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A ginormous thank you to Marc Schuster for presenting me with the Versatile Blogger Award!
I love filling my blog with tidbits from my life. It’s even more wonderful to know someone is enjoying reading it.
In the tradition of this award, I would like to present the award to some very versatile blogs that I enjoy reading:
- Abominations–From the Bad Uncle Award to the release of his latest book, Marc keeps you updated on the humorous happenings in his life and all things blog worthy.
- August McLaughlin’s Blog –From her Christmas song available on Itunes to her up-coming novel, August’s blog is infectiously interesting.
- Novel Girl–Chock full of advice for writers, she’s got posts about hair braiding as a metaphor for story structure and writing three dimensional characters.
- Indulge – Travel, Adventure, & New Experiences–Leslie’s blog covers exotic places she’s traveled to, where to find the best Christmas lights ever, and even how she learned to fly a helicopter.
- Gin & Lemonade–Lorna’s blog ranges from what Christmas is really about to her favorite books on writing. Every post is written with a dash of humor and a cup of honesty.
- Exiled Stardust–I love hearing about an expat’s experiences in Eastern Europe. Can’t get more versatile than that.
- Limebird Writers–Blog posts on everything a writer experiences and/or needs to know about.
Congrats to all of you! Your blogs keep me coming back because I never know what I will read about next.If I missed anyone, I apologize. I enjoy reading all the blogs I follow.
As part of the award here are 7 random facts about me:
- I can’t handle spicy food.
- I despise the smell of garlic.
- I’ve worn glasses since I was seven.
- My longest crush lasted 8 years.
- I can write in Chinese.
- I love beaches but hate the sun.
- I have an artificial disc in my spine.
Recently, a teacher from an online course offered to help me revise my draft of my second novel.
I asked what that entailed and he told me it would be me sending him 10,000 word packets of my novel for him to review and give feedback on. We exchanged a few emails on the topic, determining the date we would start this mentoring relationship.
I was super excited to have someone take an interest in my work.
Then I sent the first packet and received an email saying that there had been some confusion and we had not discussed the “mentoring fee.”
I was perplexed. I’ve never heard of a mentoring relationship conducted for monetary gain.
Mentoring, as far as I understand it, is usually a symbiotic relationship where the mentor passes on knowledge and gives guidance to the mentee and the mentee usually provides support to the mentor in his career endeavors. But there is no exchange of money.
In these rough economic times, I can understand someone charging a critique fee, but not a mentoring fee. I think this should all be done upfront. From the first interaction, it should be clear it isn’t a mentor relationship but a paid critique services interaction.
I opted to not pay the fee, which would have amounted to over $1000 for my novel.
He did apologize for not mentioning the fee earlier. I truly hope it was an oversight.
But it left me wondering if this happened to other people or if I did not properly understand what mentoring entailed.
From now on when a writer offers to look at my novel, should I ask how much? I wanted to pose the question to all of you because this was such an outlier in my experiences with the writing community.
Has anyone else had someone try to charge a fee for mentoring?
It was a rainy day on Wednesday, which means Grandma and I didn’t do too much galavanting around. We did get me a library card. It was cool to see the library where I spent many childhood days searching for knowledge. I remember falling in love with the Greek gods because of a book I borrowed from the children’s reading room. Leafing through a book on the zodiac, I became excited to discover I was a Scorpio and identify with it.
After that, we decided to have coffee at Dunkin Donuts. We’re having coffee and she asks me, “What if writing doesn’t happen? I mean every writer must want to be published.”
I get this question a lot. And it’s not like it didn’t cross my mind. Failure is always possible. “It will. I’ll keep working at it until I die.” Except I’ve decided to not accept it as the final possibility.
She didn’t seem to understand. I tried another way. “The only reason I get up is to write. If I couldn’t, I wouldn’t. Everything else is just filler for me.”
She got quiet.
“Isn’t there one thing that makes it worthwhile to get up? One thing you have to do or else the day feels like a waste?”
I’m betting she has something, but maybe wasn’t ready to share. Writing is my purpose. Pretty much anything else I do is to support my writing or to allow me to write.
What is the one thing you couldn’t live without doing?
So after a long delay, here’s another post about a panel at Killer Nashville. There were so many great panels, it was hard to choose which to attend and then which to blog about. Anyway, since genre was my biggest stumbling block and I now know I write YA mysteries, I thought I’d give some highlights from this panel. The panel included Marlis Day, Bonnie Doerr, Earl Fisher, Linda Fisher, and Jessica Verday. The discussion leader was Joseph Terrell.
Question: What are the key elements of YA novels?
- The main character of must be a young adult (age 10-18)
- The parents are usually not around in the book
- Focus on teen objectives such as: boys, school, what to wear, etc. (They don’t worry about paying the rent)
- Protagonist usually gets no help from adults
- Protagonist may struggle to define where they fit in and their own morals
- Protagonist has to solve things
Q: What is the subject matter that can be covered in YA?
- Less and less is off limits, but stay sensitive to your readers age group (tween vs. late teen)
- Depends on publisher
- Keep in mind that edgy books can be banned by school libraries
Q: How do you develop a character?
- Mystery is all plot. It has to move fast to grab the YA audience too
- Explore background and motivation in subplots
- Characterization can also flow from plot
- Use of senses is important in how the characters define themselves (For example, a perfumer sees a flower and thinks what can I make from it. A painter thinks can I capture it in a painting.)
- Setting is important because characters are products of where they are from
- Sometimes characters can make their own plot
- You have to like characters or love to hate the characters. They must inspire emotions that keep you turning the page.
Other highlights include:
- The importance of cliffhangers in chapters
- Kids read to explore the things they cannot do. So show them that world–the good and the bad.
Do you ever feel tuckered out? You don’t have to be doing alot. Or you could just be coming off oodles of stress. But I feel like I’ve been burning my candle at both ends for months. So I am going to scale back the blog to 4 days a week for August and September. I’ve got a move to plan, conferences to attend, and a friend staying with me. I also have to submit queries and prepare proposals, and keep up on my reading.
I have decided that my weekday blog posts will drop back to four a week and the fifth will be my mental health day, when I don’t blog. I love blogging, but I think I am stretching myself too thin. Moving is way more stress than I remembered. Well my whole entire life is changing and that’s exciting and scary. I am worried. I hope I’m doing the right thing. You never know until way after the decision is made. Hindsight is so freaking useless. But I’ll do what I always do–push forward.
Do you take mental health breaks? How do you cope when everything gets to be too much?
June 30 was my last day at my day job. It was great to lunch with my favorite manager and talk about things. I’ll definitely miss him. I got to say goodbye to the friends I’d made over the past 3 years and hopefully we’ll keep in touch. It’s weird to go from seeing someone everyday to who knows when. It still feels sorta surreal. Like it hasn’t sunk in. That may be due to the medication for my neck.
In case you were curious, I commuted from FiDi to Times Square every day for 2 years 11 months. I really hated the commute. Times Square is hell. Tons of tourists milling about six or seven abreast and never ever moving to let anyone get by. And the subways–The 2/3 is killer at rush hour. I ended up taking the R/W (btw–they retired the W on June 27th sniff sniff), which was a longer ride but way less crowded. Not anymore though. Yeesh. I think I’m getting out, while the getting is good.
On the upside, despite working everyday, I have managed to write roughly 1000-1500 words a day in my new novel. I just hit the 30K mark!!!! This book feels like it will be 75K. So I’m over 1/3 done with the first draft. I really love this story. I also reworked the ending in the synopsis. I feel really pleased with where it ends up. Now I just gotta get there.
Of course, I loved my first book as well. But it’s been a few years of revising and trying to get it agented so it’s not my newborn baby anymore. I think when parents say they love all their children equally, they lie. Because I love this book in a different way than the other one. Both are precious and dear to me but in completely different ways. Maybe because I’ve changed and my writing has developed.
So I was watching Avenue Q a while back and Princeton is fresh out of undergrad and trying to find his purpose. He stops living, determined to find his purpose before he does anything else. This got me thinking. What’s my purpose? What do I live to do? Why am I here?
Deep thoughts, right. I love to write. So I write. I edit. I revise. I re-edit. An endless cycle of writing. And it fills me with a sense of purpose and gives my existence meaning. So when I have problems with my hand and I can’t write as much, I lose some of my purpose. I don’t like how that feels.
It reminds me of when I herniated a disc in my back and couldn’t sit. Back then I was a consultant. My purpose (or job) required traveling and sitting at different client sites to do my work. So when my back acted up, I couldn’t do my job and I lost my purpose. That was one of the worst times in my life. I felt useless. I felt like nobody capable of doing nothing. Just talking about it conjures up bad feelings.
Anyway, what is my point? I think we all need a purpose. Scratch that. We all need a few purposes. Reasons to exist. Things that make life meaningful and worth living. My writing is still number 1, but I need a number 2 and 3. I guess Number 2 is my dog and my family. (Yes, in that order. One lives with me the other only visits.) Number 3 would be my friends.
But having those 3 purposes makes my life better and richer.
What is your purpose? What do you live to do or be?
I was talking to my parents about my hobbies, my interests and all the things that fill up my day, when I realized in a way all of my life is about finding distractions from the inevitability of death.
We do our best to make our lives count, to matter at least to ourselves. But in the end, what do we have? Money, family, friends–none can be carried forward. We really only have one life. One chance to make it worth it.
So I spend time with the people I love. I make time to see my friends. I play with my dog. I visit my family. But the one thing that gives my life purpose is my writing. Without it, there is no point to getting up in the morning, fighting rush hour or working long hours.
For those few hours I get to write and be with my characters, I would sacrifice just about anything. Because when I die, my writing will live on. My characters and my story will exist long after me.
What distraction gives your life purpose? Or is it a series of little ones that makes each day worth living?
I came across an interesting post on Rachelle Gardner’s blog that got me thinking. Well, first it got me to comment. Then it kept rolling around in my head and finally I decided to blog about it. The gist of it was about someone’s first foray into writing and finding that though the daydreaming was fun, the writing was…well not so fun.
My first reaction: WRITING NOT FUN?! ARE YOU CRAZY?
My second reaction: Thinking back to when I first started…It was really frustrating. I had all these images in my head. My daydreams were better suited for movies than novels. And translating what I imagined into a book format was, well, hellish.
I despaired that I would never be able to do it. But I kept writing, persevering through it. And in the end I had a craptastic draft. But I had a starting point. And with each round of revisions, queries, and rejections, I learned. Painful? Yup. Worth doing? Definitely. Did I think so at the time? Uncertain.
For me, I turned it into a competition. I was always an overachiever. And that made it fun. I was competing to become a better writer. My last draft was my arch-enemy and I had to leave him in the dust. I read other paranormal mysteries to get a feel for it. Kinda like a self-study course. I took a few online courses. I read magazines and blogs on writing. What is my point? I made writing fun for me. I set it up in a format that didn’t feel like work to me.
How do you feel about writing? What are your secret tricks to make it more fun and less work?
As I walked home from the subway tonight, my mind turned away from work and the book I was reading on the train and toward my new character’s life story. I already know who her parents are and how they got together. But was she an only child? Nah. She has a younger sister. Promising. And an older brother. My mind locks onto them and all the possibilities fire through my head. Images of the brother shift into focus. His name. His age. As if he is telling me his story. But he won’t reveal it all yet. No. He makes me work at getting to know him and when I get it wrong, boy does he let me know. Yeesh. He’s gorgeous by the way. All blond Adonis with unruly curls and blue eyes that sear you from the inside out. He’s the rebel in the family. He went corporate and lives in a flat in London.
The younger sister? She’s in college. She’s like her dad–total surfer, living the southern California dream. But she’s always been jealous of how close the other two are. It’s hard being the youngest by several years. Growing up in her sister’s shadow. Ugh. She was hoping when her sister got married and moved away things would get better. That she’d finally get her parents’ attention. But think again. Her freaking parents started skyping to keep in touch with her sister. Threw themselves into their causes and as usual she was relegated to the back burner. She hasn’t shown me her face yet. I think she is mad that I met her brother first. It wasn’t my fault, he just came up and introduced himself.
I am already in serious like with both of them. I am not sure where or if they will appear in the book. but they are so important to the main character’s development. It’s weird to spend so much time on something I may never share with the reader. But in order for the story to feel real, I have to believe in the world I am weaving. It has to exist.
What’s my favorite part of the process? Hard to say. I love the beginning when inspiration strikes and knocks me over. I also love the point where I know what the characters would and wouldn’t say and do. When I picture them as clear as anyone else I know. But until that day arrives, the naming is my fav thing. Pouring over baby name books until I find the perfect name. It reminds me of T.S. Eliot’s poem:
The Naming of Cats is a difficult matter,
It isn’t just one of your holiday games;
You may think at first I’m as mad as a hatter
When I tell you, a cat must have THREE DIFFERENT NAMES.
For me the character must have a first and a last name, possibly a middle and probably a nickname. But not all will be used. When I can call them by name, they take on that third dimension–suddenly more tangible, more alive. A total turning point in the story and our time together.
So how do you create characters? Is it a spontaneous thing or a rigorous format? What is the hardest part?