Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Mistakes are like taxes: We all do them

I learn by doing. This means I make mistakes. Lots of mistakes. Probably the first of my mistakes was that I didn’t think the rules applied to me (how could they? Won’t the first agent I query just fall all over my brilliant idea and my hidden genius? Maybe I hid my genius a little too well). Heck, when I first broke rules, I didn’t even know what the rules were. See, when I do things, I usually just try something out and see how it goes. When it doesn’t work out, well, I change a variable or two and give it another go (yeah, I know, I have the experimental petrologist’s approach to life; I said I was nerdy). It’s my process, and while I’m not good at many things, boy howdy, I know how to make mistakes. One could say I’m a professional mistake maker. And my writing mistakes, well, they’re awesome, cringe worthy, and I’m just getting started. Heck, even posting this is a mistake, but they’re good for a laugh. Seriously, feel free to drop your cringe worthy head desk moments.

The Dumb I’ve Done:

Queried a project not yet polished *D’oh!*

Used a mirror to get a description of my main character

Had an entire story take place in a bar where no one does anything but talk 

Queried with a character waking up in the first scene *head desk*

POV merry-go-round

Queried with a letter no one else had read (Could I get an extra helping of dumb on the side please? Thanks!)

Mary Sue and Gary Stew save the world then fall in love (nah, I didn’t see that coming)

Queried One. Agent. At. A. Time. 

I wrote the sequel without having representation or a publishing contract

I wrote a sequel to my sequel (And could I get my fries smothered in stupid sauce?)

When I finally pulled my head out of sequel land, I wrote the cheesiest, most trend chasing piece I could lay my fingers on. Yeah, that’s me, trying to write the ‘marketable’ book (but not to worry, I’m sure I’ll edit the marketability out of it in the end; I’ve got 5k1llz like that.)

Manuscript adultery (but it was just the one chapter! How could I have known it wasn’t 18 yet?)

So yeah, I’m winding up the first draft of my WIP, and I’m struggling not to repeat my dumb (hence the post, it’ll keep me honest… well, maybe). I’ll probably be posting a preliminary query letter soon, cause, that’s my weakest area. Whenever I’m trying to sell myself, I sound like a pretentious pain in the butt, so it’ll take me longer to get my query letter squared away than to let the manuscript stew *and* rewrite *and* edit. (Yes, my query letter skills are that pathetic unfortunate.)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Strange, I thought there'd be more random in random....

I’ve come to the conclusion that maybe I’m trying too hard. Yeah, I know, not very surprising given my overachiever tendencies. So today I’m going to talk about Blogger. 

Yeah, I know, blogger? Who wants to hear about blogger? 

As a highly trained observer (yeah, I’ve been training in the sciences for over a decade now), I spend more of my brain cells than I’d care to admit remembering stuff from the day (and often from many days previous). Lately, the comment verification words have been strangely appropriate. 

I keep getting words that have something to do with writing: Novel, editor, writering (yeah, seriously). Blogger doesn’t always give me these great words. Once while I vacillated (to post the comment or not), my verification word let me know exactly what blogger thought of my indecision: dumbing. I guess that makes Blogger a verbifyer. 

I could go on, but I sometimes wonder if there’s a sort of Dr. Horrible watching over blogger saying to himself “what verification word would just put him over the edge today?” 

Or maybe it could be a benevolent, yet sentient computer program that’s taken pity on us writer types. 

Or maybe Blogger really can augur the future, and is just giving us hints, one verification word at a time. 

Or maybe I’m just a little too tired and should try caffeine. Yeah, probably the caffeine…

Monday, June 20, 2011

Guilty Pleasures

This was spawned by Elizabeth, and I liked the idea, so here it goes, my top ten guilty pleasure (not in order)

1        I love playing D&D characters with…charm. I’m the girl with the character who says things like “And by subtle, I mean fireball.” I also had a character who wanted to name our stolen ship “Of Dubious Provenance.” Yes, I’m that player. 

2)      Big Budget Summer Movies. I’m not saying I don’t really enjoy beautiful movies (Room with a view, or the King’s Speech), but I love action flicks aimed at 14 year old boys. Bigger explosions. 

3)      Baking. Seriously, I love to bake, and over the years I’ve gotten fairly competent. The only problem with being able to whip up a cake from scratch is that I’m always only an hour and a half away from a really great cake. (Seriously, flour, sugar, butter, egg, baking powder and salt are my friends).

4)      Dragons. Dragons in jewelry, art, books. I love dragons, and I feel like such an eight year old for being so into them. If I can write a story about dragons, I do. It’s a problem. Considering my obsession, it’s really impressive I have so many stories without dragons. 

5)      I like using big words. I think it’s pretty ridiculous too. I have terrible English scores on all my standardized tests. It’s absurd that I write, considering how my vocabulary is so miniscule. 

6)      Chocolate. I’ve only met a couple forms of chocolate that I didn’t like, and I had to search the world over to find those. Mostly, chocolate and I go way back.

7)      Halo, in all its forms. I know I should be writing, but sometimes, I need to take the master chief on a spin through covenant infested waters. And sometimes I just need a n00b sandwich. And sometimes I just need to be the stuffing in a n00b sandwich. I love Red vs. Blue (“I like me”), and I’m totally stoked about the Halo 4 announcement.

8)      Magical Girl w/wo horses. Yeah, I love the magical girl motif in anime, and if there are horses “Yay.” I was a big Rainbow Bright fan when I was a kid (not so much now, of course). In the Magical Girl category we have all my biggest guilty pleasures: Sailor Moon, Valdemar, Full Metal Panic, Escaflowne. Okay, this list could really just go on and on. 

9)      Disney everything. I’m a huge Disney and Disneyland fan. It is very childish, but I used to cut classes in college to go to a theme park.  I still passed.... most of my classes.

10) Office supplies. Yes I’m strange, but really, I love love love blank books, note pads, pens, pencils, paper clips, and highlighters. And seriously, I have enough blank notebooks and journals and pens to keep me writing years after the apocalypse. 

So pretty much, from this list, it should be really obvious that I’m strange. In my defense, I never claimed to be normal, not even in junior high.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Winning, not what I expected.

Right, so this is going to sound like a cross between a public service announcement and an after school special. Feel free to check out if you aren’t interested.

We’ve all heard the adage “Winning isn’t everything.” Growing up, I always assumed this was one of those annoying things adults tell children to make them feel better about coming in second place at nationals. It’s what we always try to tell ourselves when we play on the team that loses Every. Single. Game. I can just imagine poor Charlie Brown sitting in his bathtub after a baseball game.

I’ve been on the team that only scored two goals in a season (one of the goals was because the goaltender was laughing too hard to mind the net), and got mercied every single game. I thought I knew what that stupid saying meant. I thought it was a reminder to spend my time enjoying the game, not focusing on the score, but now I’ve seen the other side. Last night my beer league hockey team won our championship game. In fact, we’ve won every game this season, except our first which ended in a tie. 

Since January, we’ve done nothing but win. This team was like a force of nature. They were, in fact, so good that it didn’t matter what I did. I spent weeks where I worked hard all week long and brought my A game. There were weeks I was so sick that I barely managed to skate. Still we won. My performance didn’t matter at all. So when we won our championship game, I didn’t feel like I’d earned it. I felt like a fraud. 

Undeserved praise is much worse than getting none when it’s due. It feels hollow, and it eats your insides. It’s more soul crushing than stacks of rejection letters.

In those moments where I fraudulently accepted praise for a “well played game,” I realized something important. This unearned-trophy toting feeling was bad when it was tied to hockey, but how bad would it have been if I’d felt that way about my writing? 

With hockey you show up and the outcome is delivered: either you win or you lose and the time and personal investment is much smaller than even a short story. I could see what it would be like to have written a novel that was sometimes my A game, but mostly my pass/no pass game. What if that phoned in novel went on to do great. It would be the worst feeling ever. I could barely face the five fans at the hockey game, how would it feel if droves of fans came out for a book signing in a book that I felt didn’t deserve praise? Yikes. 

So yeah, winning isn’t everything, especially in writing. 

Failure has brought me a lot. Yeah, I know, this is just the sort of thinking espoused by losers, but seriously, failure has taught me more than if I’d landed a hole in one with my first query letter, got an agent and a book deal right out of the gates. From “losing,” I’ve spent more time researching the publishing industry. I know what a query letter needs to do. I’ve made a much better list of agents to query for the future. I understand what real revising means. I understand voice. Yes, I know my blog sounds like me, but my query bait sounds like a casual version of my academic writing: dry. When I wrote it, I thought my job was to get out of the way of the story, but I can see that was a mistake. I made a lot of mistakes. I think I’ll post about that pretty soon. Failure has challenged me to dig deeper, find my voice and pull stories out of myself when I didn’t know I could. 

I won’t lie, my WIP has been hard. I never saw this story as well as my query bait, but I’m out of the saggy middle. I know how it’ll finish. If it had been easy, I wouldn’t have learned anything. But when I finish this WIP, I’ll feel like I earned it—good, bad or otherwise—I’ll own it. It’ll be mine in a way that stupid hockey trophy never will be.

Right, public service announcement/afterschool special is over now.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Sleep is for people without waking dreams...

Today, I’m bushed. I’m so tired, I’ve resorted to coffee (I rarely drink the stuff, it sends my tummy on a tour of the great basin and range province, up down, up down: not pleasant). Of course, like every person who has kids, I’m going to blame the kid. See, she just got her first bed where she can actually get out of it in the middle of the night, and she’s abusing this new privilege and waking me up 5 or 6 times a night. 

For four nights now, I’ve been getting the kind of sleep people in sleep studies are subjected to. Sleep for an hour, then fill out this worksheet based on your feelings. Now we’ll wait for you to actually fall into REM sleep before waking you up to fill it out again and compare the two. 

Yeah, maybe my daughter secretly works for the Sleep Institute. 

Being so tired, I started thinking about whether I should write or not today, you know, because I’m extra dumb with so little sleep. Then I realized just how stupid that sounded. I’m tired, yes. My work will be substandard today, yes (I think maybe even out at three sigma, frankly), but that’s no excuse not to delve into my favorite pastime of all: Creating, and writing specifically. 

The funny thing is that the world is strangely connected (more on the divination powers of blogger in some other post), because I checked Blogger, and got treated to the NSFW post by Chuck about writing (courtesy of The Shark herself). And Chuck made me laugh. It was a post about quitting writing, and at first I thought he’d nail me on the head for even thinking about quitting, or any other number of silly things that I think. Nope, the more I read his post, the more I was completely galvanized to go write more. Check it out. 

Now, back to work, because posting is just a form of productive seeming procrastination. 

(coffeeeeee, cOOffeeeee)

Monday, June 13, 2011

If a butterfly flaps its wings...

I’m sure we’ve all played some version of the butterfly effect, but I am constantly amazed at how often tiny things like that come up. There’s a book I doubt I’d have read except for a choice I made, a small choice. A name.

This book is now very famous, but I wouldn’t have sought out a copy and bought it early on. When I read this book, I was amazed. I didn’t realize that these kinds of stories were allowed. I’d skipped MG and YA as a YA. I went straight to Adult fiction, and this book wouldn’t have stood a chance in the publishing market place of my youth. Well, maybe it would have, I’ve no idea why lightning strikes one location and not another.

One summer, I took a job as a horseback riding instructor at a camp. For those of you who have never done this sort of work, it’s about the craziest job you can ever take. Most of the children who show up have NEVER seen a horse in person, and the first time they do, you put them on one. Then the instructor (read: crazy person) stands in the middle of the arena while rank beginners attempt to ride horses inside the arena. Yeah, really not a bright idea, as most of the kids don’t know the whole pull back on the reins and they stop thing. Seriously scary as the person on the ground. 

At this camp, the instructors all go by false names, and I chose Draco (after the star constellation). All summer long the campers would ask “Wait, like in Harry Potter?” Then I had to describe the stars and constellations, and they’d be disappointed. They wanted my name to have something to do with this Harry Potter fellow. 

After a summer of “Like Harry Potter?” I went and bought the book. 

I’d say that book changed my life. Before, I’d thought all the stories in the world had to fit a particular mold, but Harry Potter shattered my preconceived notions of what I can write about. 

And did I mention I’m very excited about the last installment of the movie? I’m going to go read through the series one more time (cause I’m a nerd).