The Writing Process...tag; I'm it.
Thanks Jamie Rae for tagging me in the Writing Process Blog Tour.
Jamie is one of those cool people who does a little bit of everything and does all of it well. She's a great writer and her book, Call Sign, Karma will be released in 2015. I am lucky enough to call her my critique partner and friend. She's got incredible insight into what makes a story work, which is why her writing is so strong. You can find Jamie on
Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, and also the following websites:
Jamie Rae Writes
Okay. Onto my own process...if you can call it that.
1. What are you working on?
Currently, I am outlining another novel connected to Angel's Lake, Minnesota, the fictional town I created for Forever Christmas, A Not so Lonely Christmas, and Falling for Home. Also, I just finished developmental edits on a medical romance titled, Dangerous Love, that I co-authored. Soon I'll be working on the next round of edits for that. It comes out in March 2015.
2. How does my work differ from others in the genre?
Hmm. I think my work is a combination of styles. It's not just romance, it's not just happily ever after-- it's a look at how hard it is sometimes to get to happily ever after and how, when you get there, it's not always what you envisioned, but somehow it's exactly what you want.
3. Why do I write what I write?
Because I'm addicted to happily ever after and "awww" moments. I re read all my favourite parts in books constantly. It's what I enjoy reading and it's what comes to mind when I start to write.
4. How does my individual writing process work?
The word process suggests something with organization. I'm not sure that I have an actual process. I read a lot. I get ideas. I then text the ideas to my BFF who tells me if the idea is ridiculous, overdone, has potential, or could go somewhere. I message with my friend and CP who is constantly supportive of everything, but also helpful and good at guiding me. Then I write. I write exceptionally fast when I have the ideas in my head. On average, it takes me a couple of months to write a book that I know where it's going. It's a bit longer if I'm struggling on the plot. I'm getting better at planning, though I do this more when I'm stuck on whether an idea actually has enough ability to grow into a novel. In writing, there's two labels: plotter and pantser. I am both. This reflects my personality as I find it hard to make decisions and am frequently on the fence about many things. When I'm writing, or awake, I have diet Pepsi close by. On average, during a writing session, I answer 3, 234 questions from my children who will suddenly need my attention when my computer is open. I always have Twitter and Facebook open, which is why I don't get more done. And I do most of my writing at the kitchen table. That's it. Not really a process, but that's how I roll.
Now...onto the others. First, I am tagging my co-author Kara Leigh Miller
Kara Leigh Miller is an author, an editor, and, to me, a great sounding board. I met her when she ran a contest through her website. The winner would co-author a book with her, a medical drama, and that book would be published by Anaiah Press, where she is a Managing Editor. Yes, I won. This is how I know, first hand, that she is a great writer, a patient co-author, and a very funny person. She's also a mentor in this years PitchWars! You can find Kara on Facebook, Twitter, and on her website. She has not yet succumbed to Pinterest but, eventually, she will fall prey to that as well. You can find out more about Kara's books on her website: Kick Start Your Heart Romance.
Up second is the lovely Joanne Macgregor.
Joanne is a both an adult and young adult author. I connected with her some time ago and found that she is so easy to talk to, so sweet, and charming, that it's impossible not to want to be friends with her. Recently, she's been promoting her psychological thriller, Dark Whispers. She has five young adult books out, including one titled: Harry on the Couch: A psychologist's reading of Harry Potter. You can find Joanne on Facebook, Twitter, and on her website.
For my third tag, a connection made through PitchWars, Jodie Andrefski
I chose to tag Jodie for several reasons (after I asked her, which probably seemed a little weird to her since I'd just "met" her): we have the same name (spelled differently), she loves dessert (that's my main food group), and she's a SPN fan (which I'm trying to not be too much of a scaredy cat to watch). The main reason, though, was because I'd connected with her through PitchWars and it reminded me how great the Twitter writing community is. She put up one of her #firstlines on Twitter and it was awesome. I commented and thus the mutual following began. Twitter is a great place to connect with others who share your interests, goals, and obsessions. Jodie is a Young Adult writer, as well as an intern at Entangled Publishing. You can find her on her website-- awesomely named 2000 Words, and on Twitter.
Some of the best books you'll read are not out yet, written by authors you don't yet know, but one day will. Now it's their turn. Thank you for participating ladies.
I told myself I wouldn't enter anymore contests. I was done with this route, even though I've enjoyed them. The roads we travel have a funny way of leading us where we're meant to be-- or we just tell ourselves this so it feels okay to end up where we do. I didn't enter #PitchWars last year (though I did participate in Pitmad) so I didn't really know what it was all about. You can click the link above if you'd like to find out. Basically, it's an amazing opportunity to work with a mentor-- someone who knows the ropes and wants to help you strengthen your writing (your writing that has already been edited and revised--so not your first draft) and take it to a higher level. Today, on Twitter, I saw people asking, why a mentor would give their time? I knew the answer even before reading the many replies. The writing community on Twitter is amazing. I've said before that I've never known another industry where the "competition" is also your strongest support. These people want to see you succeed. When one person does, others are genuinely happy for them. It's an amazing thing to be a part of and the fact that the mentors are willing to give that back, is not surprising to me. This is just one way I've seen the writing community give back over the last two years that I've been part of it but there are endless examples from Street Teams to giving reviews to just giving you a boost when you need one. The organization and time that goes into these things is huge---if you haven't thanked Brenda Drake for providing these opportunities, you should. I always think that we're very lucky to live in an age where so much is at our fingertips. Because of that, and because I want to share too, as others have shared with me, I'm posting some links to the sites I'll be hanging out on while I pour over my manuscript obsessively to make sure it's perfectly ready to pitch. Good luck to everyone.
Writing tips at novelicious.com I just found this site via Facebook and Twitter but I like the tips and tricks.
Brenda Drake's website will be visited frequently because it gives all the details, plus has the link to all the mentors. Click those links and check out their sites. For real. Who better to tell you what they want than the mentors themselves?
A friend once sent me a small guide with excellent tips on how to go through your manuscript. It was from this fantastic and helpful site: Inspiration for Writers
I already saw this on Twitter today but this is a link to the site that helped me write my synopsis
Honestly, one of the most helpful things to do is visit sites of writers you respect. Most of them have blogs, tips, advice. Some of my favorite helpful sites are: Daily Dahlia (obviously) Jody Hedlund, Lauren Spieller, and Ava Jae
And if you still have questions, concerns, worries, or wonders, it is not as scary as you think to reach out to anyone involved and just ask. In addition to being rather funny and charming, the people you'll meet are extremely nice. Just like one of us. ;)
Not going to lie...some days it's really hard to stay positive. There are some days that it is much harder to remind yourself of the good, pick yourself back up, tell yourself that everything will be okay. It doesn't matter what you do for a living, what you hope to achieve, the path is not always easy and some days, it seems entirely too rough. On those days, I'm inclined to stay in my bed, re-read the best parts of my favorite books, and have my children bring me diet Pepsi in bed. And waffles. Fortunately, along with the waffles and pop, my children provide perspective. While checking Pinterest today, I found the above three quotes, sent from my oldest daughter, with a note that said, "Don't give up, you'll get there. I know it." So. There's that. And for today, that's enough to hold onto.
sub·jec·tiv·i·ty [suhb-jek-tiv-i-tee] noun, plural sub·jec·tiv·i·ties for 2. 1. the state or quality of being subjective; subjectiveness. 2. a subjective thought or idea. 3. intentness on internal thoughts. 4. internal reality.
I never know how much to say about anything because sometimes you learn lessons too late, after you've already made mistakes and I don't like the idea of wrecking something for myself before it even happens. Every rejection letter that you get probably has some variation of the phrase "please continue to send your work out as my opinion is subjective". You try really hard to believe that; to tell yourself, it's just not right for that agent. Sometimes though, it's hard to keep going when that subjective opinion seems to be shared by more than a couple. It's important during the times that you feel like this to reach out to the people that will push you forward. Also, to remind yourself why you write. You also have to keep telling yourself that it really, really, truly, absolutely IS subjective. Even though I let myself believe otherwise last week, here's a look at my week to show you how I was reminded.
Monday: a kind letter from an agent saying that I write well but she didn't connect. Okay, I can handle that. I can focus on the "you write well".
Tuesday: a "your work isn't right for us" letter. Okay. Fine. Played on Facebook, connected with writer friends to remind myself that this industry is subjective. Was asked to do a review by someone I respect immensely. Okay. Because I can write. Right?
Wednesday morning: a "thank you for submitting to us but your work isn't what we're looking for" response to an email I sent YESTERDAY. Wow. Okay. Um. Maybe I need a new hobby? Or I can just read. All the time.
Wednesday evening: letter in the mail (like in an envelope and everything) from Blue Mountain Cards. The letter told me that one of the poems I had written had been chosen ("among hundreds") to move onto the next stage.
Moral? It really is a subjective industry. Overwhelmingly so. What can you do? If it matters to you, keep going. Keep writing. Connect with other writers because they have the same stories that you do. If you want it bad enough, you have to keep pushing ahead. Remind yourself of what you have done. Write it down and look at it so that the next time you wonder if you don't understand the meaning of subjective, you can read over this list of achievements and feel good. Because regardless of anything else, if you're writing, if you're connecting with other writers and improving, learning to be better, becoming better, then you are succeeding. And eventually, that persistence is going to serve you well.
As part of the release for Dahlia's novel, Behind the Scenes, she has asked that we share a little peek at what "behind the scenes" looks like for us, as writers. Every writer is different, not just in style and voice, but in how they plot and plan, the space they work in, maybe even the time frames they write in. For me, writing is a little like breathing; it tends to happen while I'm in the middle of doing everything else. I've heard rumors that some writers have a space for themselves in their homes where they go to write all the words. In my mind, these dreamy spaces have shelves full of books, a comfy chair at a beautiful desk, Maroon 5 and Matchbox 20 on shuffle and a door that CLOSES. In reality, however, my writing space looks like this:
What do you see? A lovely surface, yes. But it's my kitchen table. While there's nothing wrong with that, at all (I totally love my kitchen table), I can assure you, there are no doors that close the space off and give privacy or quiet. I've got a diet Pepsi beside me at all times. After 4 p.m. I switch to water. But diet Pepsi is my coffee, tea, whatever others drink to provide sanity and clear eyes. You'll note the little blue chair in the background. That's where my eight year old is supposed to sit and keep herself busy while mommy writes. My eleven year old is an avid writer as well and she works on the computer downstairs. However, my eight year old just piles her stuff on her workspace and, instead, shares mine. Sometimes I can put in ear buds so I have the music going, but this does lend itself to a lot of shoulder tapping to get my attention. Most of the books I'm surrounded by belong to my daughters, as mine are mostly on my kindle. And they're not on shelves-- almost everywhere, except shelves. Still, in the last two years, I've written Forever Christmas, A Not So Lonely Christmas, Damaged, Dangerous Love, and Falling For Home. So something is working. Maybe I'm just one of those people that thrives in chaos, though I really don't think I do. But I don't mind one bit typing away to the sounds of my daughters laughing, another episode of Good Luck Charlie, the dogs playing, my husband watching TV (sometimes the Good Luck Charlie episode that is on) or any other sound that says I am in my own home, surrounded by the people I love most, doing what I love to do. Whatever your space, whatever your method, if it works, why change it? Though, this doesn't mean I would turn down a beautiful office with patio doors opening onto a gorgeous terrace overlooking a lake. But for now, I'll make do with the kitchen table command station.
A couple of fun facts to amuse you and possibly embarrass myself:
1. My husband often walks into the room and asks if I'm okay because I am making odd faces at the computer. He says that I actually move my lips as though I am speaking the dialogue I am typing.
2. I rub my feet together constantly when I am sitting. I don't mean to. I don't know why. It's weird and I stop myself when I realize I'm doing it. Then I start again.
3. My daughters find it very funny when they look over my shoulder now and again and see the "F" word. They get a funny look on their faces and giggle.
and now for the Behind the Scenes you came for, let me tell you about Dahlia Adler's new book
High school senior Ally Duncan's best friend may be the Vanessa Park - star of TV's hottest new teen drama - but Ally's not interested in following in her BFF's Hollywood footsteps. In fact, the only thing Ally’s ever really wanted is to go to Columbia and study abroad in Paris. But when her father's mounting medical bills threaten to stop her dream in its tracks, Ally nabs a position as Van's on-set assistant to get the cash she needs.
Spending the extra time with Van turns out to be fun, and getting to know her sexy co-star Liam is an added bonus. But when the actors’ publicist arranges for Van and Liam to “date” for the tabloids just after he and Ally share their first kiss, Ally will have to decide exactly what role she's capable of playing in their world of make believe. If she can't play by Hollywood's rules, she may lose her best friend, her dream future, and her first shot at love.
Doesn't it sound awesome!!!!!!!!?
You can find it on Goodreads, Amazon, B&N, The Book Depository, and Indiebound just by clicking on the links provided.
Visit Dahlia's website
The fine print
I am in no way an expert on anything...like anything at all. But I have learned a few things in the last couple of years that I wish I had known when I started thinking I wanted to get an agent or publish a book. Most of the things I've learned seem like common sense, but surprisingly, in the excitement of getting recognition for something that is so personal, we often forget what we know is just good etiquette. Along with that, I've fallen into a few 'things' that I've been fortunate enough to have far smarter people than I help me navigate my way through. So here's a pieces of not-advice-but-something-like-it from someone who is still finding their way.
If you wouldn't say it to someone's face, why would you say it online? You would absolutely think that this is just an accepted truth. However, the internet gives us a certain anonymity (or so we THINK) and there are times when people type before they think. Don't do that.
The only way you get better is by listening to the advice of others. Not everyone, but someone. You have to choose a tribe of people that you trust. That you know want what's best for you, will be honest with you, and can handle you at your worst. If you have people like that, who will read your writing and be brutally honest, with the best of intentions, then trust them. At least enough to truly consider what they're saying.
No agent is better than the wrong agent. This one sucks but it's true. These people are entering a relationship with you. Would you go into a bad relationship, JUST to be in one? There was a time I would have said yes, but as you get older, you learn to care more about your own well-being, Writing is no different. You want someone to be your champion and I am completely convinced (most days) that the right agent is going to be worth the wait.
As in life, envy gets you nowhere. It's easy to be jealous when you hear an announcement from other writers or from agents you stalk- I mean follow. But the thing is, you don't know their story. You don't know how hard their fight to get to where they are was and most of all, if they got there, then they probably had some pretty phenomenal writing. It's too hard to get somewhere in this world if your writing doesn't rise above. So they deserve it and it doesn't make you deserve it less. And, their success doesn't lessen your chances or your talent.
Go with your own style. I've been trying my hand at plotting and it just doesn't work well for me. For the co-authored book I'm working on, yes. But for my own writing, I just can't do it. At least not yet. I like to get lost in my writing and having to plan it all out first, throws me off track. I can always go back and edit and make plot points along the way. As much as I hate the term, I'm a pantser at heart. That's not right or wrong. It's just what works for me.
There's more. There's always more. But that's it for now. Nothing we do is foolproof. There's no list or step by step manual to succeed. There are things you can do to make the ride smoother but basically, you have to do what you should be doing in your life: be who you are, to the best of your ability and hope that good things come to those who wait...politely.
Y'all ready for this?
Tuesday is release day. Unless I mess it up somehow, which is entirely possible. This morning and last night I was instant messaging with my critique partners about writing, confidence, and audience. Basically, we decided that it shouldn't matter what others think if you've written a book you can be proud of, that told the story you wanted to, and that you're happy with. I feel that way about Forever Christmas and the people that I care about, that matter, really love the book. So, why does the thought of pressing "Save & Publish" make my stomach feel like I 've eaten too many advent chocolates? As one critique partner said, WE'VE WRITTEN BOOKS! Not everyone can say that. They can say they want to, they're going to, and they have the best idea ever but how many people sit down and actually write 40,000-80,000 words that mesh together to create a story? As it turns out, A LOT! Maybe not a lot in my circle of friends, but when you join the online writing community via social media, you realize how many books are being written, how many people are 'authors'.
So what makes an author? Surprisingly, there's nothing in the definition of the word author that says 'one who is published'. I think that when you're surrounding yourself with writers, agents and contests, you lose sight of what matters. It's not just about being published. It's not just about the praise of random strangers. It's about starting something AND finishing it. It's about feeling good that you've created something, whether one person or a million read it. The other day my daughter said something to me and I responded with a partial quote (cause our house is like that: we spout quotes and break into song at any given moment). She was worrying about someone recognizing her for something. The quote I shared with her is below and I meant it when I said it. It's not about what you're recognized for, but that feels at odds with doing something that you know begs recognition. I guess that's why we told our critique partner this morning that it has to be for ourselves. We have to make decisions based on what we want for ourselves and not for how others will see us. We need to put our best selves out there if we're going to do it, but in the end, it's not about the applause. So while I hope that many people will enjoy Forever Christmas, I need to remember, even if only my closest friends read it, that it wasn't about sales or praise. It's about sharing something that I'm proud of; something that reminds me, and maybe you, of the point of this season and this life: having people in your life that love and support you no matter what. And if all else fails, I'll just try to remember that: I WROTE A BOOK!
Life vs Twitter
I used to spend time on Facebook. Then it was Pinterest. Now, it's all about Twitter. My best friend had a great status when she started Twitter: Twitter is my new Pinterest which was my new Facebook. I like Twitter. At the moment, I like it a lot because in 'real life' my husband is playing air guitar to Guns and Roses so it's probably better to be looking at the computer screen. I thought I'd see how my life compares to Twitter overall. I couldn't do a fancy Venn diagram like I'd make my students do at school because I don't know how to do that on Twitter, my website, or in real life.
What's your favourite form of social media and why?
The difference a year makes
This time last year, we were just returning from California. We visited Disneyland and had the best trip...EVER. While there, we met up with friends and I told them that I was attending a writer's conference in October. I said that I was getting to sit down with an agent and an author to share some of my work. They said to let them know how that all worked out. September came and went in a blur, much like this one will, and in October, I attended that conference. If you've read my blog before, you know I ended up signing with an agent for my picture book: The Princess and the Please. Signing with an agent was like a catalyst for me. I had always been "a writer". But after a professional said, "I like your work enough to sign you", ideas and words exploded. Since that time, I've written 3 more picture books, a young adult novel, 2 full length novels, and a novella. That wouldn't have happened, at least not at this point in my life I don't think, if I hadn't gone to the conference last year.
Since then, I've also amicably parted ways with the agent, met a wide network of absolutely lovely, helpful people that I wish I knew in real life, not just on Twitter. I've grown stronger as a writer, listening to and accepting feedback. I've learned how to write a proper query letter, a synopsis, and what a chore editing can be. I've learned to pitch my work in 35 words, I've had requests for pages, partials, and fulls. I've received multiple rejections and learned to take the advice in them (if they had any). I learned what CP (critique partner) means and I have one. I'm even hosting a give away for the re-release of Jessa Russo's book EVER. I've become a part of an amazing writing community and learned that it's okay that I'm not yet published or still agented. I always say I started in the middle and got put back at the starting line.
In October, I'm attending a writing conference. This time, I'll have a better idea of what I'm doing so there'll be no flukes or luck. When I sit down with an agent this time, I'll know what I want and be offering them my best writing. In the last year, I've also learned that my heart lies in contemporary romance, though picture books are great fun. It'll be very interesting to see what this year brings.
Keep anxious and carry on
Keep Calm and anything doesn't really suit my nature. I mean it when I reply to people who tell me, inanely, to 'relax' that "this is me relaxed". My brain works on overdrive all the time. A situation that would bring a few questions to mind for most people, generates hundreds of questions in my head. So, as you might guess, waiting patiently is not my thing. I think maybe, in some alternate universe where I try to see the good side, having to wait for answers about my writing is a good thing for me. I'm slowly learning that everything does not need to happen RIGHT NOW. My friend sent me a beautiful quote that, oddly enough, did making me relax a little.
I always feel like I just have this short window of opportunity to start and complete something but this a self-imposed window. I box myself in by creating deadlines or telling myself that I have something to prove. This works against you in writing. There is no time limit here and this needs to be remembered. Also, it's true when you're told that this is a subjective business. So far, for my current query, I've had a few "it's not right for me" but "perhaps another agent", rejection letters. It is hard to have someone turn down something that matters to you. In fact, I sent my best friend and husband a text earlier this week that said something along the lines of:
I don't want to do this anymore. I can't keep sending my work out there.
I, with my inability to WAIT for anything, got a little down when I entered a very cool pitch contest on Brenda Drake's website and had no immediate responses. I felt that if I got some requests, I should keep going, but if I didn't, I should take a break. Here's the important thing though: I can't take a break from writing. The words and characters won't stop forming in my head so, in the end, whether I get published or not, if my work is requested or not, it's part of who I am. Keep calm? I have to write to do that. I have a tendency to obsess and need immediate results. This is not a good combo in the writing world. Fortunately, I have a strong support system that is used to me, ignores my defeatest texts, tells me to take a breath and doesn't mock me, too much, when I send a follow up text about an hour later that reads:
Disregard last text. Just got a request. Still bring pop, please.
Actually, I got three requests from the "Pitch Party" and I am thrilled and excited and feel like I'm starting at the bottom of the roller coaster, again. However, I think it was a good little learning curve for me because it reinforced what I've already said: you have to write for you. It's where your best writing comes from. You have to be willing to listen and accept feedback and critiques AND rejection. If you decide to pursue the path to being published, you have to be willing to move forward, fight for it, get your writing out there and understand that it is a subjective business. It's like anything in life, I suppose, you have to really want it and the harder it is to get, the more you'll appreciate it when the good moments come.