Tuesday, December 29, 2009

What I did in 2009 and Goals for 2010

I wanted to write one last blog for 2009 and today is the day (the in-laws are coming for New Years and the house MUST be clean!)

This has been a great year for my writing and I'm so excited about 2010, so I thought I'd share some of my 2009 activities and 2010 goals.

Top 10 things I did for my writing in 2009 (in chronological order):

1. I finished the first novel I've really felt good about
2. I queried that novel and got some encouraging feedback, though it was ultimately rejected
3. I joined a critique group with the three coolest girls ever
4. I revised and rewrote until my eyes glazed over, my knuckles were sore, and I had a manuscript I was REALLY proud of
5. I resubmitted to Sara and sent out a few new queries
6. I got THE CALL and then I got ANOTHER CALL
7. I started this blog and met hundreds of people who love to write, just like me!
8. I chose Sara, because she's awesome
9. She submitted my manuscript to REAL publishers
10. I started my current project--one that I'm SO excited about (and I also started about 10 others--half of which I still want to finish)

Ten things I will do in 2010 to become a better writer:

1. Get on a schedule!!! (The first one I'm going to try is 1000 words a day BEFORE blogging--yes I've tried this before. It's going to work this time!)
2. Blog 3 times a week
3. Try to keep up with blogging/writing friends by going through my Google Reader at least once a week.
4. Post on Twitter at least once a day
5. Finish my rough draft by January 29th
6. Go to SCBWI with my critique group girls!!!
7. Get current project to betas by March
8. Read and critique friends' projects. Learn from their brilliance.
9. Finish current project by June and start a new one
10. Read 100 books!

So now you tell me, what did you accomplish with your writing in 2009? What are your goals for 2010?


(Oh, and I probably gave you an award in the last few weeks, scroll down and check it out.)

Monday, December 28, 2009


I'm going to pass along the last two awards today and get back to real blogging later this week. I've been giving out awards for the past couple weeks, so If you've been following this blog for a while, chances are you got one! Scroll on down to see what you've won! (I'm sorry, I didn't notify everyone like I was supposed to). And remember these are no pressure awards. You don't need to accept them, pass them on, or post them unless you want to.

The first award for today is the Best Blog award. Thank you Jemi (mystery/ romance author, thoughtful commenter and blogger) and Roni (who blogs like a professional--seriously, she's always got something interesting to say)

The Best Blog recipients are:

Shelli at Market My Words
Amy Tate at The Virginia Scribe
Matt at Pensive Sarcasm
Kristi Faith at Random Acts of Writing
L.T. Elliot at Dreams of Quill and Ink
Sande at So to Speak

Also, From Me to You, given to me by the beautiful and talented Bethany Mattingly. She blogs about her two loves, agriculture and writing.

This award goes out to all those people who have most of the other awards. What do you give to the person who has everything? Flowers. Everyone loves flowers. Please accept these flowers of appreciation from me to you.

The recipients are:

Wendy at All in a Day's Thought
Jessica Nelson at Booking It
Sherinda at A Writer Wannabe
Tamika at The Write Workshop
Suzyhayze at Tales of Extraordinary Ordinariness
T. Anne at White Platonic Dreams

If you didn't get an award and you'd like one, just choose one from the sidebar. You deserve it! If I gave you one you already have, feel free to take a different one. I have really enjoyed getting to know you all over the last few months and I look forward to getting to know you better in 2010!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Humane Writing

I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas, or a Happy Hanukkah, or a nice other holiday. Mine was wonderful. We have family in town, so my blogging will be sporadic for the next week or so.

I still have several awards to give out, so I'm going to do two today.

The first is the Humane Award which I received from a lovely friend and YA writer, Dawn Simon. I'm not sure why I deserve this award since I don't feel like I do much for humanity (or dogs). But we did get my dog from a rescue organization, and I clean up after him when he pees on the floor, so I guess that's pretty humane.

I'm going to pass it on to 5 blogs that I think make the world a little brighter place. They are:

Eileen Astels at A Christian Romance Writer's Journey
Roxane Salonen at Peace Garden Mama
Teressa at The Chocolate Chip Waffle
Shannon O'Donnell at Book Dreaming

The other award for today is the Superior Scribbler Award. I got this award from Thomas (author/illustrator extraordinare) and Kelly (YA sci-fi/fantasy/romance writer). I'm passing it along to 5 blogs that I always enjoy reading. They are:

Jemi Fraser at Just Jemi
Paul Greci at Northwriter
Stephenie at Hapshepsut: The Writing of a Novel
Tricia at Talespinning

Thanks to all of you for your excellent blogs and comments!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Happy Holidays!

I just wanted to say Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah (and Happy anything else you celebrate) to all of you. I hope you all have a great holiday and enjoy time with friends and family!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Kreativ Blogger Award

Kissing Day was awesome! I really enjoyed reading everyone's scenes. I didn't get to every one, because there were so many, but I think I read most of them. It turned out to be an awesome way to meet new people too. Thank you Sherrinda for hosting the day. You should check out some of the posts if you haven't already.

The award I want to share today is the Kreativ Blogger. I've received this one a few times so thank you to:

Thomas Taylor- A picture book writer and illustrator living in France and working on his first MG novel.

V.R. Barkowski- A lovely blogger who focuses her posts on her writing journey.

Melissa-A busy mom of 2 who writes YA sci-fi and fantasy.

Erica- A YA Paranormal writer who is also a major Twitterer (follow her at @EricaWrites).

This award has rules that I'm going to try to follow... sort of.

-Thank the person (or people) who gave you the award.
-Write 7 things about yourself we do not know
-Choose 7 other bloggers to award and link to their blogs

7 Things:

1. I'm horribly allergic to cats (my face gets all puffy, my eyes start to swell shut, and any part of me that comes in contact with cat hair breaks out in hives), but I'm not allergic to dogs.

2. I got my degrees in Print Journalism and American Studies. It's been 7 years since I graduated and I don't really remember anything. (Why did I go to college?)

3. I've moved 6 times in the last 6 years.

4. I read about 20 times more picture books and MG and YA novels than books meant for adults. I guess I never grew up.

5. I am an art mom for my daughter's kindergarten class, even though I can't even draw a decent stick figure.

6. I love cookies, especially Christmas cookies.

7. My favorite book ever is probably Charles Dickens' A TALE OF TWO CITIES.

Since I've received this award a few times I'm going to give it to more than 7 people. I've selected 20 bloggers who all have kreativ blogs (or spelling). Most of these blogs have a little different format than regular writing blogs and they are all fun reads. They are:

Catherine Denton at Winged Writer
Dawn Simon at Plotting and Scheming
Devon Ellington at Ink in My Coffee
The Girl with One Eye at A Squirrel Among Lions
Kelly Lyman at Kelly's Compositions
Bethany Mattingly at Aspirations
Jeannie Campbell at The Character Therapist
Voidwalker at Into the Void
Jessie Oliveros at Louder than Noise
Belle at Ms. Bookish

Once again, these are NO PRESSURE awards! Don't feel like you need to pass them on, accept them, or post them (unless you want to of course). Just know that I appreciate you.

I think this will be my last post until after Christmas. Happy Holidays to all of you! More awards next week.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Kissing Day Has Arrived!

In honor of the mistletoe a couple of my Twitter friends and I decided to dub today Kissing Day, and share a scene from one of our manuscripts that included kissing or almost kissing.

There isn't any kissing in my finished MG manuscript or my WIP. I tried to search through manuscript #1 for a good kissing scene, but reading it was just too painful (Wow it's bad! Don't quit after your first manuscript folks--you will get better!) So I wrote an entirely new kissing scene for your reading pleasure. It's a little rough since I just wrote it on Thursday, but here it is:

“Okay Paige who’s it going to be?” Chris Rodriguez asked as he sent the bottle spinning.

It zipped around like a merry-go-round. I imagined it stopping in front that boy from pre-algebra who was always pulling at his nose hairs. There were 10 possible candidates, but I planned for the worst—then anyone else would be an improvement.

My heart raced. I felt nauseous. I pictured kissing nose-hair-guy, with his crusty chapped lips and greasy hair. I could do it. It’d just be a quick peck. If I could kiss my grandma, who had more facial hair than my dad and smelled like Bengay, I could kiss anyone, right?

When was that bottle going to stop?

It lazed around a few more times, slowing as it passed each person. It inched past nose-hair-guy and crawled past the next guy too, and pointed to Alex.

It felt like a brick hit my stomach. Alex Henson. The Alex Henson. That same Alex Henson that I’d had a crush on since third grade. He looked up at me and smiled, pushing his messy blond hair out of his eyes. I tried to smile back as the tsunami in my stomach inched up my esophagus.

I’d picked the wrong worst-case scenario. Kissing Alex would be a thousand times worse than kissing nose-hair-guy. What happened to Chris’s parents? They were only going out to get pizza. Shouldn’t they be back by now?

Alex stepped up to me and winked as he whispered, “You ready Paige?”

I felt my knees buckle as he wrapped his arm around me and led me out to the back porch.

I think I was hyperventilating by this point, though I’m not exactly sure, since I don’t really know what hyperventilating feels like. I felt strange and lightheaded, like I was breathing, but no air was getting into my lungs.

Alex walked me over to the porch swing and we both sat down, so close I could smell his mom’s fabric softener. He reached up and put his hand in my hair and smiled again, his blue eyes glistening and sincere.

How was this happening to me?

I watched as his eyelids covered his eyes, and his soft lips, turned up just a bit at the corners, came towards me.

Then, the chaos in my stomach erupted. I backed away and yelled, “STOP!”

He jumped back, his expression changing from charming to confused.

“I just had a throw up burp.” I blurted.

His pained look got worse. His eyes fell to ground as he stood. “It’s totally fine if you don’t want to. I’m sorry. I just. It’s no big deal. Lets go back in. We can pretend it’s done.”

I nodded, speechless.

He stuffed his hands in his pockets and I stood up to walk beside him back into the room full of hopeful pre-teens.

He gave them a half smile and they cheered. Then he sunk into the beanbag in the corner, and I went to hide in the bathroom.

Sorry about the grossness and lack of romance. I tried--I really did. Sherrinda is hosting the day, and putting together a massive list of participants, so go read their (probably much more romantic) kissing scenes and link to your own. And if you've posted a kissing scene let me know in the comments so I can check it out! I'm going to try to read all of them.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Something Lovely

This is probably the last awards post I'll do this week. Monday is kissing day blogfest so get ready for some kissing (or almost kissing)! Then I'll finish up the rest of the awards over the Christmas break.

Up today is the One Lovely Blog Award. This was given to me by three bloggy friends:

Mary at Writers Butt Does Not Apply to Me. Mary chronicles her quest to write a novel and lose weight. Her honesty and humor keep me coming back for more.

Stephanie at Hatshepsut gave it to me too. The thing I love about Stephanie is that she's done a great job of making me WANT to read her novel. She doesn't post teasers or give stats on her progress, she just writes about her research about ancient Egypt and her MC, Hatshepsut, who was one of only a few female Pharaohs.

The I got it from Voidwalker at Into The Void. He's pretty new to blogging (so go follow him!) He's a funny guy. You'll like him.

I am supposed to pass this on to 15 blogger friends who have lovely blogs. I chose people who not only have lovely blogs, but also seem like lovely people. Here they are:

Anita at Anita's Edge
Valery Geary at Something to Write About
Georgina at Olive Juice
LT Host at Quest: Published
Julie at The Climb

Thanks for sharing your lovely blogs with us!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Honest Scrap

This passing on awards thing is more difficult than I imagined! Most of you already have some of the awards, so it's been like a giant puzzle trying to determine which awards I can give to who. While searching for award rules today I discovered there is an award I'd missed, so I had to shuffle everything again. I know I'm going to accidently leave someone out or give them an award they already have. So PLEASE forgive me if I do (and take whichever one you want-- you all deserve one!) A little grace is always a good thing.

Today I'll be passing on the Honest Scrap award. It was given to me by Victoria S. Victoria is a dreamer (and I mean that in a good way). She writes paranormal/romantic YA and her blog posts are always lovely.

This is one of the awards with a lot of rules and since I don't feel like following rules today I hope you won't mind if I disregard them and do my own thing. (I'm such a rebel).

Instead of sharing 10 honest things about myself I'm just going to tell you one story about how honesty pays off.

I know I've mentioned that I met my husband in college. He and I were good friends for several months before we started dating, and we may never have started dating if it weren't for his philosophy teacher.

This teacher gave his class an assignment to be 100% honest for one weekend (no lying period--not even white lies or avoidance). My husband made the mistake of telling me and my roommates about this assignment. One of my roomies decided to take advantage of his perfect honesty to see exactly what he thought of us, so she asked, "do you have a crush on me?"

He replied (honestly), "No Em. I like you as a friend."

Then she asked about a few of our other roommates and the answer was the same.

Then she asked about me. I was sure he'd say no (and break my little heart because I kind of liked him).

But instead he blushed, looked right at me, and said, "Yes Nat. I think you're hot." He said other nice things after that (just so you know he wasn't totally shallow).

We started dating soon after and now we've been married for 7 years (with no itch in sight). Honesty is a good thing folks.

Now, without further ado, I give you 10 Honest Scrap bloggers. They write very different blogs, but all are sincere, great reads.

Corey Schwartz at Thing 1 and Thing 2
Bane of Anubis at Bane's Blogging Blues
Janna Qualman at Something She Wrote
Lisa and Laura at Lisa and Laura Write
Stacy J Warner at Stacey's Respite
Thomas Taylor at That Elusive Line

Thanks to all of you for your honest posts! You are wonderful.

Stay tuned for more awards.

(And don't forget about kissing day blogfest! You know you want to share one of your kissing scenes with the world!)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Blog Award Extravaganza

I'm going to be giving out blog awards for the next week so check back to see what you are awarded!

First up we have my personal favorite, the Loyal Friend and Visitor Award. This little beauty was given to me by Tricia O'Brien who writes an excellent blog called Talespinning, (which is such a clever name), and she almost always includes beautiful pictures. She's been a blog friend since the very beginning of this blog and I'm so grateful for all of her support. Thank you Tricia!

I'd like to pass it on to 15 bloggers who have been loyal friends since I started this blog. Since there weren't any rules about how to award it I'm just going to tell you a bit about their wonderful blogs so you can check them out. The people who've been around since the beginning and aren't bored of me yet, or continue to visit despite boredom are:

Susan R. Mills at A Walk in My Shoes-- I'm pretty sure most of you already follow Susan. She writes excellent posts (all relating writing to shoes), and leaves thoughtful comments even though I'm sure her bloglist is astronomical.

Laura Martone at Laura's Simple Pleasures-- Laura's blog almost always makes me hungry. She lives a crazy life where she moves every couple of months for film festivals. Her blog focuses on travel and FOOD.

Megan Rebekah at Megan Rebekah Blogs---And Writes-- I love Megan's blog. I love it so much in fact that I read it before I ever started blogging myself. She always has something interesting to say about writing, agent hunting, and publishing and she's often hilarious (which is always a good thing).

Caroline Starr Rose at Caroline by line-- Caroline is a former teacher and a VERY GOOD MG writer. I had the opportunity to read her novel in verse May B. I hope I can write as well as she does someday.

Heather Sunseri at Balance with Purpose-- Heather always writes thoughtful, meaningful posts about life, faith, and writing. I love visiting her blog because I always come away feeling inspired. Plus, Heather leaves the sweetest comments.

Marybeth Smith at Desperately Searching for my Inner Mary Poppins-- Marybeth's blog is hilarious and probably the cutest themed blog ever. And I have no doubt she will soon be as awesome as Mary Poppins herself.

Jennifer Shirk at Me, My Muse, and I-- Jennifer is a seasoned blogger, and by that I mean, she knows what she's doing. Her posts are always interesting and fun to read.

Marie Devers at Booknapped-- Marie takes quotes from songs, books, movies, poems etc. and relates them to her own life. She told me blogging for her is like a scrapbook of things she loves. The quotes she shares are often inspirational and ALWAYS thought-provoking.

Matt Delman at Free the Princess-- Matt is an expert in steampunk. Before I started reading his blog I'd never heard of steampunk. Thanks to Matt's excellent posts I feel like I know quite a bit about the genre. If you have ever wanted to write steampunk (or read it) Matt's blog is a must.

Tabitha Bird at Through My Eyes-- Tabitha's writing is always beautiful and honest. Several of her posts have moved me to tears.

Vonna Carter-- The thing I love most about Vonna is that she's able to dissect writing and books and make sense of the way things are done. In one of my favorite posts, she busts publishing myths (like the myth that agents and editors hate prologues).

Patti Nelson-- Patti's blog is full of great things. She's a mom of 3 (like me!) and she shares a bit of everything in a very fun and informative way.

Jody Hedlund-- I imaging most of you read Jody's blog too. If you don't, this is one you need to add to your list. Jody shares EVERYTHING about her road to publication. I learn something new almost every time I visit. Jody is also a great Twitterer, so you should follow her there too.

Terri Tiffany-- Terri is an inspirational writer and her posts really are inspirational. I love visiting there and I often come away feeling encouraged to do better.

Karen Amanda Hooper-- Karen already has this award (I'll have to give her another one that she doesn't have), but I couldn't not give this one to her. Her blog is honest, sweet, and magical (just like her).

Thanks to all of you for your wonderful blogs and all the comments and encouragement these past 3 months. I appreciate you more than I can say.

If you didn't get this award NEVER FEAR! There are many more to come.

(Oh and have you heard about Kissing Day Blogfest? I will be participating. You should too.)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

From Me to You

I love getting blog awards. They are fun, and pretty, and getting one means someone out there (at least kind of) likes my blog. But, I've wondered how (or if) I should pass them along or put them on my blog.

I've heard some criticism of blog awards including:

-They always get passed out to the same people, thus going in circles until everyone in a clique has them all.

-It's painfully difficult to pick and choose who should get the awards (I like all my blogging buddies)

-They clutter up your blog and make it look less professional

-They don't really mean anything

I've come up with a few ideas to combat these negatives. Do you want to hear them?


Okay then.

Over the past few months I've received 7 awards, so I figure that is more than enough to go around. I won't have to exclude people! I'm going to try to give you all an award that you don't already have and I'm going to try to be thoughtful about it so the awards actually mean something (at least to me).

So, starting tomorrow and going until Christmas there will be some major blog award giving happening here. Don't feel like you need to post or pass along the awards I give you (unless you want to of course), just know that I appreciate all of you!

How do you feel about blog awards? Do you ever discover a great new blog because someone you knew gave it an award?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Digging deep

When I was in high school I sang in a jazz choir (you might be thinking this sounds lame, but it was cool, trust me). It was a small choir so there were a lot of opportunities to sing solos. I sang things like Duke Ellington and Paul Francis Webster's, I Got it Bad (and That Ain't Good), and Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein's, Can't Help Lovin Dat Man. They were gorgeous, emotional songs, but they were kind of a stretch for a sixteen-year-old who'd never had a boyfriend, never been in love, and didn't use words like "ain't" or "dat" in regular conversation.

I strived to have an emotional connection with the audience (kind of like writing), so I worked hard to feel the words I sang. Since I couldn't draw on experiences from my own life I often borrowed emotion from books, movies, songs, or the lives of friends.

I find that I do the same thing when I write. We've all heard the advice to "write what you know," and I think it's good advice, but I think we can sometimes "know" without experiencing things first hand.

Most of the characters in one of my WIPs live lives that are nothing like what I know, but I've been able to draw on many other sources (books mostly, but also movies and even music) to make them feel real--at least to me.

Do you ever write what you don't know? How do you make the characters, setting, and plot feel authentic?

Friday, December 11, 2009

Agent Appreciation Day

I'm a little late to the party, but I just read on Lisa and Laura's blog that today is Agent Appreciation Day, and I wanted to appreciate my lovely agent Sara Megibow.

Here are 3 things wonderful things about Sara:

1. She is ALWAYS positive (even when she's 9 months pregnant, which is pretty darn amazing if you ask me).

2. She believes in me and my writing. It is still incredible to me that the same woman who plucked Jamie Ford's HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET (which is SO WORTH READING if you haven't yet) from the slush pile also connected with my little middle grade adventure. And I love her for it!

3. She is about the coolest person I know (example #1, example #2)

There you go. I am so, so grateful that Sara is my agent. I can't imagine any agent who'd be better for me.

If you want to check out all the other agents being appreciated today, go visit Lisa and Laura-- they have a huge list. Happy Agent Appreciation Day!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

So your (dad, brother, husband, mother etc.) tells me you wrote a book...

I live in a family full of big-mouths. Since I signed with Sara they've enjoyed telling anyone and everyone who has ever met me that I am a writer.

Then I run into these people at the grocery store or the movie theater or church and the first thing out of their mouth is, "So your dad told me you wrote a book and I hear it's a bestseller."

Yup, that's pretty much how it goes.

Then I have to correct them and say, "No, it's not even published yet."

Then they say something like, "So when is it coming out?"

Then I have to explain that I have an agent but not a publisher (yet).

Then they look at me like I'm lame, and try to save the conversation with something like, "Well, I'm sure it will work out for you someday."

Yeah. Tomorrow night is my husband's company party. It's going to be filled with conversations like this--which will be fun.

How do you respond when someone asks you about your writing? Do you have a quick and graceful way of explaining just how long and difficult the non-vanity publishing process is? Do you just nod and smile?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Writing in my head

We woke up Monday morning to snow. It doesn't snow too often here, (maybe 3 or 4 times a year), so the kids were very excited. After I got them bundled up, they went out to play and I went out to SHOVEL.

After about 10 minutes they got cold and went inside. Unfortunately, I was only about 1/10 through shoveling, so I had to stay outside in the BITTER cold and shovel for another hour. (I'd driven on our driveway, so a lot of this time was spent scraping off the tire track ice).

And you know what? It was time well spent. I sometimes love quiet repetitive jobs, because my brain can wander wherever I need it to go. I've written many scenes in my head while shoveling snow, driving, mowing the lawn, and doing dishes.

I am kind of envying you Australians--with your nice warm (or miserably hot) winters, but I'll take the bitter cold and snow if it means productive writing time.

Do you ever write in your head while you work? When is your most productive thinking time?

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Pursuing Dreams

First, I have a favor to ask a few of you. I've had trouble tracking down some of your blogs lately. I do try to read everyone's blog who follows or comments here (at least every week or two). If I haven't visited your blog (or if I haven't been by for a long time), would you please leave your blog address in the comments so I can check it out? Thank you so much.

I spent last Friday with my extended family celebrating the life of my cousin who died just after Thanksgiving in a hiking accident. I came away from the funeral feeling inspired. While she was alive, she lived. Though her family was sad that she is gone, they found comfort in knowing she'd had a full, happy life, and peace in their faith that they would someday be reunited with her.

She did a lot during her too-short life. She was very respected in her field. She was a loved mother, wife, grandmother and daughter and friend. And she accomplished her goals and lived her dreams.

Everyone has goals in life. Mine are pretty simple: I want to be a great mom, I want my husband to always know how much I love him, and I want to be a writer.

Most of you share this desire. Do you ever consider quitting, or are you committed for the long haul? Will you measure your success by completion, publication, awards, reviews, money or something else?

Thursday, December 3, 2009


When I sit down with a novel I have an expectation. I read so I can get away from my cares and see life through someone else's eyes--so I can escape.

Don't get me wrong, I live a very happy life. I have a beautiful family, a home, food, clothing, and thousands of other comforts. Unfortunately, real life is stressful. I have many demands on my time. Some of the things I do are fun (like writing, snuggle time with the kids, and movie nights with my husband). Most of my daily tasks are mundane (cleaning, cooking, driving kids from place to place). And some of my jobs are downright nasty (like changing poopy diapers and cleaning up dog vomit).

When I read something great, I can leave all of that behind--at least for a few minutes--and get lost in a story.

I'm reading Rick Riordan's PERCY JACKSON series right now and it has been a great little escape.

Have you read anything fabulous lately?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

What Makes Writing Good?

Thank you for all the well wishes and prayers these past few days. Your sweet comments were so appreciated. We are doing well and it sounds like her family is coping, despite the difficult circumstances. Thank you.

Last week my mother-in-law and I were discussing books. We were talking about an author and I said something like: "His stories are great, but I his writing drives me crazy."

She was surprised by this reaction and asked me what makes writing good or bad.

I had to stop and think about it for a minute.

My immediate answer was that writing is subjective, what one person loves another may hate and visa versa, but then I came up with a real answer.

If writing is superior words are never wasted. Every word is meaningful, every sentence is beautiful, every thought is perfectly expressed. An example of this (for me) is THE BOOK THEIF, by Markus Zusak.

When writing is good words are rarely wasted. If there is a page of material, 95% of it is pertinent to the story. The words may not be as perfect as those in a superior book, but they get the story across and don't waste my time.

I get annoyed when books are wordy. Bad writing (for me) is when a writer takes a page to express a thought that could easily fit in a paragraph (or a sentence), or uses adverbs with reckless abandon, or spends forever explaining a room when I REALLY want to know if Don and Harriet are going to get back together.

The interesting thing is, I like more than a few books that are written badly. I also hate a few that are written beautifully. Story trumps all. If the story is good enough, I'll suffer through a thousand page book that should have been two hundred pages, AND I'll tell my friends and family I loved it.

I have not mastered the art of good writing. Sometimes I'm sloppy. Sometimes I use more adverbs than I should. Sometimes I start sentences with and, but, or so. I'm working on it. I want my writing to be good so it doesn't distract from my stories.

Do you agree with my assessment? Do you think I'm a raving lunatic? What makes writing good (or bad) in your eyes?

Sunday, November 29, 2009


This was kind of a strange Thanksgiving for me. There was so much to be grateful for--time spent with my husband's extended family, my grandmother's 80th birthday, great food and good company. But there were things about it that were hard too. We stayed in a house without Internet access (for 5 days) and we were all sleep deprived and cranky most of the trip. I LOVE our family, but it's hard having the kids away from their beds for so long.

Then Saturday morning we received word that my cousin died in a hiking accident the day before. It's been a difficult couple days.

I've been trying to think of something to blog about today, but I feel drained. I'll try to be back to blogging Wednesday.

Hope everyone had a wonderful holiday, or regular week (for those of you in other countries). :)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Being Thankful

This will be my one and only post until next Monday, because we've got a week full of family and food ahead. So HAPPY THANKSGIVING to all of you U.S. dwellers, and happy awesome normal week to all of you in other countries!

First I just wanted to draw attention to the supporters/followers box in the corner. Notice something cool? That's right! Over the weekend several lovely new people decided to follow the blog and now I have 100 friends! So, I just wanted to say thank you to all of you who read and/or follow the blog. I am pretty sure I've made more friends in the last 2 1/2 months than I made in the previous 5 years. You guys are awesome, and it's been a pleasure to get to know you. I hope to know you better in the months ahead.

Now onto my thankfulness story...

Saturday we went to my parents house and my sister asked if my husband and I would like to go to the philharmonic. I find instrumental music a little boring usually (wait, hold your tomatoes!), but my husband wanted to go and my parents offered to babysit so we went (I can't pass up free babysitting). Once we were out I kind of wanted to ditch the concert and go see New Moon instead, but I couldn't convince my husband that a night of vampires and werewolves would be more fun than a night of violins and flutes, so we went to the philharmonic as planned.

It was kind of AMAZING. The music was fantastic--truly beautiful and inspiring-- and the time we spent there was the most productive writing time I've had in months, even though I didn't actually do any writing.

I've been a little stuck with my NaNo novel (again) and I couldn't see where I wanted to go with the plot. Sitting in that auditorium with Tchaikovsky's music making me smarter, it all became clear. I knew how to deal with all of the things with which I'd been struggling (character motivations, plot, conflict--even specific scenes).

So I am so thankful for my sister who gave us the tickets, my parents who watched the kids, my husband who made me go, and Tchaikovsky who wrote incredible music that people have enjoyed for 150 years. I think I'm going to start listening to it all the time.

So tell me, what are you grateful for?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Deep Down I'm a Hopeless Romantic

I can't write a story without a little romance. There I said it. Even though I write for the middle grade, every single one of my novels has some sort of love story.

My main characters are eleven-years-old, so their romances are pretty tame (hands brushing, eye-contact, TALKING to each other--that sort of stuff). But when the project is all done that's the stuff I like best.

When I was a kid I only liked to read books that had some romantic element, although I hated, and still dislike, stories that took the romance to gag-inducing levels (i.e. "I love you so much I'd die without you" sort of stuff).

In high school and college I suppressed my romantic inclinations. I'd never been "in love" so I kind of doubted that the whole "in love" thing existed. I figured if I ever got married I'd just marry someone who was a good friend and we'd be happy enough.

Then, my junior year in college, I met my husband. We were good friends for a few months. Then one night he invited me to go to an Italian poetry reading. I agreed, because hey, who doesn't like Italian poetry? Plus there would be food (free food is always a good thing in college).

I couldn't understand very much Italian--I'd only taken one semester. My husband spoke fluently (he'd lived in Italy for a few years). Most of the participants read poems from books, but he'd written his own.

He looked right at me as he recited it. After a few lines people looked over their shoulders at me and chuckled. I had no idea what he was saying. The only things I'd gleaned from my semester of Italian were food and clothing vocabulary and easy verbs, but I knew it was about me. When he was done he blushed and that was one of the many moments that made me think I could fall in love with him.

He didn't tell me what it said in English until we officially started dating a few weeks later. It was a love poem, and though he's no writer, it was very sweet.

Today is his 29th birthday and I have to say I am even more in love with him today than I was when I married him seven years ago.

So now that you've had a look at my sappy, sappy self, tell me this: Is there a love story in your novel? Can any book be complete without a little romance?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Getting Better Every Day

Do you ever open up one of your manuscripts from a few years ago (or a few months ago), and cringe at it's awfulness. I do.

I had no idea how to write when I started two years ago. It was just something I wanted to try. Since then writing has become a passion but, even though I'm passionate about it, some days I still don't feel like I know what I'm doing.

On days when I doubt myself I take a look at one of those old manuscripts and smile at how far I've come. The stuff I'm writing now will be better than the stuff I wrote six months ago and that makes me happy.

Do you feel like you're getting better? Those of you who've written for a long time, do you still feel like you're progressing?

15,000 on my NaNo story. It's a good start!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

On Trying to Quit and Failing

Last week I decided to trunk my NaNoWriMo manuscript and work on something else. Quitting was the smart thing to do. I struggled to put words on the page. I didn't love it anymore (or so I thought).

On Monday I didn't write anything. On Tuesday I tried to start something new. I spent all day Wednesday and Thursday snuggling on the couch with sick kids (actually I spent most of Monday and Tuesday doing this too). And then Friday I opened up my week-old NaNo manuscript and guess what...

It was funny. I loved the characters. The writing was terrible (of course), but I could see potential, so I sat down and wrote 1000 words.

I have given up on trying to "win" NaNoWriMo--50,000 words in a month just doesn't work for me--but I've decided to keep going with the story.

I think I quit because I got discouraged with the middle. The middle is the hardest part for me to write. The beginning is easy (at least the first draft) and the end is fun, but the middle is hard. Stuff has to happen to propel the story from point A to point Z, but that stuff isn't always clear (or if it is clear it isn't always interesting).

Do you have a hard time with middles? Do you have any tricks to keep things moving forward?

(I've been a bad blogger lately. In an effort to regain consistency, I'm planning to post Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Make Friends with a New Blogger!

I've received a few blog awards lately and I just wanted to say THANK YOU! My mommy memory is almost non-existent so I can't remember who gave me awards or what they were (and since my organizational skills are nearly as bad as my memory, I didn't write them down like I should have). But just know that if you gave me an award, it made my day. Thank you.

I want to pass along some of the kindness so I thought I'd tell you about a few writers I've discovered who are new (or at least a little newer than me) to the blogging world:

Mary's blog has made me laugh and cry. That's about the highest praise I can give.

Cammie's attempting to revise her first novel in less than a year. Her insight into the writing and revision process is unique and interesting.

This funny and sometimes random new blog is well worth a visit.

All of them are fun reads. Go check them out and make a new blogger friend.

And thanks to all who read and comment here. I appreciate all of you more than I can express!

Question for today: Have you ever met one of your blogger friends in person?

(I haven't, but I plan to when my critique group girls, Megan, Marie and Karen, and I go to SCBWI in NY in January! Will any of you be there?)

Monday, November 9, 2009

NaNo Killed My Story

Not really. My story is dead, but I don't think I can blame NaNo completely. I came to a realization over the weekend, while I was contemplating writing 12,500 more words this week, that perhaps this writing style just doesn't work for me. The breakneck pace made me dread writing, and my writing time is supposed to be fun (it's my outlet).

Writing-dread combined with my need to plan ahead and my outline that failed miserably (more about this in a later post), made me doubt my sanity in continuing on the NaNo journey. My daughter came down with the flu today (don't worry, it's the pukey kind--not the swine flu), my house is in shambles, and I have an new story idea that doesn't make me cringe when I think about writing it.

So this is the deal: I am not quitting, I am shifting my focus from one project to another, and I'm loosening my self-inflicted word count requirements so I can write less now and more when I have healthy children and a moderately clean house. I'm still going to shoot for 50,000 words this month (I'm at 13,000 now), but I'm not going to feel bad if life gets in the way and I only get 13,500.

Last week was interesting. I think I could continue writing at that pace if I had a project I believed in, but this one just wasn't it. It's possible that it will be "the one" in the future, but not right now. So, I'll chalk this little adventure up as an enlightening experiment and move on to bigger and better things. To all you NaNoers who are still going strong with your original projects: I salute you. May your stories be wonderful, and may all your wildest dreams come true. To the rest of you: I'm sure your sanity is in better shape than mine.

Have you ever quit a manuscript ten thousand words in? Have you ever gone back and made it fun again? (Please say yes!)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Quality or Quantity?

I went to a NaNo event for my region last night. It was... interesting.

One of the most eye opening exercises for me was this thing they do called a "Word War." Everyone was supposed to write as many words as they could in 10 minutes. I thought I wrote pretty fast--I put down 271 words in the allotted time. Those 271 words were not as good as my normal first draft words (which if you'll recall, aren't very good to start with)--they were rushed. I didn't have time to think through what I was going to write or how the dialogue should flow and apparently I really need that time to think things through.

So get this--almost every other person at the write in did over 700 words (700 words in 10 minutes!) and one woman did over 1000! While I am in awe of these people's typing skills, the exercise made me realize why agents plead with authors not to submit NaNo novels. What kind of quality does this sort of writing encourage?

It takes me about 3 hours to write my daily 2500 words, and those are pretty crumby first draft words. I can't imagine how much more they would stink if I wrote them in 25 minutes.

Sure, there's revision, but how much can revision help if the first draft is terrible--if the story isn't well thought out? Is this NaNo business really a good thing? Maybe there should be a month where we encourage people to write good stuff instead of 50,000 words of crap?

Wow, that was quite the little rant. I really don't have a problem with NaNo if it gives people the push they need to get a novel done. I've been having fun with my own manuscript, despite the daily word goal. But I don't like the idea of writing a lot of words just so I can say I "won." I'll feel like a winner if I get a usable first draft out of the experience--something I can revise (for 3-6 months) and be proud of, even if I don't make it to 50,000.

Does this quantity over quality style of writing worry any of the rest of you? Am I crazy? Anyone planning to query novels in December along with thousands of rushed NaNo manuscripts? Thoughts?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Greetings from the NaNo Trenches

I really shouldn't be blogging today, but I've made a few discoveries during my first few days of NaNoWriMo that I wanted to share with you.

1. First drafts are not good.

You probably all realize this, but it's been a while since I've written more than a few chapters of a first draft (and those few chapters I've edited to death so they aren't as stinky as a real first draft).

2. This first draft (though terrible) is better than my previous first drafts.

I've actually learned some things in the last year. YAY! I'm using more active verbs and fewer dialogue tags, the dialogue is better, and even the voice feels stronger and fresher.

3. It hasn't been that hard to meet my writing goals everyday.

Granted we're only on the third day (and I'm only writing on weekdays--2500 words a day--so it's technically only day 2 for me) but I'm starting to think that my "I don't have enough time to write" complaint doesn't hold much water. I may not have enough time to blog, read blogs, AND write everyday, but I definitely have time to write ten pages and read a few blogs (and mow the lawn, do laundry, feed and clothe my children, run to the library, wash dishes, clean the kitchen, and read 80 pages of Scott Westerfeld's LEVIATHAN--which is so good by the way). I don't know where all this time was before, but I'm glad it showed up for November.

It's been an interesting couple of days. I just hope I can keep this pace up throughout the month.

Have you discovered anything interesting about your writing lately?

NaNo Progress: 5112 words

Thursday, October 29, 2009

TTFN and Happy Halloween!

I just wanted to let you know that I will be taking a blogging break during the month of November so I can focus on writing during National Novel Writing Month! I think I'll still post once a week (maybe Fridays?), and I'll try to catch up on a few of your blogs once a week too, but mostly I'll be absent from the blogging world. (I imagine many of you will be too.) I will miss you, but I'm really excited to be immersed in writing again!

So, until next week. HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

"This is so humiliating," thinks the dog.

Oh and I'd love it if any of you doing NaNo would leave your usernames in the comments so I can add you as friends. My username is NBB. GOOD LUCK!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Things I Learned From My Kids: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure

Did you know it was Benjamin Franklin who coined that phrase? He was a smart man.
Thank you Google.

So let me ask, what do you get when you mix an unsupervised 2-year-old with a tub of blueberry yogurt?

The answer:
It happened this morning and the picture shows only a small portion of the carnage. There were probably 20 dollops about that size covering our living room floor. And do you know what makes it so much worse? We JUST had the carpets cleaned (less than two weeks ago)!

Two hours of scrubbing and a half gallon of carpet cleaner later the floor is still covered in purple spots. I hate yogurt.

Yeah. This is the reason that I don't blog or write while my two-year-old is awake. He must be watched at all times or something like this happens. While he was painting carpet with yogurt I was reading blogs, so this was TOTALLY my fault-- bad mommy!

This last week I've been gearing up for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). You all know about it now--right? Right. I've had all this prep time so I've done a few things I've never tried before-- outlining and character sketching.

I'm liking it.

It's quite a bit more preparation than I usually do, (because usually I don't prepare at all, I just jump into writing) but I'm hoping it will save me some time in the revision process, because usually I go into a project with no idea how the story will end, and end up rewriting a hundred times until I get something I'm happy with.

I haven't written anything on this manuscript yet (November 1st here I come!), so my outline may not be all that useful when it comes right down to it, but I am cautiously optimistic.

Have any of you ever tried to use an outline? (I know some of you use one on every project!) Do you think it makes the writing process easier? Do you stick with it or just use it as a general guide?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Things I Learned From My Kids: How to Build

We had some interesting responses yesterday. I asked that question
(What are you doing to make your story salable?) and then realized I have no idea how I would answer it! There are a few practical answers like I don't write 300,000 word manuscripts, and I don't use adverbs with reckless abandon. But mostly I think I, like you, just try to write a story I love and hope that other people will like it too.

Anyway, thanks for your responses--you are smart people.

Now for today...

Every so often my whole family plays blocks on Sunday afternoons.

When we first got our blocks and started building stuff together I often wanted to make something functional (like a house for my girls' dolls or a stable for their horses), but functionality was not my girls' main concern. They wanted to make tall, beautiful towers and didn't care if their creation was useful.

When I write I often fight a tendency to just tell the story and be done (This is probably why my manuscripts tend to be short). Sometimes I don't pause to flesh out the characters or let my main characters have fun together. My beta reader Marie was wonderful about pointing out places where she wanted to see more interaction between my main characters.

I am learning that building a story is more than just getting it told. It's the little moments that make books worth reading. And, like building with blocks, sometimes I need to enjoy the towers and not focus so much on making something practical.

Does that make sense? I just made Halloween cookies with ten 8-year-old girls and my brain is a little fried.

Do you struggle to include the little stuff that makes stories great? Or do you have to cut because you have too much little stuff?

Monday, October 26, 2009

Things I Learned From My Kids: Life Isn't Fair

This one is really more what I teach my kids, but it kind of goes with the theme. So here goes...

Last night my daughter threw a MAJOR tantrum. She's 5--way too old for tantrums. She was mad because my husband picked a book for bedtime reading that she didn't like, so she slammed the door and told him she wouldn't read it. Then he told her if she was going to throw a tantrum she wouldn't get ANY books. This (of course) caused her to scream, "IT'S NOT FAIR. IT'S NOT FAIR" for ten minutes.

When I finished putting the baby to bed and my husband finished reading stories to our happy 4-year-old we went in to address the tantrum.

"Mom, it's not fair that Daddy wouldn't read me a book," she said.

"Things aren't always fair," I told her. "You made the choice to get upset and slam the door, and Daddy decided you shouldn't get a story since you threw a tantrum."

She screwed up her little face and pouted, but she didn't argue anymore. We completed the rest of her bedtime routine and she went to bed.

I don't know what point in life kids decide that things should be fair. It's certainly not something we teach our children. Life is NOT fair. It is wonderful and horrible, happy and sad, glorious and miserable, but it isn't fair.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but publishing isn't fair either. Is there a brilliant author out there who writes prose that could make angels weep, who can't manage to get an agent, much less a publisher? Yeah, if fact, there are probably hundreds. Are there people who can barely string sentences together who get book deals? Definitely (ahem, think of all the celebrity tell-alls).

Blogger/Author Jody Hedlund asked the question yesterday "Does Today's Writer Need to be Perfect to Get Published?" and the answer, of course, is NO! Would it be more fair if only the "best" writers--the ones with flawless, beautiful prose and complete command of the English language were the ones to get published? Yeah, I think that would be fair, but that's not how publishing works. The books that get published are the books that publishers believe people will buy.

Publishing isn't fair. If we want to be published writers we need fantastic, salable stories (and even then there are no guarantees).

So I'll ask you these questions: What are you doing to make your story salable (not necessarily perfect)?

Things I Learned From My Kids: How To Wait

Last week was so fun for me. I enjoyed getting to know you all a little better. I think I've made more friends with this blog in the last month an a half than I've made in person in the last 10 years. So thanks everyone. It's nice to know you.

Now let me tell you a little story. On Saturday I decided to take my two youngest children to a swine flu vaccination clinic in my city (the clinic was only for children 6 months to 4 years so my 5- year-old didn't qualify). So, because I am a very conscientious parent, I decided we would go an hour early just so we could get a good place in line and definitely get the vaccine. I also talked my two sister-in-laws into bringing their children and coming with me.

We arrived at the very large empty shopping complex where the health department was administering the vaccines and stood in line with several thousand other early people at 9:00 AM. My children got vaccinated at 1:30 PM. All the time in between we spent freezing our little patoots off waiting in the parking lot (and trying to keep our 5 children under 4 from being hit by cars). It was an excruciating wait. 4+ hours is an eternity for kids that little--they were hungry, thirsty, cold, they needed to use the potty, they wanted to play in the street, they fought with each other--it was MISERABLE.

My writing group girls and I have recently been discussing how difficult it is to WAIT during every portion of our journey to publication.

Write Book--Wait. Revise. Send to beta readers--Wait. Revise. Send to agents--WAIT. Get an agent-- CELEBRATE! Revise. Agent sends to editors--WAIT. Get offer--CELEBRATE! Wait for editor revisions. Revise. WAIT. WAIT. WAIT. Book comes out! Do it all over again.

Publishing is not a business for impatient people. There is no instant gratification. Everything takes a long time--kind of like the line for swine flu vaccines.

When we got home from the clinic I said to my 4-year-old. "It's been a really hard morning, huh?" She looked at me funny so I tried again. "Wasn't it terrible standing in line all morning?"

She replied, "No mom. I got to play with my cousins."

I learned two things on Saturday. 1. No wait could ever be as bad as four-and-a-half hours in a freezing cold parking lot with 5 tiny children. And 2. If we keep ourselves busy with other fun things the painfully slow publishing business won't seem quite so painfully slow.

So I'll ask you: Are you doing something while you wait? Are you writing that next book? Are you staying busy with other things in life?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Getting to Know You: Who is your biggest fan?

I'm excited about this one. I am a firm believer that every artist needs a fan. I am very blessed to have many people who support and encourage me in my writing endeavors. I come from a huge family (I have 2 brothers and 3 sisters) and all of them read multiple drafts of my novel and offered tons of praise and very little criticism (this is why I needed my critique group.) But my #1 fan is definitely my husband.

This is him and me--both looking very crazy--we might have overdosed on chocolate.
My hubby is always there for me. If I need extra time to write he takes the kids outside to play. If the house is a disaster when he comes home from work (which it is at least half the time) he never says a word, and often helps with dishes and laundry in the evenings even though he's spent all day at the office. He's read my manuscript almost as many times as I have, offering a few suggestions every now and then, but mostly just telling me how brilliant I am (I try to remind myself that he's biased). He was more excited than I was when I called to tell him that Sara had offered representation. He believes in me, and his encouragement buoys me up as I pursue this dream.

Hopefully we all have people who believe in us. Who is your biggest fan?