December Q&A!

| Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Today's Tune: Midnight City


Did everyone have a nice holiday? Those who celebrated, that is? I had a nice time visiting the fiance's family back east. Lots of food. So much food. Urp.

My plane was delayed today and I didn't have much time to plan an entry, soooo... Q and A?

Question and answer time! Ask me anything and I'll answer to the best of my ability. I reserve the right to ignore you if you get too personal or gross. DEAL WITH IT.

Publishing questions? Writing questions? Questions about my book? About agents? About my life in general? Cheeses I recommend for wine tasting? I'm an open book. Turn my pages.

That sounded WAY more like innuendo than I intended it to, but I'm leaving it.

My Writer's Toolkit.

| Monday, November 21, 2011
Today's Tune: Rock and Roll

Just an FYI: I will be taking the next week or so off for the holiday (US Thanksgiving). I'll be traveling and visiting with family. Posts will most likely resume Wednesday November 30th.

So, I thought it might be nice to share my "writer's toolkit" today. What I mean by that is basically that these are the websites, programs, books, and items that I personally use and have found helpful in my writing life. Everyone has their own "toolkit" full of the elements that are most effective for them, but hopefully you can find something useful in here.


On Writing by Stephen King
Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook by Donald Maass
Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell
Writing Great Books for Young Adults by Regina Brooks



(These two programs are very similar. Try both to see which you prefer. yWriter is free. Scrivener has a free trial, but you must pay for the full version.)


Notebooks. I carry a small one with me just about everywhere for quick ideas.
Note cards. Helpful for visual plotting (tack 'em to the wall).
Multi-colored pens. Good for editing.
Printer. Reading printed pages is different than editing on-screen.
Laptop or digital tablet, if you can afford one, for writing on the go.

Smartphone/Tablet Apps:

Evernote. For quick notes, brainstorming, and adding pictures to notes. So handy.
Kindle or other ebook app. All great writers read, right?
Wikipanion. Wikipedia on the go.
WriMuse. A writing prompt app to get your juices flowing.
Whack Pack. Another creative prompt/brainstorming app.
Dictionary. You need one. Find an app you like.
Translator. They're not perfect, but handy for quick 'n dirty translations.


Publisher's Marketplace
Writer Beware
Preditors and Editors
Duotrope Digest
Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators
Absolute Write
Query Tracker
Agent Query
Figment Fiction
Literary Rambles
Nathan Bransford
TV Tropes

Those are the biggies. There are TONS of quality writing and publishing blogs out there, and I highly encourage you to explore and find the ones that speak to you most. THE INTERNET IS HUGE.

Okay. I will check you cats later. If you're celebrating this weekend, have a wonderful holiday!

Why follower counts aren't important.

| Friday, November 18, 2011
Today's Tune: Ain't No Rest For The Wicked

Comic from Inkygirl
I always feel a little awkward writing posts like this, because it's very easy to sit here and say "Follower counts are basically meaningless! Don't worry if you only have two followers! Value them! It's all good!" when I already have a reasonable (not huge, but decent) following. It feels kind of... disingenuous? I don't know. So I'm just throwing it out there that I am aware that having a teeny-tiny follower count still can make you feel kind of lonely and bummed, and being told that it doesn't matter doesn't always help.

That said, seriously, follower counts don't really matter much. Twitter, blogs, Facebook, Google+ ... the numbers are usually just that -- numbers. I mean, I'm not going to sit here and pretend that follower numbers don't have SOME effect on how you're perceived, because that's just not true. There's no arguing that a large following increases someone's appeal at first glance and makes people wonder what they're missing, so they'll often follow as well. It's called "social proof." It gives you more authority in their eyes than someone with fewer followers.

So, with that admission out of the way, I'm going to go into why writers in particular should worry less about their follower count and more about the quality of their interactions.

Focusing on the number can stress you out, depress you, and make you feel inadequate. And frankly, as a pre-published writer, cranking up your numbers isn't where your focus should be. Using social media for marketing purposes is a whole other can of worms, but it's not your concern yet. Maybe it will be someday (I hope so! I'm rooting for you!), but not yet. For now, focus on having fun and making friends. That is where you're going to get the most enjoyment, and when you're acting like yourself and making connections, the followers will come eventually. I promise.

Numbers are easy to get. Quality followers who give a crap are harder to find. I've written about building a quality Twitter following before, and that still stands. I'm going to let you all in on a secret. If you are really and truly desperate to make your number go up, it's actually pretty easy. You can either buy followers (which I do not recommend, ever), or you can go to Follower Wonk and run bio searches for anyone with "followback" or "I follow back" in their bio. Add a few. Bam. Instant numbers. The problem with that method? None of those people care about you or will interact with you or support you or buy your book. They're only interested in increasing their own counts.

Another "trick?" Participate in those blog follower-a-thons. Now, I'm not talking about the genuinely supportive ones that encourage you to actually get to know each other. I mean the ones that are more of an "add as many people as you can and then follow back everyone who adds you" madhouses. Again, this is a great way to boost your number, but not so great for attracting people who will actually, like, READ YOUR BLOG.

I'll let you in on another secret: I never do auto follow backs, I rarely add follow-whores, and I instantly block spammers/bots who follow me. Yeah, those things could pump up my numbers and make them look real nice. But you know what? I don't want a fake following. I want a real following. And I feel reasonably certain that the vast majority of my followers are following because they, you know, think I'm at least moderately interesting and/or like me and want to support me on my writing/publishing journey. AND I LOVE YOU GUYS MWAH MWAH MWAH *kissy faces*.

Here's one last secret: the best way to get followers is to be worth following. This one is HIGHLY subjective and not always fair, and I'm sure there isn't anyone out there who's thinking, "HECK YEAH, I'M TOTALLY BORING, I SHOULD SHARE MY BORINGNESS!" Everyone has a voice and a story to share, and it's really difficult when you aren't finding the audience you were hoping to find. But the process of building a quality following can be really slow going sometimes. You have to find your rhythm, and for some of us, that takes a while.

Some people really get it. They managed to figure out a niche that a lot of people connected with, they have a sense of humor that's instantly engaging, their method of delivery is fresh and unique, or they're just all around cool and everyone wants to be their friend.

Sometimes it's totally random chance. Sometimes it totally makes sense. But again, I repeat that follower count doesn't matter. What you do with the followers you have matters. I know it's hard to hear sometimes, but if you push past that feeling of social media inadequacy and learn how to enjoy yourself, you'll get there. And you'll be awesome.

Have you ever fretted about your follower count? Are you happy with your current count? What have you done to gain followers that you felt was successful?

Winners Announcement!

| Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Today's Tune: Bulletproof

Winner announcement time! Once again, thank you to everyone who stopped by to enter my contest and hang out and even follow my little blog. I honestly wish I had books for everyone, but alas, I do not. But I'm sending everyone a virtual high five.

I won't draw this out any longer. Without further ado, here are the winners of my contest, selected by random draw.

First Place: Yiling, who won the NotS/LatBND package
Second Place: Constance, who won the LEVIATHAN trilogy package
Third Place: Theresa Milstein, who won the Laini Taylor package

Much, much love to everyone, and congratulations to the winners! Those books will go out as soon as I can get my butt to the post office.

In other news, I got a haircut yesterday. I really like it. Except for one thing.

You know how when you go to get your hair done, you walk out of the salon feeling like this:

And then you go home and wash your hair and the next day you try to style it the same way and it's more like:

Yeah. Yeah. Sigh.

Check you dudes on Friday!

Is it fair to compare incomparable literature?

| Monday, November 14, 2011
Today's Tune: L.G. FUAD

Thanks to everyone who entered my contest and who's been visiting over the last few weeks! It's so nice to see so many new faces around the blog. Welcome! The contest is now closed. Winners will be announced later this week, so stay tuned!

So here's a thing I think about a lot, especially given what I write: is it appropriate or reasonable to compare YA literature to adult literature? Also, is it reasonable to compare literary fiction to commercial fiction?

It's an interesting concept to consider. I write what's considered to be literary prose with a commercial plot, and I've often contended with people outside the publishing sphere who've read my work and asked me if I thought I was writing too "advanced" for teens. Funnily enough, I've never received that question from fellow YA writers or any of the agents who've read my work. So I suppose I'm saying that I sort of straddle the line between commercial and literary, stereotypical YA and stereotypical adult.

First, I think it's probably a good idea to talk about how all books aren't created equal and different books have different goals. There are books out there whose intent is to make the reader feel or think, and there are books that exist to entertain. Some attempt both. I certainly attempt both. But considering that books fit different readers and their needs, is it reasonable to compare them side by side? Is it fair to compare a bestselling commercial thriller against a bestselling literary tale of loss?

I guess that depends on your definition of fair, but it seems odd to me when I read reviews of people comparing completely incomparable works. Disparaging people for being entertained by a certain book and belittling their intelligence because they're not reading *insert appropriate literary masterwork here* instead seems counterproductive to me. And I say that as a self-confessed intellectual who loooooves many a literary masterwork.

Next, let's talk about how this relates to YA. I've lost track of the number of reviews I've read where a reviewer said something along the lines of, "The protagonist is kind of a whiny brat and the plot was loose and cobbled together, but it WAS written for teens, so what did I expect?" Which saddens me, naturally. It implies that "literature for adults" is always sensical and solid, which is COMPLETELY untrue. As with adult literature, YA contains a breadth of genres and plotlines all across the board, and not all are going to be created equal. There are going to be sloppily written diatribes alongside works of heartrending beauty. That's the way of literature.

Which links in to the way people outside the YA sphere (or even within the YA sphere) view YA. It's the overall stereotypical belief that all literature for teenagers and children is less cerebral, less emotionally deep, and less thematic than work for adults. It's certainly different, because the audience has less life experience and thus less exposure to "complex" literature, but it's not a completely separate entity.

This attitude cracks me up, because I mean, anyone who could argue that one of those detective romance pulp novels where the roguish PI sweeps the bombshell mark off her feet amidst a hail of gunfire is more cerebral and emotionally complex than The Book Thief can pretty much bite me.

But here comes the rub: is it fair to compare YA to literature written for an adult audience? A big part of me says yes, that YA can be just as stirring and brilliant as adult literature. On the other hand, it is written with an entirely different goal in mind -- to speak to the teenage experience. And the teenage experience is, by definition, a different animal than the adult experience. When writing for an age group that just doesn't have the life experience and advanced education that many adults have under their belts, is it fair to compare Looking For Alaska to The Waves? Maybe it is. Maybe it isn't.

I'm making my own brain hurt with this post. TOO MUCH THINKING FOR A SUNDAY EVENING.

What say you, reader-pals? Is it reasonable to compare commercial to literary, or YA to non-YA? Why or why not?

Query Doctor: ELENA'S PEN by Nicole

| Friday, November 11, 2011
Today is the LAST DAY to enter my great big signed book contest, so be sure to do so if you haven't yet! Up for grabs: SIGNED books by Scott Westerfeld, Maureen Johnson, Stephanie Perkins, and Laini Taylor! And if you want another shot at some great books, Jessica Love, who ALSO just signed with an agent, is having an agent contest of her very own! YAY :D

And now on to Query Doctoring. It's Nicole's turn under the knife of the Query Doctor today. Be sure to tell her thanks for subjecting her query to the Doc!

If you would like to submit your query to be Doctored, please see this post.

Here's the drill: first, I'll post the query in its original, unaltered form. Then I'll give my diagnosis. Then I'll do line-by-line comments. Then I'll open it up to the commenters!


Dear Agent,

One day, thirteen-year-old Elena decides not to write stories during class like she normally does and instead writes that the class bully gets detention. He does a minute later. It's got to be her new pen - everything she writes with it comes true.

But then the pen writes of its own accord about a mystical fantasy land being overrun by demons. After a demon kidnaps her family and hides them in the land, Elena will do whatever she can to save them. Unfortunately, it's not as simple as writing a happy ending - whenever Elena uses the pen, someone turns into a demon, and she could be next.

ELENA’S PEN is a 66,000-word fantasy upper MG standalone novel with series potential. I believe readers of The Neverending Story and Graceling will enjoy my book.

I am the author of a fantasy romance trilogy, Kingdom of Arnhem - Woman of Honor (2009), Knight of Glory (2010), and Champion of Valor (2011) published with Desert Breeze Publishing. I have also published nine short stories for anthologies, including Mertales by Wyvern Publications, and many collections by Pill Hill Press, with four more being published before the end of the year.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.

Best regards,

Nicole Zoltack
(email address)
(phone number)


Healthy Bits: This query is tightly written and displays all the necessary elements - main character, her problem, her stakes, and what will happen if she fails. This is all excellent! Brevity can be really hard to come by, especially in fantasy queries, so great job there. The way you stick to a single moving plot thread without getting bogged down in subplots or extra details is very good. Your book information and bio are right on.

Under The Weather: This query isn't sick at all... it's just a little green around the gills. Nothing some fresh air can't fix. As you'll be able to see in my line-by-line, I needed more clarification in certain spots. While this query does a wonderful job of conveying the story, it did feel a little blow-by-blow to me. This happens, then this happens, then this happens. A few of the sentences felt lackluster and like they needed a little more polish -- I give examples below. Overall, I felt like it could use a bit more voice, a bit more personality. Something to really catch my attention and make me go, "Oooh! I like it! I want to read more in this voice!" It's a solid query already and the story sounds like it could be a lot of fun. I just want that one injection of oomph that's going to give it an edge.



One day, thirteen-year-old Elena decides not to write stories during class like she normally does and instead writes that the class bully gets detention.

This sentence is okay, but I think it could be structured differently to make it tighter and start with a stronger hook. This will depend entirely on your style, but you could try something like: "Thirteen-year-old Elena loves to write stories. It's too bad they never come true... until the day she writes about the class bully getting detention, that is." Try to avoid making the sentence too wordy. Keep it punchy and try to hook 'em in quick.

He does a minute later. A minute later, the teacher slaps a pink slip on his desk.

This is just a suggestion to make the line a bit more powerful and inject some more personality. You can (and should) of course rewrite it in your own words/voice.

It's got to be her new pen - everything she writes with it comes true.

This part doesn't quite follow logically for me. At this point, it could be complete coincidence. A bully getting detention isn't really a WOAH THAT'S TOO WEIRD TO HAPPEN BY ITSELF moment. I'd give a more extreme example ("She writes about her teacher's hair turning green!" or something) where it would be VERY obvious that yes, she is the cause of this. Make sure there's a crystal-clear reason why she knows she (or rather, her pen) is causing things to happen. Or give a second example beyond the bully.

But then the pen writes of its own accord about a mystical fantasy land being overrun by demons all by itself.

Hmm maybe rework this or break it up. It feels a little static/passive as written. Example: "But then the pen writes all by itself, and the story it tells isn't pretty. The words form a tale about a mystical land overrun by demons." Again, this is a place where you can insert yourself and your writing personality a little more. Play with it.

After a demon kidnaps her family and hides them in the land, Elena will do whatever she can to save them. Unfortunately, it's not as simple as writing a happy ending - whenever Elena uses the pen, someone turns into a demon, and she could be next.

Strong ending! I really like this! This was the first place where I felt like you got a little bit of personality in there (with the "not as simple as writing a happy ending" bit). My only suggestion here is to maybe give us a tiny clarification that the mystical land is obviously real, since her family gets kidnapped there. Right now, it's kind of like, "The pen starts writing about a fantasy land! And then demons kidnap her family!" Which is slightly disorienting. Just give the reader a teensy bit more grounding.

ELENA’S PEN is a 66,000-word fantasy upper MG fantasy standalone novel with series potential. I believe readers of THE NEVERENDING STORY and GRACELING will enjoy my book.

Be more authoritative. Cut the "I believe." Trust yourself and your story! You don't have to refer to it as a standalone. Just be careful not to accidentally imply that it NEEDS to have sequels to be a complete story. "Series potential" is fine. Capitalize your comparable titles. I'm a little wary of THE NEVERENDING STORY. It's a classic and not super relevant to today's market, but I think it's okay to use if it really fits. Also be careful comparing to GRACELING, which is YA and not MG. Just think about it and make sure it's what you want to say.

I am the author of a fantasy romance trilogy, Kingdom of Arnhem - Woman of Honor (2009), Knight of Glory (2010), and Champion of Valor (2011) published with Desert Breeze Publishing. I have also published nine short stories for anthologies, including Mertales by Wyvern Publications, and many collections by Pill Hill Press, with four more being published before the end of the year.

Good use of publishing credits, although it might not be relevant to children's literature, so keep that in mind. Agents might ask for sales numbers for these, so be prepared to give them out just in case. You don't have to include them in the query. Also, I don't know anything about these publishers, but I assume you've ensured that they're legitimate independent publishers that agents will be able to check up on.


Aaaaand you're out of surgery! Once again, thank you so much to Nicole for letting her query be dissected for the other students. You've got a good thing going here. Keep pushing, and good luck!

(Oh man, that sounded kind of like a childbirth analogy. NOT WHAT I MEANT.)

Turning it over to the commenters. Share your thoughts if you have 'em!

On writerly confidence.

| Wednesday, November 9, 2011
Today's Tune: Under The Hedge

Don't forget: only a few days left to enter my awesome contest full of signed books and critiques!

First: can we talk about how much I love The Sing Off this season? Because I do. I really, really do. LOVE PENTATONIX THEY ARE SO GOOD I CAN'T EVEN TAKE IT. Ahem. Yeah.

Next: let's talk about confidence and never feeling like we're good enough. BECAUSE THAT'S FUN.

My blog-buddy and agent-sister (I can't believe I get to say that eeeeee) Phoebe North recently wrote a blog post that really spoke to me. It was about her experience at Visible Paradise (a SF/F writer's workshop) and how it really affected the way she viewed herself as a writer. She talked about how the writers she was working beside -- a pool of incredibly talented, creative people -- all had difficulty taking compliments when it came to their work, even when that praise was well-earned.

You should really read her post, but this is what it boils down to: that workshop helped her learn that it's okay to think of herself as a professional writer. A talented professional writer (which she absolutely is). It gave her permission to take pride in her work.

And I'll start with the comment I posted on that entry:

"... I can 100% relate. I think, as writers, there's a sort of unwritten rule that we're SUPPOSED to feel some level of inadequacy or self-loathing. That anyone who doesn't is a big-headed hack who thinks they're better than everyone. Which is not at all fair. We CAN take pride in our work and feel secure in our writer status without being unrealistic about our capabilities or our willingness to continue learning.

It's hard when we hear the same thing over and over: 'Listen to the criticism, ignore the praise. Ignore the praise. Ignore the praise. Ignore it because you can't learn from it.' And while on some level it IS true that we learn more through criticism, that doesn't mean that the praise is always unfounded. Sometimes we deserve it. No, we DO deserve it. Because we work hard and we study hard and we write well. And that's okay."

This is something I struggle with a lot, and I know I'm not alone. There's this weird pressure on writers (and other artists) where we're not supposed to appreciate or take pride in our own work. Doing so makes us, like, JERKS or something. I feel like I'm constantly wavering between not quite believing that people think I'm actually publishable and reading my stuff from months past and going, "Woah, wait, *I* wrote that? But it's good!"

It's like no matter what sort of validation there is out there to get, it never makes me quite believe in my own merit. Talking about my writing achievements makes me feel boastful and I constantly fret about how to let people know that I'm a REAL WRITER who writes THINGS THAT ARE PRETTY GOOD without sounding full of myself.

But after reading Phoebe's post, and after my experiences from the last few weeks, I'm finally approaching a place where it's okay to not be full of self-loathing and constantly hating my words. To admit that hey, I'm not bad. I'm better than not bad. I'm good. I'm talented. I'm a writer. An author.

There's a line between pride and arrogance. Arrogance is misguided confidence in the face of repeated criticism in the same area. Arrogance is saying, "No, critique group and agents and editors, you are WRONG when you say I need to work on my writing, despite the fact that you're all pointing out the same weaknesses."

Pride is admitting to yourself that sometimes you write gold. That when talented writer friends, critique partners, and publishing professionals are all telling you that you don't suck, maybe you actually don't suck. It's giving yourself your own stamp of approval, which is often the hardest stamp to get.

So I'm standing here and baring myself to you. Telling you that despite hearing over and over again that I'm a good writer, despite being told my work moved someone to tears, despite having a short story selected in a contest by an author I fiercely admire, and despite jumping the frightening hurdle that is obtaining the coveted offer of representation... despite all of that, doubt still eats away at me.But its bite is getting less and less powerful.

And I'm standing here to tell you that it's okay to face your own monster and tell it, "Yes, I am good. I am going to do this. I am talented."

"I am a writer."

On stealing ideas.

| Monday, November 7, 2011
Today's Tune: The Winter


When I talk to people who don't know very much about the publishing industry (writers or non-writers), there's a question I get asked over and over again: "How can you talk about your book idea/premise so casually? How can you send out queries to these 'agents' and 'editors?' How do you know they're not just going to steal your idea and write it themselves or give it to one of their other authors to write instead? WHAT IF THEY STEAL YOUR MANUSCRIPT????"

This can be a difficult question to answer, even though my default answer is pretty simple: "No one can steal an idea, and no legitimate publishing professional worth their salt would ever compromise their career and reputation by committing plagiarism."

That answer doesn't seem good enough for many people, however. So I have several sub-answers that better explain why being worried about having one's idea or unpublished work stolen is (mostly) an unfounded concern.

1.) You can't steal an idea. Ideas are insubstantial things that really don't have value by themselves. Everyone has ideas. I have a million ideas. You probably have a million ideas. But none of that matters unless you have the chops and the willingness to create something from that idea.

2.) Your idea probably isn't as original as you think it is. Sorry. LOTS of people come up with similar ideas for a novel premise. How many people do you think have an idea for a novel about a war between werewolves and vampires? About a spunky detective and his/her loyal sidekick? Steampunk pirates with automatons and eye patches? This is actually why a lot of publishers or literary agencies have a clause that says you can't sue them if you send them a query/pages and then another one of their authors releases a book with a similar premise (SIMILAR PREMISE, not "exact copy of your words"). Because other people already have your idea. And they think it's their idea. They're just the one who executed it in their own style. It's not plagiarism. It's shared creative consciousness. And if your idea really IS that unique and original? It's unlikely another person would be able to do it justice.

I mean, here, this is the premise of TICK-TOCK: A 16-year-old society girl from Edwardian-era Chicago discovers her father was murdered by a secret society seeking immortality via cybernetic upgrades, and she sets out to stop them at any cost. Reasonably unique premise. Sounds interesting. Could be cool. But do you have ANY IDEA AT ALL how I've executed it? Probably not. Because I won't show you the pages. NEENER NEENER. But this is my point. Yeah, I have a fairly original (but not totally original!) idea. Theoretically someone could "steal" it and write their own book. But it would be absolutely nothing like mine. They don't know about my characters, my subplots, my themes, my style choices, blah blah blah.

3.) Agents and editors aren't writers. That's why they're agents and editors. I mean, setting aside those agents/editors who are also authors. But usually, agents and editors don't actually want to write. They have the best time doing their job -- which is managing the careers of authors or editing authors' books. They're not looking to steal ideas to write on their own. That's not what they do. And for those who ARE authors, I assure you they have plenty of their own ideas. They don't need yours. Promise.

4.) They're also not going to hand off your ideas to their own authors. First, as I mentioned above, authors already have their own ideas. It's true that sometimes publishers suggest an author go in a certain direction, ("Your vampire monkey book did really well. What if you wrote something similar, but with spider-pigs instead?" or "Readers are really enjoying your historical. More historical, please."), but they don't ever "steal" an unpublished manuscript, send it to that author, and go, "Here. Write this, but better." The purpose of signing an author is that they already like that authors work, style, and novel ideas. Giving the authors something that isn't theirs to write probably isn't going to give them a good result.

5.) Plagiarism is publishing career suicide. There's probably no greater crime in the creative writing world than taking someone else's work and passing it off as your own. First, IT'S ILLEGAL to profit off of work that isn't yours and you can get the pants sued off of you. Next, no one in the industry will work with someone who has been found guilty of plagiarism. But let me clarify again: plagiarism is the direct copying of another writer's work and/or significant, identifiable elements of their work without proper credit. Ideas CAN NOT be plagiarized.

6.) It's highly unlikely for unpublished work to be plagiarized. Unpublished work is unpublished for a reason. Whether that reason is that it's just not right for the market, it's not polished enough, it's too niche, it's too ambiguous, or it's just not ready, there's a reason it wasn't picked up. (I'm purposely avoiding self-publishing for the moment, as that's an entirely different discussion). It isn't the best use of a publisher's talent pool and time to go through the slush and pick out ideas that maybe-sorta-might be good if they were written a little differently. It's a much better use to dip in to the ready-and-waiting pool of available talent and already-salable books they have at their disposal.

So, this is why I've never been afraid of having my ideas or work stolen. I didn't send to shady/unscrupulous agents or publishers, I knew from the start that my idea was hardly the part that mattered, and I knew it just wasn't a logical thing for agents/publishers to do. It is totally okay to be protective of your work. I completely understand that. But there's a difference between protective and paranoid. Make sure you know that difference.

NaNo and Sprinting vs. Marathon Running

| Wednesday, November 2, 2011
Today's Tune: Bonnie Taylor Shakedown

First! You guys know I'm running a contest for the next two weeks, right? A big one? With signed books and manuscript critiques? You should enter.

Next! I contributed a guest blog post for TL Conway's great big NaNoWriMo blog party. You can view my entry here, and there are lots of other great entries from great bloggers around the 'net about NaNo thoughts, strategies, and more.

Speaking of NaNo, I had a few more thoughts I wanted to add on top of my guest post. So here are those thoughts, and then you can hop on over to TL's and read many more great posts :)

I mention in my guest post that I'm a big fan of NaNoWriMo because it gets people to actually sit down and write. And I stand by that. However, I think it's important to keep a realistic head on one's shoulders and understand what NaNo is truly about: proving to yourself that yes, you can be a writer. You can write a novel-length work. You can write every day. You can create something from scratch. And all of those things are very important and inspire a lot of people.

However, NaNo is not a key to success. It's not the magic pill that will make you an accomplished novelist, or create an immediately publishable manuscript, or even train you on how to incorporate a realistic writing schedule into your life. NaNo is a fun, competitive bonding experience for people who want to be writers. But let's face it: 1,667+ words a day isn't a realistic writing schedule for most of us, especially for those of us with other jobs or family obligations. It's fun for a month, but it's not something most people can stick with on a regular basis.

Sometimes it's easy to fall into the NaNo trap... dictating our worth and dedication as writers based on how quickly we can churn out pages and how high our wordcounts get. It can lead to being more concerned with numbers and appearances than the quality of what's actually going down on the page. It can lead to burnout and shame when we don't meet our lofty wordcount goals, which leads to writer depression/anxiety and eventually giving up altogether because you can't "keep up."

This is why a dear friend of mine -- Johnny Dale, author of the YA serial The Darling Budds -- created a site dedicated to writers who want to try a different tactic. The site's called It's Not A Sprint, It's A Marathon, and it's dedicated to helping support writers in finding a healthy and realistic daily writing goal that works for them. It's not about carrying the competitive and overzealous spirit of NaNoWriMo throughout the rest of your writing life, it's about finding that pattern of regular writing that's right for you.

So, this month, if you decided to do NaNo and you find yourself falling behind for whatever reason, don't worry. Not everyone can swing 2000 words a day. And that is okay. It doesn't mean you're a failure, or a poor writer. You just need to find the path that works for you.

I'm wishing the very best of luck not only to November's NaNoWriMo participants, but to all writers out there who are trying to find the place where they fit in. I'm here to reinforce that it's okay to let go of the wacky wordcount goals and constant Twitter updates about your status. You can do this. You just need to find the right path :)

Write on!


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