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The Writer's Book Club is meeting today at my WordPress site to discuss THE LIGHTNING THIEF by Rick Riordan. If you've read the book, you're welcome to stop by!

Taking Care of Business

I forgot to announce this sooner: the book for the February's WBC will be THE LIGHTNING THIEF, by Rick Riordan (appropriate for ages nine and up). Discussion will start February 3rd, with a focus on modifying mythology for contemporary novels. THE LIGHTNING THIEF movie releases February 12th, so I hope all of you will read the book before seeing the movie!

Speaking of the book club, I need your vote. Would you rather have the discussion on WordPress, like we did for SHIVER in December, or on LiveJournal, like we did in January? Please let me know which site you prefer, and majority will rule. Thank you!

I haven't posted links in awhile; here are a few gems I had to share:

The best marketing for your book is based on the best use of your time, from the ever-helpful Nathan Bransford.

If you have finished writing a YA novel, you might be interested in these two contests.

Click here to learn more about a developing genre called New Adult, with protagonists aged 18-26.

What other business am I forgetting? I'll be back on Saturday with a post about revision!

Official "Share Your Writing Space" Day

So it's not an official holiday . . . I made it up. Just go with it, okay??

Back in December, I talked about revamping your writing space as a way to inspire yourself. Well, I've been fixing up my office, and I'm finally ready to share some pics! I'm happy with it for now, but no doubt it will change in the future. The next project will be turning my door into storyboard central via magnetic paint.

Before we even moved into this house, I knew I wanted my office to combine some of my favorite things: books, nature, and the color green. I don't like sitting at my desk on beautiful days, so I decided to bring nature into my office. I wasn't sure how it would turn out, but it surpassed my expectations. Now it's my favorite room in the house, my sanctuary. I smile every time I enter it. I'm looking forward to spending many, many hours in this room.

This office would not exist without the help of my wonderful husband. First he helped me paint the room green, and then he made this desk for me. See the funny corner of the room---it juts out a little, making a typical corner desk impossible. He had to make the two sides separately, based on the wall measurements, and then fit them together. The desktop is plywood, but the legs and shelves are made from oak from his parents' woods.

He also helped me make and hang the bulletin board. I picked out the fabric (leaves and branches) which we stretched over a corkboard/cardboard combination. Then I tacked on the ribbons. Right now the board holds pictures, memorabilia, quotes, and anything else I find beautiful or inspiring. When the revision process gets crazier, I'm sure I'll have a million Post-it notes up there.

I thought my two filing cabinets were ugly, so I covered them with pictures of nature scenes. The desk doesn't have drawers, so I use the pretty boxes for pens and other supplies. I have two trays for papers I need to file, projects I'm working on, or things I can't forget to do. The very top shelf has all my writing books. The horizontal books on the corner are books I'm currently reading (a strange combo of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, BEAUTIFUL CREATURES, and CALL OF THE RIVER).

I bought a new chair, which you can barely see in this pic because of the green crocheted blanket. Hey, sometimes my legs get cold.

This is the other side of the office, aka the guest bedroom. Come visit me, and this is where you will sleep. Overnight guests are rare though, so I use it when I want to curl up with a book. Or sometimes I just lie on the bed and stare up at the posters (prairie scenes). The bookcase in the corner is my YA/MG bookcase, which brings me much joy.

This pic shows the storage under the bed. Three of the drawers hold extra sheets and blankets, and two drawers hold computer supplies. To add to the natural decor, I bought bamboo shades for the two windows. It's currently night, but the bamboo lets in so much light during the day---I love them!

I could go on and on in exhaustive detail, but I've probably put you to sleep already. I invite you to celebrate Share Your Writing Space Day! If you have a blog, website, or Facebook profile, post your writing space pictures; then put the link in a comment on this post so we can all check it out! If you have no way of sharing a public link, simply describe your favorite things about your writing space. No writing space? Then tell us about your dreams for a future one!

The Writer's Book Club is still discussing WHEN YOU REACH ME---stop by if you've read the book! Have a good weekend, everyone!

WHEN YOU REACH ME by Rebecca Stead

The Writer's Book Club, which was hosted on my website last month, will now have a trial run here on LiveJournal. WordPress has less-than-ideal commenting features, so we'll try LJ and see if that works better. If everyone prefers the original location, we'll go back there next month!

This discussion is open to anyone--whether or not you're a writer, whether or not I know you, and whether or not you've participated in WBC before. The more, the merrier! Drop us a one-liner or a book report or anything in between. I only ask that everyone be respectful of the author and fellow commenters.

You do not need a LiveJournal account to comment. Simply mark the "Anonymous" bubble. Then type your comment in the "Message" box, type your first name at the bottom of the message, and click "Post Comment." If you want to respond to an already-posted comment, click on that comment's "Reply" link. A new box will pop up below the old comment. That person, in turn, can reply to your comment, and so on and so forth. Or someone else can jump into the conversation. Thus, a hierarchy of comments will form, very easy to follow with a mere glance (no more endless scrolling and trying to keep track of who said what). If you have any technical difficulties, please let me know!

January's book is WHEN YOU REACH ME by Rebecca Stead. To keep from spoiling the book for those who haven’t read it yet, I’ll post the discussion questions in the first comment of this post. If you have read the book, click on “Leave a comment” to respond with your thoughts. If you haven’t read it, then what are you waiting for?

One thing I need to explain for the sake of the discussion questions--the difference between foreshadowing and telegraphing. In the words of Rachelle Gardner:

Foreshadowing is when you purposely drop tiny hints about what's going to happen later in the novel, to heighten the effect or the suspense. It might not even be a hint, but an image or idea that thematically relates to whatever's going to happen later. It's like subtle shading to plant tiny, even imperceptible, seeds in your reader's mind.

Telegraphing is giving away too much, too soon, thereby ruining the suspense, or the impact of the event. 

End quote.

So with that in mind . . . let the discussion begin!

Resolutions for 2010

I didn't have time to post resolutions earlier in the week . . . and now it's January!! Snuck up on me somehow. Out with the old decade, in with the new. It drives me a little crazy to think of years and decades passing so quickly. 2009 bombarded me, like a year-long kickboxing session. I'm hoping 2010 will be more like yoga. RIGHT, sure it will.

Usually I post my resolutions from the year before to see how I fared. This year the results are embarrassing! I only accomplished two of my seven professional goals in 2009: 1) improving the website and starting a Facebook page, and 2) reading 65 or more books. In my defense (that is, to make excuses for myself), I did go through some life-changing ordeals. 2009 was about survival; 2010 will hopefully be the year of writing!

Because I love to talk about books, I'll sidetrack and chat about the 77 books I read in 2009 . . .

~ 64 were audiobooks! I almost met my goal by auditory means alone!

~ 58 were Young Adult or Middle Grade novels.

~ 47 had some type of fantasy element. It's too time-consuming to differentiate between high fantasy, urban fantasy, contemporary fantasy, and futuristic stories.

~ I read books by 46 different authors. In the second half of the year, I decided to broaden my horizons and try several new authors. 29 of the 46 authors I just discovered this year. My favorites of the new authors I tried: John Green, Tamora Pierce, E. Lockhart, Markus Zusak, Suzanne Collins, Shannon Hale, Francisco Stork, Maggie Stiefvater, Rebecca Stead, and Kristen Cashore. Some of these are fairly new authors, but most have been around for awhile. Why did I wait so long to read their books??

~ Only two were nonfiction (and a third was based on a true story). That's rather sad. I read partials of nonfiction all the time, but I rarely sit down to read a nonfiction book from cover to cover. Ironically, I'm in the middle of a nonfiction audiobook right now, but that will have to wait for the 2010 book list.

~ I gave a top ranking (five stars) to 27 of the books . . . which means over a third of the books I read were excellent. And 44 books received four stars. 2009 was hard in a lot of ways, but it might just be the BEST. READING. YEAR. EVER.

Okay, I'll try to reign in the book joy for now. It will resume on Wednesday with the discussion of WHEN YOU REACH ME (by Rebecca Stead, mentioned above!). For now, I suppose I should get back to the whole point of this post---my 2010 resolutions:

1. Work on the second draft of TRE in January and February.
2. Send TRE to critique partners in March; work on third draft.
3. Attend at least one writer's conference.
4. Finish TRE and query agents.
5. Start on TRE sequel or rewrite EOL.
6. Read fifty books.

In case you're wondering why I might drop from 77 books to 50---I'm guessing I'll have less audiobooks. This new house is smaller (thus less cleaning) and has a dishwasher. Cleaning and washing dishes used to be my best audiobook time! Plus I'll be trying to write like a madwoman, so that means less reading of the paper variety. I'll do my best to average a book a week.

More personally, my husband and I resolve to read devotions and exercise together every day (alternating Pilates and kettlebell). We figure we can hold each other accountable that way. My son is usually in bed by seven, so we're setting aside 7:00-8:00 PM for devotions/exercise/household chores. Then I get to write for the rest of the evening, and everyone is happy.

Ellie recently made a very good point: "I want to write for the rest of my life, so I need to make writing a healthy habit instead of an obsessive one." That's not a direct quote (sorry, Ellie, I can't remember exactly what you said!), but you get the idea. Don't shut yourself away and write in every spare second. Find a way to balance family, exercise, writing, and other priorities. Then you're less likely to get burnt out on any one thing. Easier said than done? We'll see how balance works in 2010.

Don't forget---book club on Wednesday! And I'll resume WERE next Saturday!

Happy New Year!!

WERE 4: Revising the Joy

*cross-posted from http://emrowan.com*

Hope everyone had a very, Merry Christmas! I can't believe this is the last Saturday of 2009. Next week if I have time, I'll blog about my favorite books of '09 and my New Year's resolutions. One of my resolutions is to finish my novel, which means I need to wrap up these preparations for the second draft and actually get started on the thing. So without further ado, the last December edition of Winter's Editing and Revising Extravaganza!

In my opinion, one of the hardest things about writing a novel is seeing "the big picture." Yeah, I can sit down to reread my manuscript, but my mind tends to focus only on the words I'm currently reading---or maybe the current scene or chapter, if I'm lucky. So how can I step away from the words and see how all the scenes and chapters fit together into one complete story? How can I study the novel's timeline, or the appearances of a character, or missing plot elements?

The solution: a storyboard. I think "storyboard" was originally a Hollywood term, used by movie or TV-show producers to describe a sequence of drawings representing the shots they plan to film. But writers can also use a storyboard to represent the scenes in a novel. If you like to draw (stick figures welcome), then feel free to create an artistic storyboard! If not, consider these other possibilities . . .

Visualize Scenes with a Storyboard, courtesy of Editor Unleashed. Read the comments from that post for more ideas of how to storyboard (such as using photos instead of drawings).

Kate Messner's revision process relies on Scrivener writing software, which includes a virtual bulletin board with different colored notecards. One color represents school scenes, another color for home scenes, another for extracurricular scenes, etc.

If you don't have appropriate writing software, do it the old-fashioned way! For instance, Caitlin Kittredge's notecards and bulletin board work well for revisions. She uses one color of notecard for existing chapters, a second color for the changes needed for existing chapters, and a third color for brand new chapters (she went from 25 chapters to 40). So if a card for each scene sounds too daunting, try a card for each chapter.

Post-it Digital Notes is another type of computer software you can use to organize your story. Or get real Post-its (of different colors) and stick them on a table or on the walls of your office/bedroom!

Some authors brainstorm with a whiteboard and marker. Others write scenes/chapters on pages of paper and hang them from laundry lines! Another common practice is to enter the scenes into a spreadsheet (Excel or other program), which allows you to easily change the order of the cells. I'm thinking about painting my office door with magnetic paint; then I could rearrange scenes using notecards and magnets.

It doesn't really matter which method you use---find what works for you. Once you've chosen a method, decide on the focus of your storyboard. I might focus on plot (the mystery, mythology, subplots, etc) and the characters (best friend, love interest, mother, etc) to get a big-picture view of how much time I spent on each plot thread and each character. I may be focusing too much on one aspect and neglecting others. A good balance makes for a stronger book.

Any questions about storyboards? Any ideas you'd like to share??

I'm not sure what will happen on next Saturday's post---I'm flying by the seat of my pants at the moment. But if you want, use this Christmas break to prepare for revisions based on the WERE advice. Then jump into a new draft on January 1st!

And don't forget to read WHEN YOU REACH ME by Rebecca Stead. Book club discussion begins Jan. 6th!

WERE 1: Rediscovering the Writing Joy

I'm having so much fun with the book club, I almost forgot to write this post! Continuing the week of debuts, today is the start of Winter's Editing & Revising Extravaganza (WERE)!

A brief rundown of what you can expect from WERE. Every Saturday in December, I will discuss ways to prepare for your novel's second draft. Then in January, we'll dive into our second drafts with checklists, exercises, and motivational mojo. This will probably carry over into February, since I doubt I can finish my second draft in one month. Please let me know if you have specific questions about second drafts, and I'll do my best to answer them.

So maybe you just finished a first draft for National Novel Writing Month (NaNo). Or maybe you're like me, and your first draft has sat on the back burner for months. Either way, my goal is to help you edit and revise that first draft.

If you just finished NaNo---don't read your novel yet. Take a break from it and refresh yourself. Some people suggest one or two weeks without looking at it, others say one or two months. I'd recommend taking December off (which is already crazy with the holidays) and conquering that NaNo novel in the new year. The idea is to remove yourself from the web of your story and then return with some degree of objectivity. If we are too close to our work, it's harder to delete the bad or unnecessary scenes.

If your first draft has been collecting dust for awhile, you won't have to worry about objectivity. But you may have to worry about motivation. Perhaps you're thinking, "Should I really waste my time rewriting this antique piece of junk? Maybe I should just start over with something new." Or perhaps your current schedule seems too full. After a long break from writing, it can be hard to get back in the swing of it.

I happen to believe that all first drafts deserve a chance at a second draft. Sure, it may seem like junk now . . . but revision can do wonders. Plus, revision time is never a waste. You'll learn so much about writing in the process of rewriting.

So if you're willing to try but don't know how to start, look no farther . . .

The Five R's of Rediscovering the Writing Joy:

1. Revisit. What made you first fall in love with the story idea? A place? A person? A song? Whatever it was, return to it. I like to spend time in nature for my inspiration. And if I hear a song from my first-draft playlist, I'm immediately transported into the story. I also try to find new, exciting songs for the second draft. The story may be old, but it has the potential for new and better things.

2. Revamp. Need a change of pace from your old writing routine? How about a change of scenery? Try creating a unique writing space for yourself. I realize not everyone has sole access to an office/writing room, but maybe you could carve a niche in your bedroom or other room. Renovate an old desk, decorate the walls with things from your story, and make the space comfortable and user-friendly. After all the work you put into it, you'll feel guilty if you don't make good use of it!

3. Readjust. If you're anything like me, free time sounds like some distant dream. If you can't find time to write, then you make time. Writers don't just wake up inspired and type all day (and if they do, I'm insanely jealous). They probably snatch precious writing moments out of a crazy schedule. So stop and think about your typical schedule. If necessary, keep a detailed journal for a couple days. Do you have times when you're waiting for class or riding the bus? Any television programs you could live without? Cut what you can and take advantage of every minute. Even thirty minutes of writing per day can add up to a finished second draft.

4. Read. Ever read a fabulous book and felt inspired to write? I know I have. Reading will not only make you a better writer, it will also motivate you to write your own book for others to read. Read fiction for fun, and read nonfiction to learn more about the subjects in your story. You'll need a notebook, or writing software, or some type of file for keeping track of your research. I know this sounds like work, but it's essential for making your stories realistic and credible.

5. Reward. Hey, our human natures demand something in return for the hard work of editing and revising. So set a goal and pick a suitable reward. Write it down and stick it to your wall or desk. Something like, If I finish my second draft, I get to splurge on books/a writing conference/a new desk/enter most coveted wish here. Personally, my reward is getting to send the story to my critique partners. I can't bear to let them see the first draft, even though I'm dying to share the story with them. So I'll keep them in mind as I struggle with the second draft, like dangling a carrot in front of a donkey. Speaking of critique partners, recruit them to cheer you on! They can crack the whip if necessary, or nag you, or bribe you, or beg you to "finish the dang thing so I can read it already!" A good critique partner is worth his or her weight in gold.

Your assignment this week, if you choose to accept it: get started on the five R's. Fall in love with writing again. Treat yourself to a remodeled work space. Schedule in writing/reading time. Read a book and start researching (this could take all month and more). Think of a reward for finishing your second draft.

Then report back here! I want to hear about your progress and your ideas. Need help? Just ask! And tune in next Saturday for more!

SHIVER by Maggie Stiefvater

Today is the debut of the Writer's Book Club! As I announced last month, the book for December is SHIVER by Maggie Stiefvater. For more details about the WBC or SHIVER, see my earlier post. If you have read the book, visit my website to take part in the discussion!

By the way, we'll meet again on January 6th for the discussion of our next book: WHEN YOU REACH ME by Rebecca Stead, appropriate for ages nine and up. It's an intriguing story with a little bit of science fiction weaved in. The focus of my questions will be on foreshadowing. Order it from the library or put it on your wish list!

Schedules, Lists, & Goals, Oh My!

Quote of the day from Mahtab Narsimhan: "I set a reward before I start writing and will allow myself that reward only if I finish the quota for the day. Normally that entails surfing the Net or writing a nice long e-mail to a friend; stuff that usually makes me feel extremely guilty if I have written nothing on any given day! I’m very strict with myself. No quota=no reward. On the other hand, when I finish the word count for the day and go a little over, that itself is a huge reward. I’m then compelled to do it all over again the next day, just to feel that same sense of relief and accomplishment." End quote.

I like this philosophy. The thing about philosophies---you have to find one that works for you. For instance, I would have to tweak Mahtab's philosophy, because she writes from 6:30 to 8:30 AM. I'm not a morning person. I would still be asleep at 8:30 if my son didn't drag me out of bed at 7:30. My brain barely functions before noon.

Step 1: Find a philosophy and make it my own.

Writing is important to me, but it's not my life. On my list of priorities, familiy comes before writing. That is why I like to write at night---when my family is asleep. Writing is my reward for taking care of my famiy during the day.

Step 2: Rank my list of priorities.

Anyone who reads this blog knows I am a Type A personality; my hobbies include organizing and scheduling. I get a thrill from making t0-do lists. Okay, now I'm exaggerating (not really). But I do think I thrive under a schedule, preferably one with built-in goals and rewards. The trick is not being too hard on myself when I fall short of my goals.

Step 3: Decide on short-term and long-term goals.

So these are my three steps. Feel free to use them or adapt them for your own needs.

Ideally, I could dive into writing right away. But you know I wouldn't make it that easy for myself! Next week is Thanksgiving, and then we'll start THE HOLIDAYS. Enter family gatherings, friendly get-togethers, shopping, gift-giving, card-mailing, decorating, school breaks, traveling, cooking, eating, and much more. I know none of these things should be the real focus of the season, but my family is still a priority over writing. Thus, the following schedule:

December: reading /preparing for 2nd draft of TRE.
January to March: 2nd draft of TRE.
April to May: 3rd draft (maybe more, based on feedback).
June: queries?

Dear website readers, I have not forgotten you. But since I throw myself into projects, this time I'm dragging you with me.

Some of you remember "Summer's Ultimate Novel" (SUN), in which I discussed first drafts. So what's the logical sequel? You got it---a discussion of second drafts. I'll introduce this second-draft project on Saturday. And in April, a project on third drafts. Very predictable of me, right?

Would anyone like to share a personal writing schedule or list of writing goals? Let's motivate each other, shall we?


The Writer's Fairy Tale

Once upon a time, I wrote a novel.

Sounds like a fairy tale, doesn't it? Many people dream about writing a novel; but how many see that dream come true?

Yet, what does "I wrote a novel" really mean? Do the 50,000 words from NaNoWriMo constitute a novel? Or is it the completed second draft? Third? Fourth? Tenth? What if it's never published---does it still count?

Once upon a time, I wrote a 93,000-word novel. I completed four or five drafts, let some people read it, and sent it to literary agents. No takers. Now I have ideas of how to make the story better. So what once seemed like a finished novel now seems like a project requiring much more work (which would be the case even if I had an agent or editor).

Back in February and March, I wrote the first draft of a second novel, this one 80,000 words. Yeah, the first draft is complete . . . but the remaining drafts stretch before me. No one has read more than fragments of it. I almost loathe to talk about it, because I feel like I should have finished it by now. Whatever "finished" means.

Last year, I had an idea for a third novel---about angels. I thought if the second novel didn't work out, I might try writing the angel novel. It's in that fun brainstorming stage, where I get to daydream about it in spare moments. Every day it gets slightly more defined in my mind.

This week I've read several blogs. Apparently, angels are the "next big thing in publishing" (following the path of vampires and fairies). Some agents and editors are specifically saying, "Do not send me any stories about angels," because they're getting mobbed by angels.

Well. A year of brainstorming down the drain. Why couldn't I have written that book first, before angels were old news?

It's times like this when I get very frustrated with the writing business. Don't get me wrong---I still respect the publishing industry. I especially love the advocates of children's books, whether they be authors, agents, editors, or whoever. I read as much as I can and learn as much as I can. But the problem I struggle with---the publishing industry is literally changing every day. Now we have to consider self-publishing, e-books, iPhone apps, podcasting novels, etc. Each day I wonder, "Am I wasting my time with this approach? Maybe I should try something new."

I think I'm mainly frustrated with myself. It's probably the OCD perfectionist in me. I wish I could write faster, or manage my time better, or somehow just capture those ideas in my head and get them on paper before the world-of-publishing-as-we-know-it changes again. I can never find enough time to do all the reading and writing that I want to do. I don't know how to finish a book.

I usually come across as optimistic. Maybe some of you, who expect my usual cheeriness, are now concerned for my state of mind. Please, no need to worry. I am fine. But I realized today . . . I shouldn't always pretend that writing is all sunshine and unicorns. Because no writer is problem-free. Even bestselling authors have worries and problems (such as, you know, deadlines. Which I have none). And I don't want the writers who read this site to think, "Oh, Erin is always so optimistic. She must be a better writer than I am, because I worry about my writing every day. I think I'll stop writing forever."

Please, for the love of ice cream, do not think that. If you're wondering whether or not you should write, consider these two lists . . .

Erin's List of Reasons NOT to Write:

1. For money.
2. For book-signing tours, movie deals, and rubbing elbows with Robert Pattinson.
3. Because it's easy, stress-free, and relaxing.
4. Because you'll get to choose all details of your published book, from the cover to every last word.
[Deleted for lack of space: reasons #5 through #914]

Erin's List of Reasons TO Write:

1. Because you don't feel happy otherwise.


No wonder I'm grumpy today. I haven't written a word of fiction in approximately seven months. For the sake of my sanity (and yours), I better get back to writing soon.

I don't need to be published to be happy. I don't even need to finish a book. But I do have to write. Next week, I'll come up with a schedule to make writing possible again.

I might be too old for fairy tales (might), but I'm not too old for happiness.



"A blog is really about all those afterthoughts... the things you think about when you’re done writing." So said my critique partner, Syd Gill, as we brainstormed blog titles. She deserves all the credit for "Post Scripts of a Writer," but we decided it fits me better than it does her. I'm constantly adding "P.S." to the end of all my emails. My posts tend to ramble, but you're welcome to jump in and comment! This blog is an informal look at an aspiring author. My current status: querying literary agents.

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