Category Archives: novel adventures

Recovering From the NaNover

Another year, another NaNoWriMo gone by.

On the NaNo website it says that there were over 310,000 participants from all over the world (596 regions), though I’m curious as to how many crossed the finish line (if anyone can point me in that direction, please do). But even if someone wrote only 10,000 words, that’s still 10,000 more words that they didn’t have at beginning of the month. That’s something.

nano_13_winner_shirt_ladies_detail

I’m also curious as to how the process went for others and what they do once they’ve finished. Editing is certainly as personal a process as the writing part is.

This year was COMPLETELY different than when I wrote my first NaNoWriMo (INTERGALACTIC) novel two years ago. In 2011, I had been mulling the story and characters over for a few months, I had written an outline (what I call a sequence and beat sheet) and some brainstorming exercises around it all, I had wound myself up, started off with a bang, kept up a steady pace, and even finished early. I also had enough time to hang out in the forum and see how everyone else was doing.

This year I only had the seed of an idea (a location in space and time and 2 characters), had completed one brainstorming exercise, had a fuzzy direction with no sense of how the story would end, and I PANTSED it like crazy. I didn’t have much time early on, or in the middle, so with a week left to go I was still at 18,000 words. I wrote the last 32,000 in the final week. I didn’t have time to reread what I had written the previous day, just went for it. Also, the only contact I had with other NaNoWriMoers (NaNoWriMoists?) was on the @nanosprints twitter page where we encouraged each other to do things like write 1,000 words in 30 minutes.

Both times I was writing something out of my comfort zone. Trying on a new genre. In 2011 it was more plot-based genre fiction (a comedic YA sci fi), this time is was YA contemporary lit. Well, okay, I THOUGHT it was going to be magical realism, but it ended up more in the realm of “unreliable” narrator. The protagonist simply views the world differently than most folks and she’s a little mentally unstable. When it comes time to pitch it I think I’ll call it “The Perks of Being a Wallflower for Queer Girls.” Right now it’s called WINTERSPRING AND SUMMERFALL (although I’m thinking of changing that to Summerfall and Winterspring, whichever sounds better).

I am definitely more of a “planner” by nature when it comes to novel writing, though totally willing to go in new directions if inspired in the moment. I definitely let the magic happen during the creative process. The fascinating thing for me about “pantsing” it this year was that the story still emerged, even without the plan. It sprang from the ethers and I just had to trust. I had to let go of any expectations and just see where it took me.

One of my favourite aspects this time around was when a particular character emerged out of nowhere. A minor character (a gay teacher whose partner is dying from AIDS – this story takes place in the 80’s) turned up, who not only took the story in a wonderful new direction, he added drama, an ally for my protagonist, and a subplot that rounded out the story really magically at the end.

I keep saying that I have a “hot mess” on my hands, but I think when I finally read it (I’m setting it aside until my holiday break), it will be more cohesive than I believe it to be. That happens a lot to me and I have enough years of writing behind me for it to be so. Structure happens a bit intuitively for me due to my fabulous drill sergeant screenwriting instructors at the University of Washington.

So, how did you do? Did you pants it or plan it?

Are you going to give it a break or read it right away?

Set it aside to germinate or dive right into your edit?

And, most of all, what were some of your favourite magical moments?

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Filed under behind the scenes, do something different, Intergalactic, NaNoWriMo, novel adventures, Pantsing, Rewriting, YA literature

For Authors of Indie Presses #2: Book Store Reading Reality

Life has been so utterly cuckoo I am just now getting the second post out of a series I started two weeks ago. I initially thought of this as tips for Indie Authors and Authors of Indie presses, but really, I should just call it REALITY CHECK.

The series was inspired by my own reality check as an author, as well as an excellent interview I heard by Cory Doctorow

This post is a continuation of the last one on making public appearances.

#2 Bookstore Reading Reality

Many debut authors dream of that successful bookstore reading: a packed house, a line of people out the door waiting to get their books signed. Even I was prone to such fantasies.

You may be surprised to learn that for a debut author (especially an indie author or author of a small press), bookstore readings are really not the best way to go. Not even close. Especially in a town where you don’t have many friends or much family.

empty chairs

Think about it… how many times have you gone to a bookstore reading by an author you aren’t familiar with? You may have heard new and unfamiliar authors read at conventions and festivals or at readings where they were featured with other authors you knew, but generally, one doesn’t drive across town to a bookstore for an unknown author. The author may be brilliant, but people just have too many other things vying for their attention.

You will realize this after your first bookstore reading with 5 people in the audience (and one is your publisher/mother/spouse/best friend).

Don’t despair. Once after a reading of low attendance, one of the bookstore workers told me the first time he ever hosted Chuck Palahniuk, only one person showed up.

The best way, I think, to get an audience, is for you to find an audience that already exists. For instance, if you can do school assemblies, you have a built in audience. There are also book clubs who like author guests and regular reading series that pair open mics with featured readers. Readings at conventions and festivals can still be iffy if you are unknown, so see if you can read within an event that features several authors. That way you all increase your audience.

If you insist on having a bookstore reading, here are a few tips to make it go better:

**stick with smaller, indie bookstores
(unless your chain store is very community oriented)
**find out from the store what nights have generally brought in more people
**pick a store close to where lots of your friends and family live
**use some kind of e-invite or facebook event page to invite folks
**DO YOUR OWN MARKETING (don’t expect the bookstore to take care of this)
**if your book is special interest, contact that community to let them know
**do OTHER events around the community so people will know who you are

The best bookstore reading I did was a packed house at Ms. Figs after I had done two school assemblies in the area. The kids got excited and brought their family and friends.

Even authors with large publishers and multiple books sometimes have trouble getting audiences at bookstore readings. I think it’s best to find the audience rather than have the audience find you.

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Filed under indie worlds, industry poop, novel adventures, Tips for Indie Authors, writing life

For Authors of Indie Presses #1: Public Appearances

I’ve been mentally jotting what I’m learning about the realities of authorship since the launch of my first children’s novel with Hydra House (not Random House’s new ebook imprint Hydra). I deliberately chose to work with a small press for various reasons and I’ve been enjoying the ride ever since, though it is a long, slow, challenging ride.

I had enough jottings to put together a list of Tips (AKA “reality checks”) that I hope you find useful.

#1 – Make Public Appearances

Make as many public appearances as possible. Social media is competitive. Large presses have bigger advertising pockets. People are inundated with information and marketing ploys. Put a face to your work, make relationships, and support others. Appear at other writer’s readings and book launches. Be the support you want to have.

Offer to be on panels, propose courses at local conventions, visit schools and festivals and literary arts centers. Be gracious and grateful. Be nice to have around. I’ve often bought the work of authors I’ve met simply because I enjoyed our conversation or thought they had some useful insight.

(Here’s a bonus tip for those who have trouble being consistent bloggers because of time constraints: work your posts into a series)

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Filed under indie worlds, industry poop, novel adventures, Tips for Indie Authors, writing life

The Next Big Thing Blog Crawl

I was tagged to do this blog hop by Tod McCoy, missed the deadline, but was determined to do it anyway, because I said I would.

The thing is, I honestly think there is nothing more boring than talking about one’s W.I.P. I warn budding authors not to do this on a daily basis. You’ll tire people.

So, unless

a) I’m at an author’s reading and everyone in the audience is just dying to know what said author’s next project is, or

b) I am in a writing group/workshop and the subject of conversation is my W.I.P.

I try to keep this kind of thing under my hat as much as possible. But, hey, since he asked . . .

1) What is the working title of your book?
INTERGALACTIC: A Pop Space Opera

2) Where did the idea come from for the book?
From one my own teaching exercises, actually, soon to be published in the Tarcher/Penguin anthology Now Write: Speculative Fiction. I heard an editor on a panel once say that she wanted to find the “Lady Gaga of authors” and my mind wandered to, as the exercise goes, “Lady Gaga . . . in space!”

The two rival intergalactic pop stars were so clear in my head at that moment I drew illustrations of them in my notebook, not something I normally do.

3) What genre does your book fall under?
I call it a Pop Space Opera, but since that is not technically a genre (yet!),  I would say Light Science Fiction.

4) Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
There is actual music in this story, so protagonist IdoLL would be played by someone like Keke Palmer (she could do her own singing). And for Jettison Prix (IdoLL’s rival) I want Dara Sisterhen (I have no idea if she can sing. I worked with her on a film before and she is hi-lar-ious), and if I could get a contemporary, edgier version of Bobby Womack for Reggie Backstone, that would be great, thank you.

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
In a galaxy where fame can falter at the flip of a switch, a petty pop star must team up with her musical rival in order to prevent an interplanetary war.

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I would like it to be represented by an agency because of the multi-platform elements. I don’t really know how to handle that, nor do I want to, so I’ll need someone else to manage it.

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
I wrote it in a month for NaNoWriMo 2011.

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
It has been described as Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy with a soundtrack. I’d say with a healthy dose of The True Meaning of Smekday.

9) Who or What inspired you to write this book?
See Question #2

10) What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
The novel is divided into “tracks” and I have written an original song for each track. The idea is that the music will accompany and complement the book. I am currently working with a musician to produce the first three songs of the book to use in the pitch materials.

~     ~     ~

And now I will end this blog crawl by turning the camera like they do on The Amazing Race and say: I choose not to tag anyone. (and yes, I was always the kid who broke the chain letter)

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Filed under Intergalactic, novel adventures, Show and Tell, YA literature

Tour Thanks and Weekend Workout

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a weekend workout. I knew that would happen, though, as I’ve come to the conclusion that writing and blogging do not get done while I’m on tour.

If you wanna just scroll down to get your workout and skip all the “thank you” stuff, there’s a visual marker below that says WEEKEND WORKOUT.

Before I get to the workout, I want to express my appreciation for all the people that made my tour a tour. I want to thank all the teachers, parents, principals, students, and especially the librarians at Regnart, Murdock-Portal, Blackford, Christa McAuliffe, and Gardner Bullis elementary schools, Gale Ranch Middle School, and Wingra School who all hosted me as a guest.

a 6th grader works on her imaginary world

I want to thank to Laurie, Bridget, and Christine at the Weekend With Your Novel Conference, Alison at the Wisconsin Book Festival, and all the citizens of Madison, WI for being fantastic human beings in general.

Sesame Street Birthday singalong at the capitol in Madison

I want to thank all the people at the indie bookstores who work so hard in their communities, sponsoring readings and launches, selling book at schools and festivals (and who now carry copies of Brigitta of the White Forest and The Ruins of Noe):

Kepler’s Books and Magazines (Menlo Park, CA)
Hicklebees (San Jose, CA)
Read Booksellers (Danville, CA)
Room of One’s Own (Madison, WI)

I want to thank my friends and family who treated me to coffee, lunch, dinner, drinks, and gasoline, let me sleep on their couches and in their guest rooms, and adopted me for Halloween.

And thanks Life in General for the numerous surprises that kept my tour interesting: getting to see/hear Michael Chabon interviewed at Kepler’s Books, getting to hang out with thousands of people at a Bruce Springsteen Barack Obama rally, discovering what a gem Wisconsin Icon Michael Perry is, and getting to drink beer and explore Madison’s Children’s Museum with hundreds of other 21+ children (once a month their Children’s Museum is Adults Only!).

It was a pleasure through and through! (okay, it was a little stressful, but over all a good time was had)

Oh, yeah.

I have friends who are at every stage of writing a novel right now. A few just started something brand spanking new. A few are in the middle of NaNoWriMo. A few are editing and a few doing total manuscript overhauls. And my rewrite is so off course I might as well call it a new book.

Whether I’m writing something new or rewriting, I’m constantly checking and rejigging my sequence and beat sheet (my version of an outline). Stories are organic, sometimes plots twist differently than I intend or characters appear where I had none planned. Like today…

I was trying to figure out a way to increase the stakes and tension in an escape sequence, so I decided to trap Brigitta and Jarlath between two search parties coming for them from either side. How would they escape? There was no way out. Unless there was a secret way that only one person knew about. Which meant, I now needed an ally to appear to show them the way. The ally who appeared was a complete surprise to me, but made perfect sense. And she wasn’t even a blip on my original outline. Adding her changed the direction of the sequence and a new adventure ensued.

I forget, sometimes, that one way of changing the scene’s dymamic is to introduce a 3rd character to that scene. It could be an ally, enemy, or stranger – each would cause the story to go in a different direction.

Your Workout

Pick a scene you’ve been working on or are about to work on that is a 2-person scene. At some point in the scene, have another character enter into the scene and see how it changes the action, the tone, the dynamics, the tension, etc. Try different scenarios! Drop an ally in, then a stranger, then an enemy. Write out the scene each time (or at least outline it) and see if it works BETTER than it did before.

Have a great weekend!

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Filed under Book Tour, novel adventures, Rewriting, weekend workout, writing exercises, writing life

We’re off to FaerieWorlds!

Every summer in the Pacific Northwest, thousands of fans of Faerie from around the globe gather in the wooded meadows of Mount Pisgah in Eugene, Oregon to celebrate in the realm and experience the unique magic that is Faerieworlds.

This weekend, July 27-29, I will be there with my publisher doing readings and selling books. We’ll also be selling artwork by our cover artist Julie Fain Art and our map artist Alison Woodward Eats Ink and kids faerie jewelry from Turtle Tyme Treasures.

 

 

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Filed under conferences and festivals, novel adventures, serious play

New Ruins of Noe Promo Video

As much as I love our Book One trailer, there was no way we could pull off another live book trailer. Just didn’t have the time or resources and if you’ve read the second book, the world is SO different it would have been quite the SFX challenge.

So, my filmmaker friend Mauri came up with a different idea, which is what you see below. Not quite as exciting as a live action version, but it does the trick. 🙂

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Filed under Book Launch, Book Trailers, Brigitta of the White Forest, novel adventures, Ruins of Noe