Monday, August 30, 2010

THE HUNGER GAMES Has Arrived: Blog Silence, Please

The Hunger Games  HAS ARRIVED.



Late Nights and Good Books: Hunger Games & Paranormalcy

Oh boy! I bet you wish you were me. I'm currently reading

 An Abundance of Katherines
An Abundance of Katherines

and tomorrow, a magic mail carrier will bring THESE to my doorstep:

The Hunger GamesCatching Fire (The Second Book of the Hunger Games)Mockingjay (The Final Book of The Hunger Games)
The Hunger Games                           Catching Fire                                 Mockingjay

And I'll get to devour them for the first time, all in a row--no excruciating wait while the publishers get things together. Buwahahaha!!

As if that weren't enough!! Guess what's coming out in a few days (that's also going to appear magically at my door)!!

If you're having trouble, check my sidebar, dudes. It's RIGHT. THERE. Has been for months now. It's...

**drum roll**


Despite the ferocious popularity of the dystopian trilogy above, I'm the most excited about Paranormalcy by Kiersten White. I've already glimpsed the first seventy pages per the publisher's website. And now I really, really, really want to know how it ends.

These amazing books are bad for one thing: SLEEP.

I'm not getting much lately, and I can't blame it on my kids (who are angelically sleeping through the night in a shared bedroom these days, thank you very much). No. It's my own fault. Or maybe I should blame the purveyors of awesome themselves: authors.

The other thing keeping me up at night is--if possible--even more exciting! The upcoming launch of Operation Awesome. I'd be remiss if I didn't remind you that this explosive event will take place in two days. September first, here we come!

Get your Nutella ready.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

How to Be Popular by Meg Cabot: My Review

Confession: When I was in fourth grade, my family moved. I immediately latched onto a group of (very nice) girls I admired and wanted to have as friends. They liked a boy, we'll call him Steve. Or one of them liked him. I'm not sure anymore. My shame is not only in pretending to like him, too, but in telling him I did...just to impress these girls. For the next near decade, Steve and his friends made me miserable whenever we happened to be in the same space. Pathetic, right? I am Steph Landry.

How to Be Popular

by Meg Cabot

From the flap:
Do you want to be popular?
Everyone wants to be popular—or at least, Stephanie Landry does. Steph's been the least popular girl in her class since a certain cherry Super Big Gulp catastrophe five years earlier.
Does being popular matter?
It matters a lot—to Steph. That's why this year, she has a plan to get in with the It Crowd in no time flat. She's got a secret weapon: an old book called—what else?—How to Be Popular.
All Steph has to do is follow the instructions in The Book, and soon she'll be partying with the popular kids (including school quarterback Mark Finley) instead of sitting on The Hill Saturday nights, stargazing with her nerdy best pal Becca, and even nerdier Jason (now kind of hot, but still).
But don't forget the most important thing about popularity!
It's easy to become popular. What isn't so easy? Staying that way.

My thoughts:

This is the book I wish I'd read in high, scratch that. Elementary school. It really does tell the reader how to be popular, but not in a naive, things-your-well-meaning-mom-says-to-you-that-don't-actually-help sort of way. The voice is totally genuine to high school, and the way Meg Cabot lends that realism to the high school scene without being explicitly crass is masterful. This parent approves, and I'm certain teenagers will continue to relate to Steph Landry, even as pop culture evolves past some of her references.

Someone on twitter positively compared the voices of Kiersten White and Meg Cabot, and I definitely see a wonderful similarity. They are both fun, in-the-moment, and witty in a sarcastic, universally teen way. I look forward to hunting down the rest of Meg Cabot's books, just as I plan to devour Paranormalcy in its entirety (when it finally arrives--gah!). The YA world needs more authors with Meg's skill for authentic emotion, matched with a voice that doesn't take everything too seriously.

I'm not always dazzled by contemporary fiction. In fact, it has to be pretty impressive for me to enjoy a story without shiny magical beings or devices. Meg Cabot is an author who brings an impressive element of magic to contemporary YA. The magic is in new experiences, lots of kissing and fireworks, and devastating social situations. When you affect a reader's heart rate, you've succeeded as an author. Not that Meg needs me to add my heartbeat to the millions she's affected already, but add another tally, anyway. I loved this story.

Friday, August 27, 2010

And the Countdown to Launch Begins...

You've probably already heard about it from Lindsay (aka Isabella) on her lovely blog. Or maybe you've seen the ominous tweets. (Okay, those two words just do not go together. Twitter, you couldn't think of a scarier word for 140-character remarks?)

Back to the suspense.

You've probably heard about it from Lindsay (aka Isabella) on her lovely blog. Or maybe you've seen the ominous remarks in 140 characters or less.

But nothing could prepare you for.

*high pitched thriller noises* Dun. Dun. Dun. Dun. Dun!


That's right. Operation Awesome is coming. You can't stop it.

Might as well embrace it.

I'm seeing mysterious contests and not-so-mysterious literary rock star interviews in your future.

But only if you follow along at Operation Awesome.

I am such a dork. But you really will love it! Check it out!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Revisiting the scene of pain (or The Devil in the Details)

Has anybody ever ACTUALLY slipped on one of these?

Remember when I lost that fight with the sidewalk and then waxed philosophical about how living life makes us better writers?

Today, after revisiting the brutal sandy sidewalk which taught me that lesson, I had another epiphany:

Details matter.

You see, from a distance, the sidewalk next to the sand pit (it really can't be called a sand box when it's surrounded by concrete that dips a foot or more down) is, well, sandy.

But when you look closely, you'll see that some spots are more well-endowed than others. (Get your mind out of the gutter. I mean there are spots with more sand.)

Had I been watching for details, I would have seen the mini-puddle of sand that tripped me up.

Or that tiny plot hole that even my beta readers missed.

The devil's in the details. Paying attention is crucial.

My critique group, Operation Awesome, has really helped me come to this epiphany. Special thanks to Angela Townsend, whose delightfully detailed writing is always a pleasure to read, for taking the time to explain the importance of details.

Dust on his boots. Twirling her chronically straight hair. The faint smell of honeysuckle on his fingers. Her errant curiosity about his toilet paper preferences.

These are what make character and setting (both things in my manuscript that need fleshing out). When I first wrote Now Untitled Because Nobody Understood the Title, I just wanted to get the story out in the most authentic, quirky voice my main character could muster. I purposely went light on the details so I wouldn't fall into my old trap of telling too much. I believe rambling is what killed my third novel (the literary scifi fantasy in first person). But in my haste and earnest desire to keep it simple, I deprived readers of the experience. 

I read for the experience. I want to taste and feel and see the world my fictional friends must navigate. I want to see a new person at school through their eyes. I want to understand what they're feeling by the twitches and shrugs and, yes, even the sighs.

So today I'm going through the manuscript again and adding. (I can do this because I skimped on the several drafts, and cut words, too.) I'm adding physical responses, mental interiority, setting descriptions, and side-character quirks to make what I still believe to be a great story into a visual, four-dimensional delight.     

Someday, I hope to share it with you. Until then, have fun writing!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

One day in summer school (I was humiliated)

One day in jr. high summer school, I strolled reluctantly toward class, and stopped midstride. What was this? A crisp new dollar bill. What a lovely omen on an over-air-conditioned, stuck-inside-in-July day! As I bent over to retrieve it, my shirt peeled up my back, flashing my lilly-white skin. I reached behind with one hand to pull the shirt back down, and moved to grab the dollar bill with the other. 

A strong gust of wind blew along the ground, moving the paper--but, curiously, not my hair. I only chased it a few times before I noticed the boys with the invisible string laughing on the bricks nearby.

I can now tell this story without going beet red. Time lessens the shame of being duped, but you never really forget how it feels to be laughed at. Umm, especially if it happens in junior high.

Today, Nathan Bransford noted a common discussion on the writerly blogosphere about agents poking fun at real queries online. I've personally had a change of heart about this (in this post I link to slushpile hell and call mocking hilarious).

After reading his ever-polite words
"And, just FYI, my personal policy that I will never ever make fun of a query that is sent to me, nor will I quote from one without your permission. Query freely."
and the comments, I immediately thought of this episode with the dollar bill. I don't know why. It has nothing to do with the common dream of being a published career author. I guess it has to do with doing something wrong and not knowing you're doing something wrong.

It's the reason society as a whole frowns on mocking those who are mentally challenged. Americans, especially, are supposed to root for the underdog. It's in our DNA, right? After all, we were once the underdog, relying on the French to give us a leg up in our revolution.

So it's just ungrateful not to pay it forward by standing up for the underdog whenever it's in our power (which it almost always is). What does this have to do with poking fun at queries?

I guess my point is that writers--all of us--are kind of the underdog, even if we're published. Why? Because we have the least amount of power along the publishing chain (unless you self-publish, but even then you have a distinct disadvantage on the distribution end). And because more than anybody else working on a book, we put our heart and soul into every page. (Agents and editors are hardworking purveyors of awesome, but that's not what this particular post is about.)

Every published author I've met (we're talking about cyber-meeting here; I'm not THAT connected), remembers what it was like to be in the real slush pile hell. It wasn't usually funny. Maybe once or twice when an agent sent them a rejection letter with the wrong name--okay, no, not even then.

A sense of humor is necessary to survive as a writer today. I believe that.

But you know what? Even if junior-high-me had started laughing with those mean boys with the fake dollar bill and their dastardly invisible string, they would still have been laughing AT me, not with me.

I know agents and interns are swamped, and I sympathize. This is just the system currently in place, and it's frustrating on both ends. Because of that, I personally love to hear (read) the happy stories. Queries that work! Authors whose hard work and smart research pay off when they inspire a great agent to sell their stories.

As for cranky-pants people who make fun just to make fun, stop taunting me with the fake dollar bill! (Okay, I'm over it. Really, I promise.)

Educate, yes! By all means. I love my group of literary geniuses on twitter --Please, keep posting #queryslam and #queries in the spirit of education. From following along, I learn about agent preferences, the market, and what not to do in a query. Hold your bad query contests (also fun and harmless, since we're laughing at ourselves).

I only hope that this discussion spurs us all to kinder thoughts. One thing I love about writing is that it's not a dog-eat-dog business (always a gross thought). We can all help each other toward our goals of publication, of reaching our audience, of making a difference through our words. Wow, I sound idealistic. But I've seen it happen when people cooperate, collaborate, co-all that stuff. Stay tuned in the coming weeks for proof.

Some exciting things are going to be happening with Operation Awesome in the next month. Don't hold your breath! But do stay tuned. And follow OpAwesome6 on twitter for teasers--I mean announcements.

As always, have fun writing.       

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Time to Cave and Read Hunger Games!

I'm feeling a little left out today. There's been a moment of blog silence in the writing/reader blogosphere for the release of Suzanne Collins' final book in the Hunger Games trilogy...

Mockingjay (The Final Book of The Hunger Games)

Why haven't I read Hunger Games yet? Humm....

I'm afraid of the dark.
There it is. I said it.
I need comic relief. Need it! "Relief" is the operative word. I can handle a bit of darkness, a bit of dystopia. In fact, I crave it. Without conflict, there's no catharsis.

So when I first heard about Hunger Games, my first thought (which later became a pleading question) was is there any humor in it?

Over and over again, the response I got was, "Well, it's pretty dark, but it's so good!"

Finally, today I got the answer I wanted. "Yeah! Not much, but there's some humor," followed up by, "It may be hard for you to read, but you'll care about the characters."

Well, I've finally decided to read it. I am still afraid of the dark, but I can't resist the cry of lovable characters. It's what keeps me watching a TV series long after the writing has gone bad and the plot caput. It's what made Twilight what it is and, apparently, Hunger Games as well.

So with some trepidation I go...wish me luck. I'll leave the nightlight on.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Keeping it real with fiction (also, my fight with concrete)

Me to the concrete at the local playground: I like my skin just where it is, thank you.
Concrete back to me: Too bad, suckah!

Have you ever fallen so hard that it wasn't even embarrassing because you were too preoccupied with the pain? Don't try to write an adventure, thriller, or YA book if you haven't. You have to know pain to write in these genres. Genuine, catch-you-off-guard, hit-you-in-the-gut, scrape-off-your-favorite-layer-of-skin PAIN.

Last month I tried to start a YA book about an adrenaline junkie. I loved my character. He was everything you would not expect from a headrush addict, but it just wasn't quite working. I've been skydiving, rock-climbing, four-wheeling (without a helmet), and wake-boarding. I've been on a runaway mule (yes, I just said runaway mule. don't laugh. it's terrifying.). I know about adrenaline. I know about thrills. But I'm careful (usually) and I'm lucky.

As a person who uses a static line to jump from airplanes and a harness every time I rock-climb, I was ill qualified to write about PAIN...

until yesterday.

Yesterday, I was grinding rails at the local skate part. Scratch that. I already confessed to it being a playground. And there was no skateboard. There was just me in my white and yellow Skechers on a sandy sidewalk. So actually:

I was playing with my 3-yr-old son, springing into a sprint on the sandbox sidewalk, when BAM! There was no way to describe my downward strike. I had time to think, What the heck just happened? and then I was lying with my arms under me, the ripping sting of tiny rocks embedded in my flesh. And a moment later, HUT! I'd lost my wind. It was nausea and suffocation both at once. I rolled over, my arms stiff with shock. I still couldn't breathe when my husband reached me.

"What hurts the most?" he asked me.

"Wind," I huffed, gaining enough breath for just one word. He told me his plan and then packed the kids into the car while I lay on the ground, revolving around electric pain as healing blood rushed to my wounds. My breath returned. The sting kept thumping with my heartbeat. I knew I would be fine.

My poor kids. Our park date came to a sudden end.

This is nothing like the injuries incurred by a thrill-seeker. And of course I've had far worse. Childbirth comes to mind (if you want to get closer to death than you've ever been before).

But I don't think I've had the wind knocked clear out of me since I was eleven, when I bruised my ribs over Danny-boy's head during a trampoline catastrophe. I'm absolutely positive I wouldn't have been able to write about it accurately before yesterday's accident.

My point? We need to experience life in order to write about it. Romances written by people who only dream of love are red apples in a green barrel. Readers know.

I'm not suggesting you go out looking for pain, heartache, and criminal opportunities (I'm pretty sure Ally Carter doesn't run heists in her spare time). I'm suggesting that you keep writing while taking time to LIVE.

Life happens when you leave the notebook/computer/charcoal at home and think about other things. It happens whether you plan for it or not, but more often when you don't. But it won't happen in front of a screen. So get up right now....

and you shouldn't be able to read the end of this sentence.

That's a good reader. Good luck!    

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Drowning in a Sea of Words

Aivazovsky, Ivan - The Ninth Wave

Oh, but what a way to go!

I've been uber-busy. Hence the lack of daily posts. So to my dear readers (there are 33 of you now! I'm so honored!) I must apologize. I promise I've been doing good things with my time and now I will share them with you:

  • Writing for other people (generally causing a ruckus). I recently joined a collaborative blog you simply must check out. It's The Best Damn Creative Writing Blog...Period. I try to write fun, thoughtful pieces for them, but my latest ended up spurring quite the discussion in the comments. No matter how busy you are, you should always take time for a ruckus! Also, I recently wrote my first reader's report (summing up the strengths and weaknesses of someone else's MS in a page and a half), definitely an educational experience!
  • Reading other people's pre-published work. I've mentioned this before and it is a fabulous use of anyone's time! You learn from others' beautiful prose as well as from their mistakes--or things that just don't jive with you as a reader. It's something like watching other people's kids. It teaches you what you DON'T want your kids to be like, if you can help it. (Unless you're watching your perfect neighbor's kids, in which case you are taking notes like mad!)
  • Reading  published novels. Oh the joy of it. These are the words in which I could blissfully drown, relishing every moment of their suffocating....Okay, that metaphor isn't working for me anymore. But if you're a bibliophile like me, then reading is the way you relax. For my hubz, it's curling up on the couch or in bed and flipping on old seasons of Scrubs. He could quote JD and Turk all day long. ("Do you see what you get when you mess with the warrior?!") For me, it's the next book in The Immortals series, or Pride and Prejudice for the hundredth time. I can open that book up to the middle and get trapped in Austen's world. Same with any of the Twilight books. Riveting social conflicts! 
  • Writing my own stuff: I'm working on an urban fantasy for YA that is definitely fresh, though I can't vouch for the writing yet. I'm 25% through the first draft. I'm sure it will take a few drafts before I can justifiably call it a masterpiece (maybe not even then).
  • Raising a family. This is one thing that cannot drop from my priorities, no matter what happens, because childhood only happens once per person. And babyhood is as fleeting as Spring flowers, as every poet knows. My 3yo is now 3 and a HALF! My baby is almost a year old, and walking all over the place. Between reading/writing lessons for the former and care and feeding of the latter, I'm very lucky to have any time at all for my favorite self-indulgences (see above).   
As you can see, I've been drowning in a sea of words, and loving every minute of it. Even though I've been busy, I've still thoroughly enjoyed reading other people's blogs. I learn so much from you guys--and am extremely entertained in the process. 

Thank you for reading, but thank you even more for writing! Keep it up! The world needs your unique view!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Difference Between Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Fiction

From WriteOnCon live chat with Andrea Laughran of Andrea Brown Lit, we have: The Difference Between UF and Paranormal!
(the world makes sense at last!)

Wednesday August 11, 2010 8:21 
Hiya Jenn! I'm popping in at the tail end, but if this question squeaks through I'd LOVE to hear your thoughts! In your opinion, what are the differences between YA UF and YA paranormal?
Wednesday August 11, 2010 8:21 
Wednesday August 11, 2010 8:21 
oh does that mean urban fantasy?
Wednesday August 11, 2010 8:22 
Jamie Harrington: 
urban fantasy
Wednesday August 11, 2010 8:22 
Jamie Harrington: 
Wednesday August 11, 2010 8:22 
I think so
Wednesday August 11, 2010 8:22 
I don't know, Authoress. They are kinda interchangable to me. I guess I consider fantasy to be more a made up world, urban fantasy to be a made up world IN AN CITY, and paranormal to be more phenomena in this world.  Like for example, demented fairies roaming around in the subway shooting drugs and putting spells on people, is urban fantasy.  Some psychic chicks in a boarding school is paranormal.

A huge, all-caps THANK YOU to Jennifer Laughran of Andrea Brown Literary for answering a question that's been plaguing the writing community for generations. (Hyperbole intended)

Check out her blog for more literary brilliance!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Nathan Bransford and the Blog that Just Keeps Giving

I don't think I've ever read a post on his blog that wasn't

a) hilarious
b) helpful
c) brilliant
d) relevant

And now, I will post the link that inspired this bloglove: Do You Suffer From One of These Writing Maladies?

I laughed all the way through. And I also decided I wouldn't want Nathan to represent me. Writers shouldn't be jealous of the way their agents string words together. It's just wrong.

Ripple by Mandy Hubbard: New COVER!!

Mandy Hubbard has a new book in the works. It's not out yet. YOU WISH just did come out, though, if you'd like a taste of her wonderful writing! (She also wrote PRADA & PREJUDICE, which looks adorable!)

And now she's giving us:

I know, right?

Here's the blurb, which makes her come-hither-stay-away stare perfectly understandable:

Eighteen year old Lexi is cursed--by  day, she's just like every other teen at Lincoln CIty High. But from dusk until dawn, she's forced to swim and sing, a modern day siren. At sixteen, her voice became a deadly lure, and Steven-- the only boy she's ever loved-- followed her straight into the story surf and drowned.

Now, Lexi spends her nights at a forgotten lake up in the mountains, where she can swim and sing in peace. She's become an ice queen, forced to keep everyone around her at arm's length in order to protect them. 

That is, until Cole comes to town. Cole, with his dark good looks and prying questions. She can't seem to keep him away, and she's no longer sure she wants to. But how can she let him in when it can only end in his death?

Coming in August, 2011, from Razorbill/Penguin!
Are you excited yet? :-)

I am.

WriteOnCon is Live!! (and free, people. free!)

If you've managed to miss the widget to the side of this blog counting down the days to WriteOnCon, I'm posting a reminder:


Sorry for yelling, but this is seriously epic! You simply must drop everything and check it out right now.

Try the main site, but if that doesn't work (too much traffic, methinks), skip on over to Elana Johnson's blog where all the vlogs and articles are being posted until the site gets running again.

When the site DOES get up and running, simply register for free to take part in the forums, critiques, and chats. I'm very excited. Can you tell?

Monday, August 9, 2010

SOULLESS by Gail Carriger: My Review

There's a new rising star in the steampunk genre, and her name is Gail Carriger. You've likely heard me talking about her book, Soulless, for the past month or so, calling it "Jane Austen meets Buffy". Her voice and characters truly are delightful! Fans of Austen, Victorian London, alternate histories, the supernatural, and steampunk will all find something to love in the Parasol Protectorate series, as it is called.

Summary (from the book jacket)

Alexia Tarabotti is labouring under a great many social tribulations. First, she has no soul. Second, she's a spinster whose father is both Italian and dead. Third, she was rudely attacked by a vampire, breaking all standards of social etiquette. 

Where to go from there? From bad to worse apparently, for Alexia accidentally kills the vampire - and then the appalling Lord Maccon (loud, messy, gorgeous, and werewolf) is sent by Queen Victoria to investigate. 

With unexpected vampires appearing and expected vampires disappearing, everyone seems to believe Alexia responsible. Can she figure out what is actually happening to London's high society? Will her soulless ability to negate supernatural powers prove useful or just plain embarrassing? Finally, who is the real enemy, and do they have treacle tart?

In an interview at the back of my e-copy, Gail Carriger said:
 "If immortals were mucking about, wouldn't they have been mucking about for a very long time? A speculation arose: what if all those strange and unexplainable bends in history were the result of supernatural interference? At which point I asked myself, what's the weirdest most eccentric historical phenomenon of them all? Answer: the Great British Empire. Clearly, one tiny little island could only conquer half the known world with supernatural aid. Those absurd Victorian manners and ridiculous fashions were obviously dictated by vampires. And, without a doubt, the British army regimental system functioned on werewolf pack dynamics."

Don't you just love her already? Well, pick up Soulless, and it will be clinched. Her debut novel is extraordinarily well-written, tightly plotted, and humorous. And I'm not the only one who thinks so! Check out this review from a man! A man!

I found the main character charming and flabbergasting, much as Lord Maccon finds her, coincidentally. She's not overly feminine, which is part of her charm. She's more interested in treacle tart than she ought to be, for one. She carries a silver-tipped parasol for another. And finally, she insists upon reading all the latest scientific thought, making her much too educated for her mother's liking. The flabbergasting part is how insecure she is about her attractiveness. In a way, I suppose it's charming, too. But I was ready to shake her near the end when she was still unsure of the main man's amorous feelings for her.

In the end.... No, I'm not going to give away the end. And I must warn you that reading the summary blurb on Book the Second of the Parasol Protectorate series will give away a very important plot point from Book the First. So don't do it. You will want to enjoy every delicious second of hairy, sweaty, supernatural suspense.

*Warning to parents: not a YA novel. Sexy scenes imminent.

If you need further encouragement to buy the book, check out this fanmade book trailer.

Web Launch: The Best Damn Creative Writing Blog

It's finally up!!

The Best Damn Creative Writing Blog has moved to its own server, to make room for all the traffic they'll be getting under the new format. It's interactive! That's right. You can register a username and participate in discussions on every topic under the literary sun.
The Best Damn Creative Writing Blog is an informative, fast-casual news site featuring industry news, essays, interviews, and book commentary. At the BDCWB, we are committed to empowering writers in all stages of their craft. We are relevant. We are accessible. We are interesting. And we are here to preserve the printed word.
These people are professionals with...ahem...impeccable taste.

I have to say that because they're running one of my articles. Check it out:

Lists: Even Pantsers Use Them

and remember when they gave me an award for Best #Dearpublisher tweet?

But even before I got involved, it was clear this unique web site for writers is a class act. Just look at their Who We Are page! It pretty much sums up the innovative spirit and booklove bent that goes into everything they do.

So if you're getting excited to read and participate, I recommend you first stop by the Headlines page! So much literary goodness in one place!

And while you're at it, follow them on twitter for literary news and commentary of the day: @BDCWB  

See you there!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

More Gushing About Operation Awesome

I love my critique group! 

So far, I've received feedback from three of my five group members on my first twenty pages, and already I feel more confident about my WIP! This is a big deal because I was totally discouraged about it not a week ago.

The fabulous thing about their feedback is that it's so individual. I had to laugh at one point when one person suggested I cut a phrase that another person absolutely loved. Having both their perspectives at the same time really helped me to understand my own work better.

I could see how it was being received in general (where they agreed) and which parts would be loved/hated depending on the reader. For the latter, I go with my gut instincts. For the former, I happily revise according to their consensus. And it makes my book better.

If you haven't found yourselves a critique group, I highly recommend putting one together yourself. Chat up one of your favorite twitterer-writers, or connect with somebody in a writing forum ( or The worst you have to fear is that they'll say no thanks. But once you find somebody you click with (preferably who writes in your genre, too), you will wonder how you got along without them!

Okay, I'm off to write my work in progress.

Stay tuned for news about our new collaborative Operation Awesome blog. It's going to be epic.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

You Want Me to Change WHAT?

We all know how important it is to accept criticism of our work gracefully. After all, readers, critique partners, and agents are only trying to help us make our book the best it can be. We're all in this business because we love story! So why is it so hard to accept criticism? I think there are a few reasons:

  • Deep down, what we really want when we share our work is for people to say it's perfect, because that would mean that WE'RE perfect, which is perfect. 
  • Sometimes criticism is simply a matter of opinion. Therefore, it's easy to extrapolate that out to: all criticism is wrong opinion!
  • We have an idea of what we're willing to change in our story (the protagonist's favorite color, a side character's foreign accent, the sequence of events leading up to the climax). When someone dares to suggest we change anything BEYOND that, it's horrifying. What?! You want me to change the point of view? The tense? The climax? The age--and therefore entire setting--of my characters? 
NO!! cries the inner delicate flower that is our writing soul. Say it ain't so!!

But it is so. That's why we submitted the book for critique in the first place. We knew there were imperfections that needed weeding out. We even guessed there might be structural problems. We just weren't sure how to fix them. That's where the critical reader came into the picture with advice we weren't quite ready to receive.

Did we shoot the messenger?

Today I vow to make a greater effort to accept literary criticism with grace and appreciation, with an eye toward improving the story at all costs--even if it means rewriting the whole darn thing! 

And above all, I will not shoot the messenger!

Want to join my e-pact? You don't need to sign your name. Just whisper the above vow to yourself (or say it in your head if your cat is giving you a look). Nobody will know but you. And you're the only one who needs to.    

Monday, August 2, 2010

Hash tag #16YrOldMemoir: Justin Bieber vs. You

Whose 16-year-old memoir would be cooler? Yours or Justin Bieber's?

Did you know Justin Bieber is publishing a memoir with HarperCollins? True story.

Now you can write yours, too, in 140 characters or fewer. Have fun! Here's mine:

@katrinalantznov Lifeguarding. Taking the ACT. Starting a swing-dancing club. Reading about all the far-away potential colleges. Dating. My#16YrOldMemoir