Wednesday, December 29, 2010

My Favorite Books This Year

I read kind of a lot of books this year. I didn't quite reach my goal of 100, but I got to 83.

A couple of the books I read were BEASTS (ahem LITTLE DORRIT and THE STORY OF EDGAR SAWTELLE), and I also read 10 manuscripts for friends, so I practically made it to 100.


Many of the books I read were fantastic and I wanted to share my list of favorites, so here goes...


(Note: I'm only including books I read this year. If I had to list all of my favorites this post would go on forever.)

Favorite Memoir

THE GLASS CASTLE by Jeannette Walls
The Glass Castle
This is pretty much a must read. It's horrifying and heartwarming all at once.


Favorite Middle Grade

PRINCESS FOR HIRE by Lindsey Leavitt and Janice Hardy's SHIFTER
Princess for HireThe Shifter
PRINCESS FOR HIRE is really cute and magical (two things I love in MG) and THE SHIFTER is a great story, with great writing.

Favorite YA

MATCHED by Ally Condie, followed closely by Ally Carter's HEIST SOCIETY and Kiersten White's PARANORMALCY

MatchedHeist SocietyParanormalcy

These were all just fun. I read a lot of deep YA too, but I really appreciated the lighter stuff this year.

Favorite Classics

Charles Dickens LITTLE DORRIT and Thomas Hardy's FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD
Little DorritFar from the Madding Crowd

I always read a few classics. LITTLE DORRIT took me all year to get through, but it was a great story and well worth the effort.

Favorite Series

THE HUNGER GAMES trilogy by Suzanne Collins (Obviously)
The Hunger GamesCatching FireMockingjay

I love these.

Favorite book from a genre I'd never read before

Jody Hedlund's Christian romance THE PREACHER'S BRIDE
The Preacher's Bride

I read this because Jody is a friend. I loved it because it was a really great story, told well.

Favorite Nonfiction

NURTURE SHOCK by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman

NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children

Fascinating!


Favorite Books from Childhood Revisited

THE GIVER by Lois Lowry and pretty much everything by Roald Dahl
The GiverRoald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

It was really fun to read these again now that I'm grown up.

Favorite book for grown ups and favorite book this year

THE HELP by Kathryn Stockett
The Help

LOVED this. I think it was probably my favorite read in five years.


So there you have it! I read a very wide range of books this year so hopefully there's something here for everyone. I promise if your taste is exactly like mine you will love these books! And if you're taste isn't exactly like mine you'll probably still like some of them. :)

Now the question is, what should I read in 2011?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

I Believe in You

Pursuing publication is hard.

If you are reading this you probably wrote a book. A WHOLE BOOK. You spent hundreds of hours of your life making it as good as it can be. You loved it. You were proud of it.

You queried agents. You're work was rejected. Maybe, eventually, an agent liked it and you moved to the next step. Maybe no one connected with it, so you wrote another book, and maybe another one after that, hoping that someday, someone would appreciate your work.

If you are one of the lucky ones (and yes, luck does play a role here) who managed to find an agent who loved your work, then you moved onto the next step, editor submissions. Maybe your book was brilliant and it got picked up at auction the first week. Or maybe you waited. A long time. And you came so close, but never close enough. So you wrote another book, hoping that maybe this would be the one to make it to the bookstore shelves.

Maybe you decided to self publish. Maybe you gave up on publication and instead wrote just for you and your family. Maybe you gave up writing all together for a while.

We've all traveled different roads to get us where we are today. I know that among my blog friends there are BRILLIANT writers who have worked at it for years. I also know there are some of us who are just starting out, who will learn in the coming years exactly what it means to be a writer.

I just want to tell all of you, whether you've been writing for a week or fifty years, that I believe in you. I really believe you can write a book that people will love.

It won't be easy. In fact I promise it will be very, very hard. But you can do hard things. If this really is something you want, you CAN do it.


Happy Holidays everyone! I'm going to take a little blogging break so I can put all my focus on the kids while they're out of school. For all those who celebrate, have a wonderful Christmas!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Finding Time to Write

Before I start I want to tell you about Dear Teen Me. It's a new blog where writers post letters to their teen selves. You'll recognize a lot of the writers involved (authors like Sarah Okler, Carrie Jones, and Charles Benoit along with a lot of the bloggers you know and love). My letter is up today. *bites nails*

It's really fun. Check it out.

On to my real post.

I've had a lot of friends comment over the last few months that they don't know how, with 3 kids and a baby, I find any time or energy to write.

My answer is I need to write. It is what keeps me sane. Some moms exercise. Some moms decorate. Some moms have jobs. I write.

Because I need it, I make time for it.

Here's how:

1. I write when I get a quiet hour. My three older kids are all in school at the same time for 5 hours a week. It's not a lot of time, and the baby usually requires my attention during a couple of those hours, but the leftover minutes are golden writing time. I can focus.

2. I write when the kids are occupied with other things. My kids destroy the kitchen table with markers, glue, and playdough at least once a week. It's a small price to pay for an hour of uninterupted writing time.

3. Writing is a higher priority than cleaning, unless I'm hosting book club that day or my in-laws are visiting. I still do manage to keep the house picked up most days, but I have a busy day and I have a choice between dishes or writing, I'll write.

4. I'm flexible and realize that it probably won't be possible for me to write everyday. Some days the baby is fussy. Some days I have other commitments. But I write when I can and eventually all that writing becomes a book.

The truth is EVERYONE is busy. I imagine many of you are way busier than me. There are always going to be things we could/should be doing instead of writing, but I believe that most people have time to write a book. It doesn't take much. It's about sitting in the chair, staring at that blank screen or empty sheet of paper and creating something wonderful... or at least decent.

How do you fit writing into your life?


Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Truth

I've decided to shelve the manuscript I've worked on for over a year.

Any of you who have followed this blog for a while know that this has been a hard year for me. I've tried to be upbeat about it, but the pregnancy, the months of sickness and sleep deprivation, and the stress of having a sick premie took their toll on me and by extension the story I was writing.

I'm proud of the first 50 pages--the part I wrote last November before I was pregnant. The rest just isn't right. It's never been right. I can't put my finger on exactly why it doesn't work, but I think it has something to do with the fact that I've lost passion for the story.

I wanted to finish it. I wanted to have a brilliant little novel come out of my tough year. But I didn't feel it. The story was meant to be funny and light, but I wasn't in a funny light place. I felt tired and sick and worried and it's hard to hide that from the reader.

As a result the novel needs to be completly rewritten. I don't have the energy to do that right now, so I'm putting it away for a while.

The good news is, I finally feel free to work on one of the projects I'm actually excited about. Writing is FUN again. I started a new manuscript and in just three weeks I've written almost 15,000 words. It's a first draft of course (which means it will need to be rewritten a couple hundred times), but it's a good, usable first draft, with characters that I love and a story that I'm into.

November was good to me. I think I'm finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. My baby is doing much better, I'm feeling creative again, and I'm excited about my life moving forward.

Have you ever lost your passion for a story or shelved a project you'd worked on for a long time?

How did November treat you?

Monday, November 22, 2010

I'm Thankful for Writers

I love Thanksgiving. It's one of my very favorite holidays.


This is mostly because of all the amazing food. I LOVE turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, rolls, pumpkin pie, and sweet potatoes. LOVE. But this year I'm on a diet. The my-baby-is-allergic-to-milk-and-soy-and-I-don't-want-to-give-up-nursing-yet-diet. This means I cannot eat BUTTER which is the base of every good Thanksgiving dish.


So this year Thanksgiving is not about the food. This year I'm going to be focusing on the long, long list of things I'm grateful for while I watch my family enjoying all the lovely food and I eat my mashed potatoes made with rice milk and margerine.

It'll be great.

Near the top of my long, long list of things I'm grateful for are WRITERS. I'm thankful for the worlds they create and the stories they tell. I'm grateful for all the writers I'm privilaged to know through blogging and twitter and in real life and I'm grateful for the writers who inspire me through the books they write. You make my life richer. Thanks.

Happy Thanksgiving to all those who celebrate this time of year!

What are you grateful for?


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Super Awesome NaNo Contest

I know it's shocking. Two posts in one week. But I had to come out of my writing cave to tell you that one of my agent buddies, the lovely and talented Ashley March, is having a contest.

Our agent, Sara Megibow of the Nelson Literary Agency, is offering to read a partial for one very lucky NaNoWriMo participant.

This is cool because:

-You don't have to write a query letter
-She'll read the NaNo novel you are working on RIGHT NOW
-All you have to do to enter is comment on Ashley's post before November 30
-When I posted this there were only 5 comments


Yeah, you might want to check that out.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

My New Writing Buddy

I wrote 7000 new words last week, making it my most productive writing week in over a year. I think all the productivity had something to do with my new favorite writing buddy.

Life just doesn't get better than this.

How is NaNoWriMo treating you?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

How To Read If You Have No Time

Many of you know that I'm trying to read 100 books this year.

I often see bloggers complain that they don't have time to read as much as they would like. I will admit that with 3 small children and one extremely needy baby I don't have enough time to read either.

So, I don't read.

I listen.

Audiobooks folks. I have two or three hours most days when I can't read, but I can listen. Whether I'm walking around trying to soothe the baby (who has colic in a major way right now), doing dishes, or driving the kids from place to place, I almost always have an audiobook on.

I recently discovered LibriVox, a website where you can download free audio versions of books in the public domain. If you love the classics and you like audiobooks you need to check it out.

So yeah, maybe I'm not actually "reading" 100 books this year. When I'm done I imagine I will have read about half of the books and listened to the rest. But I say it counts. :)

So if you're too busy to read, why not try listening?

Are you an audiobook reader?

And two of my agentmates, Miranda Kennealy and Jennifer Wolf sold their debut novels last week! They are very awesome girls and you should get to know them. If you have a second stop by their blogs to say congratulations.

Friday, October 29, 2010

NaNo Sidelines

I am not going to participate in NaNoWriMo (National Writing Month) this year because:


-Last year I tried and failed miserably, writing about 12,000 words that almost all had to be deleted.

-I'm kind of busy this month what with
--my baby who is still way too tiny to sleep more than 3 hours at a time (which means I never sleep more than 3 hours at a time)
--Laundry
--Thanksgiving with 20+ family members at my house

-I'm finally ALMOST done with the manuscript I've been working on for a year and if I just buckle down I might be able to finish it in November.

Still NaNo is tempting because:

-I have a new idea that is WAY different from the project I'm working on and it sounds like more fun.

-Revising my current project is hard work

-I like to make my life as crazy as possible

But don't worry. I'm not going to give in. Maybe I'll try NaNo again next year. This year I'll be doing NaNoReviseMo and *hopefully* finishing this sucker.

Are you doing NaNo this year?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Revising: The Chain Reaction

Right now I'm knee deep in revisions. I'm adding scenes, fleshing out characters, and trying to decide if the ending is awesome or really crappy. Good times.

One of the problems I run into every time I revise a manuscript is the chain reaction.

The chain reaction occurs when I decide that the choice the main character made on page 5 really isn't consistent with his character the rest of the story. He must make a different choice. That different choice snowballs into changes on pages 6, 8, and 10 and those changes cause problems with pages 12, 16, and 20. Pretty soon I'm rewriting almost the entire book.

This makes me crazy.

I try to come up with some way I could just not change the thing on page 5, but I'm pretty sure the book will stink if I leave it as it is. I try to patch up pages 6 and 8 so they won't cause problems later. Some of the patches work. Most don't. The chain reaction has taken hold of the manuscript and it won't let go until I rewrite every single thing in it's path.

The interesting thing is, though I hate chain reactions while I'm revising, I love chain reaction revisions once I'm done. They fill in the gaps and make the characters believable.

Do you run into chain reactions when you revise? Is this a problem plotters run into too, or does it only happen to those of us who write without outlines?


Sunday, October 17, 2010

I'm Soooo Mature

I turned 30 yesterday. Yup, the big 3-0.

I'm thinking that having three decades under my belt (not to mention 4 kids, a dog, and a mortgage) ought to mean that I am finally mature.

But, I don't think that's the case. In fact, I fear my maturity might be declining.

I had pretty sophisticated tastes in high school. I read Dickens and Austen and I appreciated good food and nice clothes. In college I still liked those things, but I started reading some YA too and eating whatever I could afford and dressing in whatever was still wearable from my high school years.

Now, at 30, I pretty much wear whatever has an elastic waistband. I eat whatever the kids are eating--mostly peanut butter and jelly, mac and cheese, and chicken nuggets. And I read more kids books than anything else. I laugh at vomit jokes. I don't make my bed. And when my husband gets home I giggle as the kids tell poop stories from the day.

I am not mature, which is probably why I love writing middle grade stories. I'm working on revisions for my current MG novel right now and as I read through the manuscript I realized just how juvenile I've become.

When I first started writing I planned to write a serious novel for adults about one man's influence in life and death. It was going to be deep. Instead I'm writing about eleven-year-old boys who play on kickball teams called "The Ugly Butts" and "The Smelly Armpits." Nice.

I blame it on my kids.

How about you? Have you gained or lost maturity as you've aged?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

It Takes Time to Write a Book

But how much time does it take? I've read about authors taking decades to write novels and I've also read about books that were completed in a few weeks.

I wrote Underground, the novel that got me my agent, in 4 months.

I've been working on my current manuscript for almost year. I'm still working on the second draft, and if I am very honest with myself I think it's likely that I won't finish this book until 2011.

This is frustrating! I've been working hard at it. Why is it taking so long?

Well, I could blame the fact that I've been pregnant. I could subtract two months for horrific morning sickness and I probably subtract the last three months of the pregnancy too, because I was sicker than I was during the morning sickness part. But even if I subtract all the months when I was unable to be productive, this book will still take WAY longer to write than the last one did.

Why? Because it's a different book. There are new puzzles to work out and new characters to get to know and maybe some of those puzzles and characters have been trickier for me to get right.

Also, I'm not quite as clueless this time around. My writing pace slows as I make a conscious effort to use more action verbs and fewer adjectives and adverbs.

Plus I'm going to makes sure to give this one to a lot of great beta readers before my agent sees it. Underground was only beta read by family members before I queried. As a result it needed A LOT of post-querying editing and rewriting. Hopefully this one won't need as much.

I've accepted that every book is different and some might just take a little longer to bake than others. Every writer is different too, and though I'd love to be able to write a book every few weeks, I don't think I'm that kind of writer.

How long did it take you to write your novel? Are you one of those writers who can churn out a masterpiece every month? Or are you still working on the one you started 25 years ago?

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Real Life is Boring...

And that's a good thing.

Tomorrow I go back to real life. For the last 3 weeks I've either been living in the hospital or home with my mom or mother-in-law helping me. Friends and neighbors have brought meals almost every night. It's been incredible. We feel very loved.

But the time has come to return to normal. My mother-in-law left today, which means I'll be cleaning my house and caring for my kids all by myself again. I am strangely excited about this. I can't wait to get back into my routine--my lovely, boring routine. These past few weeks have been WAY too exciting for us.

Exciting stuff belongs in stories.

I'm still trying to adjust to the baby's (lack of) sleep schedule and my brains are pretty frazzled. I tried to write a real blog post today and it came out completely incoherent. I'll try again next week.

Is your life usually boring too? Do you like it that way?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Home

It's been a long road (horrible pregnancy followed by 15 days in the neonatal intensive care unit), but on Saturday my little guy and I finally got to come home.


He's little, but he's breathing on his own and eating like a champ, and that makes me really happy.

A little over 3 years ago, just after this baby's older brother was born, I started writing. It's been a great outlet for me ever since.

I haven't been very motivated to write for the past few months because I've been sick, or baby has been sick. But now that we are both well and happy my mind is overflowing with stories and scenes that need to be put down on paper. Baby and I will start a morning writing routine this week while his older siblings are at school, because there is nothing better than dreaming up stories with a cozy little newborn in my arms.

Thanks so much for all the support and prayers. I love my blogging friends. I hope to catch up with all of you really soon.

Friday, September 10, 2010

See You Later

Well, the time has come. My doctor informed me today that we've reached the point where the baby needs to come out, so I'm going in for a c-section in an hour.

The good news is I've made it to almost 36 weeks. Unfortunately the baby's lungs still aren't looking good, so there's a chance he'll spend a few weeks in the NICU. I'm a little stressed about this, of course, but I feel like everything will be okay.

Thank you so much for all of your support over the past few months. I've really appreciated the well wishes, thoughts, and prayers. They've made a difference. I look forward to getting back to normal life again soon, and using this blog to write about WRITING, instead of awful pregnancy.

I probably won't be blogging for the next few weeks, but I will try to post a few updates on Twitter. I hope you all have a great September and I'll look forward to seeing all of your agent and book deal announcements when I get back!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Live Life Then Write

I just finished reading THE ADORATION OF JENNA FOX. It was really good. If you like dystopian or science fiction, I highly recommend it.

After I finished, I listened to an interview with the author, Mary E. Pearson. She explained that her first ideas for the story came when her daughter was diagnosed with cancer. Her daughter lived through the ordeal, but it changed the way Ms. Pearson looked at life. It caused her to ask a question: What length would a parent would go to in order to save her child? THE ADORATION OF JENNA FOX explores that question, and others. The characters were complicated and believable, and I think Ms. Pearson's life experience made authentic story telling possible.

I've wondered during the last few months what I can learn from my current situation (a complicated pregnancy), and how I can channel the things I discover into my writing. I know a lot more about pain now. I understand anxiety and fear in a way that I never did before. But I've also been able to see miracles first-hand, and empathize with people who have it so much worse than me. These months have been humbling, but I'm grateful for them. I'd never choose to repeat them, but I think they've made me a better person and maybe a better writer too.

Do you draw from difficult personal experiences when you write? I imagine we all do.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Referral: A Success Story

By now I'm guessing that a lot of you have seen Roni (the Fiction Groupie's) big news, but if not go take a look. Don't worry, I'll wait.

Done? So now you know that Roni signed with my wonderful agent, Sara Megibow, earlier this week. Pretty darn awesome right?

What makes it even more cool is that I had a tiny hand in matchmaking Roni and Sara. Roni gives a pretty detailed description here, but the short version is that I knew Sara wanted more romance writers and I knew Roni wrote romance. I'd read a few excerpts of Roni's work on her blog, and I knew she could write well.

I wrote a few emails, and then I got to giggle and squee when Sara wrote me to tell me she loved Roni's work and do it again when Roni wrote to say she liked Sara's notes. It was fun, and it was a great diversion during my summer of very little productivity and lots of not fun things. I'm so happy for both of them and I'm hoping they'll have a quick sale once revisions are done.

I've been thinking about why Roni came to mind when Sara asked if I knew any talented romance writers, and these are my thoughts:

1. Roni has a GREAT blog. Really. It's one of the first blogs I started following and I think it appeals to writers of all genres. Her posts are helpful, well written and informative and the look of her blog is very professional.

2. She posts occasional excerpts. This is something I've haven't done much because to be honest, when I see long excerpts (and sometimes short ones too) on a blog I usually skip it, especially if the blogger posts excerpts daily or weekly. BUT, I'll read excerpts if they are part of a blogfest I'm participating in, or if I feel like the blogger is a friend.

3. And that brings me to my last thought: Roni isn't just a blogger, she's a blog participant. She reads other people's posts and comments, she gives back with contests and critiques, and she's approachable. She's the kind of blogger that makes everyone feel like a friend.

I have no doubt that Roni would have found an agent regardless of my referral, but I hope it made the process a little quicker (and the WAIT is the worst, right?)

Have any of you agented writers given your agents a successful referral? Are those of you who are not yet agented making the most of your blog presence?

Monday, August 23, 2010

That book you COULDN'T put down

Hey everybody! Sorry for my stinky blogging lately. I'm finding it really difficult to sit at the computer and write anything these days. Between the pregnancy and foggy medicine brain I have a hard time forming coherent sentences. The good news is I am 33 weeks pregnant today and it looks like I might have the baby as soon as 35 weeks, so I should be back to normal (sort of) pretty soon. :)

I may not be a stellar writer just now, but at least I can read! I've been reading some great books lately. Over the weekend I decided to reread THE HUNGER GAMES and CATCHING FIRE to prepare for tomorrow's MOCKINGJAY release. I forgot how much I love these books. Suzanne Collins is pretty much my (and about a million other people's) writing hero.

When I started reading I wanted to analyze the reason that these books are so engrossing. Then I got too engrossed to analyze anything. This is about all I can come up with.

1. The story is brilliant. The concept is unique, the tension is constant, and the relationships are compelling from page 1 of Book 1.

2. The writing is fantastic (in my opinion-- this is one of those really subjective things). Suzanne Collins is not a word waster. Every sentence, paragraph, and chapter moves the story forward. She includes the perfect amount of description. The setting and characters are vivid. I can see the world she's created. But, I haven't noticed a single time when I've skimmed a descriptive paragraph to get to the good stuff (something I do really often when I read a wordy author).

That's about it. I can't wait for MOCKINGJAY tomorrow! I wish I could make it last a few weeks, but I'm sure I'll devour it in a day or two. And I think I'm Team Whoever at this point. I'm just excited to see where Suzanne's master storytelling takes us.

I don't think I've read a book quite so gripping/hard to put down for a long, long time. And I read a lot!

So have any of you read something recently that you couldn't put down? Please share! I'll be pregnant and on bed rest or I'll have a brand new, slightly premature baby for the next few months, so I'll probably be stuck at home for a while. I could use some recommendations for awesome books! What have you read in the last few years that you COULDN'T put down? What made it so good?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

When The Words Flow

There are a few positive things that come from being pregnant and sick and mostly confined to my bed and my couch.

1. My mother-in-law comes and cleans and cleans and cleans some more AND entertains my children. Mmm hmm. Some people might have lousy mother-in-laws. I am not one of those people. My mother-in-law is an angel.

2. I get a lot of couch snuggle time with the kids.

3. I have plenty of time to read.

4.I get to attend the AWESOME WriteOnCon from the comfort of my own home.

5. I can write as much as I want.

It sounds pretty idyllic, huh? There have been some crumby days lately, I'm not going to lie, but I've had a couple of great ones too.

Last week I had a day where the kids played sweetly with each other for two hours and I was able to WRITE. It was one of those days when the words just flowed. It was one of those days when I sat down at the computer and was immediately immersed in the story and in sync with the characters. One of those days when I LOVED the story and knew it could be great. I've only had a handful of days like that since I started writing. Usually I have to work for my words, typing them out, even when I don't feel like writing. But I guess it's worth working through those days to have a magic day every once and a while.

Have you had days like this? I wonder if the people who can write books in a few months (or weeks) have days like this all the time. If you have magic days all the time, I need your secret to success!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

What We Can Learn From Reading

I haven't done nearly as much writing as I would have liked to this summer, but I've done a lot of reading.

I read a variety of genres. The last 10 books I've read include:

2 Middle Grade Fantasy
2 Contemporary Middle Grade
2 YA Fantasy
1 Contemporary YA
1 Classic
1 Adult Memoir
1 Adult Fiction

I've read varying opinions about what we, as writers should read. Some people say you should read extensively in your genre, some say you should avoid your own genre (so it won't effect your manuscript and you can write something fresh), some suggest that you SHOULDN'T read while you're writing, and some say you should read new releases and NYT Bestsellers, so you can understand what people are reading now and write to the market.

I believe I should read what I feel like reading! Reading is something I do for fun, but it's also something I do to learn. I think I can learn more by reading a variety of great books, (and maybe a few that aren't so great), than I can by reading only one or two genres (or heaven forbid, nothing at all!).

A few lessons I've learned this month from reading that will help me with my writing:

-I like short chapters, they keep the action going.
-I'm not a fan of explaining or over-description. If a book takes 500 pages to tell a story that could be told in 250 pages, I will be annoyed.
-Non-linear story-telling is awesome if it's done well (I don't think I'll try it anytime soon though).
-Humor is a great tool for keeping the audience engaged. This is true for almost all genres.
-I love a bit of a cliffhanger at the end of a chapter.


Do you read while you write? Do you read outside of your genre? What do you learn from the books you read?

Friday, July 30, 2010

You Gotta Have Friends

I just wanted to say thank you to everyone for the sweet comments and well wishes and emails and everything this week. You're all wonderful.

It's been kind of a stinky time, I'm not going to lie, but the baby and I are doing okay and I'll be 30 weeks along on Sunday, which is good.

I managed to get some writing done this week! It feels so great to accomplish something again. I am inching along on this manuscript, but I really love what I've got so far, so that's encouraging.

And I made a surprise appearance at RWA on Thursday to hang out with two of my favorite people, Sara Megibow and Karen Hooper!
My trip was made possible by the photoshopping skills of the talented Megan Rebekah (I love that she added a pregnant belly!), and the photography skills of the lovely Tiffany Reisz. You girls are awesome. :)

I've been following all the RWA tweets and blogs all week and that has been ALMOST as fun as being there. It sounds amazing. I will make it there someday! Karen has had a bunch of great updates on her blog, so if you want the inside scoop you should check it out.

I looked at my summer word count yesterday and it's shockingly low. I've only written about 5000 words since June 1. Granted, it's been a crazy summer. I'm just hoping the quality is a little better than usual and that's why it's taking forever.

How has summer been for your writing? Are you more productive, less productive, or about the same during summer months?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sometimes Life is Tough

In June I decided July would be the month I would make stuff happen. I was going to finish my manuscript. I was going to enjoy awesome-summer-mommy-time with my kids. I was going to go to RWA and meet my amazing agent, hang out with some of my favorite people, and be surrounded by writers, agents, editors, and DISNEY WORLD for three whole days. July should have been the month I did all the things I wouldn't be able to do when baby #4 comes in October.

Alas, July had different plans for me. I got sick. A few weeks into the illness I was diagnosed with a nasty little pregnancy complication. All of my plans for July (and August and September) were put on hold or cancelled, (sniff...RWA...sniff), and I spent the month passed out on the couch while my kids watched brain-frying amounts of PBS. Good times.

The good news is I have a fantastic doctor and we feel like everything is going to be okay. I just need a lot of rest and the baby needs to stay healthy and delay his entry into the world for another 7-8 weeks.

Until then, (and probably for a month or two after), I'm sure my blog posts will be sporadic. I will promise to write about writing or reading or something sort of interesting when I do post.

I didn't read many blogs in July, (I hope to check in with everyone this week). I'm sure I've missed some things. What have you all been up to? Amazing vacations? Conferences? Agents? Book deals? Fill me in peeps.


Oh and if any of you are on Twitter you should check out my super cool agent, @SaraMegibow. She just started tweeting a few weeks ago and she's getting the hang of it now. Plus, I think she'll be tweeting from RWA next week, and if you can't go, aren't tweets the next best thing?

Monday, July 5, 2010

Another Visit From My Agent

Hey everybody! I'm still on my month-long blogging break but my lovely agent, Sara Megibow, offered to share some notes from last month's referral experiment and I knew you'd find them interesting. Enjoy!


Dear readers and writers -
Thank you for all the wonderful submissions referred by Natalie last month! I've had a delicious month reading romance, romance, romance! Just wanted to say thank you for all your hard work and for considering me in your agent hunt.

Here are the results:
I read 75 partials (still have a few in my database, but not many)
I asked for 3 fulls
if I sign any new clients, I will definitely let Natalie know


Of the partials that I read, there were three main reasons for passes - I thought I would share my notes in case it helps. These notes are not true of all submissions of course, but were more of a general observation.


1) stories that opened with dialogue in which the purpose of that dialogue was to "explain" the story to the reader:

ex. (and I am making this example up - it's not taken from any real submission)

Chapter 1
"Fred, how could you? You know that mom and dad sent us here to Wisconsin specifically so you could learn how to get along with others and stop fighting!"
"But Sally, I've just had such a hard time since mom's cancer and I don't like anyone here in Wisconsin anyway"

To me, this feels like an awkward way to introduce a story to the reader, so it was one reason why I passed on some partials.


2) occasionally, I saw examples of weak writing right up front. Yes, as an agent, I could "edit" this kind of thing. But, if I see it up front, then I'll gamble that it's throughout the book. An editor at a publishing house would pass on a book for weak writing and therefore so will I.

ex. (again, making this up)
James looked out across the mesa. James picked up his coffee cup and took a sip of the hot liquid. He didn't know what was next in life, but he felt overwhelmed. James felt like this a lot.

Obviously, no submission is perfect. But, if I saw too much of these kinds of mistakes (poor use of pronouns and "telling" the reader what James is feeling instead of showing us), then I would pass on the sample.


3) data dump. This is the number one reason that I pass on projects submitted to the agency in general. I know it's really hard to integrate backstory and get the reader "into" the story. But, editors will only read 30-50 pages before nixing a work, and that's how important those first 30-50 are. So, there is no room for datadump especially upfront.

ex. (again, not taken from anything specifically)
Gretchen was an only child and the last chance for the Duchess to produce an heir. She's been sent to boarding school, trained to perform, pampered, educated, pushed and prodded. And yet, she was 22 and single. Her mother was losing her patience and Gretchen was losing her confidence. Really, there was only another month until her 23rd birthday and her mother was insisting on throwing a big ball in an effort to attract suitors.


I hope my thoughts and notes are useful and I wish you all Happy Writing!
Sincerely,
Sara Megibow

Nelson Literary Agency


Good stuff, huh? I've struggled with all three of these things. My first manuscript was a lovely little story that began with a gigantic info dump. I did learn a lot from writing it though and I'm glad I didn't give up after the first attempt. Practice. Practice. Practice. The more we write the better we get!

I hope you all have a great July and I'll see you in August.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Are You Trying to Do Everything?

So most of you probably know that I'm pregnant. This is my fourth baby, so you'd think by now I'd know what I'm getting myself into, but I've got to admit, this pregnancy is kicking my patoot. I have never, ever been so tired. I could easily get 16 hours of sleep a day and still be a walking zombie.

But, despite the pregnancy, I'm trying to do a lot of things, like:

-Write a novel
-Potty-train a 2-year-old
-Keep my kids fed and clothed
-Harvest and weed my way too big vegetable garden
-Read 100 books this year
-Keep my house clean enough so the neighbors won't call social services
-Host birthday celebrations for the kids
-Blog and read blogs
-Dog-sit two barky, chewy, diggy monster dogs
-Take food to sick neighbors
-Beta read for friends
-Help my grandparents house hunt
-Take my kids to swim lessons, play groups, the park, etc. (when it's 90+ degrees outside)

It's a little too much--I'm not going to lie. I'm exhausted. I need rest.

So as of today, I've decided to let some things go. The garden WILL be weedy and there will be spinach that goes to seed and strawberries that get eaten by birds. The house WILL be messy, though hopefully not unsanitary. Sick neighbors WILL have to make their own food (or have it delivered by someone else). No more dog-sitting for the rest of the summer.

And blogging, oh blogging... I hate to do it, but I'm going to mostly unplug through the end of July. I'm writing a really fun little manuscript right now and I feel like I should focus any free time, that isn't used on sleep, on that. I will try to stay in touch through Twitter, so I hope you'll all check in there.

But, the good news is at the end of July I'm going to RWA in Orlando with my writing group girls Karen Hooper, Marie Devers, and Megan Rebekah. I'm also going to meet my agent, Sara Megibow, for the first time (I am so excited about this!). So come August I should have some really fun things to blog about.

Do you have too much going on? Do you ever have to pull back on commitments to keep your sanity?


Oh, and the final Critique a Week winner is Melissa! Melissa, I'll email you later today with details.

*As of Tuesday, June 29, Sara will no longer be accepting referrals from the blog post earlier this month. Thank you to everyone who sent queries and partials. Sara said she read some excellent queries and pages and even requested a few full manuscripts. She'll probably do another guest post soon--so there will be something on the blog in July :)--about what worked and what didn't. Thanks again!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Book Reviews: Love them or Hate them?

HAPPY FATHER'S DAY!!! I love that we have days to celebrate mothers and fathers. They deserve the extra recognition. My father is probably the most supportive person in my life. No matter what I attempt, he believes in me 100%.

My husband is the best dad ever to my kids. Plus, he's super hot and funny.
And he's really good at cleaning bathrooms, which is good too. I hope all you fathers have a great day, and I hope everyone will take some time to call your dads and tell them how great they are.

Now onto business. The winner of last week's 10 page critique is Sandy Shin! Sandy, I'll email you sometime today. Commenters today can be eligible for next week's critique. Just make sure to say you would like to win a critique in your comment and include an email address. If you want more info, this post explains everything.

Today I have some confessions to make. They're shocking. Don't hate me, okay?

I don't like book reviews.

I won't read them unless I've already read the book being reviewed. I don't like to know much about a book before I read it and I think almost all reviews, even the ones that claim they don't include spoilers, give too much away. I might skim for the sentences where the reviewer says whether or not s/he liked the book, but that's it.

Also, I don't read jacket copy for the same reason.

I choose my reading list based on buzz and personal recommendations. If I notice a lot of people are blogging about a certain book, I'll put it on my to-read list. If a friend with good taste in books recommends something, I'll probably read it. If I already love an author I will definitely pick up his or her latest book.

This means I am a lousy bookstore browser. When I go to a bookstore I have to have a list. I pick up the books I want, skim the first few pages to make sure they look good, and buy them. I usually don't know what they're about, and sometimes I don't even know the genre. (I recently read a book that I assumed from the cover would be YA fantasy--it wasn't. It was literary fiction. I loved it.)

I have a good friend who loves reading reviews. She likes to know a lot about a book before she decides to invest time in reading it and finds almost all of the books she reads through reviews. She wouldn't even consider reading a book without first knowing the basic plot.

Both of us read some books we love and both of us read some books we really don't like, so neither method is infallible, but they work for us.

So how about you? Do you like reviews? Where do you go when you need to add to your to-read list?

My agent Sara Megibow is still looking for romance writers. So if you write romance, romantic YA, fantasy, paranormal, sci-fi, etc. and are ready to query agents check out this post. I'm giving blog readers a referral!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Client Referrals and Critique a Week

First off, anyone who writes romance, romantic YA, fantasy, paranormal, sci-fi, etc. and who is ready to query agents needs to check out my last post. My agent Sara Megibow is looking for romance writers and I'm giving blog readers a referral.

Second, the winner of last week's 10 page critique is Tracy! Tracy, I'll email you sometime today. Commenters today can be eligible for next week's critique. Just make sure to say you would like to win a critique in your comment and include an email address. If you want more info, this post explains everything.

Since Sara's offer has created such a stir, I thought I'd write a little about client referrals, (or at least my experience with them).

What is a client referral?

Referrals are basically a recommendation from a client. I have given Sara 3 client referrals since I started working with her last fall. I only refer when:

1. I have read a full manuscript AND loved it
2. And I feel like the piece might be a good fit for her
3. And the writer is interested in being referred

(That probably gives you an idea of why this blog referral is so cool!)

Why would I want a referral?

The reason client referrals are desirable is that an agent is more likely to request material when a writer is referred. A referral gives a query letter a little more weight. If an agent is debating over whether or not to request a partial from a query letter a referral might be the deciding factor.

What happens after a partial (or full) is requested?

At this point the referred piece gets about the same consideration as any other requested material. The agent has to LOVE it and believe it's salable. The agent knows their client loved the manuscript, but unless the agent loves it too they can't offer representation.

So, in summary, referrals are cool. They can definitely help to get your writing (and not just your query letter) in front of an agent. But they aren't magic. In the end, the only thing that will get you an agent is a great book that an agent thinks she can sell.

But remember, just because one agent doesn't connect with your work doesn't mean another agent won't. There are hundreds of agents and it only takes one yes.

Have you ever been given a referral to an agent or editor? Was your experience similar to what I outlined or totally different? Agented authors: Have you ever referred writer friends to your agents?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

A Visit from My Agent Sara Megibow

*As of Tuesday, June 29, Sara will no longer be accepting referrals from this blog post. Thank you to everyone who sent queries and partials. Sara said she read some excellent queries and pages and even requested a few full manuscripts. She'll probably do another guest post soon about what worked and what didn't. Thanks again!

Well, I said I'd only be blogging once a week, but that was before I got an email from Sara with some news I knew you'd want to hear. I'll let her tell you all about it.


Dear Natalie's readers -

My name is Sara Megibow and I have the true honor of being the literary agent representing Natalie and her writing. It is my privilege to be working with such a talented, hard-working and passionate writer!

Natalie is being kind enough to allow me to post this message to all of you - thank you.

So, here goes...I am on the hunt for romance writers. If you have a completed romance novel of about 100,000 words, please send me a brief query letter before the end of June. Let the floodgates open - I really, really want to read your work!

The project must be complete, not represented by another agent and be in any sub-genre of romance except category or inspirational (yes, this includes young adult, fantasy with romantic elements, paranormal, etc). Email me at query (at) nelsonagency (dot) com with a note in the subject line saying "referred by Natalie's blog" and a 2-3 paragraph overview of the work in the body of the email. Yes include your website or blog address, no don't include sample pages, synopsis, headshot or attachments.

You can find out more about me and my tastes at www.publishersmarketplace.com/Members/SaraMegibow

and more about our agency at www.nelsonagency.com

Happy writing!

Sara

I hope you'll enjoy this little referral. If you have questions feel free to ask in the comments section.

*This just in: The 100,000 word guideline is for adult romance. YA should be quite a bit shorter.

**This offer will be good for at least a week or two, so there is no rush to submit today. :)

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Critique a Week

It's finally summer! The kids are out of school, the weather is warm, and I am getting quite humongous (I'm pregnant so this is sort of okay). It will be pretty busy having all three at home 24 hours a day, so I'm going to cut down my posting schedule to once a week (every Sunday). I'm hoping to do some cool things over the summer to make up for my infrequent posts.

During the month of June I want to give something back to my blogging writer friends. It's been so fun to beta read for friends during these last few months, and to see a few of them get agents and book deals. I thought it would be cool to get to know more of you through your writing, so I'm going to offer a ten page critique to one commenter every week.

This is how it will work.

-You must follow the blog and comment on this post to be eligible for this week's drawing. You'll have until next Saturday to do so.

-Tell me in your comment that you'd like to win a critique. Most weeks I'll probably write a real post about something writing related too, so people who don't want a critique can still comment on that and stay in touch. :)

-Next Sunday I will randomly choose one of this week's commenters to win.


A few things to consider:

-I will be nice but I'll also be 100% honest, because I don't think anything less will be helpful to you. If you can't take an honest critique you probably shouldn't enter.

-I write MG and a little YA. The only genres I've critiqued in the past are MG and YA, so if you write literary fiction or romance or thrillers or something I might not be the best person to critique your work, but you can still enter and I'll do my best.

-I won't be posting these critiques on the blog. They are just between you and me (and I'm nice, really), so you don't need to be nervous.

I hope this will be a fun little experiment.

I also want to say congratulations to my friend Thomas who just accepted an offer to publish his MG book! I hope you'll pop over to his blog and say congratulations too.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Jury Selection and Query Reading

I'm sorry I've been absent all week. It's the last week of school for the kids and got called into jury duty yesterday, and everyone is sick. So basically it's just a normal week and I have no excuse for not blogging. :)

Anyway, jury duty was a bit anticlimactic this time because I didn't get selected to be on the jury. I don't know if jury selection is the same in every state, but where I live they have 24 jurors go into the jury selection process. The lawyers have 1 hour to get that jury from 24 to 6.

They start by asking questions to weed out the people who might be crazy or have biases that would make it difficult for them to judge fairly. It's pretty easy to tell who these people are. When asked if they would have a problem trusting law enforcement testimony they say policemen are all out to get us. Or when they are asked about how they feel about children testifying they say that kids are stupid and unreliable and they don't think they could believe anything a kid says.

Then the prosecution and the defense get to exclude 3 jurors each just because the attorneys think they might be sympathetic to the other side. They could easily make a mistake at this point. They've only had an hour to get to know 24 people. They can't know everything about them. Maybe they excuse jurors who would have been on their side. The first 6 people not to be excluded have to/get to be on the jury.

Some of the people who are excused feel a little rejected. They are competent people. They didn't do anything wrong. But the judge reminded us that it wasn't personal. The lawyers were just doing their best to put together a jury that would be fair to both sides.

I was one of the very last jurors in the room so I knew I wouldn't get picked unless more than half of the people in the front two rows were crazy. So I had plenty of time to contemplate other things, like what it must be like to sort through queries looking for clients.

I think it must be a little like jury selection. The agent or assistant starts with way more authors than they could possibly represent. It's easy to do the first cut. There are many people who don't follow submission guidelines, there are a few crazies, and there are probably some letters that are so poorly written the agent knows the writer couldn't put together coherent novel. I'm guessing none of you fit into this category.

The second round is more difficult. The agent has to read each letter and decide if the the story being offered is something they would like to read AND something they can sell. They have to make guesses. They don't have unlimited time so they have to limit their requests to the works that are most promising. They miss the mark sometimes. They might reject a piece they would have enjoyed and they might request pages they don't care for at all. But they do their best.

Query rejections (and sometimes even partial and full rejections) are done quickly and I think writers need to remember that rejection isn't personal. It doesn't mean the agent hates our ideas, or our writing. It doesn't even mean they didn't like it. It just means that they had a lot of material to get through and our project wasn't the one that stood out.

Have you ever thought about what it must be like to read all those query letters?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Book Recommendations and Contests and Jury Duty, Oh My

There are A LOT of great contests going on right now, and there are two I'd like to bring to your attention. First off, my lovely writing group friend Megan Rebekah is having a 500 followers contest on her blog. She's got 3 books to choose from or A FULL MANUSCRIPT CRITIQUE. Trust me when I tell you, you want the critique (even though she's got some awesome books too). Megan is a fantastic beta. Her notes have made my stories SO MUCH BETTER.

Second, I'm sure you've heard about Elana Johnson's book deal giveaway extravaganza this week. It's been epic. There is still another day or two to enter to win one of her prize packages. They are all super cool (all of them include Girl Scout Cookies!), so you should go leave a comment there too.

So you all know I'm trying to read 100 books this year, right? The book count currently stands at 31 and the year is almost half over, so I may not make it (or I may need to start counting picture books!). But I have read several amazing books this year though and I thought you might want to know about the very best book I've read so far this year. The Help by Kathryn Stockett was amazing. I know it's a bestseller. I know many of you have already read it. But those of you who haven't need to pick it up.

And finally, I have jury duty next week. I think this is pretty unfair since I served on a jury just a few years ago and my husband has NEVER been called, but I'll smile do my civic duty. Anyway, because of Memorial Day and jury duty I may not be around much next week so I hope you all have a great week. May agent offers and book deals abound!

What's the best book you've read so far this year?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Finished!

I finished my first draft yesterday. YAY!!!

It is the slowest first draft I've ever written. It took me seven months to write 30,000 words. I was a little disheartened by this until I started thinking about these seven months.

The first two months were November and December (Thanksgiving and Christmas!)

During three of the months I had terrible morning (all day) sickness and sitting at the computer for longer than fifteen minutes wasn't really an option.

Two of the months were spent working on a different project.

So really, it wasn't THAT slow.

I've been trying to decide if I should jump right into revisions or let this manuscript simmer and write another one. I think I'm leaning toward the simmering option. After seven months I'm really anxious to write something new! And I have the perfect summer project in mind.

When you finish a first draft do you start revisions right away or do you set it aside and work on something else for a while?

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Influences


We've just wrapped up a huge family reunion. Thirty-five family members were in town and it was up to my mom, my sister-in-laws and me to shelter, feed, and entertain them for two days. We had a great time. I'm tired.

We did a lot of talking and during one of the family chats my cousin's boyfriend asked me what author influences my writing most.

That should be an easy question to answer, right? But I just stood there, for an awkward amount of time, trying to think of someone. I couldn't.

There are hundreds of authors who I admire. I would love to be able to write quirky stories like Roald Dahl, or laugh out loud funny scenes like Shannon Hale, or gorgeous prose like Markus Zusak. But I don't think I write like any of them.

When I first started writing I tried to mimic the voices of authors I loved, but the results weren't good. I probably wasn't good enough at writing to make it work. My words felt like a lame attempt to write like people who could write. It wasn't until I finally decided not to try so hard, just to tell a story in a voice that came naturally, that writing became fun.

Even though I don't have that one author I'm trying to emulate I hope that all of the books I've read influence the way I write. I've read some really great books. I hope they rub off on my writing, at least a bit.

How about you? Do you have one author who influences your writing more than anyone else?


And I just want to say congratulations to the beautiful and talented Elana Johnson who announced her book deal on Friday! If you don't know her, you should. Her blog is a must read for writers. Plus, she's super cool, and possibly the friendliest blogger out there.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Busy and Productive

This week has been a little insane. Kind of like last week! I think I was kind of nuts to think May would be LESS busy than June. My girls are finishing school and with that comes school programs, field trips, art projects, and assignments. And right now we're gearing up for a huge family reunion this weekend. It's going to be awesome, but people are staying at my house which means it has to be clean...

Anyway, despite the crazy week I've been able to get a lot done on my WIP.

Have you ever heard the saying that if you want something done you should ask the busiest person? The idea behind it is that busy people know how to manage their time.

I think there might be something to this. I know when I don't have much going on in my life I don't manage my time very well. I spend a lot of time online and waste time doing stuff I really don't need to do. But when life gets really crazy I HAVE TO figure out how to fit everything in and as a result I usually get more writing done and have a cleaner house, despite the added workload elsewhere. It's kind of cool actually. I do get overwhelmed by busy weeks sometimes (like last week!), but most of the time I'm pretty productive.

Have you noticed that you're more productive when you're busy? Or does too much to do overwhelm you?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The First Draft

It is a miracle, but I think I am going to beat my deadline by a week and get this first draft done by Friday.

Yep, that's right. It only took me 7 MONTHS to finish it. I know, I'm speedy.

I've realized some things about my first drafts that I thought I'd share.

1. The beginnings are always way better than the endings. This is because I am a compulsive revisor, so while the end is a true first draft the parts before have all been tinkered with and the beginning has been revised a lot.

2. My first drafts are always short. This one will only be about 30,000 words. This isn't too horrible because I write middle grade, but I know that the revision process will bump it up to about 40,000. I tend to write my stories with sparse detail and fill in the blanks later.

3. When I finish a first draft my first instinct is to trash the whole thing and start over. The idea of revising and rewriting is really overwhelming. A part of me (well most of me actually) just wants to start something new and never look at that mess again. Right now I have a shiny new idea that I can't wait to start on, so that doesn't help.

But I will get this one done! I plan to get the revision finished by the end of the summer (and get a good chunk of the shiny new story written too.) I don't know if this goal is reasonable with the kids being home all day, but I'm going to try.

What do your first drafts look like? Are they long or short? Messy or clean? Are you excited or terrified to dig into revisions?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The "Dream" Agent

Last week literary agent Kristin Nelson posted about agent submission etiquette, saying that when an author gets an offer of representation it's courteous to let all agents reading the full manuscript know that an offer has been made and give them a chance to offer as well.

I thought this was pretty common knowledge, but the comment section proved otherwise. Almost half of the commenters felt that an author should be able to take the first offer when it's given and just inform the other agents that the manuscript is no longer available. A few of the commenters made valid points, but most used this argument: If the first agent to offer is the author's "dream agent" then why should the author even talk to the other agents? It will just waste everyone's time.

How does one determine who their "dream agent" is?

I admit, I used the term when I was first querying. There were a few agents who had fantastic blogs that I'd read for months. They were cool. I liked them. Then there were a few agents who represented authors I loved. They were on my "dream agent" list too.

  • At the time I didn't have a subscription to Publishers Marketplace, so I didn't know about any of their sales histories, and I'd never met them in person or talked to them on the telephone.

  • I didn't know anything about their communication styles. Would they let me know what was happening with my submission every week or just when there was news or just when there was good news?

  • I had no idea if they were hands on editorially and I didn't know if they'd want a major rewrite or just a few edits.

  • When the project was ready I didn't know whether they would submit to 5 editors and be done or whether they would see the project through until every option was exhausted.

  • I didn't know how they'd feel if I got tired of writing MG and decided to write YA or picture books--would they still represent me?

I knew almost nothing about them, so how could I know they were my "dream agent?"

When Sara offered representation I asked her about all of these things and many more. Her answers fit with what I wanted in an agent. But one of the coolest things about Sara was that when she was done answering my questions she asked, "Do you have other fulls out right now?"
I told her I had two. She encouraged me to let both of them know I'd received an offer and give them a chance to respond.

I was so excited about her offer I would have jumped right into signing if she'd been pushy about it, but she wasn't. She told me that she loved my book and she really wanted to work with me, but I needed to make a decision I felt good about. In the end one of the other agents offered too. She was lovely and it was a difficult choice, but I felt like Sara was the right one for me.

Having choices is not a bad thing. You'll have to work with your agent for a long time. You should like him or her. You should work well together. You should know what to expect. How will you know if you've made the right choice if you go with the first person to ask you?

So yeah. There may be a good reason to accept the first offer you get, but an offer from a "dream agent" isn't that reason. When you all have agents fighting over you I hope you'll take the chance to talk to all of them, weigh their pros and cons, and make the choice that's right for you.

Do you have a "dream agent?" If he or she offered would you accept on the spot or would you talk to other interested agents first?

For the agented: What are the things you love about your agent that you never would have known before you talked to them?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Thwarted

I was doing great until 2 days ago. Then life decided now was NOT the time to write 1000 words a day.

There was some pregnancy exhaustion, made worse by the fact that my daughter spilled a gallon of milk on the carpet, which meant I have to clean the whole house so the carpet cleaners can come and rescue our noses from the rotten milk smell.

Then there was that dinner I had to take to a sick neighbor, and the activity I'm in charge of coordinating for 15 girls and their moms at my church tonight, and the clay projects for my daughter's kindergarten class that need to be glazed ASAP. Oh and my grandma's 90th birthday this Saturday. But the icing on the cake happened a few minutes ago when my two-year-old threw up. Yeah. Life just got a little nuts.

Writing probably needs to take a back seat for a few days. I'm still going to meet my May 31 deadline, I just might need to cut myself some slack for the next few days.

Do your goals get thwarted sometimes?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

How Are Those Goals Coming?

Last week I decided that I'm going to finish my first draft by May 31. I planned to write 1000 words a day in order to reach this goal. I am happy to report that I am doing well! I've written 1000 words everyday (or caught up on words I missed) and I'm right on target to finish by the 31st.

I haven't written this consistently for almost a year so it's been a challenge, but I'm liking the results. I've been surprised that it's easier to sit down at the computer and write now that I know I have to meet my goal. Also I've been pleased to find that the story is coming along nicely and doesn't feel forced.

I've never been good with daily writing requirements, but I'm starting to think I just haven't tried hard enough to make it work before now.

Have you ever tried to write a certain amount every day? Was it hard or did you get used to it after a while? How are your goals going?

Sunday, May 9, 2010

For Mothers and People who have Mothers

Before I was a mom, I thought I knew what I was getting into. And I did, sort of.

I knew there would be nights of interrupted sleep. I just didn't realize I'd have them EVERY NIGHT for the next 6 years (and counting).

I knew I'd have to clean up occasional accidents. I just didn't realize there would come a time when I would clean 3 or 4 A DAY.

I knew my kids would want to play. I just didn't realize that sometimes the ONLY way to play is to dump every toy they own onto the family room carpet and cover the mess with couch cushions and every last blanket, towel and sheet from the linen closet.

I knew they would have to eat, and I hoped that eventually they'd learn to feed themselves. I just didn't realize this milestone would come with new messes (like blueberry yogurt all over the carpet).

I knew I would love my children. I just didn't realize I'd love them more than ANYTHING else in the world.

I'm so grateful for my wonderful mom and I'm so grateful to be a mom. My family is everything to me. Writing is a fun thing I do when I have a few minutes to myself, but it isn't my focus.

One of the reasons I've made so little writing progress these past few months is that I'm pregnant. I was terribly sick for a few months and it was hard to do anything more than feed and clothe myself and my kids. But it will be worth it! Now I'm feeling good and my life should be fairly normal until the new baby comes next fall.

To all of you mothers out there HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY! And to everyone else, HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY TO YOUR MOMS! They've raised beautiful, imaginative, talented children. You should thank them.

Friday, May 7, 2010

What We Can Do

I've mentioned before that I get overwhelmed when I see news coverage about natural disasters. I feel helpless. I know I can't fly down to Haiti and feed hungry children suffering after the earthquake. I can't do anything to staunch the flow of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. And I can't go to Nashville and put my arms around the people who have lost their family members, homes, and livelihood.

But, I can give money. Even if it isn't a lot.

There are some fantastic opportunities right now to share with people effected by these disasters. I'm sure you've heard about the Do the Write Thing for Nashville Auction raising money for flood relief. You can bid on agent critiques and phone calls, editor critiques, books, and so much more. It's a great opportunity to get professional feedback AND help out people in need.

And if there's nothing at the auction that interests you, there are hundreds of other ways to give (just make sure to only donate to legitimate charities!). I hope you'll do something if you can.