Monday, April 29, 2013


I have always considered myself a highly patient person, at least where patience is important.  I have no patience with slow loading computer programs or laundry that is "perpetually" stuck on the 1-minute-left-to-cycle screen, but, I have nearly endless patience teaching mathematics to reluctant learners, and I can spend hours upon hours making the perfect chocolate babka.  Then why, pray tell, am I having such a difficult time being a patient writer?

Maybe it is because LitD practically wrote itself in two months and that the following two months were so full of glorious revisions that I hardly had time to notice time was passing.  Maybe it is because springtime has finally come to Massachusetts and all my patience was spent on winter.  But now--now that my manuscript is due to the writers' conference, and now that my revisions will be few and far between (that is, until I next receive feedback)--now, I feel impatient.

I want to keep moving forward.  I want to make LitD as perfect as it can be; except, I want to do it faster.  Oh yes, patience is a virtue.  But patience is now at war with my father's motto--the one that is so ingrained in me that it might as well be my motto:  Do your work. Get it done.  Afterwards, have some fun.  How can patience compete with that, especially when writing is my fun?

My question for you:
How do you cope with impatience?

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Does Writer = Creeper?

Writers do a lot of things that make people nervous.  For example, we mentally record every conversation we have with you and then spend hours writing them down every single evening just in case we need to use it in one of our novels.  And you'll never know if that character in Book 4 of the Psycho-Killer series we write is actually you (your quirks exaggerated, of course).

But that's not all we do.  Oh no.  Us unpublished writers (and, I suppose, some who are published) have the joy of finding agents.  With finding an agent comes a whole other level of creepitude.

I read somewhere that finding an agent is a "1 in 100 shot."  While those odds are not impossible (although with a P-value that low, the statistician in me would rejoice and reject the null hypothesis), they aren't exactly good (like they would be if you were a statistician).

I do wonder where the statistic comes from.  Does it take into consideration all the people who query agents without looking to see if those agents accept their genre?  What about all the people who send really bad queries or don't follow the querying guidelines?  Those who query on imperfect manuscripts?  I'd love to know because it might help me understand what numbers I'm up against.

Not long after I started writing LitD, I began to compile a list of agents I might consider querying.  Today, I spent a large portion of my day going through each website and making sure I have all my information straight...and ranking them.  Nearly fifty agents have now been sorted into groups A, B, C, and then ranked  within those groups.  You should see my spreadsheet.  It almost makes me feel dirty.  Ew.  Ranking people I have never met before.  I don't like ranking people I know intimately, never mind those I don't know at all.

And then of course the twitter stalking commenced. As I looked up every single one of the agents on my A List and started following her, my reason told me, "April, it's okay.  She wouldn't have an account if she didn't want strangers to follow her.  So what, you now knowing she really likes to take a lot of pictures of her dogs doesn't exactly help you secure her as your agent?  It's the internet!"  Yep, I pretty much still feel like a creeper.

So what is the moral of this story?  I don't think I have one.  I guess this is more of a public apology:  I am sorry I am being a horrible person and ranking and stalking people with whom I want to develop a relationship.  I promise the part of me that stalks and ranks agents is the part of me that wants to be prepared for everything.  I don't want to be creepy.  Cross my heart.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

How many licks does it take to get to the center of a novel?

Today I had lunch with someone from college whom I haven't seen in, well, eight years.  Since graduation, we've both decided to pursue entirely artistic, albeit different, careers.  She's an actress and I'm a mathematician.  So, maybe I lied about my field of expertise being creative.  What is true is that I aspire to be creative (hence the whole writer thing).

Somewhere between our discussion of Mr. Rochester and how shy my daughter was playing at, my drafting process for LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS (if you haven't read the first chapter yet, go here) was mentioned.  "Mentioned" is such a weak word.  "Dominated" is more like it.  My drafting process dominated the luncheon.  Sorry about that, Heather.  So as LitD conquered the conversation and the tabletop became a bloody battleground, it got me thinking about my original assumptions about drafting/writing a novel.  This is where I share my experience with you.

Original assumption:
Three drafts, one hundred query letters, and a book deal.

What was wrong with my assumption:
I'm on my third draft now and in no way do I feel LitD is ready to be sent into the world.  If I can't leave for work in the morning without trying on five different outfits, what made me think I could let LitD leave the house in fewer than four drafts?  So scratch that idea.

This is what really happened:  
I wrote the first draft of LitD in two months.  It was 87,000 words, if I remember correctly.
I changed a few scenes (dramatically) and fixed a few grammatical errors in about two weeks.  The second draft was 84,000 words.
Now, LitD is just under 83,000 words, and it has taken me about one to two hours to edit some pages.  Here's why*:

There's more.  In two months, LitD and I will attend a novel intensive.  What does that mean?  More changes.

I won't even go into why the other two parts of my original assumption are wrong.  Let's just say, I've been a tad naive.  I still am.

What I can say is that in between being disgusted with my syntax, word choice, punctuation, grammar, and everything else of which I am now more aware, I have truly enjoyed this process.  I look forward to more of it.  Promise.  Cross my fingers, hope to die.

*Here's another reason why:

My question for you:
Anything worth doing is worth doing well.  True or false?

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Tips from an Aspiring Author

Now that I am well established among my friends and family as an aspiring author, I have decided to impart some of my brilliant wisdom (ha).  In all seriousness though, I think some perspective from someone who is "new to the game" is sometimes helpful.  And, if it's not, this blog post allows me to sort through some of the major things I've learned since pursuing writing.

Tip 1:
Set measurable goals.  Just this week, I was feeling a little down and unmotivated.  After spending three days on the first page of Chapter Thirteen (no symbolism there), I finally decided what my problem was, and it wasn't the head cold I've been sporting.  I had forgotten my cardinal rule of goal setting.  Once I said, "Geez, April, you really should set a goal for this weekend," and I did, I found myself chipping the next four chapters.  Nice.
I am not one of those people who struggles with procrastination.   The earlier, the better.  Do your work.  Get it done.  Afterwards, have some fun.  That's me.  But if you are a Procrastinator, set goals closer together.  If it's Monday, set a writing goal for Wednesday instead of Friday.  Even if you procrastinate, you'll still have something done by Wednesday and even more done for Friday.
Tip 2:
Find beta readers after you have completed the majority of your manuscript. Beta readers are super awesome people who will read your work and give you super awesome honest feedback. Usually, they read in exchange for you reading their work. My beta readers come free (about which I'm always a little guilty). Since I write YA, they are a small group of students from my high school. They are fantastic and LitD is better because of them.  Seriously better.
Tip 3:
Start following the social media sites of both writers and agents. I have found blogs to be the most useful learning tool.  They post excellent things including upcoming events I wouldn’t normally have known about, great books to read, tips for writing and querying, what the market looks like, etc.  
It also gives me perspective and makes these people whom I aspire to be like less intimidating.  Let's face it.  Established Authors = Scary.  Agents = Terrifying.  However, when you find that A-List-Agent tweeting about her cat or the new dress she bought, she's a real person now.  Nothing to be afraid of...much.

Tip 4:
Research, research, research. Lots of this can be done by reading the blogs of legitimate people, but you never know what good advice comes up just because you happen to stumble on a good site.  Case in point:  I never would have guessed that the title of my manuscript should be in all caps.  I had clicked on a blog through a blog through an agent's website when I discovered that little gem.  Now I tell everyone about it because, heck, I'm proud I found it.
Tip 5:
Interact with as many writers as you can.  Now you must understand, I live nearly as close to the middle of nowhere as you can get in central Massachusetts.  Except for the small grocery store in the center of town, my nearest grocery store is 25 minutes away.  My closest neighbors are cows and coyotes, so interacting with other writers is not easy.  I'd join a writing group if the nearest one didn't meet on school nights and wasn't an hour away.  My main source is through forums and larger blogs, but let me tell you one thing: When I do connect with other writers, it keeps me feeling motivated, and I like feeling like part of a community.

And finally, because I had to call my high school English teacher (I graduated 11 years ago, by the way) and have a four-way conversation on speaker phone with her husband and cutie little toddler son while they drove to some unknown Saturday morning destination before I had even the slightest idea of where to start, here are some very helpful places to start:
This place is wow.  Just wow.
A lit agent with fantastic posts about writing/market/everything. I’ve gone to one of her webinars where I learned tons of things I didn't even know I should ask.  She also posts regularly, which is nice for someone like me who creeps the internet.
He’s got a very extensive ebook that is free to download. I recommend reading it.  Some of the things he says don't particularly jive with me, but the ebook is so jam-packed with info that I couldn't help learning something.
Check this out. You can get an account for free and you don’t have to buy the magazine. They’ll send you emails with tips. I love their Speakeasy Forum to connect with other writers. You can ask questions and find out the skinny on stuff like conferences.  From real people.  Who aren't selling stuff. Score.
Another literary agent with some helpful posts. Several of them have already helped to tighten up my writing.
There are a bajillian more out there, and it wouldn't do to list them all, but 
My favorite is: YA Highway! It’s very much YA driven (good for me), but they have a lot of good tips. I aspire to be like some of these fantastic women.  And actually, *they* tagged *me* in last Friday's Field Trip Friday for an article I brought to their attention! Can you imagine? Little ol' me? Okay, so it's not a big deal to anyone but me, but this blog had THREE extra hits because of it.  I'm not being sarcastic when I say that excites me.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013


It's my birthday, and what better way to celebrate than share the first chapter of LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS with you.  This is how it works.

1.)  You read the first chapter by going here.  It's easy.  It's free.  It's my gift to you!

2.)  If you like what you read, want to read more, or just plain want to give me a morale booster, you can:
A.)  Like my Facebook page or follow me on Twitter.
B.)  Share or tweet this giveaway (with a link to my Facebook page).
C.)  Post a link to your Facebook comment in the comments below or on my Facebook wall, or mention me in your tweet.
D.)  Do so by midnight on April 17, 2013.

If you do A-D, you’ll be entered in a giveaway for the second chapter of LitD.  Five of you will receive this little gem.

Increase your chances to win.  Facebook shares, tweets, and blog posts count as separate entries!  Just make sure you mention additional entries in the comments here with the link(s).

I'll announce the winners here on April 21st.

BUT WAIT, there could be MORE!

If there are 290 entries or more (I am 29 now, after all), one lucky person will get to read the first FOUR CHAPTERS!