Tag Archives: Lists!

Thoughts From BEA (or, GOD MY FEET HURT)

12 Jun

Last week, I attended BookExpo America (BEA), which is a huge publishing shindig about which you can read a much more entertaining description here. It was a hoot and a half, let me tell you.

I planned to write some sort of “BEA Recap” post. They’re pretty popular in the blogosphere, and I love reading other people’s summaries of the event. But then I realized 1) I didn’t take a whole lot of pictures; 2) I’m too lazy to go hunt for other people’s pictures; 3) IT’S ALL A HAZY BLUR; and 4) mehhhh I LIKE LISTS. So I wrote a kind-of recap, but I’m not sure it really counts.

Anyway, BEHOLD:

THINGS I DID

  • got free books!
  • attended awesome panels!
  • participated in the high-energy Apocalypsies event WHICH ROCKED ALL THE WORLDS EVER
  • cried because Lois Lowry made me, she MADE ME
  • infested the Javits Center with cockroaches
  • diverted my route, on countless occasions, through the booths that had extra padding in their carpets TO SAVE MY BURNING FEET
  • met awesome booksellers!
  • met awesome bloggers!
  • met awesome authors!
  • gave swag to REBECCA “THE STEADMEISTER” STEAD (that is the name I gave to her, fondly, in my head, i.e., she does not know so shhh)
  • had Thai food for the first time!
  • ate too much Thai food
  • got caught in the rain with my editor while discussing Hoarders
  • participated in an impromptu toast to the late Ray Bradbury with some truly disgusting bourbon (which I downed like a CHAMP! hoo-ahhhh!)
  • stood in line
  • stood in line
  • LINES LINES LINES
  • pretty much lost my voice
  • met more awesome people!
  • SMILED TILL FACE FELL OFF

THINGS I THOUGHT

  • “The Internet here is like the cyber-equivalent of flea poop.”
  • “How is my book ever going to compete, like at all? THERE ARE SO MANY BOOKS IN THE WORLD.”
  • “Did my publicist just hug me in a weird way? What does that mean? Did I somehow annoy my publicist? If I circled back and reassured her that if I did indeed annoy her, I didn’t mean to . . . would that weird her out further?”
  • “So-and-so’s hair/dress/body/poise is better than mine. God, WHY AM I SO AWKWARD?”
  • “Someone I recognize. THANK GOD. LET ME HUG YOU. Oh, did I just interrupt the conversation you were having? Please, carry on. WHILST I CLING TO YOU.”
  • “It’s like, the more people I talk to, the more incoherent I become. Maybe I should just start saying, ‘Hello, you are? My name! Gloogleflorp. Books! Purple giraffe.’ I’m not sure people could tell the difference. God, WHY AM I SO AWKWARD?”
  • “I’m so stopping by Duane Reade on the way home to stock up on candy. Or booze. Or BOTH.”
  • “I’m sweatinggggg. Can people see how much I’m sweating? I would go to the bathroom to wipe myself down but THERE IS ALWAYS A LINE. GOD.”
  • “If I go crawl under that table in the Penguin booth to take a nap, would they judge me? Would they kick me out of the event? Do I care?”
  • “[So-and-so authors] on [such-and-such panel] are so pretty/talented/eloquent/[insert complimentary adjective here]. Why can’t I be like that? I wish I could be on a panel.”
  • “Food. Food food. Food food food! Food.”
  • ” . . . Wait. Why am I not on a panel?! This obviously means I am some sort of failure. Because I am not good enough to be on a panel. Everyone else in the entire world is on panels. Oh god everyone hates me. EVERYONE OBVIOUSLY HATES ME.”
  • “Should I give Kristin Cashore a cockroach? Would Kristin Cashore want a pin cockroach or a barrette cockroach? These are sentences I never thought I’d say.”
  • “I think I’m going to keep being indifferent toward John Green just out of spite, because everyone likes him so much. Does that make me a bad person?”
  • “I bet it’ll end up being like with Harry Potter, when I refused to read them out of spite because they were so popular, and then I gave in, and then my life changed.”
  • “Come to think of it, that’s kind of like how I was with cheesecake. The whole thing about cheese and cake being in the same dish offended my sense of order. So then we had denial, denial, spite, denial . . . and then one day, BAM! Cheesecake. And then BAM! Life = changed.”
  • “Mmm . . . cheesecake . . . “
  • “Would you like a cockroach? Would you like a cockroach? Would you like a cockroach?”
  • “The word ‘cockroach’ has officially lost all meaning. So has ‘Cavendish’. So have ALL THE OTHER WORDS.”
  • ” . . . I wish I was cooler. How are all these people so cool?”
  • “My book feels so small. I feel so small. This is impossible.”
  • ” . . . Maybe I’m not cut out for this.”
  • “SHUT UP LEGRAND, YOU’RE BEING DUMB.”
  • “Hey, it’s that person from Twitter who is in fact real!”
  • “I wish unicorns were real.”
  • “Wait. That’s silly. They’re totally real.”
  • “Must not jump the bones of bloggers who are already excited about my book that’s coming out two years from now. Must not jump the bones of bloggers who are already excited about my book that’s coming out two years from now. Must not . . . aw, screw it. *FLINGS SELF INTO ARMS OF BLOGGERS*”
  • “This place would be hella freaky at night.”
  • “This place smells like old underpants.”
  • “This place needs more cake.”

Did you go to BEA? Did you have fun? Do you like cake? GIVE ME YOUR THOUGHTS.

15 Ways To Survive Drafting (with Sanity Intact)

21 Feb

I don’t know about you, but, as I’ve said on this blog before, drafting is the hardest part of writing for me.

In this stage, there is so much opportunity for doubt and second-guessing, for getting sidetracked, for fear. The goal is to finish, which seems a simple enough task at first, but can quickly become daunting and even crippling. Revisions, while they can also seem daunting, are often split into many smaller and more concrete tasks — clarify this character’s motivations during this scene, refine your word choice here, let’s spice up this action scene. Revisions are basically items on a checklist.

But drafting? Quite frankly, OY. There are days when finishing a book, when wringing this screaming, bursting, wild creation out of the nethers of the universe, can seem as completely insurmountable a task as, “Hey, list all of the ways in which Nathan Fillion, dreamy international superstar, is, like, totally the dreamiest.”

Ryan Gosling? No thanks.

Many writers in this situation — including myself, at times — seem to cope with the enormity of drafting by resorting to some pretty bad habits. We call our workspace “the drafting cave” or some other such term. We talk about binging on junk food, not getting enough sleep, falling out of touch with friends and family, forgetting what sunlight looks like (hint: it’s that bright thing that makes vampires sparkle), forgetting to shower, forgetting everything but our word count goal, and the next chapter, and the next. We tout this as something to be proud of, something to inspire awe, to emulate, to cheer about, as some kind of unspoken contest that proves us to be badasses or real writers or something.

No. WRONG. We do not need to sacrifice ourselves to “the drafting cave” in order to write a book. We do not need to forsake all other tasks, responsibilities, and non-fictional people to the abyss until we type the words “the end.” Yes, some sacrifice is necessary, of the flesh, mind, heart, and social life. Without sacrifice of some kind, there can be no true success, no learning, no art.

But, people, we don’t have to sacrifice our sanity and health to write a book. We in fact should not do such a thing, for the sake of ourselves and also for the sake of our writing. We write better when we live better, when we take care of ourselves. We need all those little brain trees functioning and firing at optimum capacity, after all, to fully realize the genius wordsmiths hacking their way out from within.

I therefore present to you 15 easy ways to survive drafting (with your sanity intact):

1. Stock your kitchen with healthy snacks. The evil, eeeevil evolutionary instinct to binge on Twizzlers and Chex Mix and JUMBO CHIPZ is never stronger than when camped out writing a book. But, friends, we must resist this urge for the sake of our brains (and our thighs). Snack on healthy items instead — fresh fruits and vegetables, hundred-calorie popcorn bags, nuts, cheese (but in moderation, and in small portions like string cheese, or with apples or something, not in the disgustingly gluttonous way I often have to resist scarfing down all the cheese in sight). Some of my favorite writing snacks: baby carrots, bell pepper strips, granny smith apples, bananas, pretzel sticks, and THIS AMAZING ORGANIC POPCORN FROM THE FAIRWAY MARKET (which I originally typed as FAIRYWAY MARKET, which is pretty accurate; the place is magical). These foods satisfy my urge to munch while keeping my brain sharp and my body from turning into mush.

2. DO allow yourself treats, though. Every now and then, have some Chex Mix. Have some Twizzlers. Get a big ol’ slice of pizza after a hard day torturing your characters into bad decisions and existential crises. It’s important for morale. But the key here, as with normal eating habits, is moderation. Too much junk slows down your brain, and can make those long hours at the computer even deadlier for your body.

I could eat this every day. But I won’t. FOR MY CHARACTERS.

3. Take breaks to exercise. Whether this is taking a walk around the block, going for a hardcore run, or just doing some stretches and crunches in your living room, taking the time between bouts of writing to move your body, get the blood circulating, and breathe some fresh air can do wonders. You are not a Tibetan monk, achieving enlightenment by sitting still and meditating on the wonder that is life the wonder that is your soon-to-be bestseller. You’re a normal human being going for the mental equivalent of running a marathon, so pace yourself. Work that body, baby.

4. Read while you write. Don’t read books that are so similar to what you’re writing that plot details from that book start to bleed into your own. But books that achieve the sort of emotion, complexity, and tone that you want to achieve with yours? Books that inspire you and remind you how much you love writing? Books that make you want to climb to your roof and bare-breastedly shout out their virtues to the entire world? Yes, read those books while drafting. If — no, when — we encounter stumbling blocks in our writing, few things can push us through them more effectively than reading something that makes us think, “Yes. This. THIS is what I want to achieve. I can do this. I CAN DO THIS. BARE BREASTS*.”

If you thought you’d see a picture of bare bosoms here, you would be wrong.

5. Don’t let that shiny new idea distract you. We’ve all been there: we’re slaving away on our draft, and it’s getting to that point where all the words are blurring together, and we’re tired of this, and it’s hard, conflabbit, and then . . . oh, then we’re sudsing in the shower and inspiration hits, the tricksy hobbit. It says, “Forget that story you’re working on now. It’s lame. You’re wasting your time with it. But I’m exciting and awesome, and I’ll be the next big thing. Promise. Let me be your Hunger Games.” RESIST THIS HOBBIT, Y’ALL. Don’t get distracted. If a shiny new idea comes to you, great! Welcome it with open arms and a big, happy smile — and then slam it down in your idea file and don’t look at it again until you’re done with your current draft. Otherwise you’ll keep getting distracted by every new idea that pops into your head, and you’ll never finish the current one, and you’re not a raccoon, okay? (If you are a raccoon, and you can read this, shoot me an email, because UNICORN would like a playmate.)

The raccoon, he nibbles at all the ideas. And then he gets hit by a car.

6. Don’t pay attention to other writers. I don’t mean shun your writer friends until you’re done with your draft, and I certainly don’t mean forsake all writerly social media in favor of breeding your darlings. What I mean is, don’t focus on who’s getting what deal and for how much, and how many words per day this person is writing, and that person’s drama, and all the noise that generates from thousands upon thousands of writers all clamoring for attention and understanding and publicity in a forum where anything goes (read: the Internet). A person can only take so much, and you’re already taking on more than your allotted amount simply by writing a book. So turn off the noise and ignore what everyone else is doing. They don’t matter; your book matters.

7. DO pay attention to the non-writers in your life. Having this external focus, this perspective on life that is much grander and more important than your main character’s love triangle, will keep your brain focused and clear, and therefore result in a clearer and more focused draft. It’s very easy for us writers to get stuck in our heads; what makes us better writers, though, is balancing the internal with the external, craft with experience, thinking with doing. And it’s refreshing to spend an evening ragging on celebrities with your roommate, or chatting about decorating ideas with your mom, or exchanging recipes with the guy who sits on the corner in his lawn chair. You’ll come back to your draft refreshed and emptied out of all the braingook that builds up when the only thing to consume it is fictional characters, aka, braingookians.

Brains are awesome and everything, and I’m glad I have one, but they are also pretty gross.

8. Make sure your writing area is your own. Some of us write in the same place, at the same time, and for the same duration every single day. Some of us write whenever and wherever we can grab a spare minute, whether that’s a desk at home or a coffee shop on our lunch hour. Wherever it is, take a minute or two at the start of your writing session to make sure your space is your own — you have your coffee mug, your water bottle, your (healthy!) snack reserve; you have your necessary research materials, your headphones, your lucky pen. You are ready to go, and you won’t have to get up for anything once you begin.

9. Don’t go back and re-read earlier parts of the draft. Other than the bare minimum we have to read sometimes to check plot details or character consistency from earlier portions of our drafts, we really shouldn’t go back and re-read stuff we’ve already written until we’re completely done with the draft. We can’t know the true state of our story until it’s finished and we can step back and look at it all at once, from beginning to end. Drafting is for getting the words down; revisions and re-writes come later.

10. Write offline as much as possible. This is kind of a no-brainer, but seriously — it blows my mind how much more productive I am, not only in word count but in quality of words, when I close everything — my email, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and even sometimes my entire browser — and focus solely on my words. Sometimes we have to do research while we’re writing, but I maintain that most nitty-gritty research should be done in the planning or revision stages, not while drafting. That’s what outlining, brackets, and again, revisions, are for. Write where there is no wi-fi. Use a program like Freedom to force you offline, or just simply have the willpower to stay offline yourself. “But I have to network and stuff!” our inner promoters shout. Yes, we do. But not while we’re writing.

11. GET GOOD SLEEP. There is nothing romantic or impressive about the sleepless writer slaving away, kept awake only by insanity and all that caffeine the grocery store once had. Lack of sleep does bad things, very bad things, to our brains, and therefore to our writing. Also, it’s bad for our skin. Truth! Sometimes there will be those long nights when we’re on a deadline or when inspiration strikes, but all those other times? Really, we should just suck it up and go to bed when it’s time to go to bed. We’ll feel better in the morning, and our words will show it.

12. Establish good, frequent, and healthy rewards for yourself. “When I finish this chapter, I’m going to chat with my boyfriend!” “One more scene, and then it’s candy cane shopping time!” “After I type 1,000 more words, I’m going to blast some Madonna and get jiggy wit’ it! Or some other reference that is not so heinously outdated!” These are healthy, and I think we would all agree awesome, rewards for working hard. Positive reinforcement: it’s a powerful thing.

13. Don’t be afraid to jump around. I don’t mean like physically jump around the room, although that could be fun, too! Especially if you look like this. What I mean is, if you hit a stumbling block mid-draft, don’t be afraid to jump to a different part of the draft to get the juices going again. No one said we have to draft our stories in order from beginning to end.

14. Read passages aloud. Okay, so I know I said don’t go back and re-read earlier portions of your story, and I still mean that. But reading aloud a passage that you’re currently working on, or reading aloud a bit of what you wrote yesterday before beginning today’s writing, is a great way to 1) refresh yourself about what you need to write next, 2) work through a tough scene, and 3) have fun. When you read aloud, do all your characters’ voices! Especially if there are people around, because it can be fun to freak out passersby. Pretend like you’re reading for an audience who has never heard the story before. Nothing illuminates odd word choices or logical fallacies like hearing the material read aloud.

15. Don’t stop until you’re done. Ignore your doubts and fears and just barrel through. As I said before, you can’t possibly know the true state of your draft until it’s done, until you’ve set it aside for a few days and come back to it with a clear head. And if you stop before you’re finished, you might lose all your momentum; you might lose focus or inspiration. A rolling stone gathers no moss, and a writing writer doesn’t have time or brainspace to freak out. A writing writer is writing, and that’s it; and a writing writer will soon have a finished draft, which is cause for celebratory cheese, and isn’t that what this is all about? a nice way to cap off a job well done?

*Please don’t go out on your roof and yell things bare-breastedly. Just, don’t. I cannot be held responsible for your tomfoolery.

ROW80 Round Two: 6/1/11 Check-In

1 Jun

Quick and dirty ROW80 check-in post, HOO-AHHH!

I’m still recovering from my travels, trying to catch up with everything and get back into a normal schedule, and what I’m discovering is…

I need to rethink my ROW80 goals for the remainder of this round.

I have about a bajillion writerly things to do, to the point where I don’t think multi-tasking is gonna cut it. You know how some people can multi-task? I am so not one of those people. Which I guess is actually good because apparently multi-tasking fries your brain or something. Plus, now there are deadlines involved (see: Cavendish). I have to set priorities. SO, I’m going to focus on one project at a time, for sanity’s sake.

BEHOLD, my rethought goals:

Goal #1: Finish second round of Cavendish revisions!

Goal #2: When that’s done, return to Cracked! Goal: finished draft by summer’s end (this might be overestimating my abilities, but we’re gonna GO WITH IT)

Goal #3: Outline and plan Untitled MG! Goal: synopsis by summer’s end

Oh, how I love lists. Don’t you love lists? They make everything seem so DOABLE.

Also, thank goodness for my roommates. I’m just saying. I might have had a little bit of a stress freakout earlier, and they just sat there and were awesome, and we shared some yummy salmon. Salmon is good, y’all. Just so you know. You probably already knew, didn’t you? SMARTYPANTSES.

Check out other ROWers’ posts here.

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