A BLOG FOR READERS AND AUTHORS OF MTV BOOKS
Monday, November 30, 2009
Saturday, November 28, 2009
When I'm not under contract, when I'm writing something on spec and hoping an editor will buy it later--which happens to me a LOT--it's much easier to get derailed by one negative opinion. But I've been through this enough times by now that I know how to deal with it.
First, to echo what many people have said here, I lean on my writing friends--my local writer's group, Southern Magic; my critique partners, Victoria Dahl and Catherine Chant; and other authors like Barb Ferrer, Erin Downing, Niki Burnham and Marley Gibson, who are always willing to read a manuscript for me or just listen to me rant. Writers are a little crazy, in case you have not figured this out yet, and nobody really understands us except other writers, who understand completely.
Second, I read how-to-write-a-book books for inspiration. A lot of writers hate how-to-write-a-book books but I love them, and they certainly got me out of my funk last spring. Click here to review that particularly gruesome episode of wallowing.
Finally, I go back to the manuscript in question, the one I'm having trouble finishing, and I make sure it's the book I want to read. Writers are readers first, and if my books aren't the most delicious novels I personally have ever read, or at least pretty darn close, imho I'm not doing it right.
Just a reminder...
Next Saturday, December 5, I'll be signing books in the Birmingham area along with authors of adult romance Christy Reece, Debra Webb, and Peggy Webb, so these would be terrific events to drag your mom to. We'll be at the Books-A-Million in Fultondale from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., and the Books-A-Million at Brookwood Mall in Mountain Brook/Homewood from 3 to 5 p.m. I realized belatedly that the latter signing is during the #2 Alabama vs. #1 Florida SEC Championship slugfest. If you're not a football fan, come out and see us. If you are a football fan, come see us during halftime and tell us the score.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
When I'm feeling blah, funky, or uninspired I turn to the members of my writing group. Sharelle, Eileen, and Becky are the first to hear about my writing issues because (1) they let me whine as much as I need to, and (2) they know how to cheer me up. If my plot hits a dead end or my characters are dead boring, my writing group helps me brainstorm my way out of trouble. They also tell me in the kindest possible way that my “great” story idea isn’t going to cut it. (Sometimes they don’t say a word; their expressions of pity get the point across.) Whether I need a shoulder, a hug, or the occasional kick in the arse Jenny mentioned in her blog, I can count on them.
My other motivators are the same “people” who cause me the most trouble—my characters. They might let me go without writing for a few days, maybe a week. But when their patience runs out, they stalk me. Their favorite tactic is to wait until I’m in bed with my eyes closed, almost asleep. Then they camp out in the semi-conscious part of my brain and start talking. Pulling the covers over my head just makes their voices louder. They’re not satisfied until I drag myself out of bed, boot up my computer, and write down every word they’re saying. After they’ve wormed their way back into my head, there's no stopping them. They talk while I’m running and lifting weights and walking the dogs and so on. And, just like that, I’m in their clutches again.
Which, as it turns out, isn’t such a bad place to be.
Friday, November 20, 2009
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Um, write a blog about motivation for starters! Procrastinate a lot! This means checking email, feeling a sudden urge to clean out a drawer or sharpener a stack of pencils. More laundry, sure, bring it on! Then after a period of time, guilt sets in and I actually miss writing. However, at that time of the day, I’m most likely tied up with carpools, homework or baby chasing. So the next time I sit down in a funk, I remind myself that writing time is precious and I better get to work. That usually helps because after I get going, I don’t want to stop.
On a bigger scale, conferences are a great motivator. Hearing an awesome speaker can really get me back in the groove, especially if it’s someone I’ve admired for a long time, like the time Judy Blume was the keynote speaker at our local SCBWI conference. Also, hanging out with fellow authors at conferences allows us to talk shop and I think that’s vital to regenerating the writing spirit.
I’m also lucky to have a local critique group where I can share a chapter or two at a time of whatever novel I’m working on. Just reading and discussing a chapter gives my mind the boost it needs to move on with the manuscript. In addition, reading a great book is helpful. It makes me fall in love with writing all over again.
Reflection is another motivator. I go to bed thinking how lucky I am that I’m doing something that I love—writing books. I think about how each moment I spend with the book that I’m working on is such a pleasure.
When I’m in a particularly slow spot in a book, I find that daily word goals help. These mini goals provide me with a sense of accomplishment. Often I go over my daily goal but just knowing that I can stop helps to keep me going.
And when all else fails, dig out the chocolate! I often say, WILL WORK FOR CHOCOLATE! Okay, now that I’m done with this blog, I better get back to working on my current manuscript. So now I want to know, what are your tricks for staying motivated?
Monday, November 16, 2009
Friday, November 13, 2009
Lately I’ve started saying no.
There are a couple of reasons for this. One is that I just don’t have time. I’m in a twilight zone (or purgatory, depending on your perspective) where I have requests to write more books, but I haven’t quit my “real” job. My normal life chugs along as usual, including work deadlines in addition to book deadlines. And every time I need to find child care so I can speak to a group after school hours, it takes a village.
The other reason is that I hate making public appearances! I have a good time while I’m there, but the fear and anticipation leading up to the event nearly kill me. I know a lot of authors love to meet readers and make speeches. From the way our “Events” sidebar looks occasionally, I’d guess Stephanie is one of these. My own writers’ group just hosted Anne Stuart, who strolled up to the podium in a quilted kimono and sneakers, gave a hilarious speech until she discovered she’d lost the last few pages, and ad-libbed the rest without a single shudder. I’ve even met some folks, children’s authors especially, who seem to make a living from their school appearances rather than their books themselves. I do not understand these people. I want to shake them and scream “YOU ARE AN AUTHOR! AREN’T YOU INTROVERTED? ISN’T THAT WHY YOU SIT AT HOME BY YOURSELF AND WRITE BOOKS? HAVE YOU GONE MAD???”
Having said that, I have a couple of appearances coming up in the Birmingham area. My writers’ group, Southern Magic, has arranged book signings for several of the members. Christy Reece, Debra Webb, Peggy Webb and I will sign our books on Saturday, December 5 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Fultondale Books A Million, and from 3 to 5 p.m. at the Brookwood Village Books A Million.
There is strength in numbers, you know. If you’re sitting with a group of authors in the bookstore rather than by yourself, you don’t feel quite so conspicuous when a potential buyer approaches, and you think she might want a book signed, but instead she asks you for directions to the bathroom. Please come out on Saturday to have some books signed for stocking stuffers, and tell me how convincing my extroverted act is! I won’t be doing it again for a while. (And please don't ask me out loud where the bathroom is--just make a flushing motion and I will point you to it.)
Monday, November 9, 2009
At every writing conference I hear horror stories about the outrageous things people will say and do to get an editor’s or agent’s attention. And it occurred to me that writing conference newcomers—and a few clueless conference veterans—might benefit from a refresher course on writing conference behavior.
Here are the Top Ten Things Not to Do at a Writing Conference:
10. When sending in your work to be critiqued, do not single-space the manuscript, use a microscopic Font, or include a 10-page synopsis. Not following the guidelines labels you as a rank amateur and annoys whoever is critiquing your writing.
9. If you don’t know anyone in the room, resist the urge to hide in the coat closet or cower under the buffet table. Writing conferences are for networking. Climb out of your shell and make some new friends!
8. During workshops, small group sessions, or keynote speeches, do not talk on your cell, text, or draw unflattering pictures of the speaker—especially if you’re sitting in the front row. Speakers notice these things, and not in a good way.
7. In breakout sessions hold back from pointing out every flaw in the work being critiqued. Use the sandwich method—discuss the positive aspects of the writing, give a suggestion for improvement, and end your critique with an overall positive comment. If you can’t think of any positives, go directly to the punchbowl on the buffet table and bob for orange slices.
6. No matter how annoyed you may be, do not bitch at the conference organizer about the schedule, speakers, food, door prizes, parking, accommodations, or weather. This person has spent months working out the details, dealing with vendors, and finding replacements for cancellations. If you don’t like the way things are being done, roll up your sleeves and help put the next conference together.
5. If you are lucky enough to have an editor or agent ask about your current project, do not take up their time with a 10-minute description of your inspiration, writing philosophy, characters, plot, setting, and theme. Before the conference, practice summarizing your story in 60 seconds or less—30 is better. An interested person will ask for more information; someone who isn’t interested will breathe a sigh of relief.
4. At mealtimes do not elbow, trip, or head butt other hopefuls out of the way so that you can sit at the table with a presenter. Being a writer doesn’t grant you immunity from wrongful injury lawsuits or assault charges. And there’s always the possibility you’ll elbow the wrong ribcage by mistake.
3. If you find yourself in a situation where complimentary drinks are served, you do not need to “get your money’s worth.” Drunks are never as charming or witty as they think they are. And upchucking on an editor’s shoes is not the recommended way to make a lasting impression.
2. Do everyone a favor by not dropping the names of every editor, editorial assistant, intern, and agent you’ve ever met, heard of, or seen from a distance. Nobody—and I mean nobody—cares.
And the Number One thing NOT to do at a writing conference:
1. Never, ever, ever corner an editor in the restroom, pass your manuscript under the stall door, and hold the poor woman hostage on the stool until she reads it. That’s not opportunity knocking at the door; it’s the SWAT Team.
Monday, November 2, 2009
1. Start collecting friends months before your first book signings because they will make up the majority of your audience.
2. Be expected to be woken up by hubby and have a pen and book shoved in your face to sign a book for client that he’s going to meet that morning. And you need to write something uplifting for daughter of client in crisis. No pressure.
3. Dive into social networking—there is a whole world out there of book bloggers, teachers, librarians and authors talking shop and reviewing books etc..
4. Writing can be lonely at times so blog your heart out and read other authors’ blogs. There is so much to learn.
5. You are your own best advocate so make sure your bag is stuffed with bookmarks or postcards about your book, you never know who you might run into around town.
6. Join a community of writers. I belong to the Class of 2K9 (see our recent post on marketing advice: http://community.livejournal.com/classof2k9/) and the 2009 Debutantes (www.feastofawesome.com). Both groups are very supportive and help keep you grounded. And I love the ladies over here at the MTV Books Blog—all have been very kind to me, willing to answer any questions I had during the year.
7. Take a moment every day to appreciate the fact that you are published. How many people get to do what they love? The publishing world is very competitive yet the community is very warm. We are a lucky bunch.
8. Be prepared to answer all sorts of questions from are you going to be as rich as J. K Rowling to my friend wrote a book, is your editor interested in______fill in the blank.
9. Take the time to say thank you. I make sure to answer every email that I get from readers in a timely manner. It really makes my day to hear from readers so I let them know that. Remember they are taking the time out of their busy day to write you.
10. Don’t forget to breathe. It’s a fast and exhilarating rollercoaster ride!