The MTV Books Blog will close on October 31. Follow us to our new home at YA Outside the Lines on November 1!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Elvis has left the building

Logging on just now to compose the final post for the MTV Books Blog, I took a look at my first post. It was on November 19, 2007. I had no idea we’d been blogging almost 3 years!

Reading that post was like traveling back in a time machine and saying hi to myself. Hello young, innocent Jennifer from three years ago! I had just finished 1665th in the Vulcan Run 10K--which I will be running for the 6th time next Saturday, and I’m pretty sure my time will be even worse. In 2007, apparently I was planning to run my first half marathon the following February, which I can tell you did NOT happen. I am planning to run the very same half marathon for the first time this coming February. I sure hope I have a better track record with this sort of thing when I check in with myself after another 3 years.

One thing I didn’t blog about back then was National Novel Writing Month. During November, novelists and would-be novelists try to write 50,000 words. My first NaNoWriMo was not until 2008, and guess what? I JUST revised that same book for the umpteenth time and sent it to my agent this morning. That clears my desk for NaNoWriMo 2010 starting on Monday.

And ending this blog clears the way for the six of us still participating to join ten of our friends on  YA Outside the Lines. But even though some things haven’t changed much in 3 years, I definitely have a lot more confidence that I can write a book in a month, finish a 10K, and participate in a rewarding writers’ blog. For that experience, I have to thank editor Jennifer Heddle at MTV Books for getting the blog approved and sending us material; the current bloggers, Jan Blazanin, Barbara Caridad Ferrer, Danielle Joseph, Stephanie Kuehnert, and Jenny O’Connell; and former bloggers Kelly Parra, Christopher Golden, Tara Altebrando, Cara Lockwood, and Alex McAulay. Collectively we put a lot of work into this blog, publicized our work, met new readers, and supported each other. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for us next.

New Beginnings

As my fellow bloggers have told you, we are saying goodbye to the MTV Books blog as of tomorrow and heading over to our new space: YA Outside The Lines where we will continue to blog together and add some new voices to the mix, other YA authors who push boundaries and write from the heart the way we do.

Usually I'm not a person who deals well with change, but in this case, I'm excited and I think it couldn't come at a better time for me. As you probably know from reading my last blog entry here, I'm in a tough place with my writing. My work-in-progress ground to a halt and I go back and forth daily (actually probably hourly) as to whether to completely shelve the idea, walk away from it for a little while or try to keep plugging along. The tentative plan is to try something new for at the least the first week of November and if it goes well, I may try to write a full rough draft of that new idea for NaNoWriMo. Or I may just let the new idea reinvigorate me and then finish my current project.

So yes, I am definitely in transition in terms of my writing career. I'm not sure what I'll do next or where it will be published. But I am so proud of the books I put out with MTV Books, loved all the people I worked with there and the authors I was published with, so I am proud to continue on with these lovely ladies to explore new horizons. I may not be sure of where I'm going, but I know I'll be in excellent company at YA Outside The Lines.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Good-bye and HELLO!

This is the best kind of good-bye. No feelings are hurt, nobody gets left behind, and everybody wins.

When our marvelous blog leader, Jennifer Echols, suggested striking out on a new blog-venture, the emails began flying. Which is what you’d expect from six creative, slightly off the wall minds. In less than 48 hours we had a new name, tagline, and blog spot. We each grabbed a couple of outside-the-lines author friends, and we were set.

Now it’s time to say adieu to the MTV Books Blog, which has been loads of fun, and move on. We hope to see you, our loyal followers, at our new blog-cation, YAoutsidethelines, bright and early November 1.


Friday, October 22, 2010

Follow us to YA Outside the Lines

Like Jenny just mentioned, come November 1 we will be moving on to bigger things with the unveiling of our new blog YA Outside the Lines! I'm really looking forward to it because a lot more authors who also draw outside the lines will be joining us.

This MTV Books Blog has been something I look forward to contributing to every month and I love hearing what my fellow authors have to say. They are my cyber family so I am glad we are all moving on together. I do hope everyone will continue to follow us because we have a lot of great things in store! I'm talking contests, new books and posts galore!

Happy Halloween everyone and see you in a couple of weeks on YA Outside the Lines!

Riding off into the sunset...

But as Jenny said in her post, a new adventure awaits and can I just tell y'all how excited I am? It was actually a pretty easy decision to say goodbye to the MTV Books Blog as a formal entity. It's been a great ride, but we're all moving on into new ventures, exploring new possibilities, and in short, coloring outside the lines that this particular blog provided.

And deciding what to do next was actually pretty easy, too. We all knew, without a doubt, that we wanted to keep blogging together. We've been this ragtag little bunch for the past several years and we've kind of developed this rebel mentality that prevents us from merely fading gently into that good night, so..

Come November 1st, I hope y'all will join us at our new venture. Again, as Jenny mentioned, we're not merely remaining stagnant. We were like those old Breck commercials, each of us telling two friends and spreading the word and because even within our little core group we're so diverse, we managed to amass an absolutely fantastic group of authors whose one defining characteristic is that we color outside the lines a bit. Push boundaries. It makes us sort of stubborn. Maybe a little crazy. But I think it's safe to say we all write with a lot of passion and heart and that's what our new blog is going to be about.

But for now, hasta la vista MTV Books Blog and thanks for the memories.

Looking Ahead

As all of us emailed and chatted over the past few days about what we'd like this blog to become we came to a conclusion: different!! And bigger!!! More authors, more points of view. I'm so excited to see what new authors have to say, because as Stephanie pointed out in her recent post, writing can be a lonely, frustrating, pull-your-hair-out and question-your-existence experience.

I've so enjoyed being a part of this over the years and really, really look forward to taking this blog "outside the lines."

I can't wait for it to begin November 1, and I can't wait to welcome the new writers. The more the merrier. Jen Echols has done such an amazing job wrangling us and the new blog is amazing 2.0.

See you then!!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Writer's Low

I apologize in advance for how pathetic this blog entry is going to be. I've been holding all this stuff in for about a month now and I just have to let it out. Maybe if I do, things will get better. But I promise not to be so lame again.

Anyway, you've been warned....

Back in May I blogged about rediscovering my writer's high. Unfortunately right now I'm in the opposite situation: the deepest darkest writer's low.

The book that I was so excited about back in May--the bartender book as I'd been calling it since it is set largely in a bar-- quickly became the bane of my existence this summer. My agent loved those first 100 pages that I loved, but she pointed out that it's a hard market, so she wanted me to write a full. No problem, I said and I had every intention of getting it into her by the middle of September or early October at the latest because she was going on maternity leave. I set about writing as fast as I could, telling myself that it could suck and I didn't have to actually enjoy writing it because rewriting is my favorite part, if I could just get the words on the page to revise, I'd be happy. But for the most part I felt miserable. I hated the words. My goals felt increasingly impossible. I just kept digging myself into a deeper and deeper hole of writerly angst. I stopped even posting the occasional progress reports on my blog because I was afraid if I posted my true feelings about how I felt about my book and my career in general, I would scare off my few readers.

As mid September approached and with it, my agent's maternity leave, I emailed her to say that I wouldn't have the book in. My goal had been unrealistic, too high pressure for me. I was aiming for December 15th now when she returned. Once I said that, it was like a weight had lifted. I'd also finally worked my way to a point in the book that I felt I could write really well. (A funeral scene. I am at my best when my characters are at their saddest, what can I say?) The story started flowing. I remember why I was writing that book and why I loved those characters. And I thought maybe everything would be okay after all even though I saw how dark the horizon was. I didn't know how to end the book, but I hoped that if I continued to put one foot in front of the other I might just find my way. I had a vague idea after all. I had an outline carefully written even though it didn't sound right any more, but maybe just maybe...

On September 20th (and I remember the date precisely because it was my brother's birthday and I took him to a concert that I hoped would reignite my muse), it all came to a grinding halt. A secret was revealed. Characters reacted. And then.... nothing. I didn't know where to go next. Nothing I'd plotted previously seemed right. So I've spent the past few weeks in various stages of angst. Sometimes I'm quietly ignoring the fact that I absolutely can't seem to write and definitely can't write well or come up with the correct storyline for my characters. Sometimes I'm having huge nervous breakdowns like crying in the shower, making myself physically ill breakdowns because I think I broke this book. I think it is beyond repair. I can't see how to fix it and I don't know where I will find the energy to start a new one.

Yeah, see why I haven't been blogging about this? It makes me feel pathetic. It's strange. When it comes to blogging, I'm generally very open. I've talked freely about the self injury in my past, the abusive relationship, the struggles with depression, drug and alcohol abuse, but when it comes to how I've been feeling about my career lately, I've been very hesitant to share, fearful that I will come across as whiny, ungrateful, pathetic, etc. I can be a perfectionist and I don't like admitting when I feel like I've failed.

But I feel like I've failed.

My first two books, especially my second, which I put my heart and soul into, have not done very well. I fear that soon they will go out of print. I feel that the only way to save them is write a really good, much more successful book that will make readers hungry for my backlist. I wish that I had spent more time writing that book instead of promoting the other two since I didn't really have the money or skills to promote it in such a way that would make an impact.

Since those books came out, I have been working on two books. The first was submitted to MTV Books as my option book. They turned it down. I had an idea to make it into an adult book, the bartender book, which would be more in line with my vision for it anyway, so I tried to stay positive. I also had a YA paranormal idea, that I was very excited about. Wrote a partial of that, which made the rounds and received rejections, though a couple of places said they would be interested in seeing the full. So the plan was to try to finish both of these books this year or early next year. I started with bartender book because I was the most excited about it at the time, but then came the block.

The block is partially to do with me struggling with the story, which is normal. It has happened with my other two books as well. But since I wrote those other two books before I had a real idea of the publishing industry, I didn't have two of the issues that I am having now.

The main one is word count. My books always start out long. I WANNA BE YOUR JOEY RAMONE was 150,000 words in it's first draft. I had an inkling that that was probably too long. It sold at 112,000 words, which I didn't know was too long, but it was and I eventually got it down into the mid-90s. Right now the bartender book is at 115,000 words and I still have a lot (and I mean A LOT) of loose ends to tie up, so I'm looking at another 150,000 word draft, but unlike with IWBYJR, I don't have an idea of how to shave it down. There aren't any real subplots to cut. It seems that the story I came up with is simply too big. And I freeze just thinking about how I can possibly fix it. Also, this makes me want to rush the ending and it makes me doubt every idea I have for the ending.

And for me, when I start to doubt one thing, I start to doubt *everything*. This leads to the other issue I didn't have before I was published--dwelling on if the book will sell. I never concerned myself with markets before. But now I think, this is another contemporary realistic fiction book with quirky characters. It's going to have the same fate as my other two books--if someone will even buy it this time. What if I'm turning myself out inside out again and end up really disappointed. Should I be working on that paranormal instead? Maybe that had more potential or what about that post-apocalyptic book that I literally dreamed up a year and a half ago on my 30th birthday. It was dream, maybe that's a sign. I should have written it then, post-apoc is huge now. Maybe if I had just dropped everything and written it, I wouldn't be freelancing and bartending and teaching (don't even get me started on the teaching--the other thing that has completely screwed up my fall) just to try to make ends meet. Maybe I should give up on the bartending book, at least for now and try to write that post-apocalyptic book for NaNoWriMo (which I have never attempted before because writing super fast is not what suits me well). I have cheated on the bartender book a little bit by writing that one and it felt kinda good. I don't know a ton about the story yet, but it's interesting....

But it also felt bad because I've been beating myself up big time that I haven't finished a full manuscript since I finished revising BALLADS OF SUBURBIA almost 2 years ago. I have to finish a full book to sell another book and I feel like if I don't finish and sell another book soon, the few fans I have will forget me and I am so so so grateful for them, I have the best fans in the world and I feel like I'm letting them down terribly.

So yeah I wish that I could write faster. I wish that I could write better. But right now I can't seem to write at all. And I have friends urging me to take a break, but I feel like I can't. I've already spent a month making no progress on my writing. If I take another week off there is no way I'll finish this book and revise it by December 15th. If I don't finish a book by the end of this year, I'll be incredibly frustrated with myself, even more than I am now.

Thanks for letting me vent about this. I promise not to do it again since I don't want to be the Debbie Downer of the blogosphere. But maybe some of you out there have advice. Tips on how you got through your writer's lows or blocks. The typical stuff that I do--the music, the running, the doing other tasks to try ignore it and hope genius will strike--hasn't been working because I think I've almost got myself to the point of creating a writing phobia. I'm so scared of being stuck and of failing that I *am* being stuck and failing. So thoughts? Should I cheat on the bartender book with the idea from the dream? Should I force myself to take time off from writing completely and then go back to the bartender book? Should I just keep plodding along? That is, after tomorrow. I'm taking off tomorrow for sure to shop for Halloween costumes. Hopefully it will make me slightly less neurotic.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

I am huge in Brazil!

Well, probably not. Time will tell. But after selling the Turkish rights to GOING TOO FAR and FORGET YOU earlier in the year, I have now sold the Brazilian rights.

My books haven't gotten a lot of publicity. I have no way to measure this, but I'm pretty sure that most of my success is a result of book bloggers being kind enough to write about my novels. And I suspect that I wouldn't have sold the Brazilian rights if it hadn't been for Brazilian book bloggers like Fracky and RaĆ­la. I'm very appreciative of and eternally grateful to the friends I've met online!

I've never sold the foreign rights to any of my novels before, but some of my friends have sold theirs, so I have a good idea what happens next.

First, your book is translated by the new publisher into the language in question. They will send you a copy but you will not be able to make heads or tails of it. Here, for instance, is my critique partner Victoria Dahl's adult historical romance To Tempt a Scotsman.

Next, the new publisher selects a new cover. Because it's a brand new publisher and you've sold the book all over again to them, they can't use your old cover even if they liked it. So here's Vicki's original American cover

and here's the Japanese version.

Finally, the new publisher may give it a new title. But you will not know this unless you ask someone who speaks the language. For instance, Vicki found out that in Russia, the title of her book is no longer To Tempt a Scotsman. It is Lovely Hermit.

I can't wait to see the foreign editions of my novels! But I have a feeling that the new covers and titles are going to tell us a lot more about Turkey and Brazil and marketing there than they will tell us about my books.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Writing Retreat!

Last weekend I drove to my first writing retreat. I was excited to be invited to join this group of published authors, but nervous, too. For one thing, the center is run by Franciscan Sisters, which had me worried about my sometimes-colorful vocabulary. The word “retreat” conjured up images of solitary reflection, solemn faces, and hushed voices. And a ruler across my knuckles if my language slipped into dangerous territory. However, a good friend of mine who had taken part in the retreat for more than a decade called it the “highlight” of her year. How could I pass it up?

I’m glad I didn’t.

In the years since I started writing I’ve attended a dozen or so writing conferences, but this retreat was another animal entirely. There were no agents, no editors, and no pressure to be “on.” I didn't have to worry about making small talk with strangers and saying too much or too little. Instead, I got to hang out in my jeans and sweats with my hair-- We won't talk about my hair.

During the evenings, we lounged in comfortable chairs eating chocolate—naturally—and swapping stories about writing, families, and pets. To be truthful, we told more kid, dog, and cat stories than writing tales. On Saturday we shared manuscripts, critiqued synopses, and kicked around story ideas. We moved at our own pace, went for walks when we felt like it, and crashed in our rooms if we were in the mood for solitude.

A plus for me was the “green” environment. The heating was solar, the food was organic, and the surrounding land bloomed with native prairie grass and wildflowers. The only drawback from the solar heating was our cold showers Saturday morning. Not the best way to clean up after a chilly morning jog, but we all survived.

If you and your writing need recharging, I suggest you get some friends together and head out on a retreat. You’ll come home filled with inspiration and—if you’re like my new group—a couple of pounds of chocolate, too!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

I am writing this from 25,000 feet in the air. I see clouds and blue sky out my window. The seatbelt sign is lit. How cool is it that planes can have wireless? How fab when you totally forgot to bring a book and the Delta magazine ceases to be interesting after the fifth read (although the Sky Mall catalog has convinced me that I need a magic showerhead with LED light technology so I can shower with blue, purple and green colored water - an optical illusion of course).

Which brings me to my point. The Sky Mall catalog. Way back when I was writing The Book of Luke it was November and I was trying to figure out how to begin the story. November is NaNoWriMo - otherwise known as National Novel Writing Month. That's right, you're supposed to write a novel in a month. And because I was way behind on a deadline, that sure sounded good to me.

Well, I'd peruse the chat boards on the NaNoWriMo site while procrastinating. And one of the topics had people suggest things to jump start your writing. Someone wrote "Write a scene that includes a Sky Mall catalog." I hadn't considered having the story start at the airport on the morning Emily moves back to Boston, but you can only get a Sky Mall in the sky, so there she was. On the sidewalk outside the United terminal. And so a scene was born, thanks to that anonymous person who gave writers the Sky Mall challenge.

So here's my challenge: In the comments offer up your own obscure place/thing/action/etc. that us writers have to include in a scene. No matter how crazy. And I promise that I will work it into my current novel (because yes, I am that lazy and, yes, I just cannot seem to finish the beast). And you other writers, do the same. You may end up with a fabulous you'd never thought of before!!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Time Management

The old dreaded subject--time management. I am always wondering how other authors manage their time and have also been asked how I find time to write with three kids. My initial answer is, I don't know. For example I can't get through this sentence because my eight year old is telling me all about his Lego people, my 6 year old is playing his DS naked next to me (another story) and I am fielding multiple texts from friends about playdates and birthday presents. Fortunately my 18 month old is napping so I do stand a chance.

I have a sitter three mornings a week and that is my writing time. I run out the door with my laptop those days and work at my "Starbucks Office." I try to get some work done at night but that does not happen as much as I would like. By nature I am a night person but since having kids I can not keep my college hours! On the other days I work during my daughter's naps. Luckily she is a good napper.

Now that I am in the rewrite stage of my wip, Graveyard Shift, I am setting goals with my Starbucks Officemate. We have beening telling each other what page we will be on when we meet next. I like this system because it keeps me moving. I also know that I would like to be done with the rewrite in six weeks so I keep that as my larger goal.

When I an writing something new I like to do daily word goals. If it's a writing day I shoot for a 1000 words and on other days I am satisfied with a page or two.

So what am I doing the rest of the time? Through out the day I try to answer all emails and do promotional stuff for my books, like answer interview questions, prepare for school visits, conferences etc... Other than that I am shuttling three kids around, being a homework warden or wrestling the laundry beast.

So all this juggling makes my writing time that much more precious. I would love to know how others do it. Whether you have another day/night job, kids or are a lifelong procrastinator, how do you do make time to write?