They know without them we as writers are helpless!)

I am gearing up for my presentation on Friday afternoon (3pm at the Kaukauna Public Library.) I don’t know every author on the list for the week but I know I’m on the young scale, if not the youngest author. It’s pretty intimidating being among authors who have made names for themselves, but it’s also a huge honor. I was asked to present because the Kaukauna librarians loved my event I did with their students a year ago. You never know what kinds of connections you’re going to make.

Hope to see some of you around this week!

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Rubbed the Wrong Way

I recently finished the first draft of a new MG novel and I was eager to get some help with it. I know it’s a first draft and it probably needed more time with me before I sent it out, but I wanted to see if anyone was interested in doing a MS swap anyway. I found someone at SCBWI who was interested. I explained it needed help/was a first draft in my email when I sent it along.

I got an email from this person with critiques. They were honest and helpful about specifics I should be aware of for MG writing, but at the end of the list this person admit that they didn’t finish my MS because I needed to get the basics right first. I went through the attachment they sent and it looks like they only read 16 pages of the MS.

Now, I don’t know about you, but this feels rude. I am reading this person’s full MS, regardless of what condition it is in, because that is what we agreed to do. There was a full disclaimer that my novel was in the infant stages yet this person took a brief look and decided it wasn’t worth their time. I expect that from agents/editors but not from a fellow writer.

The comments they wrote made sense. I know I need to get to the action quicker, and there was a good point on how I should make the protagonist younger to fit the age of my audience. However, if I were critiquing the MS, I would put examples of good action and how to connect the dots. I would have read more to get a sense of the whole plot arc; to get a better idea of what was working in addition to what needed work. Reading 16 pages out of a 150 page MS is not enough. I don’t know this person’s views on what parts work for the age range since most of the action happens later. This person has written a couple MG books, but I can’t say I was helped since I don’t know what’s working. Why not say how long it took until you were engaged in the story instead of bowing out after chapter 3?

The basics I need to change (according to this person) include: age of character, getting to action faster/hook, and keeping interest in a first person POV. I don’t know if this is enough. These are things that can be improved, but it also sounds like problems with the beginning. What about the middle when more happens? How can I get there faster? What is too old/young for the age group in future events? I have so many things I want to know but I won’t get to because this person never critiqued the whole story. I can handle tough critique, I just can’t handle not fulfilling a promise of a full critique.

Am I justified in being upset and frustrated? Has anyone else had a critique partner who did a similar thing?


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The Writer’s Loft

Last night I went to the Writer’s Loft for their first class. This class was taught for over 20 years by Jerry Cleaver and is now run by Mary Carter. The first class is free and comes with Jerry’s first book. However, I am still debating if I want to commit to the class.

I have an amazing critique group right now that is inspiring and helps me stay motivated, but this workshop is not a critique. It is open to anyone at any stage in their writing and offers tools to write, inspire, and get published. A lot of what was talked about yesterday was information I already knew, but there were some things that were either new or good to hear out loud again. One of my concerns about the class is that this particular class has many people who are new to writing. I think, however, that this will be alright since the class is about tools to improve writing and not worrying about my work being critiqued by people new to writing. I was hoping that more advanced writers would be in the class, but as Jerry (or someone else famous) said: A professional is an amateur who didn’t quit. I cannot judge anyone in the class because, honestly, I am also just starting out. I may already have a self-published book, but writing is a never ending learning curve.

Honestly, the biggest issue right now is the cost. It’s $575 for the 6 weeks which is not too bad, but I’m on a budget and I have a sick rabbit to think about. I want to invest the money only if I know for sure that this will help me and right now I am not sure. The website is optimistic and the teacher believes in Jerry’s teaching and methods. I want to know if anyone reading this knows of this class or has taken it/knows someone who took it. I want my time and money to be well-spent. I think the first class is a tricky one since it is a long introduction to what will be taught. It’s hard to know how the class will go based on reviewing a syllabus, main points, and a writing exercise.

I’m reaching out to ask for advice. This workshop is well known and the teacher has published several books and worked personally with Jerry to learn to teach this course. There are so many reasons to take it but I am still worried about the investment. I have one week to decide whether or not to show up to class. Please help me out! A conversation about the pros and cons from current and aspiring authors would help me out immensely.

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Word Count

I have the strangest problem–my novel is too short! Most novelists I have encountered or read blogs on have the opposite problem. My first novel The Healing Pool was CRAZY long and I had to cut it down about 20,000 words. My current project has the whole story written but needs at least 11,000 more words to make the minimum word count for YA novels.

I enjoy cutting back. Finding redundancies and adverbs and lags in the story and slicing them down is satisfying, although also a little sad. Adding words has been a slow and tedious process. I wanted NaNoWriMo to be my motivation to beef up this novel, but if we’re being honest I got only about 5,000 words in. In my mind any adding is great, but it’s frustrating how hard it is to add to this novel. The story line is finished. It makes sense from point A to point B and could work as a novella, but I want this to be novel length. I am proud of this story and I want to have a wider audience to enjoy it. I don’t know anyone who reads novellas. The only reason I know they exist is because we talked about the different kinds of creative writing in High school! I have nothing against novellas, but I wish I knew of more people who were interested in reading them.

Part of my trouble is time and short attention span. Since graduating college I can honestly say I no longer have the stamina to sit and write a paper for 2-3 hours in one sitting. I have no idea how I managed to write as much as I did in school, never mind sit in class for 5 hours a day! Working 52 hours doesn’t help either. Luckily my work hours are going down starting in the new year. Maybe with that extra time I will try to write a little bit more each day. I can only hope Netflix will not beckon me over….

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Free Book Giveaway!

Happy Thanksgiving! Tomorrow November 27th is The Healing Pool‘s first birthday. To celebrate I am having a book giveaway through my author facebook page. Like the page and comment about why you love reading and a random participant will win a free signed copy of The Healing Pool. I hope you join me in sharing your love of books. 😀

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November is National Novel Writing Month, where the challenge is to write 50,000 words in 30 days. This is my first year EVER out of school, and while the idea of producing that many words in a short amount of time scares me, I have decided to try it this year. November used to be finals time at school so my friends who tried NaNo ended up breathing coffee and going crazy with the latest MS and term papers. I’m not insane so I decided to opt out, but now I don’t have much of an excuse anymore!

My goal is not to write a whole new book but to get as close to adding 50,000 words as I can to Charley’s Dragons. I cut 40,000 words a few months ago and beefing it back up has been slow. Most of the book is pure dialog so it intentionally lacks the meat-heavy word count that description allows. I do need to add more description and more conflicts to fill the holes remaining, but I’m excited to have a goal. If you have not noticed by my lack of blog posts, writing has been slow-going and frustrating the past few weeks. November I’m going to try and over-compensate and write more than I need to so that I have an excuse to go back and nit-pick.

The single hardest thing about NaNo is not the word count: it’s all about not editing as you go. There are going to be so many stupid words/sentences/plot stalls/etc and it’s okay. Writing the “perfect” MS is not about how fast it is but how well it’s shaped over time. While NaNo allows the over-zealous writer to have at it and go crazy, for those of us who are more perfectionistic types it can be like pulling teeth not pressing that “delete” button.

The goal is always 40,000 words but my personal goal is to add 35,000 words to get my MS back to the word count it was before. If I end up cutting all of those words because it would work better as a novella so be it, but I want this to work as a novel and I think it can as long as I am not shy about adding place descriptions.

Have any of you done NaNoWriMo before? First time like me? Comment below to share your thoughts and excitement!


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Re-vamping, Re-writing

I have begun the process of re-writing Charley’s Dragons, my “finished” MS! I decided to do this after everyone (and I mean EVERYONE) in my critique group were thrilled about the same parts and annoyed/angered/frustrated at the other same parts. The story was told in three perspectives, but one of them wasn’t working. I also allowed my grandmother to read the MS and she forgot almost everything that happened in the perspective my critique group hated. My mom shook this off, saying that my gramma is old and her memory isn’t fabulous, but I thought it was significant. Obviously a major part of my MS was not working, and not even worth remembering.

The original perspectives were: dialog between Charley and the psychiatrist, third person perspective showing the real world, and first person perspective of Charley in a hallucination world. No one liked the third person perspective in my group. The characters apparently were unlikable and the writing was stilted. I was feeling unsure of how to edit, when one member suggested getting rid of the third person perspective all together. I could feel the light bulb turning on over my head. I needed to re-write my book.

I am really enjoying how my MS is coming along. It was scary at first when I took out the third person perspective and my MS dropped over 40,000 words. That’s a lot to make up, especially since half of the story is dialog. I have been picking away at the story and I think it is working. I can take the events that happen in the old parts and make them even more interesting in the remaining parts. The word count is slowly moving ahead (I’m up to 21,000 words! Woo Hoo!) but I think it will reach novel length. The original MS was pretty short for a novel as it was, but hopefully agents will not get pissy about a shorter novel.

I have taken a risk deciding to re-write the book, yet it was a necessary endeavor. I wanted to have an agent by now and be on the way to a second published book, but agents were not thrilled and my critique group helped me see why. I am looking forward to finishing Charley’s Dragons again, although I know the process will be slow balancing writing and my 4 jobs and needy pets, but it will get done. I’m staying positive and taking it a little bit at a time! Something is better than nothing.

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At my critique group the other day, a member mentioned the #MSWL on twitter. This stands for “manuscript wish list” and is all tweets from agents/publishers about what they are looking for. I checked it out today and it’s pretty cool. People are discouraged from pitching their books with the # obviously, but several agents–even one I queried!–put up what they are interested. For non-twitter people there’s also with more detailed info about what agents are interested in.

While looking around #MSWL I felt nervous. I could not find anyone interested in something similar to Charley’s Dragons. I feel like my MS does not fall into an easy category which makes it hard to find out who would be the best person to query. It’s not as simple as a paranormal romance or coming of age or book that deals with the issues of race and gender. It is a story that is supposed to be realistic but with a “fantasy” twist that is actually hallucinations–not like The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. I know there is someone who would want to represent it, but I’m worried on how to find that person. I’ve tried querying women’s fiction people, fantasy people, commercial fiction people, but no one has bitten. I want to query the right people but it’s so hard to find someone who is interested.

Has anyone else faced and/or conquered this problem? There are so many books that defy common genres that have been published, and I hope to be one of them! What are you writing? Having trouble finding your audience too?

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New Group

This past week I moved into a new apartment! While it is great it does not have any internet. I am currently babysitting and borrowing internet while the infant sleeps! Onward…

I joined a new critique group that is going very well. It’s a group of writers from around Evanston that have different styles and successes in everything from novels to poetry to flash fiction. It is great to be with a group again. Writing is such a lonely life and being able to talk to others and read their work is so refreshing and inspiring. Last week I submitted the first 10 pages of my latest novel Charley’s Dragons. I have had no luck with agents lately and so I wanted feedback.

The critiques i got from everyone were fabulous. No one in the group is afraid to speak up when they read something that does not work. I got great comments about one section where none of the characters were likable and it was hard to read since the scene was too tense. Other sections were highly enjoyed and they wanted more! The beginning was split: half understood and half were confused. (Spoiler: the beginning is strictly dialog without any character markers!)

Overall I was encouraged. They all wanted to read more and had consistent feedback about lightening up the main character’s home life from the get go. Once I get all of my crap in place in my new apartment I am excited to start revising and finish up the list of agents I have. Only a few are left on my initial list of 50-something agents, but maybe one of them will bite. I can hope. If not, there are soooooo many more agents to consider. Onward!

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