What’s Up Wednesday

0a7bd-buttonlargenoborder

“What’s Up Wednesday” is a fun weekly meme started by my friends Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk. From Jaime: It’s similar in some respects to the Currently… post, but it’s been whittled down to only four headings to make it quicker and more manageable on a weekly basis. You’re invited to join us if you’re looking for something to blog about, a way to let your blog friends know what’s been going on with you. If you’re participating, make sure to link your What’s Up Wednesday posts to the list on Jaime’s blog each week. That way, others can visit your post and check out what you’ve been up to.And now, here’s what’s up with me this week…And now, here’s what’s up with me this week…

What I’m Reading: I finished Robyn Schneider’s The Beginning of Everything and while I really enjoyed it, I wanted a different ending for the characters. Totally a personal preference thing, but yeah… Have you read it? What did you think of the conclusion? I also read The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black, and I thought it was fantastic. Part of me is surprised because it’s a novel about vampires and that’s not really my thing. But then, I’ve heard awesome things about Holly Black’s writing, and this story totally lives up to the hype. Now I’m reading Leah Raeder’s Unteachable (thanks for the rec, Dahlia!) and I’ve gotta say… I’m loving it. It’s a tough story and it’s making me all kinds of uncomfortable, but the writing is gorgeous and the emotion is raw and so intense. It’s unputdownable, and I cannot wait to see how it wraps up.

What I’m Writing: I’ve started to poke away at my revision. It’s extensive, to be honest, and quite daunting, but I’m finding that my early chapters aren’t nearly as bad as I thought they were. There are even bits of unintentional foreshadowing that really work… Win! I want so badly for this story to be the sort of amazing I envision, and that alone is motivating. I love this stage of the process: the sorting out and the tying together and the prettifying.


Quality control.

What Else I’ve Been Up To: House hunting. We’re looking for a place to rent in Awesome Secret City, and it’s really hard! We’re currently very far away, so we have to take what we can get as far as information available on the Internet. I’m not super comfortable signing a lease sight-unseen, but it looks like that might be what we end up doing. And it’s not just the house we have to take into account — we’ve got to consider schools, shopping, commute times, neighborhoods, and a host of other craziness. I forgot what a challenge moving can be.


So… I’ve been baking and drinking! I’ve posted my favorite Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe here before, but it’s worth repeating. These are the perfect cookies, guys. Especially when consumed with an icy cold Bud Light (or milk — pick your poison).

What’s Inspiring Me Now: Contemporary YA Week over at Stacked, which started Monday and is still going strong. From librarian/blogger Kelly Jensen: I have a nice array of guest posts from contemporary YA authors. We’re going to travel across the globe to talk about Australian contemporary YA, we’ll talk about mental illness in contemporary YA, humor in contemporary YA, and much, much more. In fact, I have 7 guest posts lined up, along with a host of book lists. I thought that in addition to new posts, I’d rerun some older content, as well, in order to give a huge range of voices and insights into contemporary YA. Fantastic, yes? As a huge fan of contemporary YA, I’m so enjoying this series.

Additionally, I’m finding this post entitled The Four Types of Character Flaws from Writers Helping Writers to be incredibly timely and very helpful. Tons of awesome character-related advice to consider as I tackle my revision. (Also, I love Writers Helping Writers. If you’re not following this blog, you should be!)

And, finally, the mama in me got all teary paging through photographer Jenny Lewis‘s One Day Young series. She captured images of mamas and their babies within 24 hours of birth, her aim being to express the extraordinary bonding, tenderness and strength between mother and infant. The photographs are beautiful and heartwarming, and I hope you’ll check them out.

Tell me… What’s up with you today?

Advertisements

What’s Up Wednesday

“What’s Up Wednesday” is a fun weekly meme started by my friends Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk. From Jaime: It’s similar in some respects to the Currently… post, but it’s been whittled down to only four headings to make posting quicker and more manageable on a weekly basis. Join us if you’re looking for something to blog about, or a great way to let your blog friends know what’s been going on with you.

******

Can you believe Ready. Set. Write! is over?! *sob* Not that I’m going to stop goal-setting and writing and participating in What’s Up Wednesday, but still… Our fantastic summer writing intensive is all said and done!

ready set write button

My fabulous co-hosts and I would like to thank you for participating and celebrate your success by offering critiques. Of course, we don’t presume to be experts, but we do know how helpful it can be to get a fresh perspective on our writing. So… Erin, Jaime, Elodie, Alison, and I are offering feedback on the first ten pages of five Ready. Set. Write! participants’ stories. That’s FIVE critique giveaways! All you have to do is enter via the Rafflecopter below…
(Giveaway is international. Open to those who participated in Ready. Set. Write!)

A Rafflecopter Giveaway

Best of luck! 

******

And now, here’s what’s up with me this week…

What I’m Reading: I finished Morgan Matson’s Second Chance Summer. While the writing was lovely and the characters were well-drawn and likeable, this was a tough story to get through. The inevitableness of a tragic event is made clear early on, and the entire book is a journey to a heartbreaking conclusion. Yet, there’s a sense of hopefulness that keeps it from from becoming unbearably sad. More next week for YA Book Club. Now, I’m reading The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater, which is predictably awesome and packed with beautiful prose. Big thanks to Krispy, who generously loaned me her ARC!

What I’m Writing: Guys, I’m busting through my WiP. I wrote 6,831 words this week, and I think most of them are good words — yay! Since Ready. Set. Write! began a few months ago, I’ve written just short of 50K words, a number I’m thrilled with. The other day I completed what I’m pretty sure is the strongest, most emotionally charged scene I’ve ever written. We’ll see what my CPs have to say down the line, but for now I’m feeling encouraged and successful and really excited about my writing. I’m rolling with it.

Daisy is excited too.

In addition to working on my WiP, I started revising another project I’ve been working on off-and-on for the last couple of years. There are a few issues with the conflict and, with the help of my super savvy agent, I’m going to solve them. In an effort to assess the story’s pacing and reacquaint myself with its structure, I put the Plot Dot Test to use. I love visual aides (and graph paper!).

What Else I’ve Been Up To: Other than reading and writing, I’ve mostly been spending time with my girl, which is sort of funny since she’s in school almost all day now. Quality over quantity, I suppose. We’ve been making the most of our afternoons and weekends, reading books, doing art projects, having special breakfasts, and going on girls-only shopping trips. It’s been fantastic!


Perfect morning beach walk with my favorite girlie. We love California!


The start of a new soccer season. Coordinating practice uniforms are important.

What’s Inspiring Me Now: I recently rediscovered Pink Floyd’s Comfortably Numb while watching my boy Leo in The Departed (love that movie!). Even though this song isn’t country, its tone and lyrics fit my WiP extraordinarily well. Plus, it’s really chill writing music. I’ve been listening to it on loop.

Also, from blogger/mama/Aussie/super creative person Chantelle (AKA FatMumSlim), a very cool compilation of “what to blog about” ideas. A great list to check out next time you’re in a bit of a blogging rut.

So, tell me… What’s up with you this week?

On Dialogue and Characterization…

Over the weekend I read a fantastic adult novel by Rainbow Rowell called Attachments. If you’ve read her YA debut Eleanor & Park (and really, if you haven’t, please hurry to your local bookstore and pick it up — it’s amazing), then you’re probably already aware of what an amazing writer Rainbow Rowell is, and you also probably know that she creates lovably flawed characters who engage in awesome, witty, REAL conversations. This, I think, is a gift.

Attachments is a novel with an interesting and unique format. Here’s the Goodreads summary, just so you have an idea of what’s going on…

Beth and Jennifer know their company monitors their office e-mail. But the women still spend all day sending each other messages, gossiping about their coworkers at the newspaper and baring their personal lives like an open book. Jennifer tells Beth everything she can’t seem to tell her husband about her anxieties over starting a family. And Beth tells Jennifer everything, period. When Lincoln applied to be an Internet security officer, he hardly imagined he’d be sifting through other people’s inboxes like some sort of electronic Peeping Tom. Lincoln is supposed to turn people in for misusing company e-mail, but he can’t quite bring himself to crack down on Beth and Jennifer. He can’t help but be entertained -and captivated- by their stories. But by the time Lincoln realizes he’s falling for Beth, it’s way too late for him to ever introduce himself. What would he say to her? “Hi, I’m the guy who reads your e-mail, and also, I love you.” After a series of close encounters and missed connections, Lincoln decides it’s time to muster the courage to follow his heart… even if he can’t see exactly where it’s leading him.

One of the things that struck me about Attachments was the bond between Jennifer and Beth. Their relationship unfolds in a series of email conversations (read by Lincoln) and that’s all we get from them. We never see them chatting in a coffee shop, or talking in a nail salon, or gossiping in the break room at the newspaper. Their interactions are all email, and they look something like this:

61e5400007aa11e39e3522000a9f18ab_6

That is to say, there are no inner monologues, no dialogue tags, no descriptive beats, no awkward pauses or long sighs or knowing chuckles — none of the stuff that clogs up conversations in traditionally-written novels. All we know of Jennifer and Beth are the words they type to one another and yet, we get to know them really well. I was sort of blown away when I realized this.

See, I consider dialogue to be one of my writerly strengths. I think I have an eye (ear?) for flow and organic word choice. I think conversations between my characters read like real conversations between real people, and I think it’s fairly easy to get to know them based on how they talk and interact. That said, I definitely incorporate tags and supportive narrative and the occasional adverb (*gasp*) into dialogue I write. These devices are important and I will always use them, but I wondered what it would be like to write conversations like those of Jennifer and Beth. Words, clean and simple.

As an experiment, I tried it with a scene in my WiP. Words, alternating between two characters. Though it was challenging at first, I did not let myself write he said, or she sighed, or he squeezed her hand. There were no inner monologues. There was no supportive narrative. Just words, back and forth — statement, response, question, response, statement, response, etc.

And you know… It was kind of fun. And quick! The conversation flowed more easily than usual. The characters were clever and their banter felt spontaneous and sincere and natural. I didn’t have to try so hard. Best of all, I could truly see who the characters were in the words they spoke.

Of course, I’m not writing a story about inner-office friendships, and my story doesn’t include email at all, so I did eventually go back and insert the traditional dialogue tags and beats and descriptions, all the nuanced stuff that normally has me biting my nails and running for the jelly beans when I’m trying to draft a conversation. Imagine my surprise when, again, this part of the process came more easily. Since I already had the entire discussion laid out, the pieces that needed to be augmented with additional narrative were clear. All I had to do was tuck those bits in, and I ended up with a pretty engaging conversation.

So… I’m thinking I may have a new method for writing dialogue. Huh.

Tell me… Do you have any tips for drafting dialogue?  

What’s Up Wednesday

“What’s Up Wednesday” is a fun weekly meme started by my friends Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk. From Jaime: It’s similar in some respects to the Currently… post, but it’s been whittled down to only four headings to make it quicker and more manageable on a weekly basis. You’re invited to join us if you’re looking for something to blog about, a way to let your blog friends know what’s been going on with you.

{Please make sure to link your What’s Up Wednesday posts to the list on Jaime’s blog each week. That way, other participants can visit your blog and check out what you’ve been up to. In that same spirit, I urge you to visit as many new blogs as you can every Wednesday. The most awesome aspect of What’s Up Wednesday and Ready. Set. Write is that they include a built-in support system. Let’s make sure we’re rooting each other on and offering as much encouragement as we can. Who knows… You might make an awesome new writing buddy, or a find a fantastic beta reader, or hook up with an amazing critique partner!}

And now, here’s what’s up with me this week…

What I’m Reading: Last week I finished Tiger Lily, and I absolutely adored it. Such a beautiful, bittersweet story. In fact, I’m sort of sad that it was a library book. I might just have to buy a copy for my collection. Yesterday I finished Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo (my fiftieth book of 2013!). It’s awesome. The worldbuilding is stellar and totally unique, and The Darkling… what a fascinating character. A big recommend if you’re a fantasy fan, or if you like books that have super high stakes and are full of surprises. 

What I’m Writing: My WiP and I have mostly made up. She’s still challenging me at every turn, but that’s what makes writing fun, isn’t it? I’m one scene from finishing my read-through of the first half of the story, which is a pretty great feeling. I’m glad I decided to read and reassess and make adjustments as necessary, even though I’m still very much drafting. I rediscovered bits of the story that are lovely and well-written, and I reconnected with my characters. It’s been a motivating experience, and I feel  good about drafting the second half of the story. Here’s a tiny excerpt…

Sometimes Jenna thought of her parents, their expectations and the church’s. Sometimes she thought of Dylan, whether her best friend would ever find the escape she was searching for. Often, she thought of singing. How much she missed it and how, after years of projecting clearly and resonantly from deep within her soul, her song had gone mute in the space of a night.

But mostly, Jenna thought of Tyler. Tyler, who made her feel beautiful and melodic and lucky. Tyler, who, after Saturday night, might very well have written her off. 

My goal for the coming week is to add 3000 new words to my WiP. 

ready set write button

What Else I’ve Been Up To: I spent most of last week planning and hosting my girlie’s sixth birthday bash (even as I type those words, I can’t believe I have a six-year-old). The music-themed party was a big success, and we had a fantastic time celebrating with lots of wonderful friends. Here are a few pictures… 

 
I made that purple guitar out of poster board for a “Pin the Pick on the Guitar” game. My mom made the birthday girl’s super-cute party dress. 

 
Lots of stars and guitars and bright colors. Taylor Swift provided the soundtrack. 

 
I’ve said this about a thousand times in the last few days, but I still can’t quite wrap my head around the fact that six years have passed between the days these two pictures were taken. I am *way* too young to have a six-year-old. 😉 


And, since I’m blathering about the too-quick passage of time, let’s all pause to appreciate the first day of 1st grade, which is TODAY! Lots of extra writing time in store for this mama!

What’s Inspiring Me Now: This post on the Plot Dot Test by agent Natalie Lakosil, because I love a good visual representation, and this one goes a long way in solving pacing problems. And this link, inviting us to “do nothing” for two full minutes. It’s way harder to relax and zone out than I thought it would be, and probably far more important than any of us realize. Try it! Also, this quote…

What’s up with you today?

The Girl with the Green Pen

I’m so excited to welcome my friend Taryn Albright to the blog today! In addition to recently taking a job as Editorial Assistant at Spencer Hill Contemp, she’s just launched an independent editing venture called The Girl with the Green Pen, and she’s graciously dropped by to answer a few questions about it…

Hello, my lovely friend! To start, can you tell us a little about yourself — your writing background, your critiquing/editing experience, etc…

Hi, I’m Taryn 😀 I’ve spent a year and a half interning with 3 superstar agencies including Andrea Brown Literary. I’ve also spent sixteen months as a freelance editor, and during that time, I’ve worked with over 60 authors. Nine of my clients have signed with agents and five have signed book deals, four with major houses. I’ve been writing since I was young, but I really got serious about publishing my freshman year of college. My sophomore year, I signed with an agent, so I have plenty of experience in both the querying trenches and the submission process.

I’ll pause here to vouch for your utter brilliance, Taryn. –> (I’ve been lucky enough to have both my query AND manuscript critiqued by Taryn, and she’s so incredibly savvy. Here suggestions and feedback are fantastic, and her enthusiasm for publishing and young adult literature is unmatched!) Now, can you tell us what your mission statement for The Girl with the Green Pen is?  

My mission is to guide writers through the daunting task of revision. From idea development to editorial feedback to general publishing advice, I love working with stories and those who create them. As a nationally ranked swimmer, I know the value of time, so I believe in quick responses from the first email to the last.

I am not just another freelance editor. Beyond providing an experienced and thorough critique, my secondary goal is to establish a relationship with my clients. I want to support you throughout the stressful submission process and celebrate with you upon any and all good news. Writers may put pen to paper alone, but it is through a community that the book gets finished, polished, and submitted.

I can’t agree with the community bit more. 🙂 Will you describe the services The Girl with Green Pen will provide?

One of my main goals with starting The Girl with the Green Pen was to expand my editing services. I’ll still offer Evaluation services (a critique for big picture things, a critique for the details, and a critique for both big and small), but I also now offer Development services. Development means that I’ll be with you a little longer, for more than one pass of the manuscript. I also have a fun set of Other services, like Submission Packages, that can help prepare your query and opening pages for submission.

And why the GREEN pen?

Most edits are made with a red pen. If someone critiques your manuscript, they’re most likely going to cover it with red ink, right? Not so much here. I make all my notes in green because I like to reflect the idea of moving forward. Green means go, it means spring, it means new life. These are all ways to think of your revisions, and they’re how I like to think of the editing process.

I love that! When will you begin taking on clients? And what is your turn-around time for different services The Girl with the Green Pen will provide?

Now! I never stopped taking on clients for Teen Eyes, and I’m working with a handful of authors right now. My editing hasn’t change–only the banner above it. Like Teen Eyes, turn around times for The Girl with the Green Pen will be fast, usually within 7 days depending on the critique.

Where can interested writers find you? 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/tarynalbright

Blog: http://www.tarynalbright.com/

Website: http://www.thegirlwiththegreenpen.com/

You’ve been successful at Teen Eyes. Why have you decided to branch out now? 

Well, it’s 3 months until I turn 20, and then the “teen” part won’t work. When I started brainstorming what I wanted to do without the teen label, I got the idea for The Girl with the Green Pen and got really impatient. I wanted to expand my services and do something bigger, and I didn’t want to wait!

B&B

Thanks so much for giving us the lowdown on The Girl with the Green Pen, Taryn. I wish you great success! 

(Guys, if you have any editing needs whatsoever, please do consider contacting Taryn. She’s a superstar!)

NaNo Update #7

Progress (word count or a general status update): 44,038

Current Mood: So, so hopeful! I think I might actually “win” this NaNo thing… Who would’ve thought?! The end is in sight, and therefor I am motivated. Even if I end up having to write out of order, I WILL finish this thing. And by the way…. Congrats to those of you who have already won! I am absolutely in awe, and your success have given me an extra boost of inspiration!

Inspiration: 

The hope of a writer is to create this kind of magic...

Goals as of Today: I hit my 40K by Friday goal from last week, so that’s exciting. As of today, my goal is to keep pace so I’ll see 50K on or before this Friday… YAY!

Recent Favorite NaNo WiP Bit: 

       There was nothing more than his hands gripping her waist and his mouth open against hers, the balmy autumn air heavy and damp against her skin. The kiss wasn’t unpleasant, exactly, but there was no emotion accompanying it, nothing that made Bree want to deepen it, or even prolong it.

       Still, she was patient. She let Henry draw back first. And when he did, he was grinning, obviously proud, like he’d just cleared an enormous hurdle while wearing weighted shoes. 

Non-NaNo News (because life DOES go on): Our Thanksgiving was awesome. We had potluck celebration with our local military friends and fun was had by all. Also, I made a Pecan Pie Cake, and ate WAY too much.

In other news, my husband, daughter, and I saw Rise of the Guardians this weekend and we LOVED it. The story is perfection, and the movie is visually stunning. I’m not a big 3D fan, but definitely see Rise of the Guardians in 3D. You won’t regret the inflated ticket price. 🙂

In my downtime I’m reading: Mini book review… I finished Saving June by Hannah Harrington over the weekend. Guys… I adored this book — it’s a new favorite! It’s a mash-up of Jandy Nelson’s lovely prose and Courtney Summers’ s bold storytelling, all wrapped up in an epic road trip. And the boy… Jake. He totally made me swoon. And if all that isn’t enough, the songs that are a part of the various mixed CDs mentioned throughout the story are compiled into playlists at the end. I want to download them all and relive the book while I listen!

Saving June

In an attempt to cure my Awesome Book Hangover, yesterday I started Reached by Ally Condie. I’m a fan of the first two books of the Matched trilogy, and I’m excited to see how the series wraps up.

You should read this blog post: Increasing Your Book’s Momentum By: Editor Laura Carlson Because: It’s full of awesome tips for getting your story up and running, and for infusing it with plenty of excitement and an unputdownable pace.

You should also read this blog post: The Fine Art of Story Resonance By: Author Susan Dennard  Because: Story resonance is so important, and Susan shares lots of hints for weaving subplots together to create a deep, complex, echoing plot (think Jellicoe Road and If You Reach Me).

Gratuitous Photos (Because I love ‘em!):

  
Autumn treasures, my favorite little face, and a lovely California sunset.

If you’re NaNoing, are you on track to win? And if you’re not NaNoing, what’s new in your writing world? 

Five on Friday

Aah, Friday… How I ♥ you!

1. I’ve been doing lots of fall-inspired baking lately. Last week I whipped up the best apple cobbler EVER using Fiji apples my girlie and I picked at a local orchard. And yesterday I made pumpkin fudge, my first attempt at legit candy using a candy thermometer. I think Jillian would be proud!

                   

2. I’m officially signed up for NaNo (my profile is HERE — let’s be writing buddies :)), and my story idea (read: PLOT — characters are easy!) is starting to take shape. Thank you, long morning runs! Next week I’m going to attend a meet-and-greet with locals who are also NaNo-ing. I’m very excited to meet some California-based writers, and to dive in to my new project. Yay for National Novel Writing Month!

3. We’ve been having a stretch of gorgeous weather here in Central California, and I am in heaven. I love sun and warmth and tan lines and afternoons at the beach. Last Sunday my family and I had one of those perfect Indian Summer days, one we spent kayaking and fishing and picnicking at a nearby lake. We capped it off with terrible-for-you pizza at a dive just off the highway. It was fantastic.

4. How to Plot a Novel in 27 Easy Steps… These videos by “Plot Whisperer” Martha Alderson are amazing. If you haven’t watched them, you should. Like, right now. Most are somewhere between five and ten minutes, and they’re like attending a free workshop on painless plotting right from the comfort of your couch. I took frantic notes and pondered my NaNo WiP while watching, and I learned SO MUCH. Thank you, Ghenet Merthil, for introducing me to the Plot Whisperer! (I’ve included the first video below, and the rest are on YouTube.)

5. Big things are happening here at the blog this Monday (as well as at the blogs of a few of my friends!). Be on the look-out for a post chock-full of information on something reading-related and awesome. (Don’t you love when people post enigmatic hints about wonderful things, then make you wait for the details? ;))

What are you up to this weekend, friends?