Monday, January 31, 2011

Pay It Forward

Shelli is hosting this awesome Pay It Forward blogfest/contest at her blog in which she and her participants recognize a person (or people) who have helped them in their writing journey or personal life. Go check it out!
Everyone always says that when it comes to people reading your manuscript, you shouldn’t trust your family. And I get that. I mean, my mom has mine listed under her favorite books on facebook. But my grandfather isn’t like that. He’s honest, brutally so sometimes. And I always know that when he praises something, it’s for real.

            So, if there’s one person who’s been the biggest help to my writing, it’s him. He is the one person I can count on to give me honest feedback. He doesn’t sugarcoat anything. If something isn’t working, even if he’s not sure what it is or why, he tells me. He doesn’t dance around anything or worry about it hurting my feelings.
I have critique partners, and don’t get me wrong, they’re great, but sometimes people get so caught up in the “complement sandwich” that they forget the layer of criticism. Or they’re too worried about offending you to be as harsh as your writing needs them to be.
            But honestly? We’re writers. If we can’t take the criticism, we should probably start considering another profession. Beta readers, critique partners… they’re just the beginning.
            I was about fourteen when I let my grandpa read my first novel. It was a train wreck. I mean, I was fourteen when I finished it, so really, I must have been twelve or thirteen writing it. I had every right to write a mess of a book. But he waded through it patiently, offering advice and correcting my disastrous grammar. He was never mean (still not) but he was always honest. And it’s that honesty that’s helped me grow as a writer.
            It stings sometimes, and I remember my fourteen-year-old self struggling with separating myself from the writing. Because that’s what we have to do. It’s hard to remember sometimes, but our writing is not us. When someone criticizes our writing, they’re not criticizing us. It’s the reality of writing. And without my grandfather, I wouldn’t be half as prepared.
            The thing is... he’s sick. We’re not sure how much longer we’ll get to have him. And I can’t imagine writing without him. I know he’s my grandfather and I shouldn’t expect him to be around forever. But I wish he could be.
This is going to sound so cheesy, so I apologize in advance. But it’s true when I say he’ll always live through my writing. His words and advice are entombed there. He’s played such an active role in helping me grow that only way I could ever hope to repay him is to just keep writing. And I will.
            Is there anyone that’s helped you along your journey? What did they do for you?

And here's my four sentence pitch entry for Shelli's contest:

When 16-year-old Jemma Stone is attacked by a cult of men in wooden masks, she flees to the safety of Kingery Conservatory of Elemental Enchantment, the school where she will learn to harness her ability to manipulate the four elements. Only, Kingery isn’t as perfect or as safe as it seems. There’s a darkness in its past that threatens to creep out of the shadows. And when the masked men start appearing at Kingery, Jemma must figure out why they want her dead and what it has to do with the school’s sinister past before they succeed in killing her, or worse, the person she has come to love most.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Finding Twitterland

I’ll admit, I was once one of those people who thought twitter was just an excuse for self-obsessed losers to listen to themselves talk. I didn’t need a group of followers to feel validated. So I resisted. And resisted.
It wasn’t until I went to my first writer’s conference a few months ago that I changed my mind. If you’re a writer and you’ve never been to a conference, I suggest you fix that. Immediately. Not only were the panels and classes and critique sessions immensely helpful, but the people there… the other writers… never had I been somewhere surrounded by such a large group of people who got me. A group of people who understood staying up until three am to finish a scene, who spend 90% of their free time writing and the other 10% thinking about it. I found a community there that I never imagined existed. And after I came home, I missed that. You can talk to your friends and family about writing, and (hopefully) they’ll be interested and encouraging. But unless they write, they won’t understand.
            So I began searching for a way to stay in touch with that community. I visited blogs and websites, and one thing I found in common was that just about everyone was on twitter.
            In the back of my mind, I always knew I’d have to join eventually. It’s great for getting a following. But I guess I always figured it’d be when I found an agent or a publisher and they forced me to sign up to establish a platform.
            But the thing I didn’t realize was that there are so many advantages to signing up before all that. I’ve learned more about different agents and querying and the whole publishing process in general in these last few months on twitter than I had in all the research I’d done before. And I’d done a lot. I didn’t realize how out of the loop I was until I found the loop.
            Twitter connected me to a community. The feeling I felt at that conference isn’t gone. There’s such a strong, welcoming community of writers out there. *waves* I wish I’d signed up sooner.
            How has twitter helped you guys? Or is there something else that’s helped you on your journey?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

A Good Use for Semicolons ;-)

Friends, followers, lurkers, lend me your ears… Okay so I thought I’d do a short rant – I mean, post, on grammar. The kind you might find on Twitter or on Facebook. Mostly Facebook, I guess, because you probably wouldn’t squander one of your 140 characters on an incorrect punctuation mark, or on any punctuation mark for that matter. No, I’m not talking about shortening you to u or a missed period. That’s fine. It’s social media. I’m talking about the people you may or may not be Friends with who go out of their way to try and make it look like they’re grammar experts. The ones that try so hard and fail so miserably. It’s not misspelled words. We all make mistakes. I’m talking about the posts that think they’re so clever with their 50 word sentences broken up with semicolons instead of commas and periods. Semicolons. Professionals find rare occasions for them in NOVELS. Do you really think you need five in one sentence? The sad thing is, these people must think they do. Otherwise, why use one at all? Basically, what I guess I’m trying to say is don’t use semicolons on Facebook or Twitter because it makes you look a like a jerk*. End rant - er - post.

*My apologies to anyone who has used one correctly. Please continue to do so.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

What Makes You Stronger

One of my goals for the new year was to start a blog. And here I am, not even into February and I’m already doing it. *pats self on back* Honestly, other than being busy finishing my WIP, it’s only taken me so long because I’m convinced I have nothing worthwhile to say. That might seem strange, me being a writer and all, but I write FANTASY. I make things up. It’s what I’m good at. And this writing about real stuff thing? It’s kind of wigging me out. So if I start telling you guys about how I met a fire-breathing, pink-spotted, pint-sized talking giraffe yesterday, I apologize. Old habits die hard. But hopefully it’ll be something less lame than what I just mentioned.
            Anyway, I thought I’d christen my blog with a post for you guys get to know a little bit about me. Once upon a time, on a dark and stormy night in 1987, I was born… just kidding. Let’s skip ahead 22 years.
            I started writing my current WIP about a year ago. I was working at the time as a hostess in a fancy Italian restaurant. Not exactly my dream job, but it paid the rent. And then the best possible thing happened to me. No, I didn’t find an agent or get published (yes, that would have been better, but I wasn’t ready for that yet). I got sick.
            I have either Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis, the doctors aren’t sure. They’re basically the same thing, anyway. And I was in the middle of a terrible flare-up (that’s what they call it when the disease is active). I can’t really explain the hell that is a flare, but imagine this. The moment you walk into a store, a restaurant, a museum, you make plans. You chart your course to the nearest bathroom in you head, and you hope it isn’t one with a single stall. Just in case there’s a line.
            It doesn’t sound like the greatest thing ever, I know, but I’m getting there. So when you hit that rock bottom, where every day is an absolute struggle and all you want to do is crawl into bed and hide for the rest for your life but you can’t because you still have to run to the bathroom every fifteen minutes, something happens. Or at least, something happened to me.
            Let me back up just a bit. I wrote a novel for my senior thesis and hadn’t written anything since. Not a single word. I’d hit a dry spell. My mind was an inspirationless desert. (yes I will be making up words, get used to it) For almost a year. And that’s a long time for me to go without writing.
            So amidst my sick fog, I decided that that was enough. I needed to start writing again. And like that, some of the fog lifted. I had an idea. Now, let me clarify. Health-wise, I wasn’t getting better. If anything, I was getting worse. I was going to the doctor’s every other week it seemed, conferencing, getting tests, trying to get this thing under control. And eventually, my doctor decided to put me on prednisone.
            For those of you that don’t know, prednisone is a medicinal steroid that makes you swell up like a balloon. And a less common side-effect, it makes my joints swell too, which made it really hard to stand all day. So I quit my job.
            Long story short, I was determined, and I wrote a 130,000 word novel in about three months. Yikes, I know. After several revisions, it is now 79,000 words, a much more respectable number for YA fantasy, let me assure you.
            And I’ve begun THE PROCESS. *shudders*
            Only year later and I feel worlds away from where I was last year. I’m healthy. And I’m hopeful. And I’ve started a blog.
            Have you guys ever hit a low that made you stronger? I’d love to hear about it!