Friday, August 30, 2013

Interview with the Newly-Agented Michelle Hauck!

My friend, and fellow Query Kombat host, Michelle Hauck, is now AGENTED by the wonderful Ms. Sarah Negovetich! 


1. First things first: CONGRATS! How does it feel to have an agent?

It felt a bit overwhelming at first. I can say that it seems to hit me most late at night before I fall asleep. There’s this glowing little spark of happiness at having accomplished something so difficult. Plus, it’s so wonderful to know that another person really loves my writing and crazy characters.

2. Tell us a little about your book. Make us excited XD

Hmm. My middle grade book is about a very snarky hamster with a bad attitude. Tom’s stuck in the middle of a 1st grade classroom and the kids/pygmies are driving him crazy. Think of the voice of Monsters Inc and Toy Story where the main character is quasi-adult but is surrounded by kids. Lots of humor and non-stop action.

3. What part of your book do you love the most, and what part of it did your agents love the most? (This is a trick on my part to force shy writers to brag about their book.)

I’d have to say that I absolutely love some of the one liners in my book. Tom calls the guest teacher a ‘subspatoot’ because the regular teacher went off to the spa and they got stuck with this toot.

I’m not sure of Sarah’s favorite part but she did say that the ending made her clap, and she doesn’t usually applaud when reading a book. Who could ask for a better phrase!

4. What would be the best compliment you could ever ever get about your book, something that’d send you into the clouds even months after receiving it?

One of my CPs let her daughter read the story, and her daughter didn’t take the time to sit down. She was so enchanted she read half the book standing up at the computer.

5. You entered a lot of contests, and are also the host/co-host of a good number of them, such as Query Kombat. What are your thoughts on writerly contests? Should writers enter them? Why or why not?

I think a writer needs to keep contests in perspective. I’ve heard a few people get offers from contests, but in the main, a contest is best for mingling with other writers and making contacts. In other words, don’t expect miracles and don’t be disappointed if you don’t make it. Contest are subjective and no judge of the actual book.

6. You had two offers of representation. What made you decide to go with Ms. Sarah Negovetich? Was it an emotion/gut decision, a logical decision, or something in the middle?

My decision would be somewhere in the middle. Logically, Sarah prefers speculative fiction, which is my usual genre. And I also liked Sarah’s positive outlook.

7. You write MG and YA. What attracts you to both of these genres, and what different aspect of each do you like?

And adult epic fantasy, SC. Don’t forget my third age category. Lol. (Crap! Woops, sorry!!)  have a published adult epic fantasy called, Kindar’s Cure, released from a small press, just last month.

I liked that in the MG book I could just have fun and let my crazy loose. That book is full of humor. Which is not to say it wasn’t hard to write. Humor is very difficult.

On the YA side, I like that the characters give me a much larger dimension as far as personality. I can really get into their heads and make them many shades of gray. And I enjoy completing a character arc. Plus, kissing!

8. The fun fun fun part: Tell us about getting “The Call.” How was it/What happened/What did you do when you found out you got agented? 

The whole story is here on my blog. The short version is that I got a twitter DM from an agent with my full who wanted to ‘chat.’ It was WriteOnCon week and we didn’t get a chance to talk until Friday. It was a lovely conversation of over two hours, and Agent A had plenty of ideas, besides warning me submission is a long-haul business. After the phone call, I was reeling. Couldn’t sit down, couldn’t concentrate, couldn’t think straight. An offer! Holy cow!

I did know that I need to contact the other agents with my material and my query. I sent an ‘offer of representation’ email nudge to all of them and soon got two more requests. The days fairly flew by, so much was happening behind the scenes. Plus, my summer vacation ended and I had to head back to work, making the days really hectic. Some agents declined and others said they would get back to me. Sarah was one of those early requests and a few days later, she also wanted to ‘chat.’

Her phone call caught me out on a walk with my dogs. I feared I’d lose the cell connection. Once again I got to plow into my “The Call” questions. She seemed like a perfect fit, and she was more interested in speculative fiction, my writing bread and butter. The other agent represented middle grade and YA but was more geared toward romance.

I did some researching and a lot of thinking. The rest is history.

9. What are the plans for submission? How do you feel about that prospect? 

Actually Sarah began putting together an editors list the day I signed with her. We’ve already done a few rounds of edits, cleaning up small stuff. She gave me the okay on the bigger picture of Pygmy Hazards. No work needed. (I thank my CP readers for that.) Sarah plans to start submitting in September.

I think you can guess that I will need to keep very busy this fall to take my mind off all this. I believe submissions will be twice as scary as querying. I’m thankful Sarah will be my filter through it. She can soften the process.

10. Do you have anything to say to the herds of writers out there? Any advice?

I would say the best advice is to be persistent. Learn your craft and get better with each book, but persistence is key. It took four books for me to get an agent. Part of that was because adult epic fantasy is not exactly a hot genre, the reason book two, Kindar’s Cure, sold to a small press. But don’t give up on yourself.

It probably helps to earn yourself a few publishing credits for your bio, too.

Michelle Hauck lives in the bustling metropolis of northern Indiana with her hubby and two teenagers. Two papillons help balance out the teenage drama. Besides working with special needs children by day, she writes all sorts of fantasy, giving her imagination free range. A book worm, she passes up the darker vices in favor of chocolate and looks for any excuse to reward herself. Bio finished? Time for a sweet snack.

She is a co-host of the yearly contest Query Kombat. Her epic fantasy, Kindar'sCure, was published by Divertir Publishing. Her short story, Frost and Fog, was published by The Elephant's Bookshelf Press in their anthology, Summer's Double Edge. She’s represented by Sarah Negovetich of Corvisiero Literary.


Go Tweet and congratulate on Twitter, like her on Facebook, and visit her blog: Michelle4Laughs: It’s in the Details (where there are a LOT of interesting and informative posts, such as her "Query Questions" interviews with various agents).

Thank you so much, Michelle! I'm shaking/cheering on the other side of this laptop screen. I can't wait to see what's in store for you, and we hope you all the best.


Monday, August 26, 2013

Michelle Hauck, Query Kombat Judge, is AGENTED!!!!


Most of you know her, but if you don't, go over and meet her on her blog, because she is now agented!!!!

I am so happy for her. She's going to go far with her hamsters (she got agented for a Middle Grade novel called PYGMY HAZARDS which stars Tom, the classroom hamster). I can't wait to see what the future has in store for her!

Go congratulate her!

You can read her full story about getting THE CALL (you know you love hearing those stories) over at this link, and you can go congratulate her on Twitter over here!

You also can read the query she used for PYGMY HAZARDS over here. It sounds like tons of fun, so go read it.

We all are very very happy for her :D

Congrats, Michelle!!! And good luck!!!!!!!!

EA: I stupidly spelled her last name wrong. It is 'Hauck' not 'Huak' or 'Hauk.' So sorry!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Imagine Your Book Resting in Your Hands - and Keep Writing

It's time like these, when my writing slacks, when I don't write as much as I used to, when I just get tired, that I try and force myself to imagine.


It's something we writers all do, don't we? It's a definition of our job.

But let's imagine outside the pages. Let's imagine in real life.

Let's imagine our books, our words, printed out on slightly rough paper. Stacked paper, one on top of the other, and then bound with a beautiful cover. Clean. Crisp. The book crinkles when you bend it. The pages smell when you sniff them and fan through them.

People look at your book on bookshelves as you watch from a corner. People pick it up, they actually pick it up! They read the back, they open it, they feel your words and your messages and characters and world.

And you have the book in your bedroom, on the side, something to look at and smile every time you see it.

It's that image, that imagination, that keeps me going, that will make me write more and edit and go through this hell which we call writing. That shining light at the end of the tunnel. And I want to meet that light, to greet it, to see and experience that happiness.

But it'll be so, so much happier if we have so, so much more struggles to go through. But I want to see that future, and it's scary to think that I don't know if it'll ever happen. I've got to keep trying, and if one book doesn't work, I have to go to the next one because time waits for no man, and I've got to write. I want to dream, but more importantly, I want my dreams to come true.

If it ever gets too hard to write, if it ever seems impossible, just imagine your book in your hands. And it's okay if that image doesn't entice you like, maybe, it used to. People change. Not being a writer is no crime at all.

But if your stomach twists at the image, if your chest soars, then keep going; but also, enjoy the journey, love the writing, and have a passion for doing what you're doing, not only the end goal.

Writing is one of those things where the journey, truly, might be more memorable than the destination. But that destination - that's what drives me when I'm down, it's what gives me the kick to keep going.

And hopefully, it is the same for you.

What keeps you going? Tell me what you feel when you imagine your book in your hands or on a bookshelf.

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Importance of Getting A LOT of Critiques

WOOOO!!!! Last Friday's post was my 200th post on this blog! I'm so happy. I loved blogging, and even more, I love this community.

We all know that, in writing, getting critique partners and beta readers to read over your work is almost crucial to get a great, polished book. But I don't think we realize just how truly important it is.

This will be part of my long-forgotten "Myth-Busting Writerly Quotes." The Quote to be Myth-Busted is "We must get critique partners," and I am proving it, but Mining it to get more out of it than what we think we know.

Take, for example (again) JK Rowling's The Casual Vacancy. Now look at it's book cover.
The front (I do not own this picture)
The back cover, taken from this website:

Now, many of us know that the book's cover was sort of met with disappointment. You can read my reaction over here.

And just maybe a month or two ago, I got the greatest idea of how this book cover could have been INCREDIBLE. You see the back cover image above? See the silhouette of the town of Pagford? And now look at the front cover, and the box and the x. Now replace the two images; flip the town for the check box. (You really need to sort of imagine it because the picture for the back cover was the best I could find, and it still isn't good. Image it upright, crisp and clear, lusciously black like the check box. Then mentally switch the images.)

If you are like me, you'll be stunned. I was. I was almost tearing my hair out because I kept thinking, "This book cover could have been STUNNING if someone just saw this very simple, but easily overlooked 'fix'!" I seriously think that the book cover would have been incredible if the town was on its front cover instead of the back; it would have fit the tone and story of the book so much better because, at its heart, this book isn't about the election - it's about the town and its people.

What this teaches us is this:

Get new and FRESH eyes to look over your work.

It took me, someone who bought the book on the day it came out, many months to come up with the blinding realization that this book cover could have been so much better (I still like the cover, but it could have been more incredible!).

Fresh eyes will find a way to fix parts of your novel in ways you might never have imagined. True, you can rely on yourself to do this, but can you truly distance yourself away from your work? Raw, unbiased, harsh, distanced critiques are what will turn your writing into something fantastic.

There are so many possibilities, so many ways to fix whatever problem you are facing in your novel. And if you can't find a way to fix it, maybe it's time you get fresh eyes on it: give it to someone who never read your book, tell them NOTHING about the problem (really, don't even hint at it), and let them come to you with their unbiased, casual suggestions. 

It will be like the way sometimes you can't think of a word, and if you tell someone else the meaning of the word, somehow they suddenly can't think of the word either; but then maybe someone else says it out of the blue and BANG! You found the word. You just need fresh eyes.

So go, go with fresh eyes into your writing!

This quote, "We must get critique partners," has officially been Mined because sometimes, we need fresh critique partners.

How important are fresh eyes for you? Any stories about how someone 'magically' fixed a problem in your writing that you puzzled over for days?

Friday, August 16, 2013

Stephanie Wahlstrom - Success Story and Interview! (Winnie the Pooh related)

You may know her as "Champagne and Hot Dogs" from Query Kombat. But now, you know her as Stephanie Wahlstrom, author of "The Accidental Socialite," an author with TWO agents and a book deal! I am very, VERY proud to say that she was my pick for Query Kombat, so this interview hits a soft and very very happy spot for me.

We love hearing these success stories, so thank you so much Stephanie for agreeing to do this interview (this interview is fun, especially the "The Call" question, so read it all!).


1. First things first: CONGRATS! How does it feel to have two agents and a book deal?

Not gonna lie, pretty AMAZING! I still can’t believe this has all happened.

2. Tell us a little about your book.

It’s called THE ACCIDENTAL SOCIALITE and it’s about Paige, a small town Canadian girl who moves to London and accidentally becomes famous.

3. What part of your book do you love the most, and what part of it did your agents/editor love the most? (This is a trick on my part to force shy writers to brag about their book.)
My favourite part about the book is probably when she stabs Prince William with a Star Wars McDonalds toy because a version of that happened in real life. I still can’t believe I wasn’t deported for it.

I think what the publisher and my agent liked best about the book was that they genuinely thought it was funny, which is completely and totally amazing, because my biggest fear was that I was the only one who thought it was funny.

4. What would be the best compliment you could ever ever get about your book, something that’d send you into the clouds even months after receiving it?

I’ve always said that all I want to do is entertain a person I don’t know in a language I don’t speak. I have always dreamed about being in an airport somewhere and seeing a random person reading my book in another language and laughing. That would be the ultimate compliment! Also, if there was a moment when someone referenced something in front of me from the book (in a good/funny way) without knowing I’d written it that would also make my life!

5. You were Champagne and Hot Dogs in the Query Kombat Kontest. You went FAR in the Kontest; how was that experience? Did it help you out?

Query Kombat helped more than I knew! First of all, it was a much needed boost of confidence. Also, the comments were very helpful. One of the comments in particular actually made a big difference to my book. Someone posted that Paige seemed too old to be acting the way she was. They were totally right! When I first started to write the book two years ago she was supposed to be 22-ish but I googled around and realized that in order for the book to sell she would probably need to be at least 25 (New Adult wasn’t a ‘thing’ yet) so I changed the age. When I saw that comment I realized I wasn’t being true to the story and changed her age back to 22. Then all of this happened. My mentor Jean Oram was also amazing. My query was much better because of her and that’s the one I sent out with the requests that resulted in my offers.

6. You also were a part of Brenda Lee Drake’s Pitch Madness. Brenda helped us TREMENDOUSLY in Query Kombat, so thanks goes out to her as well! How did Pitch Madness help you? How was that experience?

Pitch Madness helped me get a good understanding of what the heart of the story was, which I think is one of the hardest things. Pitch Madness was also so awesome because it introduced me to the twitter writing community which is completely amazing and super duper helpful!

I also perfected my 35 word pitch with the help of Mina Vaughn and that’s the one I submitted to PitchMAS in July which is where all the offers came from.

7. What are your thoughts on writerly contests? Should writers enter them? Why or why not?

ABSOLUTELY! It helps you figure out what’s going right/wrong and get requests. It’s also a great way to find support with other writers. I can’t stress enough how much everyone’s support and belief got me through almost quitting, like, a million times. But I don’t think it’s the only thing they should do. I have noticed that it was a lot of the same agents participating in the comps which means after you do a few there tends to be a lot of repeats, so less requests.

8. The fun fun fun part: Tell us about getting “The Call.” How was it/What happened/What did you do when you found out you got agented? And then, separately, when you got a book deal? Tell us the WHOLE story! We love stories like these. *grabs popcorn*

So, sit down and get a glass of wine. This may be a long one….

I’d been entering competitions and having some luck with requests, but still hadn’t ever got ‘the call’. There was a lot of ‘I like it, but I don’t love it’. Which is disheartening to say the least. It got to the point where I sat down with one of my best friends who is a lawyer and we talked about self-publishing and my timeline for it. But I wasn’t sure that was for me, so in a last ditch effort to get an agent, I took the 35 word pitch I’d honed in Pitch Madness and sent it in to PitchMAS in July.

I couldn’t believe I’d made the blog part of the contest! Not only that, but I got three requests, all from publishers. My grandmother and aunt were visiting that evening so I had a quick dinner with them and then went home super excited and stayed up until midnight sending the requests out. Then I was due to meet my boyfriend in Cannes the next morning at 11. I randomly woke up at 5am and looked at my phone and I had an email from Georgia McBride, Publisher at Swoon Romance saying she loved the book, was still finishing it and would offer by the weekend. It was Friday. I sat straight up, called my boyfriend who was still asleep like normal people and sent my lawyer friend a text that went something like ‘WAKE UP IMMEDIATELY. WAKE UP WAKE UP WAKE UP’. Then I went to the gym because I had so much energy and then I sent an email to everyone who had my MS, which was the other two publishers and 3 agents and hopped into the shower. My friend woke up, thought I was dead/being kidnapped and called/texted several times. I sent her a screen grab of the email and she freaked out with me. I danced some more and then went to Heathrow.

I got on a plane to Cannes and the second the wheels touched down, I threw caution to my mobile phone bill and turned on my roaming to find a two book deal offer from Publisher 2. Publisher 3 bowed out because they couldn’t read the MS in time. I emailed Publisher 1 re Publisher 2 and then met my boyfriend in the airport, told him the news and we both did a high five dance.

We drove to our friend’s place and that’s where I got a call from Pub 2 asking if I had any other questions. I was freaking out and it was so hard because there is pretty much no reception in the hills of Cannes. Then I got a 3 book offer from Pub 1. Then I almost fainted and a few min later I got a request in PitchMAS from Pub 4. Sorry, I know this is all getting a bit Gossip Girl cryptic and hard to follow, but that was how it happened. When I got reception, I emailed them all and asked if I could have some time to think and sent the MS to Pub 4. I had 2 weeks. Longest 2 weeks of my life!

I had no idea what to do, the offers were quite different and I really needed the help of an agent. But, the agents that had my MS got back to me and turned me down, even though I had two offers. I panicked and emailed Stephanie Thwaites, Curtis Brown’s Children’s Agent. I’d taken a course through Curtis Brown Creative that she taught with Tony Bradman. I highly recommend taking a writing course. It helped this MS a lot even though I was there with another one. Totally wished I’d taken it before I’d started writing. Anyway, I assumed Stephanie wouldn’t rep me, considering how amazing she is, but I was hoping she could offer a tiny bit of advice on some things like average royalties, sales figures etc.

To my surprise, she asked to read the MS and then sent me emails using words like ‘we’. I felt like a teenage girl whose crush hinted that he liked her. I sent a super awkward email saying something to the effect ‘does this mean you’re my agent now?’ and she was like, of course! Two weeks to the day after all the madness started, I went into the Curtis brown offices and signed with Stephanie. I had the same agent as Winnie the Pooh. Winnie. The. Pooh. EMERGAHD!

Then she took care of everything and it was so awesome. Curtis Brown works with ICM in the US and Stephanie asked Lyndsay Hemphill if she’d like to represent me there. And then she said yes! I couldn’t believe it! It was like all my dreams had come true at once. Stephanie and Lyndsay worked away behind the scenes and Pub 4 offered. It was so hard to make a decision between the three offers, but in the end, Georgia was super duper nice and also passionate about the book from the beginning and we all agreed Swoon Romance was the best place for THE ACCIDENTAL SOCIALITE in North America.

It was fitting that when I got the email from Stephanie and Lyndsay about a final decision I happened to be walking down Kings Road in London past the road my first flat share was on. I stopped right there and wrote back accepting the offer from Swoon Romance and then went to meet one of my best friends who was visiting from South Africa (and the best friend character in my book is loosely based on her). We had a glass of champagne and sitting there with her and with all the news, I welled up. This was my real life now, not just the daydream I’d been having for years!

I loved, LOVED this story!!!! That's a heck of a ride, congrats :D Those type of stories just make my day.

9. Do you have anything to say to the herds of writers out there? Any advice?

DO NOT GIVE UP! I know everyone says that but literally the week before all of this started I was crying to my boyfriend about how much of a failure I was and told him I was quitting. I kept feeling like I was kind of good, but would never be good enough to be published and it was soul crushing. He made me promise to wait for five more rejections before I packed it in. I did and it worked out. But in the end, it just takes one person to be passionate about your work. Writers need to have balls of steel because there is no other job (except for TV… I work in children’s television and there is a lot of rejection there too, trust me.) where you work for so long on something and bare your soul like this only to get rejected constantly. Support each other and really take in comments and criticisms. Some of them won’t be right for you, but if I had ignored the comments in Query Kombat, I definitely wouldn’t be writing this interview right now.

Woo! Congrats, Stephanie!!! Loved your story, and all our good wishes are with you. You earned it!

Growing up in Edmonton, Canada, a significant amount of my time was spent making up and acting out stories. I graduated from the University of Alberta with an English and Sociology degree and I also have a Bachelor of Motion Picture Arts (that’s a fancy term for Film School) from Red Deer College. After a fateful trip to Mexico in 2006 I decided to move to New York City to work in film development. A year later I went back home to write My Green House, a factual TV series. I moved to London in 2008 and aside from being obsessed with Eggs Benedict, Fruit Roll Ups and travelling, I also work in Children’s Television. The Accidental Socialite is my first novel.

You can find her on Twitter over here, on Facebook over here, and on her website over here! (Seriously. Go find her. And follow her (in a non-stalker way).)

Monday, August 12, 2013

A Relaxing/Filler Post

I'm writing this on a bus to go back home. (Free WiFi! Woo!!!)

This is just a filler post for today. Today, I'm just going to relax and spend time going around to your blogs and commenting because I missed it last Friday (wedding stuff - not my wedding, though, don't worry). The real post you want to read (if you haven't already) is the one before this post, this post here (click the linky) about the connection between blogging and writing.

Can't wait to read everything you guys wrote about over the last few days!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Let's Think of Writing as We Do About Blogging

All those blogging writers out there will understand me when I say that maybe it's time to think of writing as we think of blogging (and all those non-bloggers out there, stay tuned, because the underlying message here is something to think about).

I usually get to bed around eleven or twelve at night. Sometimes, I get in later, much later.

But if it's a Sunday or Thursday night, I stay up, because I blog on Mondays and Fridays. Missing a blog post is just not something I'd consider happily. So I stay up and type up a post and then go to sleep.

This means I'm tired, I'm groggy, I sometimes can't even think of something to blog about. Sometimes I'm in my bed, about to sleep, and then I remember I have to blog and I get up and type. It's insane, probably not healthy, but it works, because I must blog.

The question is, isn't it more important that I must write?

If I'm tired on a Tuesday or Wednesday night (no blog post to write), I just sleep and say I'll catch up with my writing the next day. But that doesn't work. Not for me, anyway. I keep dragging and dragging and soon I'm barely writing anything at all.

Why is it that when I have a blog post to write, I can find/force time in, even when I'm tired?

It's partially because of the expectations.

I have readers (you are the best!). I don't want to disappoint them, I don't want to ruin my routine, and I don't want to miss out on a day of blogging. I don't want to leave a mini-vacuum.

My posts usually run about a few hundred words. That's a few hundred words of writing I can put in my manuscript if I have the same stone-cold, rigid, inflexible dedication to it as I have to this blog.

The thing is, what blogging gives us is an excuse. An excuse to write, and an inflexible excuse as well. It has easily-seen results with a straight-forward purpose, something our vague, many-months-long novel-writing periods don't have. We don't have instant gratification every few hundred words of writing (unless you use the program, Written Kitten, which gives you a new picture of a kitten every few hundred words you write). It's just not the same.

What we should do is find a way around this mental block, this need for instant gratification. Because only after months will we have anything ready to be read by others; blog posts take a few minutes. And it feels so good to get comments on your work, whatever type it is!

So, What Does Blogging Teach Me about Writing?

  1. Find a short-term gratifications. This means a deadline of a certain amount of words to be sent to your critique partner, a piece of chocolate after every chapter, whatever. Just get a way to make yourself feel good about getting a few hundred words in!
  2. A FORCED, No-Excuse, No-Running-Away reason to write. Even if you don't want to, even if you'd rather cry, you get out of bed and write. Why? Because, maybe, you send over every day's work to you critique partner. Whatever excuse it is, it should make you forced to write, even when you don't want to.
  3. You don't need a muse. TRAIN it. So, so many times, I have to pause and think about what to blog about. I don't have a clue. But I need a blog post for the day so I force myself to think of something. Train your muse to your command! It is not the boss of you; you are the boss of it.
  4. A solid start and finish. I would force myself to write this post until I finished it. It would just be...disgusting if I didn't. So, finish one scene. No matter what. The 'No matter what' aspect trails back to point number two above. Also, this sold 'start and finish' completely, entirely streams your thoughts so you'll spend, say, 20 minutes so focused on just one scene. You won't wander, won't surf the Internet, until you get that scene done. And once it's done, you'll be free. You'll be incredibly surprised by the results (just look at my very last sentences on this post for proof - it will be SHOCKING).
  5. Get a routine and a structure. Basically: You must get this done, on this future day, this time, no exceptions, no excuses. And this must be accomplished by that time, which you say, and if you miss it, there's no going back. Give yourself an ultimatum (I know, it's scary (but the funny thing is, you can always break it ;) Shhh....)).
The sad thing is, on the days I blog, I probably write more words on a blog post than the average daily amount I write in my manuscript! I need to get more trained.

Is this just me, or does blogging seem more efficient in forcing yourself to write than normal writing does? What do you think about this connection, and how can one bridge the pros of blogging over into writing?

Hooollllyy crap. Case in point. This blog post is more than 900 words. I finished it in about 20 minutes. WHAT. THE. HECK. This is entirely because of (I feel) point number four above. WHY CAN'T I WRITE LIKE THIS?!?!?! I'd write about 3,000 words in just an hour! AHHH!!! This sucks.

P.S. I might, might not be able to get around to commenting on everyone's blogs today because I'm at my cousin's wedding (I wrote this post Monday night and scheduled it for Friday). But, don't worry! Once I get home, I'm going to comment on everything :) (I also might might not have a post on Monday, depends on if I get Internet connection at my cousin's and/or if I'm back home in time.)

Monday, August 5, 2013

What Do You Do When Life Gets in the Way?

It's been hitting me that I won't reach my goal to finish the first draft of my manuscript by the end of August. I, technically, finished the first draft a few weeks ago, but that was very "this happens then this" type thing, just to get it done before I went to London. In all honesty, it didn't really, technically, count.

I won't finish because although I only have about 15-20,000 words left to write (I'm at about 53,000 as of this moment that I'm writing this post), this month is just hectic. Seriously. I just have to much going on, family-wise, to even bring my laptop around and write. It's all crazy.

And it sucks because I really, really, want to get this manuscript done by the end of summer because that was my "worse-come-worst" goal and now it's become reality, a reality hard to see. I hoped to get it done, originally, before my birthday in mid-July!

It's crazy, completely crazy, and it feels horrible. I've slacked off too much this summer - I could have written so much more. Now I'll still have to edit this draft, etc. etc. and I don't see myself querying until late October, at least (and that's me being super-optimistic as well).

There'll be another post about being lazy. This one's about life getting in the way of your goals. Because I could write so much but I'm going to be out of the state for almost half this entire month, and that's 15,000 words I could have written on my present track of 1,000 a day. That means I could have finished and even started editing.

Maybe I'll get it done still with the other days I have left over. Let's be more optimistic! Sorry. I'm kind of grouchy. I just really wanted this manuscript to be done. ARG.

What do you do when life gets in the way? Accept it, or fight back? Because right now, I'm angrily accepting it and I don't think that's the right way - though I get exhausted at 'fighting' and even thinking of writing 2,000 a day!

Friday, August 2, 2013

The Secret to Writing a First Person POV

I recently did a little 3-week writing course. From this course, the biggest piece of writerly-information I received was about first person vs. third person: namely, what first person can accomplish which third person cannot.

A big part of this discussion boiled down to the fact that if changing your first person story to third person did not alter your story in any big way at all, it should have been told in third person in the first place. And the generic explanation does not work: “Oh, but it gives my character a better voice!”

Because if you’ve read Harry Potter, if you’ve read Alex Rider, if you’ve read Alice in Wonderland or Wizard of Oz or Charles Dickens, you know that you can give characters incredible voice with the third person. In fact, it might even be a stronger voice because all first person books tend to mesh together over time. (Sorry guys.)

Don’t hurt me but I feel that “The Hunger Games” (I loved that series) could have been amazing as third person because first person didn’t really contribute much to it at all, and with the third person, one can truly distance oneself from the main character and love them in that way. Their personality’ll shine through and you’ll love them in the same way you love your best friend: from the outside looking in. Cris Mazza, a Creative Writing professor (but not mine), sparked this thought in me and our class as a whole.

Because, really, why are so many stories being told in first person for no reason at all? Good examples of first person are “The Catcher in the Rye,” “Lolita,” epistolary novels (all told in letter-form), etc, where changing the story to third person would essentially render the entire story obsolete and uninteresting.

The secret to making a first person POV REALLY work is by really, really, REALLY getting into your main character’s head. And I mean really. Basically, become the main character.

For example, in my work-in-progress, my main character is sort of cynical in the beginning and his wife is more optimistic. So when they have to move to a dirtier part of the city due to financial problems, they both look at the apartment complex. My main character sees all the dirty laundry hanging around, the torn up bricks, etc. Then his wife pipes up, “Look, flowers.” And indeed, there are flowers in the windowsill. The reader doesn't even know there are flowers there because, well, "I" never cared to notice.

Why did the main character not notice them in the first place? Because he wouldn’t. She (the wife) would.

That’s why blanket descriptions (spending one paragraph to describe location) don’t work well in first person because people rarely ever stop and stare and think about the whole place. Usually they’re moving, walking, driving, and they see maybe a beautiful building, the street lamp, people walking—not the names of every sign, not which building is next to which, not every street name.

To add on, in first person, there should be almost NO adverbs (even more so than in the usual ‘no adverbs’ rule). Because in real life, you don’t see someone open the door ‘slyly.’ You see the corners of their mouths twitch upwards. You don’t see someone running ‘fast.’ You see them running and if they are really fast, you react, “Woah, that’s crazy!” This is hyperrealism. If you are writing with a first person voice, embrace this. Because first person does not let you write general descriptions. Third person—observing from a distance—allows you more freedom than first person. In first person, you’re literally stuck in only one person’s world.

That means you don't look in the mirror and think about every part of your body. That means you don't say "I walked around the stairs, trying not to breathe hard." It's, "I walked." Because when you see something surprising, you don't think about your breathing at all! It is INCREDIBLE difficult because you must think of every word you write down, whether it is truly what a person would do. It's mind-numbing.

Hyperrealism and first person are buddies. For first person to truly work, hyperrealism must be present. What’s fun is the unreliable narrator: having the first-person voice basically trick himself/herself because they are in denial, want to cover something up, etc. VERY interesting things can happen with the first person, one just has to utilize them all.

Because, at least for me, many first person characters/books tend to blend together over time. Third person characters rarely ever do. The best first person characters are unforgettable: Holden Caulfield, anyone? And that’s because JD Salinger utilized the gifts of first person very, very well.

So think about it. I’m writing a first person novel and I’m trying to use hyperrealism in my novel and really make my main character’s voice stand out. It’s not an easy thing to do. It’s a lot to think about, and I know many of you might be writing first person as well. So this is something for you guys as well.

Thank you so much, Cris Mazza, for sparking these thoughts! And hopefully they sparked some thoughts in you too; maybe uncomfortable, but real thoughts, when you really thinks about what first person entails. It was an eye-opening (and slightly painful when I thought of revisions!) experience for me.

What do you think? Can first person really be elevated to something grander by utilizing its true potential? (This has been a rather less ranty post than my previous ones! Thought you guys would like a break :D (I also don’t have much else to rant about….))