Monday, December 16, 2013

I'm On Vacation! Plus: Awesome Song by Lorde


I'll be gone until January 4th :)

Well, technically my vacation starts on Thursday (I'll be out of the country!!) but as I usually blog on Fridays, today will be the last time until I come back that you'll see me on this blog :) I'll still be on Twitter until Thursday, though.

Until then, listen to this one song I'm obsessed with right now. It literally won't get out of my head and I don't know if that's good or bad yet. I'll know once I replay it over and over until I hate it but so far, that hasn't happened.


The song:

Until then, Merry Christmas (speaking of Christmas, I dressed up in a Santa suit yesterday. It didn't work because I'm skinny, like, really skinny. I used a body suit but still it didn't work. Oh well, it was fun XD), Happy Holidays, Happy New Year's, Happy EVERYTHING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Any fun holiday plans for you?

Friday, December 13, 2013

The Books We're Writing are Not All Ours

ETA: Changed this post's title because 'plagerized' seemed too strong.

I paint. A lo lot. I'm actually known as the artist amongst my family (great genes from my mom, thank you mom!). It's what I do, in all mediums, but my 'real' work is in oil paints, and especially portraits.

Once a week (usually) I go to a professional artist's studio and paint under her guidance. She's incredible; an amazing teacher and artist as well.

So, many weeks ago, I was doing this portrait with her. But I couldn't get the face to look how it should. I couldn't block in the colors and the paints how she does, so after a while, she took my brush (something she doesn't like doing - she likes having the student's work be the student's work) and helped me out. Because of her help, artistically speaking, that portrait was the best I've ever done. Yet even though I did the underpainting and the structure of the face, even though I did basically everything else of the painting, when it came for me to sign it, I just couldn't. It's still unsigned, even though she told me over and over to sign it, that it was all my work.

I can't handle that. It feels wrong that I'm taking full credit for the painting when one of the most beautiful parts of the painting is the face: how wonderfully, loosely, and artistically it is handled. I half-jokingly told her that she should sign it too, but of course, she wouldn't hear of it.

It's still an amazing painting; I love it. It's the best portrait 'I' have ever done; but the thing is, I didn't do it. I had help. A lot of help.

The top art shows, if I am not mistaken, require that all paintings be done at home or without any sort of supervision. Meaning you can't get help from your teacher. And in most shows, if you even mention that your submitted painting was partially painted by someone else: immediate disqualification. It's plagiarism.

So what irks me and makes me feel so guilty is that if (and hopefully, when) I get an agent, then an editor and a publishing deal, how will I ever write my name on the bottom of the book cover?

And even though many of us aren't at that stage yet, how about critique partners? Beta readers? We'd be lying through our teeth if we say that we could create the same book without their help. My critique partners saw things I'd never have caught in my first manuscript. Because of them, I've grown so, so much. And when I finish my current work-in-progress, I'll send it to them, and that book will be the work of not only me but my friends as well.

Can you ever deny that your critique partners, your agent, your editor, did not even change one word in your book? Most likely, only because of them, you changed pages and pages of your book. And in the painting world, if you dared write it off as your own....

This isn't just a problem for authors hoping to be traditionally published. If you're going the correct way in self-publishing, you'll hire an editor to go through your manuscript as well.

It's something I have a very tough time with. I can't feel good about writing my name at the bottom of my book, or that painting, when other hands have formed it as well. How can I take credit for their work as well?

Some consolations:
1. You did come up with the main idea and do almost all the work by yourself (but that's the same with the painting).

2. You have an acknowledgments section in which you can list everyone who helped you. This is what's keeping me sane. The idea that the other hands will be written with the book as well.

3. In the end, it is your decision to take your editor's, agent's, and/or critique partners' suggestions. You, technically, can say, 'Screw you, it's my own!' or, 'I like that idea, I'll do that,' and then it's your idea...kind of. But that's idealism. You can't disregard everything an editor or agents suggests. Doing so would mess up your publication deal. At most, as a debut author, you can have three possible big changes to fight for and win (but that's pushing it). So technically, in the end, your book is ultimately approved by you and you can keep anything you want, but it's either do the changes or ruin your relationship with your agent/editor, so..... Also, even if you love the suggested changes, would you ever have thought of them by yourself?

That's all the consolations I can think of. This isn't really a very happy post.

Realizing that this applies to basically every book that's been published is scary and maddening, because it tarnishes the image of authors I love and idolize. All their genius wasn't only theirs.

I don't know. I don't know how to come to terms with this.

I think the best thing possible is to really go hard on that acknowledgments section. Otherwise, we might just have to add 'Mostly written by' in front of the author's name, and that'd be more correct.

I think, in the end, we simply have to give more respect to agents, editors, and critique partners. All the attention usually goes to the author, and honestly, that's not right. It's a bitter truth.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Some Monday Fun! Funny Videos & An Awesome Song

Let's share hilarious videos today to make your Monday awesome.

In which David Beckham and Ellen team up to prank a masseuse.

In which Jennifer Lawrence might be the best person ever. Just watch all the parts. She is HILARIOUS and AWESOME and believe the hype, she's awesome.

A hilarious prank from my favorite prank show, "Just for Gags".

AAAAAAAAAANNNNNNNNNNND a not-funny video, but an awesome song that basically everyone should listen to:

Hope you like the videos :) How was your weekend?

Friday, December 6, 2013

Make Your Titles Useful

Of course, you've heard it all.

Make your blog titles tempting. Make them enticing. Make them relevant.

But I'm going to add another adjective: useful. And I'm learning it as well.

You see, this realization came when I was reading this one blog post. I read the title and I started to read the post. Then I basically just freaked out.

Honestly, the post didn't jive with the title at all. They were two separate beasts entirely, I couldn't see how they were related at all until later on in the post when the actual title-part was introduced.

Maybe the author had something great to say in those few paragraphs in the beginning. Maybe the author had some point to make. But I couldn't get it, I couldn't understand the post, I couldn't start reading because I was so darn confused.

I'm not saying your blog titles have to be simple summaries of your post. I'm not saying they have to be dull. Make them exciting. But all that flash won't matter if it just confuses the reader. I'd rather have a summary of a title than a flashy one, because, think about it: summary-titles will make reading the post much more easy, and summary-titles are most prone to getting picked up by Google searches (do you search 'How to get good characterization' or '101 Tricks in Spicing Up Your Hero' when you do a Google search?).

Yes, yes, this post is directed towards the blog-writing audience, but it works for every other writer as well. Think about chapters.

I forget where I heard it, but one agent makes all her clients get rid of their chapter titles and replaces them with numbers, unless the titles are super super important or voicey.

I was aghast when I first read this (I loved my titles!) but then I thought about just how long I spend trying to find a good chapter title. And then I think about how chapter titles ruin some books for me if I glance at the Table of Contents (because, honestly, if I read, 'Back Alive' as the title for the last chapter, do you think I'll believe that the main character is dead?).

Just something to think about. I still love chapter titles when they're used well, but reading about this agent made me realize just how much more important the story is. It's something many of us (me too) forget; we think awesome titles, awesome covers, awesome whatevers, will make-or-break our novels when the single biggest thing we should spend the most time worrying about is the text itself. That's where the gold is.

Titles should serve the purpose of whatever comes under the title, be it a blog post, a chapter, or even a whole darn book. Don't make the mistake of thinking the title is more important than the rest of the words. If anything, your title should help convey or even further your text's meaning (think of the poem "In the Orchard") but not make it more confusing. The title should be a vehicle to convey the message of the text without interfering with it. If your title does this, then feel free to add all the attention-getting and sparklies you want.

Because the main star is the text, not the title. And we should never forget that.

How do you feel about chapter titles? And how much time do we spend worrying about the less important parts of a book?

P.S. You might not believe it but I've been going to sleep before midnight for the last two nights. It's literally something I haven't done in years, and I plan on going to bed even EARLIER tonight! AHHH!!!! THIS IS CRAZY.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Lisa Sills - Query Kombat SUCCESS STORY!!

It's time for aaaaanoootther awesome Query Kombat success story!!!!!!!!! We love getting emails like this. Truly. It makes what we do as contest-hosts so much more worthwhile. And Lisa's story is fantastic (plus, she has a great skill in cutting her head out of pictures and pasting them onto others; a Photoshop/GIMP/Paint/Whatever wizard is in in our midst XD).

Thank you so much for sending us this email, Lisa!


To start this story, we’re first going to go back to eleven years and half my life ago. I was a precocious kid and I’d always loved reading, so I decided I was going to write a book. And I did. It was called The Sills and the Mystery of the Museum.

Some back info: I’m a quadruplet so I have three brothers the same age as me. Anyway, myself and my brothers were the stars of this novel—particularly one of them, who I liked a bit more at the time. He was a conflicted anti-hero, and I was the star who saved the day. We were super geniuses and we built a laboratory under our little brother’s room that no one knew about. Yeah. I know.

For those of you curious, here’s a photo of me and my brothers:

So anyway, I wrote that book—all 27,000 words of it—and I decided I was going to get it published, but this was eleven years ago and I didn’t have the internet and no one I knew wrote, so my query letter—direct to publishing houses—said: “It’d be cool if you published this before my twelfth birthday.” Did I mention it was handwritten in two copy-books because I didn’t have a computer?

That was the first of the many query letters I sent in my teen years—all for terrible, awful novels written by a precocious 12-15-year-old who had no idea what she was doing.

Tens of rejections followed, and I grew up and got sense and took a break from querying because with age came the awning realisation that my books were a bit rubbish. They had potential and they were all ‘good for my age’, but good for my age wouldn’t get me published.

Around about age seventeen, I discovered literary agents and I decided I wanted one. Since then I’ve written a bunch of books, each of which was a step closer. Rejections became partials, partials became fulls, and fulls became…rejections. Nearly wasn’t close enough.

In the summer before I turned twenty-one, I had this weird idea for a novel about a kid called Nick who combats his troubled past by fighting crime in full-on superhero gear. This was going to be a novel about growing up and moving on and forgiving your past and your demons in small-town Ireland: a Contemporary YA that was weird and strange, dark but ultimately hopeful. I spent two weeks writing Citizens of Optimism—I think I wrote about 6,000 words of it on my 21st birthday, because that’s just how cool I am.

The story from there is pretty self-explanatory. I sent it to CPs and Betas. Early criticism was harsh, but completely true. At one point, I restructured the whole thing. Fast forward maybe seven months and six drafts to this May and it was as finished as I could think to make it. So came the submission process. We’re all familiar with the submission process, so I’ll jump straight to the hard facts:

Queries drafted: 9.

Contests entered: 1. QueryKombat. I was knocked out early on, but the various comments/opinions really helped to make the query stronger.

Queries sent: 14.

Full requests: 5.

Offers: 2.

Agents: 1. Laura Zats, of Red Sofa Literary. I’m not one for indulging in superlatives, so instead I’ll say you know when you sometimes just get a feeling about someone and you think, “this could work?” That was how I knew.

So now here I am, with an agent, and a novel, and another novel in-the-works that I’m really, truly hopeful about. I am my own worst critic, and I opened Citizens of Optimism for the first time since May a couple of days ago, and I had this unrelenting want to cut it all up and make it better.

I’ve grown a lot as a writer in the last year—in fact, I’d say my 21st year was the year I learned to write, and now I have this uncertain future and this uncertain novel , and I guess it’s time to see what happens next?

And it’s terrifying. Everything about this is terrifying. I’m so private about my writing—always have been—and I have a tendency to flip-flop from self-belief to gutting self-doubt in ten seconds flat, so subbing will be…interesting. I’m trying to be better—trying to be more open about my writing, which is half the reason I’m writing this. Still: it’s terrifying!

I don’t know what happens next, but as much as it’s terrifying, it’s breathlessly, achingly exciting.

If you’d like to know a little more about me, you can find my blog here, or read my drivel about film-making, writing, and whatever pops into my head on my twitter.

I am so private about my writing as well. You're totally right; it's terrifying being open to the world (which is why I stay anonymous XD). All the best to you, Lisa :) Please, please, please tell us any further news! I seriously loved this post; so honest and true. I can't wait to see how far you go. 

(Oh. And read her blog. Seriously. It's amazingly written and filled with great stories.)


Monday, December 2, 2013

NaNoWriMo has ENDED and December is Here!!!


December. It is already December. I honestly (and I do mean honestly) don't remember a year of my life going by as fast as this one did. Maybe it's because last year was the year where I grew the most as a writer: met awesome critique partners, started this blog, became part of this awesome writerly community. I thought, last year, that 2013 was the year I'd get an agent and be published.

But I like this year a ton as well, and if the publishing journey has taught me anything, it has taught me patience and the foolish optimism of deadlines :)

In other news, National November Writing Month is over! The goal for most was a full novel of 50k words, or at least 50k written. My goal was to finish my WIP that I've been taking way too long on. I technically finished (I (for one thing) copy and pasted some scenes I'd written before and slapped them onto the ending, and didn't write bridges between the scenes; I also (for another thing) did sentence summaries for a few major scenes so I wouldn't have to write them out until later). So technically I've finished, but not really. I only really wanted to finish because I Tweeted that this NaNo, for me, was dedicated to my friend Joey Francisco. I hope what I did was enough for her.

So, overall, this year was a good one for me. I enjoyed it, and in the end, that's all that matters, isn't it? :) A solid, awesome year...and (as Wendy Nikel so awesomely reminded me on Twitter) we still have almost a month left of it!!!!!!! SO LET'S GET THOSE LAST-MINUTE RESOLUTIONS COMPLETED! (My goal is to completely finish my first draft before the 19th. Oh. And work out more and stop being so lazy--but what can I say, sleep sounds so much better than weights.)

OOh, OOOH! Thanksgiving!!! It just passed. I had an awesome one. An amazing time with my family, and I'm sort of sad it's back to routine now. But I like coming back to blogging and everything :)

How did your NaNo go? Thanksgiving?

Also, how was 2013 for you? Any resolutions you missed (I know I did), and any ones you still have a chance to get done?