Monday, February 24, 2014

Owning Your Happiness: Getting A Grip on Extreme Emotions

"An emotional roller coaster" Cliche, yes? But isn't it also the most apt description of a writer's life? I sure think so.

Sometimes I find myself wondering why can't I just be normal?! Gah! 

Of course, I already know the answer. There is no such thing as normal. There's just me and you and every other person out there in the universe handling our ups and downs as best we can.

The thing is, I'm floored by how fast I can go from a *mostly* balanced human, to ecstatic OMG my words are AWESOME, to OMG I suck so, so, sooooo bad.

It can happen over the course of a week, a day, or even minutes. It can strike at any time - drafting, revising, querying and, though I haven't reached the next phase in my journey yet, I'm sure it continues through submissions, publication, reviews, writing that next book, and so on.

I call these extreme highs and lows writer's bipolar syndrome, and I think what it comes down to is letting outside influences define who I am as a writer. It's giving up control of my happiness (and my sanity) and putting that responsibility on someone else. And that's not fair. Not to me or anyone else. It's not anyone's job to convince me that I'm a good writer. It have to believe it. If I don't, why should anyone else?

I've *known* this for a long time, but knowing it and really believing it, aka putting it into practice, aren't the same.

If you're in the same boat as me, or if you ever find yourself rocketing from one extreme to the next, try to remember:

* Celebrate success without letting it go to your head.
* Understand that rejection is not personal. It is not a reflection of your ability as a writer.
* Do not let rejection diminish the successes you've had. One doesn't not cancel out the other.
* Enjoy YOUR journey. Everyone's path is unique. Don't compare yourself to anyone else.
* Believe in your talent. Don't try to be like, or write like, anyone else.
* Publishing is subjective. A compliment or a rejection does not change the value of your words.
* Confidence starts and ends with you. Take responsibility for it and know that you are the best you can be at this moment.

So basically, what I'm saying is this:
No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.

And when you need your spirits lifted, watch this video of badassary.

And when you need a smile, I give you: The highs and lows of querying in Buffy .gifs

Waiting after you've sent off a batch of queries.

More waiting

Every time your email dings

When you get a form rejection

Getting support from your CPs

When your email dings after you've received several form rejections

Your first partial request. This is totally gonna be it!

Your CPs cheering you on.

The next time your email dings

Rejection on your partial

Email dings

Full Requst! Yeah!!  THIS time is it, for sure.

Email dings

Rejection on your full

Email dings. (you're starting to lose it now)

Request! (happy, and also a little bit crazy)

When your CPs pull you back from the edge

Monday, February 17, 2014

Love, Love, Love

Since Valentine's just passed, I thought I'd talk about love. The curious emotion that inspires people to do crazy things in life and in books.

Whether we have insta-love or I-hate-you-then-can't-live-without-you love, romance and those oh-so-hot crushes help steam up a book and entice the reader. Why? Even in action films or horror books, there's a trickle of love. Some person loves another person and we can insta-connect.

We all want to be loved and we all hope to find someone to love. So how do we write it in a believable way? Realize that there are a million and one ways to fall in love or show love. Love isn't always love at first. It might be friendship that turns into something more.

I think of real life examples. Either from my own life or news stories. Love is out there! We all go goo-goo eyes over show of affection and thoughtfulness. At the same time, we've all had our hearts broken by the crush that didn't crush back. And some people really do experience insta-love or insta-crush. It is real!

Recently, I've read a couple of books (all YA fantasy cause it's my fav!) that have great examples of the different ways an author can go about creating that swoon worthy romance that turns into real commitment. Or not.

The first book, is Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake. It was a strange kind of connection between a ghost killer and a ghost and done oh so well. The love was drawn from compassion, which lead to an I'd-die-for-you kind of relationship. Very swoon worthy!

Then I read Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas. Super sneaky love there. The kind I love best. All mixed up with romance, longing, and loneliness. I got all excited trying to figure out who's going to end up with who. It was the kind of tension that kept me turning pages!

And then there's the I-hate-you and you-hate-me but we can't get enough of each other but we'll never tell each other. That was in Obsidian by Jennifer L. Armentrout and I thought it was very well done. The characters sparked and the dialogue was top notch. I felt like I was there watching all the drama and crushing go down. I'm totally hooked on the series now.

So what about you? What kind of romance or sprinkles of love do you like most in books? Do you have a happy ending? Or are you okay if the amazing couple breaks up?

Monday, February 10, 2014

Your Next WIP

It's a fantastic feeling when inspiration strikes. I tend to get most of my story ideas when I can't write them down. (Most often while sitting in traffic, which is why I've started carrying a tape recorder in my car so I can record myself dictating character conversations. All of these are extremely awkward to play back later, especially when I imitate voices. But I digress.)

But what do you do when the ideas just aren't flowing? How do you jump-start your writing process, whether it's beginning a fresh manuscript or figuring out how to wrap up a current one?

I know a lot of writers use music or Pinterest. My background is in journalism, and I tend to find a lot of inspiration in news stories, several of which inspired my current WIP. I look at breaking news, trend stories, or sometimes imagine how certain events could have played out a different way. Weirdly enough, I also use Google maps street view to find settings in the Northwest -- the only place I've lived, and the only place I feel confident enough using as a setting! (Plus, I love it.)

Sometimes I'll even skim my old junior high and high school diaries, which are now incredibly valuable as a YA writer. I wrote down conversations I had with my friends, which helps remind me how deeply certain conflicts affected me. Most cringeworthy, I'll read the parts where I waxed on and on and on about the three boys I was crushing on that week.

Where do you get your inspiration?

Monday, February 3, 2014

Get in your Writing Zone FASTER

Writing time is precious. There are days I battle for minutes of writing time like they’re chunks of raw chicken thrown in the caiman tank.  And believe me, after what we saw during our last visit to SeaLife, those little guys can grapple.

Kind of cute in a vicious, hope-you're-not-a-chicken kind of way.

So when I get in front of the computer I need to get busy. Some days are harder than others to flip my switch to Writer Brain and dive back into the world of my waiting Work In Progress.

There are a few tricks I’ve picked up that help me get in the Writing Zone faster. When I open that laptop, the first three things I do are designed to sweep me back into my story’s universe.  

1)      My Desktop Background picture is the setting of my story. Pretty self explanatory. My story takes place in the deep woods, and there are gazillions of awe-inspiring wallpapers out there to set the mood for me instantly when I open my computer. 

2)     Music. This is the biggest one for me. With some music and ear buds—goodbye, real world. I like soundtracks. For my woodland adventures, Jurassic Park and Avatar are great. I’ve set up a movie score Pandora station too that’s fun for variety. 

3)     If I’m really stuck, I do a Google Image Search. A couple weeks ago I had a Twitter conversation with writers Maria Burel and Julie Segal Walters about this. (It was the inspiration for this post, in fact.) Maria occasionally shares some amazing historic images on her Twitter feed. For visual people, this can open the floodgates of inspiration.

NOTE about Image Searches: This can be a danger zone. For me, research can turn into a total time eater. Setting a timer isn’t a bad idea. But it can also have a huge pay off. I recently introduced a new critter to my cast of creatures and I was having a little trouble finding his voice. I looked at creature pictures until I found one that spoke to me instantly. THAT was my guy.  

Do you have any tips on getting into the writing zone quickly? I’d love to hear them!