Monday, October 27, 2014

Lost that Lovin' Feeling?

Before we jump in, I’ve recently discovered something: a majority of my posts are either pep talks, or advice on how to get through being stuck.


But I think that’s normal. Roadblocks in a manuscript can come from so many different things: your plot may have taken a wrong turn down a dead-end road; you may be hitting a complete blank on what happens next; good, old-fashioned fear may have you paralyzed. And then there's the super-sad explanation: you just don’t feel the connection to your story. 

I’m working on a new WIP, and I’ve hit every single one of these roadblocks over the past month. Hard times in the Smith house, y’all. So, I dug into my arsenal of roadblock-bashing material. The most recent blockage I hit was that super-sad one I mentioned: lack of connection to the story. One thing I’ve come to embrace is the Manuscript Love List. I can't take credit for this one; I got the idea from Stephanie Perkins.

Here's the idea: you make a list of all the things you love about your manuscript. Easy, right? It may sound super-basic and you may be wondering how that can possibly help, but I urge you to give it a try—you may be surprised! For example, here are a few of the love list items from my upcoming YA Contemporary, PLAY ON.

Starry skies
Pick-up trucks
Wide-open fields
Baseball games during cool springtime nights

I jotted these down in the early stages of the story, and as the story grew, so did my list. Just reading over the things I love about the story gets me into the mindset of its atmosphere and, most importantly, of why I wanted to write it in the first place. So if you’re stuck, give it a try! You may just fall in love all over again. J

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Let It Go... Or not!

It's the perfect time of year to reflect on our accomplishments and revisit goals that may or may not have been met. My goal for 2014 was to take my rewritten YA Sci-fi and find an agent equally excited about it. It was new and shiny--I'd raked over every word, hooked every chapter end, and added short term goals for my MC to ramp up the tension. (Look for a later post from me about over editing) I knew this manuscript forward, backward, and sideways. The world I'd created completely sucked me in.

I've been very open about my query process...the partial and full requests...the rejections...and the LaLa Land some of my submissions fell into. I fully intended to send my queries in batches, tweak things as needed, and to not stop until I reached one hundred agents. I have several dear friends who submitted over sixty, seventy even eighty queries before they received agent representation so I knew going into it that it might be a long haul. But here I am, only a little over halfway through my goal and I've found my heart just isn't into it.

You see, I have a new manuscript (a YA historical fiction). New characters insisting I share their secrets and dreams. They. Are. Consuming. Me! Anything that takes me away from their lives--even if it's something as simple as researching new prospects for my Sci-fi, puts me into a tailspin. It's insane. So I've decided to put my old MS on the shelf for a while to prevent distraction from my WIP. I'm not letting it go forever. Someday I'll pull it out and read it with fresh eyes. And who knows, maybe I'll fall in love with it all over again.

photo credit: jackoraptor via photopin cc

Monday, October 13, 2014

Prepare Yourselves: NaNo is Coming.

Five NaNoWriMo Prep Steps

It's mid-October. Leaves are falling, Halloween costume selections are dwindling, and it is THE TIME to get prepped for National Novel Writing Month

How much should you prep for NaNoWriMo? Some people prep for months. I do not. But I do think that whether you consider yourself a plotter or a pantser, having a few ducks in a row before November 1st couldn't hurt. 

Here are five, last-minute prep steps I'm taking to try and get my NaNo WIN. You still have a couple weeks, so if you haven't already, why not:   


1) Get your research out of the way. Whether you have just a vague idea of your story's setting (maybe near Devil's Tower?)  or you are absolutely certain your protagonist will need to know the hunting habits of a prehistoric mosasaur, NOW is the time to get those details in order. My NaNo project will feature a colony of bats. I know more waaay more about bats than I need to. But I won't waste any precious time in November looking up the average lifespan of a Townsend's big-eared bat. (16 years, btw)

2) Jot down a tagline. If you have a general idea about your storyline, you could try writing a one-to-two sentences summary. It could give you more focus. 

Example from the screenplay Pirates of the Caribbean: 
A 17th Century tale of adventure on the Caribbean Sea where the roguish yet charming Captain Jack Sparrow joins forces with a young blacksmith in a gallant attempt to rescue the Governor of England's daughter and reclaim his ship.

There are still plenty of holes to fill in the Pirates of the Caribbean example, but it gives you some framework. 

3) Make a few character sketches.  You'll be spending a lot of time with these characters over the next few weeks. If you have an idea who will be starring as your cast of characters, get to know them. There are lots of cool resources for character sketching. NaNo has a good one here. 

4) Let your friends and family know what's about to go down. Writing is a solitary venture. It's also time consuming, and NaNo's 1,667 words-per-day average is whole different level of involvement. 
WAIT. Before you go writing, could we make a 7-layer Jello Mold?

In my case, I'm married with two little kids. I am planning for easy dinners, packing lunches the night before, getting up reeeeaaally early, and have discussed all of this with aforementioned family unit. It's THAT KIND of commitment. 

5) Find Writerly Support. Connect with writing buddies on the NaNoWriMo site. There is a NaNoPrep thread where you will find lots of friendly writer peeps looking for buddies to encourage and support each other.  You can find me on the NaNo site as Arena26. (ICYW, that user name dates way back to a NCAA Online Bracket challenge that ended well for me.) 

How about you? Are you prepping for the NaNo plunge? Have you checked out the NaNo Prep resources on the official site? 

 How do you plan on achieving that NaNo WIN?

Monday, October 6, 2014

Tackling Goals

Gotta love football! 

For me, the fall is a super crazy, busy time of year. Last week, I sat down and made a list of the most important things that needed to get done. This turned into some real goal setting since I plan on participating in NaNoWriMo in November again! Yay! :)

When planning goals there are a few things to consider:

  1. What can you realistically accomplish? Think long and hard about it.
  2. Create a timeline for the project(s). 
  3. Be specific. Finishing a novel in a month is great, but without the details, it might flop.
  4. Design benchmarks to measure your project and keep things running in a timely manner.
  5. Accountability! Set up specific times to check in with someone who will encourage you to stay on track. 
If you have big dreams, try whittling them down to what your schedule allows or to what you know you can do easily. Think on a daily, weekly, monthly basis. Divide and conquer! Check out Rina's mini task list blog; it's amazing. Sometimes those monstrous, looming projects are easier to manage in small doses! A back-up list is always great to have on hand too if you find you've achieved your goals ahead of schedule. 

And even though accountability is the last on the list, it's one of the most important things! When you share your dreams and ask others to either help by giving you the time to do them, or ask you about them, just the asking can keep you trekking toward your accomplishment. Whether it's telling your CPs, best friend, mom, or significant other, letting them know what's important to you encourages them to support you! Ask around, you could gain an accountability partner and be one for someone else.

So.... What do you want to accomplish before the end of 2014? We love hearing from you! :)