Thursday, April 29, 2010

Someone You Ought to Meet

I've been doing a lot of beta reading this last month. I think I've read from 5 different manuscripts. I still don't feel like I'm a very good beta reader, but I've definitely getting some practice.

A few days ago I got a note from a friend I read for last fall. I also read a different novel for her last summer and it was the first piece I had ever beta read. I had no idea what I was doing either time, but she claimed my notes were helpful, and she was writing to tell me SHE SIGNED WITH AN AGENT!!! I love hearing great news! She is a writer who really deserves this, and I'm thrilled for her.

I won't give too much away about her story or her agent because you can go check it out on her brand new blog. I hope you'll stop by and say congratulations.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Work in Progress

When we bought our house a couple years ago we liked the house, but what really sold us on the deal was the HUGE garden area hidden behind a hedge in the back yard. My husband and I imagined what we could do with the space and we dreamed BIG. We'd transform the dirt patch into a garden worthy of the Martha Stewart catalogue-- raised beds, stone walkways filled in with Irish moss, mini fruit trees in giant pots, and a fountain to add ambiance. It was going to be awesome.

Two years later it is not awesome... yet. We've started the raised beds. My husband spent half the summer carting giant stones for the walkway and only finished about a third of it. The moss doesn't really like growing between the stones, but weeds LOVE it.

So now mostly we have a giant weed patch with some pretty rectangular structures filled with vegetables in the middle. I know it's a work in progress and it's better than what we started with, but most days all I can see are the weeds.

This is kind of how I feel about my manuscript right now. I haven't even finished the first draft yet, but all the imperfections are driving me crazy. I just have to remind myself that my last one felt like this too. Writing, like creating the perfect garden, just takes time. I need to finish it before I move on to massive revisions.

Maybe in a year I'll have another finished book AND a garden that would make Martha Stewart proud. Or maybe just another finished book.

Do the weeds slow down your writing process or are you able to forget about them until after the first draft is done?

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Writing is Rewriting

"Writing is rewriting. A writer must learn to deepen characters, trim writing, intensify scenes. To fall in love with a first draft to the point where one cannot change it is to greatly enhance the prospects of never publishing." ~Richard North Patterson


"Books aren't written--they're rewritten. Including your own. It is one of the hardest things to accept, especially after the seventh rewrite hasn't quite done it." ~Michael Crichton

Um, yes. That's really all I have to say today.

Do you want to have your work published someday? Does your story need another rewrite? Mine does.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Are E-readers Really the Greenest Option?

First off, Happy Earth Day! My six-year-old has been looking forward to Earth Day all month and she's insisting that she use every bit of trash we create today to do an Earth Day art project (I think she got the idea from PBS). I want to do my part too, so my post today is about the environmental impact of books in their various forms.

I've been thinking about buying a Kindle or a Nook or an iPad for a while, but I've wondered if this cool new technology is really as green as it appears to be.

I did some research and unfortunately there don't seem to be any concrete answers. From what I've read, purchasing an e-reader could leave an equivalent carbon footprint to anywhere from 15 to 100 real books. That's kind of a big discrepancy.

The best break down I read was in a NY times article entitled How Green is My iPad? The authors describe e-reader and paper book footprints in 5 steps: materials, manufacture, transportation, reading, and disposal. It was fascinating. You need to read it.

My other concern is that I might buy more books than I do now if I had an e-reader, just because it's so easy to click a button and download. I usually buy one or two books a month. I try to limit my book consumption to new releases that I HAVE to read ASAP and books that I already love and want in my home library, so my family can enjoy them too. Most other books I try to get from the library. I wonder if an e-reader would make it so easy to get a book that I'd end up buying things I would never read again.

Also, if I stay on my current book buying schedule it would take me 5 or 6 years to purchase 100 books. It's likely that the technology will be so old by then that it will be time to upgrade to a new e-reader anyway.

So, I think I'm still a real book girl for the time being. I feel pretty good about real books and I think it's awesome that more and more books are being printed on recycled paper, using soy based inks (these are very landfill friendly, though I always wonder, who throws their books away?). Plus, I love the feel of a real book in my hands. I'll probably cave in and buy an e-reader someday, but not yet.

For those of you with Kindles, iPads, Nooks, etc., was environmental impact something you thought about when you purchased your e-reader? Has your e-book consumption been enough to offset the opportunity cost of buying real books? For the rest of you, is e-reader greenness a factor in whether or not you will buy one in the future?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Meeting Writer Friends in Person

I had the opportunity to meet a writing friend over the weekend and it was so fun. Sarah Skilton was in town and we got to have dinner together and chat about writing, reading, and the road to publication.

I live in a place where there are not a lot of writers (or at least not any writers I know). I'm so jealous of some of you with great local writing communities. It must be amazing to get together and talk about writing on a regular basis.

Don't get me wrong, I have GREAT writing friends. They just all happen to live on the other side of the country, so we basically only communicate through email.

I think there's something to be said for being able to meet and talk to other writers face to face. In an hour Sarah and I were able to cover every topic from recent reads to submission experiences. It was wonderful to chat with someone who is doing the same things I'm doing. I came away feeling energized and excited about writing.

This is the main reason I think every writer should consider going to a conference. I don't know about you, but I tend to get lost in my little bubble. I get busy with the kids, cleaning, running errands, blogging and writing and I lose sight of the big picture. I forget that behind those blogs there are REAL people--people who love writing and books as much as I do. Meeting other writers in person brings it all home. We are not alone in this. We may type away on our computers all by ourselves everyday, but there are thousands of other people who know what it's like. They "get" us in ways our friends and family probably don't.

Have any of you met writer friends in person? What have you gained from those experiences?

Monday, April 19, 2010

And the Winners Are...

Terri Tiffany, Aik and Roni!!! YAY for you! I'll email to get addresses and I'll try to get you're books in the mail ASAP.

Thank you to all of you who entered, blogged, tweeted, etc. You rock.

I'll have another book giveaway in two weeks as part of Elana Johnson's "National Hug an Author Day." It's going to be May 3 and lots of people will be giving away books that day. Stay tuned for more information.

I'm back to my regular blogging schedule now, so I'll see you Wednesday!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Come on Down and Win a Book!

I'm back from blog vacation! I've missed everyone, and I apologize for how absent I've been for the last few months. I'm ready to jump back in to the blog world and I thought I'd start with something fun.

One year ago today I sent the first query for my middle grade novel, Underground.

So to celebrate one year of being serious about my writing, returning to blogging after a month long hiatus, and having more than 200 supporters on the blog and on Twitter I've decided to give some books away.

Since I'm a bad decision maker, and I don't want to continue agonizing over what books might appeal to all of my blog readers, I've decided to leave it up to you.

So this is how it will work.

1. Tell me in the comments what book you've been dying to read and/or own. (I don't have access to any awesome ARCs, so make sure it's been released, okay?)

2. Follow this blog

3. Tweet or blog about this giveaway and tell me in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry

Do this before Sunday, April 18th at midnight EST. On Monday, April 19 I will randomly select 3 winners announce them on the blog and send them the book they chose.

That's it. Easy peasy right?

I'd also like to say thank you to all of you who follow, read and comment here. I've been amazed at how supportive this community has been since I started blogging 7 months ago. You make it fun--thanks for that. I look forward to catching up with everyone over the next few weeks.

*Yes it is open internationally! If you win I'll send you the book of your choice whether you live in Ohio or Australia.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Why You Need Beta Readers

I'm not quite ready to come out of blog hibernation, but I wanted to say hello to everyone because it's been WEEKS. I've been reading some blogs but not commenting much, and I feel really out of the loop. Does anyone have exciting news they want to share?

So my question for today is: do you use beta readers?

I've been wondering how many of you take advantage of this WONDERFUL resource, because during my break I've been rewriting. And rewriting. And rewriting some more.

After weeks of rewriting my manuscript stops looking like that story I thought was so fun and starts looking like a bunch of random words I threw together so I could make it to 40,000 words.

That's when I send the manuscript to my betas. They've only read it once or twice, so to them it doesn't look like a jumble of words, it looks like a book. They can see the places where it needs work and sometimes they can even help me figure out how to fix the problems. Their critiques are awesome and invaluable. I learn something different from every one of them. And while I don't take every little bit of advice they give me, I do use a most of it. They make me a better writer.

But that's not all they do.

They also let me read their manuscripts, and in some ways I learn more from reading their brilliant work, than I do from reading their comments on mine. I'm pretty sure I have some future bestsellers and award-winners among my beta group, seriously.

I know not everyone has this kind of experience. I've read horror stories about beta readers who are unhelpful, overly critical, or just rude. I know I'm lucky that I found my girls before they were snatched up by other writers in need of awesome betas. But here is the thing-- you can be lucky too if you try.

Post an invite on your blog. Trade manuscripts with a few different people and find the ones that you click with. These people will get your writing and you will enjoy reading theirs. There might be some people who don't work for you as beta readers. That's okay too. Just keep looking until you find someone (or several someones) who are perfect for you.

Their might be some genius writers out there who can make a book perfect all by themselves, but I'm not one of them and I'm willing to bet most of us could improve

Do you have beta readers? Do you need to get a few?