Monday, January 30, 2012

How NOT to Write a Synopsis

This is an exercise in how well you can follow directions. Read the entire list before you start. Ready?

Let's write a synopsis!
  1. Read online articles about how to write a synopsis and realize that the very best synopses are less than a page long. Resolve to write a synopsis that is less than a page long. It's less painful for you, less painful for the agent who has to read it, all-around less painful for everyone.
  2. Open a new document in your word processing program. Single spaced is usually fine for a synopsis, unless the agent says otherwise. You can always change the spacing later, but single spaced is easier to fit on one page.
  3. Without referring to your manuscript (hey, you just wrote it, right?) start typing the story as you remember it. The less you remember, the better, since, again, we want it short. Don't be like that kid who has to describe EVERY DETAIL of the movie plot.
  4. As quickly as possible, describe the major events. Use long, complicated sentences, since they really pack in the information well.
  5. Ditto with long paragraphs. You don't have room for paragraph breaks. Three paragraphs ought to do it: one for the beginning, one for the middle, one for the end. Brilliant.
  6. Halfway down the page, realize that describing all the major events will take longer than a page. Cut all subplots and stop referring to them AT ALL. Even when they impact the main plot. No room.
  7. Don't worry about describing complicated main-plot elements. It's much too hard to condense your brilliance to a simple sentence, and agents know it. They'll just be impressed that there are complicated plot elements IN there. If they're confused, they'll be that much more anxious to read the full so they can get the explanation.
  8. Don't waste time describing how your characters feel about the horrible things you're quickly describing. Agents aren't dumb: they can figure out how your characters feel without you having to spell it out. All they have to do is see what your characters do next.
  9. Got some fun details that add color but don't advance the plot? Leave 'em out. JUST THE PLOT, folks.
  10. You have to describe the climax and ending and stuff, so make sure you mention how it all turned out, right at the bottom of the page. A simple "and the hero conquers the bad guy in an epic battle involving muskrats" should do it. Though, really, you can probably leave the muskrats out.
  11. Have one of your beta readers skim through the synopsis, looking for typos and sentences that could be tightened up. You can't ask someone to read it who hasn't read the whole book since - come on! - major spoilers! If you trust someone enough to read the synopsis, don't you like them enough to let them have the complete experience of reading the whole book?
  12. Quickly fix what needs to be fixed and look for a few more sentences to remove. Then send it off to agents! It's not like they expect it to be perfect, anyway.
  13. Realize that every bit of advice above is complete bunk, with the possible exception of #2, and the links in #1. 
  14. Use this helpful stress-relief device:

Any questions? Can you tell me why each one is bad? What's your favorite bad synopsis advice?

I'll pontificate on Wednesday. If I have time, I'll even take a popular book (meaning one that everyone knows the ending to already) and write a dreadfully bad synopsis that follows all of the rules above. Anyone have a preference on which book I should destroy this time? I'm leaning toward Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, since I want to see if I can write a synopsis that calls Quiddich a "sports team."

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Contest Alert: Logline and 100 Words

It's contest time again! How about we help each other out on this one?

The contest is over at QueryTracker, and it starts Monday at 9:00 am EST. You'll need a free QueryTracker registration (which you want anyway) to access the submission form that will be available bright and early Monday morning (depending on your time zone).

Once the form is live, you'll need to use to submit your one-sentence logline and first 100 words.

The contest will be judged by Natalie Fischer Lakosil, Assistant Agent at the Bradford Literary Agency. Be sure to follow her on Twitter and on her blog.

According to the QueryTracker announcement, this contest is open to the following genres:
Commercial fiction, with an emphasis in children’s literature (from picture book to teen), romance (contemporary, paranormal and historical), and upmarket women’s fiction. Specific likes within those genres include historical, multi-cultural, paranormal, sci-fi/fantasy, gritty, thrilling and darker contemporary novels, and middle grade with heart.

Head over to the official announcement for full details.

Feeling nervous? Me, too.  I haven't tried to write a logline in a looong time, and all my old efforts sound quite sub-par.

So I propose, over the next day and a half, an exchange of logline crits for those of you who would like to. Mine is below, and I'd appreciate any and all comments on it. If you want me to critique yours, leave a link and post it on your blog (or even in the comments here) and I'll stop by sometime tonight or tomorrow. Feel free to post your first 100 words, too, though I'm going to be focusing on my logline.

Ready? Here's my one-sentence logline:

When human-pixie hybrid Brina starts making more pixie dust than a half-breed should, her status slips from strange to bizarre . . . and a group of ruthless rebels see the perfect chance for a coup.

Rip, tear, shred, and let me know if you need similar assistance. :) Good luck!

Friday, January 27, 2012

On Politics and Hypocrisy

No, I'm not going to turn my lovely writing blog into a political commentary blog. Politics generally interest me not at all, so you need not worry that I'll spend a lot of time on it. I just had to share this one little thought I had.

When I was in high school, I had an assignment to go to my library and read an article by Charles Krauthammer called In Praise of Mass Hypocrisy. If you have a subscription to TIME, you can read it yourself, here. I recommend it. As will become obvious, after reading it only once, it has stuck with me for... a long time.

The article starts by pointing out that, though the average American of the early '90's was (as the average American still is) rather, shall we say, lax in their personal standards of morality, they still demanded presidential candidates be upright, moral, and generally better than they expected themselves to be.

Then, just when I was getting all "My gosh, he's right! How can we expect the president to have better standards than the country he leads?" the article pointed out that this mass hypocrisy is A GOOD THING.

Huh? Isn't hypocrisy universally bad?

As I understood from Mr. Krauthammer's article, when the average American holds his elected officials to a higher standard, he is at least recognizing that a higher standard exists. And not only that it exists, but that it is obtainable, desirable, and a pretty good thing to have in someone who will be making decisions which will affect the world. It is an acknowledgement - subconscious, perhaps - that we, ourselves, as an average whole, aren't living up to the standards we admire. Which means that, maybe, most of us are still striving to improve. To attain that standard someday for ourselves.

The article closed by pointing out that the opposite would be much worse than a little hypocrisy. It gave me chills. What if we didn't have mass hypocrisy? What if we elected decision-makers who were every bit as flawed and imperfect and immoral and untruthful as the average American? What if we stopped expecting our leaders to live up to the higher standard? What if we stopped striving for it ourselves? What if we decided that the higher standard was simply unattainable, so it would be unfair and unrealistic to expect anyone to meet it?

This presidential race has me scared. Maybe I'm biased - I probably am - but when someone's past has been peppered with adultery, betrayed trust, failure to fulfill obligations in an ethical manner, and countless other indiscretions, it boggles my mind that so many Americans can hold that individual up as a great option for the leader of the free world.

Is mass hypocrisy dead?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Kreative Blogger Award

I'm still bummed that I didn't get to go to Brodi Ashton's launch party, so I'm soothing my feel-bads by accepting a blogger award!

This one is from Jenny Kaczorowski (which, for the record, is REALLY hard to spell without looking), an awesome friend who has helped me tons with my query lately.

Isn't it pretty?
So here's what I have to do:
  1. Post 10 things you may not know about me 
  2. Pass it along to six other bloggers.

Ready for another random list of useless Robin trivia?
  1. In elementary school, I was the skinniest kid in the class. Then puberty came calling and I never clued in that I couldn't eat whatever I wanted anymore. Worse, I fell for that "I'm eating for two" thing during my first pregnancy. WHY didn't anyone tell me that was a myth? Yeah, like a human the size of a bean needs his own large serving of lasagna.
  2. In middle school, I won a school writing contest with a short story about a little girl who was abused by her mother. My mother was not amused.
  3. I'm my mother's clone. Which is awesome, because when I was 23, she was mistaken for my sister.
  4. I've been acting and singing since I was very young and was in a children's singing group called the Rainbow Connection. I still can't stand that song, but several of my elementary school pictures featured me in my RC costume. Heaven knows why. 
  5. I cut bangs into my hair for that group and spent the next five years trying to grow them out.
  6. In middle school, my choir teacher was Mr. Broomhead.  When I went to high school, the high school hired Mr. Broomhead as choir teacher, where he continued to teach me through senior year Madrigals. (YONC!) When I graduated, Mr. Broomhead went on to teach at BYU. Sadly, I never took his choral class, since I was keeping my evenings free in case I landed a part in one of the major plays. I took private voice lessons instead.
  7. I never landed a part in any of the major plays, though I did get to act in some student projects.
  8. I settled on a directing emphasis and the fabulous Shelly Brown starred in my Mask Club play for my intermediate directing class.
  9. I haven't even ATTENDED a play in years and I miss it sooo much! Too bad being in plays is such a time suck.
  10. I sing in my church choir, but my favorite singing group is with my mother and sisters. We all have the same voice (ok, well, my sister's is better), so blending is no problem.
And I'm giving this award to...
  • Krista Van Dolzer for her awesome contests
  • Ru for her fearlessly hilarious posts
  • Deana Barnhart, blogfester extraordinaire
  • Shelly Brown (who blogs with her husband), because I'd feel guilty if I mentioned her and didn't give her the award, and not because she's hilarious or anything
  • Brenda Drake, another of my favorite contest sites
  • Donna Weaver, who packs good advice onto her blog and lets me stay at her house for LTUE
Boy, that's hard to choose. If I didn't pick you, don't fret. Blogger awards are the chain-mail of the blogosphere, so you're sure to get it eventually. :)

So who got to go to Brodi's book launch last night? Was it awesome?

Monday, January 23, 2012

EVERNEATH Comes Out Tomorrow!

Okay, so I've been talking about EVERNEATH and Brodi Ashton for... forever. I know. Indulge me again, K? I'll keep it short.


See. Told you it was short. Now watch the trailer:
Now go buy it.

If you're near Salt Lake (lucky, lucky you), be sure to stop by the launch party:

When: Tuesday, January 24th, 2012
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Treats?: Of course

Do me a favor and tell her I sent you, k? I'd be there if I could. Sadly, 8 hours of driving is not in my schedule or the budget, even for this.

If you can't make it to Salt Lake (sadness for all), you can still buy it online or from your local brick-and-mortar store (if they know what's good for them, anyway):

Buy EVERNEATH Indiebound
Buy EVERNEATH on Amazon
Buy EVERNEATH on Barnes and Noble

Now stare at the cover until yours arrives:

Oh, and go buy tissues. You're gonna need 'em

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Agent Query Crit Opportunity

Just popping in to spread the word of a chance to get an agent to crit your query.

You're not interested in that? Oh. Okay.

You can just read these highly recommended ebooks, instead:

  • Deborah Camp (A mix of contemporary and Old West Historical romances...over 40 coming in the near future, but here is a list of 10 or so available now)
  • Lorena Dureau (Historical Romance: American Colonial South and West. Very Sexy)
  • Dan Streib (thrillers with a James-Bond-meets-Anderson-Cooper main character)
  • Barbara Keesling (her too-hot-to-blog nonfiction is herehere, and here)
(I haven't read them, but they sound very fun. Some also sound x-rated, so read with caution.)

Oh you ARE interested in a query crit? Fine, then. Head on over to Meredith Barnes' blog post on resurrecting out-of-print titles for the e-market and help her promote her clients' stuff. Then follow her directions for submitting your query for a crit.

Can I say how much I love the online writing community? Everyone is so helpful!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Oh Frabjous Day

So you remember that query contest hosted by Jamie Ayres I mentioned Wednesday? It's over already, due to the speedelicious stylings of the agent judge, Nicole Resciniti.

Late January 18, she announced two winners, who received full requests. One of them is my dear friend, Donna Weaver! I'm so excited for Donna! She and her book totally deserve it. Congratulations, Donna!

The rest of us "non-winners" get to send the first 3-chapters and a synopsis to Nicole. Sort of makes me feel like a winner, too. :)

The most exciting part was that Nicole went around and commented on everyone's query. You can go here to see my whole query for DUSTED, but my bio-paragraph (which you'll need to read to understand her comment) is:
I’m a third-generation theatre geek with seven years of experience as a criminal defense lawyer, where I’ve learned about the drug trade directly from traffickers and addicts. I’ve published a paper on the juvenile death penalty, but this is my first novel. The death penalty paper was easier.
This is what she said:
The death penalty paper was easier—haa! Lmao. The title rocks and I’m always a fan of the fish-out-of-water tales. I think this sounds like fun. I’m really looking forward to reading about your pixies.
So. Awesome. Right? This is where I thank Aprilynne Pike for adding that very line and Donea Weaver (no relation to Donna Weaver, mentioned above) for suggesting the title. I, of course, maintain full credit for realizing the brilliance of both and keeping their contributions. :D

I'm going to be polishing my synopsis over the next few days (I just finished re-polishing the first three chapters a few days ago) and crossing my fingers as I dive back into the query pool. Wish me luck! :)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Breakdown: How NOT to Write a Query 3

Okay, so on Monday I broke Brodi's book blurb (say that 10 times fast). Let's discuss what I screwed up on, shall we?

First, here's the two blurbs, side by side:
Official (Good)
Mine (Bad)
Last spring, Nikki Beckett vanished, sucked into an underworld known as the Everneath, where immortals Feed on the emotions of despairing humans. Now she's returned- to her old life, her family, her friends- before being banished back to the underworld... this time forever.

She has six months before the Everneath comes to claim her, six months for good-byes she can't find the words for, six months to find redemption, if it exists.

Nikki longs to spend these months reconnecting with her boyfriend, Jack, the one person she loves more than anything. But there's a problem: Cole, the smoldering immortal who first enticed her to the Everneath, has followed Nikki to the mortal world. And he'll do whatever it takes to bring her back- this time as his queen.

As Nikki's time grows short and her relationships begin slipping from her grasp, she's forced to make the hardest decision of her life: find a way to cheat fate and remain on the Surface with Jack or return to the Everneath and become Cole's...
Six months ago, Nikki had a good life. Her best friend, Jack, became her boyfriend – and it actually looked like his player days were over. She had a BFF, her dad was the mayor, and her little brother idolized her. Then she met Cole, and Cole knew just what to do to ease the pain of her mother’s death. So Nikki became Cole’s forfeit in the Everneath, where she surrendered her emotions to keep him alive for another hundred years.

Now, Nikki has returned, but can’t tell anyone where she’s been for the last six months – or that, to her, the time has actually been a hundred years. Worse, she can’t tell anyone that, in six months, she’ll be forced to return forever to the tunnels of the Everneath.

Jack still loves her, but how can she renew his trust? Most importantly, Cole followed her to the surface to convince her to become his queen. It’s a good alternative to the tunnels, but can she find a way to stay with Jack?

I chose Brodi's book for this series not just because it's coming out in a few days, but because I think her blurb excels in two main areas: tone and details. Let's talk about tone first, shall we?

Set the Tone in the First Line
You've heard about first impressions? Same goes for the first line of your query.

Official: Last spring, Nikki Beckett vanished...
Mine: Six months ago, Nikki had a good life.

What's the difference? In the official version, the tension starts immediately, with a vanishing girl. In mine, it only hints at future conflict - and that only by inferring that we wouldn't be mentioning it if it had stayed good.

More, EVERNEATH is not a happy book. Hope-filled, yes. Happy, no. It is not peppy or cheerful or anything you'll see making the rounds of the comedy circuit (no matter how hilarious the author). So if you can picture a cheerleader reading the blurb, something is wrong. EVERNEATH is meant to be read by a newscaster wearing her tragedy-face.

Take-away: open with something that immediately reflects the tone of the book. Introduce the tension as soon as possible. Five words is good.

Continue the Tone Throughout
Keep it up through the rest of the query. The official blurb does it amazingly well, especially in this paragraph:
She has six months before the Everneath comes to claim her, six months for good-byes she can't find the words for, six months to find redemption, if it exists.
Mine? Not so much. The happy gossiping cheerleader could totally read the whole thing.

Take-away: don't let the information overwhelm your tone. Use words that would be found in the book. A good tip for this is to write it in the POV of the actual POV character (then convert it to third person present tense).

Devil's in the Details
Hmmm. I think this was the problem last time, right? That's okay, because this is a very common problem.
Gabriela Lessa actually said this about my first 30 pages: I had great details... but maybe the wrong ones.

Let's do another chart. In this one, I've listed the information we learn from each blurb and I've underlined the information that's repeated in both:
Real (Good)
Fake (Bad)
Last spring, Nikki Beckett vanished
Underworld = Everneath
Immortals Feed on the emotions of despairing humans
Now she's returned
She’s going to be banished back to the underworld in six months... this time forever
She has a family and friends
She has a hard time saying goodbye
She loves Jack, her boyfriend
Cole enticed her to the Everneath
Cole followed Nikki back, wants her to be queen
Nikki has a choice: cheat fate and stay with Jack or return with Cole

Six months ago, Nikki had a good life
Jack was her best friend before he was her boyfriend
Jack used to be a player, now he’s shaping up
Nikki had a BFF
Nikki’s dad was mayor
Nikki has a little brother who idolized her
Nikki’s mother was dead
Cole knew how to ease her pain
Nikki became a forfeit in the Everneath
Nikki surrendered her emotions to keep Cole alive for 100 years
Now, she’s returned
Nikki can’t tell anyone where she’s been for six months
She’s been gone 100 years
She has to return to the tunnels of the Everneath
Jack still loves her
Cole followed Nikki back, wants her to be queen
Queen is better than tunnels, but Nikki wants Jack

What's the difference? My query blurb doesn't explain what the Everneath is or, really, what her choice is or how hard everything is for her. Instead, I waste space on unnecessary details like who the boyfriend was before he was the boyfriend, her dad's profession, that her brother idolizes her and her mother is dead, that she had been gone for 100 years Everneath time, that she can't tell anyone, that she'll be going back to the tunnels of the Everneath (whatever those are), and that Jack still loves her. That last detail may seem important, but the official blurb only says that SHE loves JACK. Doesn't that seem more important to the driving force of the book?

The Take-Away: Watch those details. List every detail you include in your query and figure out if, maybe, you really don't need all of them. Figure out which details you really DO need and focus on those.

Now, I do have to mention that Brodi didn't land her agent with what is now the official blurb. Her query was slightly different from what now graces the back of her book. If you're curious to see her actual query, check it out in her agent's post about why he signed her.

So do you struggle with these issues like I (obviously) do? Do you have any tips to write it better?

Also, I'd love you forever if you'd head over to Jamie Ayre's blog to critique my query for her query contest. I'm #1 (wahoo!)... but I'm three pages deep on the blog, and I'm worried no one will get that far down. You (and Jamie) are the best!

Monday, January 16, 2012

How NOT to Write a Query 3: EVERNEATH edition

I have a major author crush on Brodi Ashton (Gasp! You didn't know that?) and her debut novel EVERNEATH, which comes out on January 24th. That's a week from tomorrow. If you live in the Salt Lake area, make your night and go to her launch party at the King's English. Get her to personalize your book - then have her sign another one you can sell on ebay later. Trust me on this: EVERNEATH is gonna be huge. (I'd feel nervous about making such a blatant prediction about unpredictable market trends if it wasn't such a duh-statement.)

Anyway, in honor of EVERNEATH's launch, I'm going to completely ruin its lovely blurb. What? You're going to break the spine! Don't judge!

First, as always, here's the real thing... only I'm blacking it out because I want you to read the bad one first. But I didn't want to PUT the bad one first in case you got confused and unfairly judged EVERNEATH by my bad EVERNEATH blurb. After you've scrolled down and read the bad blurb, write down what you think is wrong with it. THEN check the real one and see if you were right. Leave your crit in the comments and I'll break it down on Wednesday.

Now, on to the real blurb (select it to read it when you're done reading the bad one):

Last spring, Nikki Beckett vanished, sucked into an underworld known as the Everneath, where immortals Feed on the emotions of despairing humans. Now she's returned- to her old life, her family, her friends- before being banished back to the underworld... this time forever.

She has six months before the Everneath comes to claim her, six months for good-byes she can't find the words for, six months to find redemption, if it exists.

Nikki longs to spend these months reconnecting with her boyfriend, Jack, the one person she loves more than anything. But there's a problem: Cole, the smoldering immortal who first enticed her to the Everneath, has followed Nikki to the mortal world. And he'll do whatever it takes to bring her back- this time as his queen.

As Nikki's time grows short and her relationships begin slipping from her grasp, she's forced to make the hardest decision of her life: find a way to cheat fate and remain on the Surface with Jack or return to the Everneath and become Cole's...

(It's okay if you need some time to drool over the cover. I can wait.)

Ready? Got your red pencils and scathing comments sharpened?

Here's the bad blurb. Yanno, like you might write if this were your book and you were new at this query-writing thang. I even made mine the same word count as the real one (172 words):

Six months ago, Nikki had a good life. Her best friend, Jack, became her boyfriend – and it actually looked like his player days were over. She had a BFF, her dad was the mayor, and her little brother idolized her. Then she met Cole, and Cole knew just what to do to ease the pain of her mother’s death. So Nikki became Cole’s forfeit in the Everneath, where she surrendered her emotions to keep him alive for another hundred years.
Now, Nikki has returned, but can’t tell anyone where she’s been for the last six months – or that, to her, the time has actually been a hundred years. Worse, she can’t tell anyone that, in six months, she’ll be forced to return forever to the tunnels of the Everneath.
Jack still loves her, but how can she renew his trust? Most importantly, Cole followed her to the surface to convince her to become his queen. It’s a good alternative to the tunnels, but can she find a way to stay with Jack? 

Okay, your turn. What did I do wrong? What does the real blurb have that this one is lacking?

Friday, January 13, 2012

Editing After a Break

Ever feel like Ross when it comes to your "completed" manuscripts?

I didn't mean to take a break from editing: I thought I was done with all that editing stuff. Well, naturally I assumed that my as-yet-future wonderful agent would prompt some editing, and I remain confident that any editor who purchases my story will want some editing, but I truly believed that my story was ready for querying. I'd exhausted several betas, I'd cut thousands of words, and I'd reached the point that I couldn't be sure if anything I was doing was actually helping the story.

So I queried. And my wonderful, well-edited, workshopped query... went whump. This wasn't a case of agents requesting a partial and then passing. They read the query and fired of the form rejection. Or sent me to their "no reply means no" box. I had a couple exciting bites from agents I could claim a personal connection to, but everyone else... not so much. Fortunately, I've been around long enough to know what that means: my query wasn't working. Time to revise.

So, after fewer than 15 queries, I stopped querying. And started editing... the query. Because, really, practically no one had seen my manuscript. Obviously not time for me to get back together with that, right?

4 months went by. Then I got some great feedback from a first page contest and figured I could tinker a bit. What will it hurt?

Another month went by. Then I won a 30 page crit by the awesome Gabriela Lessa, and I knew it was time for the break to be over.

She liked my pacing and that I don't cram in a lot of background information... but she also felt a bit lost and wondered if I was choosing the wrong details of background information to include. She thought my writing was polished, but she felt like the story was waiting too long to get started. Her comments were spot-on and, even better, after thinking about them, I was able to figure out how to fix it! Well, most of it. I'm pretty sure.

So I ran scraping through the first few chapters of my book again. I removed a character. I cut one scene and added another with more tension and less blah-blah. I identified which details of background information were important, ran them through a trash compactor, and found them new homes, earlier in the story. Then I hunted down their clones and decided to trust my readers to catch it the first time. At the end of the day, I'd cut over 900 words. 900 words from my "completed" manuscript.

I'm not quite done, and I have some more nits to pick before I'll be satisfied that my manuscript is "completed" again. Meanwhile, I'm still revising that query with the help of some great friends.

Maybe in a week or so, I'll be ready to be on another break. Then I can get back to fraternizing with my new-shiny story. Won't that be nice?

Have you ever gone back to edit a story after a long break?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Query Contest Hosted by Jamie Ayres

Nicole Resciniti
Just popping in to direct your attention to an awesome query contest going on over at Jamie Ayres' blog. She's accepting the first 20 queries emailed to her and, on the 18th, will post them on her blog for comments by blog followers and by agent Nicole Resciniti with The Seymour Agency. I just sent mine--you should, too!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

What I Don't Do

Every once in a while, I get to listing all the things I do and someone asks how I can possibly manage all of that. Which sounds insufferably full-of-myself when I say it, like I just did. Still, allow me to pull out my own trumpet for a moment. There's a point, I promise.

  • I'm a full-time lawyer who started law school with a 4-month-old and graduated with a 3-year-old and a 9-month-old. I now have three sons under the age of 11.
  • In the last three years, I've written and edited one whole book and half of the rough draft of another. I successfully completed NaNoWriMo in 2011. When I buckle down, I can write about 1000 words a day without too much trouble.
  • I'm a host of David Farland's Authors' Advisory and, starting last year, I've been privileged to help out at LTUE. This will be my third year at LDStorymakers. I'm the group leader of my online writer's group.
  • Last year, I read 109 books. That's a daily average of over 95 pages. (In 2009, I read 173 books, with a daily average of over 157 pages.)
  • Before my church congregation underwent a recent and severe reorganization (if you're familiar with the LDS church, you'll understand when I say that they took 4 wards and made 5), I did 3 jobs: I visited 3-4 ladies every month, I prepared a sunday school lesson every other week, and I chaired the Cub Scout committee (which involved three meetings a month and miscellaneous emailing / list making / etc in between)
Pretty impressive, huh? *polishes nails on shirt* Feeling inadequate? Seriously, don't. Let's discuss what I don't do (a lot of this I feel very guilty about, so be kind):
  • Exercise. I have a gym membership and go only sporadically. It's a goal to spend some of my reading time each week reading on the elliptical at the gym, but for now, I'm just getting fatter and more unhealthy.
  • Sleep. If I don't sleep for around 8 hours a night, I get sick (as my husband points out to me every night). I get sick a lot. I'm constantly having to forego holding cute new babies because I have the sniffles or a sore throat or a head cold. Sleep really should be a bigger part of my life, but it's so BORING! Not that being sick is all that exciting....
  • Grocery shopping. My husband does that. I seriously haven't been grocery shopping (except as the occasional tag-a-long) for... um... well, I've been married 11.5 years....
  • Laundry. Just tonight I had to fold a basket full of whites and got all huffy about it. I occasionally have to wash my own work clothes and miscellaneous delicates. The laundry I do is the sort where you spend five minutes tracking it down and putting it in, 30 seconds transferring it to the dryer, and another 5 minutes hanging it up afterward. I occasionally fold stuff my husband has washed and, about 6 times a year, feel all virtuous about running a load of something or other for the family. Go me.
  • Ironing. All my clothes are wash-and-wear. I made hubby buy me an iron for Christmas a few years ago, but never have found a regular use for it.
  • Dishes. I do these more often than laundry, but, again, hubby takes care of most of this.
  • Cooking dinner. Hubby again. I might cook dinner 2-3 times per week. I usually make a special breakfast on Saturday morning.
  • Cleaning the house. Except for the 2-3 hours a week I spend on the bathroom and the kitchen (hubby has an aversion to cleaning that involves chemicals and scrubbing), I don't clean much at all. Might vacuum 6 times a year. 
  • Any of the "man chores." You'd think that since I have a stay-at-home husband, I'd be expected to take on some of the traditional man-chores, but no. He does all the car maintenance (I only get my own gas when I'm on writing conference trips), yard work, snow removal, home repair, etc.
  • Homework. I mentioned I have three sons? They are generally finished with homework when I get home from work. (Haha.) I get to help my youngest with his reading homework a few times a week, and answer the very occasional question for the other two, but I don't have to take care of the day-to-day grind of making them sit still.
  • Reading to the boys. I feel VERY guilty about this, but most nights I just don't get it done. They always ask, but more often than not, I put them off. And we're in the last few chapters of the book we're reading, too! Bad mommy.
  • Television. I used to be a TV addict. I had 5-8 shows I just HAD to watch every week. Now I have none. Partly, I learned when I got the DVR that if I can put off a show until I have over a month saved up, maybe I wasn't all that attached to it. Partly, this is excruciating choice. There are some awesome shows out there that I'd love to watch all the time, so I don't let myself watch a single episode. I don't have the time. I miss out on a lot of inside jokes and social bonding opportunities, but there it is. I just don't have the time.
  • Movies. I might watch a movie while I fold laundry, but that's only about once a month. I rarely go to the theater. I sometimes will get a movie for date night with the hubby. Most of the movies that have come out in the last ten years I just didn't see. I have no idea that some of the movies even exist. This is very sad for a Theatre Arts major, but there it is.
  • Theatre, arts, etc. I don't go see plays, I don't get involved in community theatre, and I don't visit art exhibits. I would love to join the community choral at the local college, but can't.
  • Girls' Nights Out. Or nights out in general. I might leave the house for a fun nighttime activity once a month. If you count church activities. I don't go dancing, I don't hang out at the local coffee shop, I don't do any of the things the girls in the books I read are always doing.
I'm going to stop there because, well, if I don't get to bed soon, I'm going to get sick... er. That sore throat ain't just gonna go away on it's own. Still, you can see that the list of things I don't do is much longer than the list of things I do. Not so impressive now, is it?

Bottom line? I get done all I do because I have an amazing, supportive spouse who picks up all my slack and because I prioritize the things I REALLY want to do.

So what do you give up so you can do all the things YOU do?

Monday, January 9, 2012

2011 Random Reading Recap

So, um, obviously I didn't set a goal to, like, blog this year. A week has passed and here I am. Oh, look! A blog! Guess I should write somethin' on it, huh? *hangs head in shame* I'm going with the "I had a sore throat" excuse. 'Cause, as everyone knows, if you have a sore throat, the last thing you should be doing is sitting quietly in one spot with only your fingers moving.


Anyway, I meant to do this post earlier, but no time like the present, right? Especially since I haven't done it yet. And should do it. And have I mentioned my sore throat?

Let's talk about what I read this year, shall we? Or, well, how about I just list what I read and YOU can talk about it. I think my sore throat is impeding my ability to be clever today.

Total books read: 109.
My reading goal this year was to read less and write more. I'm counting this as accomplished.

96 were what I classify as "romantic." The non-romantic books I read are as follows:
  • ALLOY OF LAW by Brandon Sanderson--Yes, there as a touch of romance, but it wasn't a major theme, and there wasn't a happily-ever-after. I have high hopes for the sequels, though.
  • TUESDAYS AT THE CASTLE by Jessica Day George--the protag is 11
  • SOMEONE LIKE YOU by Sarah Dessen--the "You" in the title is NOT good boyfriend material
  • VARIANT by Robison Wells--the sub-plot romances are more fledgling than realized
  • PALE DEMON by Kim Harrison--this is part of an ongoing series that often has romance, but this book didn't
  • THE SHIFTER by Janice Hardy--there is potential for the sequels, but this one wasn't particularly romantic
  • HARD MAGIC by Laura Ann Gilman--again, romantic potential in the series, but no actual romance in the book
  • STAYING DEAD by Laura Ann Gilman--same as above
  • PRINCESS IN THE SPOTLIGHT (Princess Diaries #2) by Meg Cabot--the romance doesn't really get started until #3
  • MAGIC AT THE GATE by Devon Monk--romance earlier in the series, but not in this book
  • BLACK DUST MAMBO--potential not realized here
  • PRINCESS DIARIES by Meg Cabot--no romance for now
Can you tell I like romance?

54 of the books I read this year were Fantasy. I'm not listing all those, but 34 of them were what I would call "urban."

48 were YA. I'm not listing those, either.

4 were Sci-Fi:
  • ACROSS THE UNIVERSE by Beth Revis (spaceships and cryogenics)
  • DROP DEAD GORGEOUS by MaryJanice Davidson (cyborgs)
  • VARIANT by Robison Wells (not tellin')
  • DIVERGENT by Veronica Roth (advanced mind-control)
5 were Steampunk:
  • LEVIATHAN, BEHEMOTH, and GOLIATH by Scott Westerfeld (Clankers vs. Darwinists and a commoner girl pretending to be a boy who falls in love with a prince who doesn't know she's a girl)
  • HEARTLESS by Gail Carriger (Victorian Steampunk with Vampires and Werewolves)
  • CORSETS AND CLOCKWORK (anthology)--best one was TICK, TICK, BOOM by Keirsten White
5 Dystopian:
  • MATCHED by Ally Condie (statisticians run amok)
  • ACROSS THE UNIVERSE (probably not technically a dystopian, but I thought the behavior modification was dystopian-esque)
  • POSSESSION by Elana Johnson (control or be controlled)
  • VARIANT by Robison Wells (again, I thought the anarchy was rather dystopian)
  • DIVERGENT by Veronica Roth (four virtues to choose from)
1 Horror:  THE MERIDIANS by Michaelbrent Collings--reads like Koontz

1 Thriller: MONARCH by Michelle Davidson--set at a butterfly resort: very cool

Zero Non-Fiction. Nada. Zip. Zilch. (I'm not counting reading I did for work or church--this is just-for-fun reading. Or isn't. As the case may be.)

Top 3 Favorite Authors by Book Count: I read 6 books by Meg Cabot and 5 books each by Sara Dessen and Susan Elizabeth Phillips. I have other favorites, but I obviously went back to these ladies again and again. Sara and Meg are new discoveries this year, as is Maureen Johnson, another author I've recently come to love. I think it's interesting that Meg, Sara, and Susan don't write in my favorite genre. (Maureen recently branched out into it, though, with THE NAME OF THE STAR, which I also loved.)

So what did you read last year?

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Horoscope-Inspired Goals for 2012

If there was one horoscope for a wanna-be professional author to read on the First of January, this one (from Shine from Yahoo) is pretty ideal:
Year 2012 Career
You're in stellar standing in 2012, especially during the first half of the year. You'll definitely feel like the 'It' sign, with Mars and Jupiter doing your bidding. Your creativity is off the charts with the action planet, Mars, running an extended six-month stint in your sector of self-expression. Mars will be retrograde during the first quarter, which could create the illusion that not much is moving forward - and yet you've never felt more creative and inspired. Trust that all your inner preparation will meet with great rewards and forward motion.
Neptune had been causing some confusion about your professional identity over the past few years, but now that it will be leaving your career sector for good in February, clarity - if not a major epiphany - is coming. Write everything down, because breakthrough ideas will come like flashes of lightning and will be as easily forgotten as fast as they come. It's time to translate all the gifts of inspired creativity and vision that Neptune brought you over the past several years into flourishing future plans. The tragedy would be to keep all of these gifts locked up as mere potential.
When the big eclipse points hit your money and talent sector this summer, you'll see another huge wave of changes unfolding over the latter half of 2012. And since you can be the most stubborn of all signs when it comes to embracing the new, you may actually welcome this colossal cosmic push. There is no going back, Taurus - you're destined for bigger and more glamorous things (with many of them likely involving extensive travel). La Dolce Vita, baby!
Wow, huh? I wonder if I can sue Shine if I'm not on book tours by the end of the year. :D *Flips hair* *Resolves to never forget the little people* *Wishes she believed in horoscopes*

In any event, my goals from last year were very simple:
  1. Edit and query WIP #1. (Hopefully by the end of April.)
  2. Write WIP#2--the whole thing.
For #1, I actually accomplished it! I finished the book, revised, revised, revised, had oodles of so-awesome-I'm-not-worthy beta readers give me advice, revised, revised, revised again, and finally started querying this summer. A few weeks later I (rather wisely) decided that my query wasn't getting the job done and paused to rewrite it. I'm still doing that. I'm also anxiously awaiting a 30-page crit from Gabriela Lessa--after which I'll probably revise again. Then rewrite my query again. Then get going querying again. Still, I'm counting #1 as accomplished! :)

I only accomplished half of #2, and that was thanks to NaNoWriMo. WIP #1 edits took a few months longer than I planned for (always better to take more time than less time on that sort of thing, methinks). Still, I made amazing headway, all things considered, and really enjoy having TWO books to obsess over. Breaks up the monotony nicely.

So on to 2012, no?

This year, I'm going to try to get a little more specific, so you might want to skip to the end. This is mostly to hold myself accountable later:

Goal #1: Obtain Agent
Steps to Accomplish Goal #1:

  1. Finish re-revising WIP #1: DUSTED (the book formerly known as GEAS). 
  2. Rewrite query until it can fully express the awesomeness that is DUSTED without being confusing
  3. Query 10 agents 
  4. Revise query, depending on response
  5. Repeat steps 2&3 until I...
  6. Obtain agent and/or 100 rejections
Goal #2: Complete Second Full Book
Steps to Accomplish Goal #2:
  1. Write every day. I did it during November, but then slacked off. I want to write at least 20,000 words a month, so I'll need at least 5,000 words a week. I hope you'll join me on Twitter for a few hundred rounds of #1k1hr over the next year
  2. Have first draft done by April, and ready for my writer's group to critique.
  3. Revise.
  4. Get to beta readers by June
  5. Revise again. Repeat as needed.
  6. When complete, query as necessary (see goal #1)

Goal #3: More books!
Steps to Accomplish Goal #3:

  1. Learn how to outline
  2. Build outline for DUSTED 2 and SECONDBOOK 2
  3. Brainstorm more book ideas, write those during downtime on Goals #1&2
Okay, I'll stop there. I also have a goal to lose at least 20 pounds this year, but that's probably better for a different sort of blog. :)

So what goals do you have for 2012? Does YOUR horoscope say you're destined for bigger and more glamorous things? It does? Oh. Figures.