Tag Archive: author

Disclaimer: This is a writing advice post. I know every writer is different. What works for me may not work for you. Reading writing advice is like buying a pair. The first pair you try might be perfect or you may have to try several before you find the right shoes; until you try on a few pairs, you won’t know. I use the same attitude for writing advice. If it looks like it’s my size, I’ll give it a try. If I like the advice, I use it. If I don’t like the advice, I put it back on the shelf so to speak. If my advice doesn’t resonate or work for you, feel free to put it back on the shelf.


What working on TQG feels like right now.

And now…

It’s confession time.

I’ve reached a point where my work-in-progress (a.k.a. TQG) feels like a chore more often than not. On a fundamental level, I still want to “finish” this story. I want to get to a point where I can either say, “Hey, maybe I should see if this is something” and start querying agents or say, “I’m proud of all the things I’ve learned, but this isn’t it” and walk away. But whenever I sit down to work on TGQ? I find myself not in the mood. Here we are at the beginning of October, and I haven’t finished a chapter since August. It was Chapter One.

I know the problem: Story edits kick my butt. Want a first draft? Great, give me a few months. You want line edits? I got that. Story edits, though? They trigger my primal urge to over analyze everything, because WHAT IF I GET EVERYTHING SOMETHING WRONG!?

Writing is fun.

Editing is work.

Editing takes more motivation than cleaning my room does. (Two rooms over, my father rolls his eyes.)

So I stall. I hem. I haw. I whine—often quite loudly on social media—about how writing is hard. I get on tumblr and scroll through my dashboard until I’ve seen every post fifteen times.

Meanwhile, my novel collects (figurative) dust on my hard drive.

What have I learned? I am not a “wait for your muse” kind of girl. (Technically, I’ve known this, the past few months have made a fresh impression on me.)

I’m more the “force your muse to catch up” person. Because most of the time, my muse does not feel like writing. She’d rather read a book. Or get on YouTube. Or find something else on Netflix to obsess over. (Really, it’s mostly YouTube.)

I have to try.

I have to pull out my notes, sit down at my computer, and open that Word doc. I have to look at my week and say, “Here’s where I can spend this much time writing and here’s where I can spend that much time writing”. And I have to tell myself to try.

I am loathe to contradict the words of a revered Jedi master, but—all due respect to Yoda—when it comes to me and writing, the word “try” must exist. If I don’t try, I don’t write. But if I do try? Well, I either…

  1. Struggle for a specified amount of time (usually 30-45 minutes), write a sentence or two, and decide that a writing day, today is not.


  1. Struggle for a bit, write a few sentences, make a weird face, rewrite those sentences, nod, write more, nod more, rewrite more and come to the end of my writing time with a page or two done and a pleased look on my face. (Sometimes quickly replaced by a confused look as I realize that it’s past midnight. Whoops!)

Note: This method is most effective when you ignore your muse’s initial temper tantrum and attempt a few sentences.

There are writers that mostly write when they feel like it. And as they’ve published more than a few books, I cannot deny this method works for some people. If it works for you, embrace that.

I am not one of those people.

For me, writing is similar to exercising. I almost never feel like working out, but I read once that even if you don’t want to work out you should do part of your routine. If you’re still struggling after a few minutes, then maybe today isn’t a good day. However, completing part of your workout gives you momentum, increasing the chance you’ll finish. While I will always prefer reading to jogging, 99% of the time I finish feeling accomplished and pleased that I put the effort in.

Don’t feel like this has to be you (because it doesn’t), but if the shoe looks like it will fit why not, well…try?

And with that, it’s time to sign off and go try some more.

Question for the day:

Do you wait for motivation or do you make motivation catch up to you?

 Image: Don’t try this at home by Massmo Relsig, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

2200500024_e93db99b61_mOnce upon a time, I thought the most difficult question you could ask a writer was the infamous “What are you writing?” After all, people don’t want you spill the whole book word-for-word, so you have fit your current obsession into a few sentences (the fewer the better). Cue long, excruciating pause, stuttering, backtracking, and general frustration.

Then a new writer friend asked me this doozy: “Are you a good writer?”

It took me a minute, but I said that yes eventually.

The question still hasn’t let me go though.

Am I a good writer?

If you asked my mother, the answer would be yes.

I’m not as sure. Am I capable of objectively answering that question? I am not a published writer–newsflash, I know–the only person to read my current novel is me. My only feedback is my own judgment. Is it possible for someone to be truly unbiased about their own work? I know I’m not.

But I also dislike the idea that the only writers able to write well are those that hate every word they write. In my mind, being too critical is just as ineffective as not being critical enough .

Isn’t it better to have the ability to recognize the golden nuggets in a current work? To look at a draft and say, “I think I might be on to something here, but that other thing there and all of Chapter 15 need a lot of work”?

That’s the kind of writer that I try to be.

A lot of my current project is kind of…meh, but the more I chip away at it, the more I wash and sift and refine it, the more gold I find. Or at least, I hope it’s gold I’m finding. There are good parts in this draft. There might even be brilliant parts in this draft. Only patience and effort will tell.

What I think matters is that I’m recognizing some problems. I know (and feedback on past projects has shown) that I’m WAY too close to this project to see all the problems, but I don’t think that my novel is perfect.

I don’t think it’s crap either.

I think it could turn into something.

At the end of the day, I’d rather believe in myself.

So I (at the risk of sounding narcissistic) think I’ll stick with my original answer.

Yes, I am a good writer. Or at least, I’m on my way to being one.

Image: Question mark sign by Colin Kinner, CC BY 2.0

I have finally reached that special place in my current work-in-progress that every author just dreams about: it’s time to look for an agent.

Allow me to emphasize the word “look”? I’ve finished my second draft and plan to dig into the thing with my jackhammer and scalpel when all the feedback has come in. If I am relatively pleased with the finished result it will be time to query agents. But that’s still a few months away.

So why am I looking at agents now?

Why not wait until I have completed and polished manuscript (Those are the kind of manuscripts that agents like to see)?

The answer to that question can be summed up with one word: research.

I need to know who I’m querying. Sure, I could just start with the first agent listed on Writer’s Market. But it’s so much more efficient to target queries.

Otherwise, I could send my manuscript to someone who doesn’t even represent young adult fiction. Or worse, someone who doesn’t rep fiction period. I want to respect both my time and any potential agents.

So I need to know all I can about said potential agents. The most consistent complaint I’ve seen agents make is that people submit inappropriate manuscripts—meaning manuscripts that for one reason or another don’t meet submission guidelines (these are important, pay attention to them).

So how do I go from the 85 agents that represent young adult to the six or so (the final number is still under advisement) I plan on including in my first round of queries?

Easy, I put them through something I refer to as “The Agent Games”.

So far, I’ve only completed Round 1 of this endeavor. But that still cut down the number of agents that were up for consideration.

There are many ways that someone else could go about weeding out the unpromising recruits in Round 1, but here are some of the things I considered when I was going through the six pages of results that Writer’s Market generated.

  1. I kept a big eye on all of the genres they represented. Now, not representing science fiction or fantasy didn’t get them thrown off of the list. But if they stated that they did not represent those two genres, it was an automatic “no”. Also, I kept in mind future projects I’ve been contemplating. Granted, an agent doesn’t have to be forever, but I’d hate to find “the one” only to have to find different representation because my next book is out of their field of experience. If you’re looking at making the art of Typing in a Tiny Room for Hours your career, you want an agent who can go the distance with you.
  2. Availability of info was also a big factor. Almost every agent or agency on my list had a website. That’s something to keep in mind. If an agent didn’t have a website, they had to really catch my eye to stay out of the “no” pile. I want to be able to get as much information about a potential agent as I can before I submit. What do they like to read? How long have they been agenting? Did they do anything before they became an agent? Knowing these things about them is going to make it so much easier for me when it comes time for Rounds 2 & (if necessary) 3.
  3. Also, having a website with a profile or a short bio helped picture myself working with them. Not only does the bio tell me what they represent, but if it was good, it gave me an idea of who they were. I won’t lie, there were a couple that I read their bio and was like, “You sound wonderful, but I just don’t think we’d do well together.” Obviously, an agent and a writer will clash at some point. But if I can pinpoint any insurmountable differences in personality or ideology, I won’t want to submit to that agent. On the other hand, there were a few that I really liked and I put in one of my files because something about their personality or something they said just clicked with me.
  4. When they provided the titles of books or authors they represented, I always gave that a look. Did I see a lot of big names that I recognized? Those either went into the “no” or the “maybe” pile. I’m not saying that my book isn’t good enough to be in the same agency as say, Suzanne Collins (actually, it’s not, but that’s why it needs editing). It’s just that if I don’t see some unknowns, I feel that’s a pretty good sign that they prefer to work with established authors (some just outright tell you). On the other hand, WM does list the percentage of debut authors an agent normally takes. If the percentage was high they went into the “definitely check out” or the “maybe” file.

So that was my process for Round 1. I shall commence Round 2 shortly. It will involve a lot of reading, thorough perusal of websites & guidelines, and possible stalkerlike behavior on Twitter.

Anyone out there want to chime in on how they narrowed things down during their hunt for an agent?

You know as writers we always love a good story. We read other writer’s works. We watch movies and listen to music. Nothing gets our blood going like a well-told tale. But I recently realized that they best stories aren’t fictional. They can, in fact, be sitting right next to you and you will never even know it.

Now this is something that I should have known, growing up with the mom that I had. She loved telling us stories about when she was a little girl. Okay, maybe I begged her for the stories. But the point is that she had some pretty awesome stuff to tell. About her childhood and about growing up (kids, your parents do know they’re talking about—listen to them). Like the one where a tornado once deposited an stable (intact, horses and all) in her backyard.

But no, I didn’t realize it growing up. The things we take for granted. Of course I didn’t want to be a writer when I was little, so I didn’t spend much time thinking about these things.

No I realized it a few weeks ago reading a friend’s blog post. I remember reading it and thinking, “Now, that’s a story.”

The amazing things in life don’t happen when you’re reading the book (at least, most of them don’t). They happen while you’re out living it. While you’re out making memories and laughing (or crying) with friends. You discover them when you talk with other people.

Your life may not seem interesting to you. You may think that it’s boring or dull. But the person sitting right next to you probably thinks the same thing about their life. So swap stories, you might discover that the tale they have to tell is more amazing than anything you could ever read or write.

I recently came across the first story I ever wrote. It was for a creative writing class that I took when I was eleven. I vaguely remember the story: It was during my Beanie Baby phase and of course, they came to life and we had adventures. I didn’t reread it, because I’m pretty sure I would cry (and not the happy kind). After all, it hails from way before I discovered all of the authors that taught me what a good book is made of. But there is something nostalgic about holding that folder, with it’s Lisa Frank stickers and being able to see the date, January 22, 1999, typed in the chunky font of my mother’s typewriter (which was bought shortly before I was born). And something satisfying in knowing that I’ve been writing for twelve years now. It makes me feel accomplished. I can still remember sitting at that little desk, covered in wood grain contact paper, staring at that tiny screen with its glowing green letters armed with nothing but an idea and a deadline.

How far I have come.

I use my own desk now. And I’ve learned that, while a good idea is of utmost importance there are a few other more mundane things that make a writer’s life a little easier.

Like a baby name book. I still remember the look on my mom’s face when she saw me with it for the first time. She of course had (and has) complete faith in me and knew that there was no way that I would actually be naming any babies (not yet at least), but she was really wondering why the heck I had that book. Of course, once she saw the notebook, she got four. It is perfect for when I need a name for a last minute character…or when I discover that all of my characters have names that begin with ‘A’. For my main characters, I like to rely on my reverse name dictionary. This one is great for when I have a character that I know a bit about, but don’t know their name (my leads usually introduce themselves). For example, let’s say I need a name for the sidekick, who will end up being the main characters closest friend–All I have to do is look up the word friend under the appropriate gender and I have a host of names to choose from.

I also have a dictionary and a thesaurus nearby. The dictionary is there is because sometimes I feel the need to double-check the meaning of a word and because when i come across a word I don’t know, I like to actually look it up. The thesaurus is for those times that I I realize that I’ve used the word “glare” six times in the last chapter. Simplicity is best, but there are words, like dazzling, that stand out. You don’t want to use them too often. If I feel I’m using a word too often I’ll look up a quick equivalent. It’s also useful for those times that I know exactly which word I want, but I can’t remember what that word is-but I can remember a synonym. Then it’s time for a word search.

Of course I have my stack of Writer’s Digest magazines…all but the last six months of them still waiting to be read. I know it’s horrible. I’ve always stunk at keeping up with my subscriptions (It was even worse when I subscribed to Dog Fancy right before I got my dog), but there’s SO much in them so I am trying to at least stay up-to-date. You can now find me walking around with the newest issue for about two weeks. I like to spread each issue out, helps me to warm-up for working on my book. As with a good book or a book on writing, these magazines make me want to write, no matter my mood. So obviously, I don’t usually get very far into an issue before I’m putting it aside.

And then there are a the books we all have. Reference books. Mine are mostly books on writing. Actually, mine are all on writing. All of my other research comes from library books because I’m a poor college student.  There’s the textbook from my creative writing class at UF. And the book on getting published that I now refuse to read even though it says “Read this before you start chapter one” (or something like that). Why? Because I read somewhere else that I shouldn’t read any publishing books until after I’ve written the first draft. But it was 40% off at Borders, so I don’t feel too bad. There’s also my B.I.A.M. book that I’ve restructured to do over the course of a year (because there’s no way I can pause my life for a month at this point, but I still like the structure). And then my two personal favorites: 45 Master Characters by Victoria Schmidt and The Writer’s Guide to Character Traits by Dr. Linda Edelstein. The first caught my eye because it breaks things down into mythological dimensions and me being a mythology buff, had to have it. It’s been very thought provoking. The latter I bought because I seem to always have one character with some sort of mental illnessand it had a very good chapter on that. They turned out to be a well-spring in my character development process–from thought process to childhood memory to traits that fit the type (I was typing characters in TV and books for weeks afterward).  There used to be a shelf full of spiral bound notebooks also, but I got tired of them taking up valuable book space, so they’ve been boxed until I can get the story starts and the ideas typed into my computer.

Sadly all of this only takes about a shelf on my little desk-side bookshelf (of course, the other shelves are filled with novels, so maybe it’s not so sad). It won’t stay that way for long if I can help it, but right now it seems rather insignificant. And yet, this one small shelf probably tells you a lot about who I am and where I am as a writer.

What about you? What do you find near your writing spot? Or what tools do you have that you favor? And what do they say about you?

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