Run/Revise

I like to run almost as much as I like to write. I run six days a week, anywhere from six to nine miles a day, and log at least forty miles a week. Running is my quiet time, my peaceful time, my thinking time. I don’t listen to music, and I prefer to go early, before sunrise, so I’m alone on the trail and free to let my mind wander. When I’m running, I muse on whatever I happen to be plotting/writing/revising. I’ve worked out dozens of story issues and have had countless breakthroughs while pounding the pavement. In fact, my morning runs are what got me through my latest revision with my sanity (barely) in tact. (Anecdote: Recently I emailed Agent Vickie to tell her about an ah ha! moment I had while running. She responded with Imagine what you’d accomplish if you ran a marathon! Right?!)

Gearing up for five miles... #challengephotomay #fit #photoadaymay #you

(Oh, look… My legs. Because these days I’m terrified to use anyone’s images but my own.)

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about how the psychological stages of running parallel the psychological stages of revising. Anyone who’s ever taken a jog knows that there are peaks and valleys that come with the workout, and for me, revisions are the same. I took some time to jot down a few notes about the ups and downs I endure while running, and I was excited about how perfectly they align with the mental ups and downs I experience while revising…

Initial DreadRunning: When my alarm blares at 5:00 a.m. Revising: When CP/agent notes arrive in my inbox. Emotions Experienced: Fear, trepidation, curiosity. Duration: Until the running/revising actually begins.

False HighRunning: The first mile or so (my first mile is downhill, so I’m usually feeling extra good). Revising: The beginnings of brainstorming–oh, this is so doable! Emotions Experienced: Bogus confidence, excitement, naivety. Duration: Until the first challenge (uphill climb, plot hole) surfaces.

Slogging (A Technical Term)Running: Mile two, when my feet are dragging and my breath is stilted. Revising: Picking through my manuscript, muddling through the easy stuff, avoiding the big (read: HARD) changes because my objectives still aren’t quite solidified. Emotions Experienced: Uncertainty, avoidance, inability to focus. Duration: Varies, but hopefully not too long. Can often be cured by chocolate/coffee/and, um… running.

Setting A PaceRunning: Miles three and four, when I stop thinking about how hard running is and start thinking about how lucky I am to be able to do it. Revising: When the changes start to make sense and a picture of what the manuscript could be begins to take shape. Emotions Experienced: Belief that maybe it can be done, renewed motivation. Duration: Until that BIG hurdle arises–you know the one. The hurdle that seems impossible to clear and makes you want to collapse on the sidewalk (running), or throw your computer through a window (revising).

I’ll-Never-Finish RutRunning: Mile five, when my knees start to hurt and the sun starts to rise and I’m hot and sweaty and feeling sorry for myself. Revising: When my manuscript is so torn up it’s unrecognizable. It seems impossible to piece into something even loosely resembling a story. (This, too, is usually the point at which one of my friends gets an agent or a book deal or an amazing review and, while I’m thrilled for them, I’m also indulging in a secret pity party.) Emotions Experienced: Terror, misgiving, mild insanity. Duration: Capable of breaking off the weak, but ushing through is imperative, otherwise I might never…

Find My StrideRunning: Miles six and seven, when I fall into the workout. This, for me, is the best part–when I feel like a real runner. Revising: When I find my groove and get into my zone, this is when I’m at my happiest and most productive. I somehow find a way to make my manuscript and my characters fit back together and it’s magical–I feel like a real writer!  Emotions Experienced: Acceptance, contentment, gratification. Duration: Until the final push.

Home StretchRunning: My home stretch is a long series of stairs that lead up  to my neighborhood, so yeah… It’s tough. But the end is in sight, so I always know I’ll make it. Revising: Plugging those final holes, checking for continuity, reassessing character arcs and word choices and sentence structure. Tedious, but totally doable. Emotions Experienced: Exhilaration, anticipation… There’s a light at the end of the tunnel! Duration: Right through to the end.

Victory! – Running: The cool down, the cold glass of water, the hot shower. Revising: The final read-through, and that spine-tingling excitement that comes with emailing a finished draft to CPs/betas/my agent. Emotions Experienced: Pride, delight, and nerves at getting to do it all over again sometime down the road. Duration: Until that next run, or that next revision.

Tell me: Do you experience similar highs and lows when revising? How do you deal? 

RTW: I’m so old school…

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway‘s contributors post a weekly writing – or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody’s unique take on the topic. To participate, just answer the prompt on your blog and leave a link over at YA Highway.This week’s question: What word processing program do you use to write you manuscript, and can you share one handy trick you’ve learned in that program that has helped you while you write?

typewriter

Guys, I’m so old school. I use Microsoft Office Word 2007. I’m envious of all you Scrivner people, but alas, I use a PC and I’m technologically stunted and resistant to change. So, Word it is. Are you judging me?

As far as simplicity and ease, Microsoft Word is where it’s at. I type my stories in an open document and jump around as needed. Not so great for organization and pre-planning, but it’s the way I’ve always done things, and it’ll be my way until it stops working. My favorite writing-related functions are the highlighter (I’m an obsessive color-coder) and FIND, which is great for editing, searching out specific words, and making document-wide corrections.

While I appreciate the straightforwardness of Word, perhaps someday I’ll own a Mac and give Scrivner a go. 🙂

What word processing program do you use? (And don’t forget to visit YA Highway to see how others answered today’s question!)

Five on Friday

1. WriteOnCon begins August 14th! Never heard of WriteOnCon? Well, you’re missing out! From the website…designed to give attendees many of the features of a live writer’s conference, but in an online environment. Thanks to technologies like blogging, vlogging, livestreaming, and chats, WriteOnCon connects writers with both industry professionals and fellow peers from the convenience of their own homes. Critique forums allow writers to receive feedback and exposure for their work, and the entire program is designed to be both informative and entertaining. 

Guys. There are tons of authors, writers, and agents involved with WriteOnCon. It’s a fantastic opportunity to meet like-minded people, get your work critiqued, and learn from some of the best. Oh, and WriteOnCon is FREE! Click on the image below for more information…

2. I have the world’s best CPs. Not only have they provided me with amazing feedback on my WiP this summer (thank you, TarynTemreChrista, and Alison!), but their writing… Holy hell these girls are amazingly talented! Over the last few weeks, I’ve had the privilege of reading work by Alison (upper-YA contemporary with a wicked twist of magic and a male narrator who has all kinds of issues and still manages to rock) and Temre (middle grade contemporary with the most charming magical thread and an absolutely adorable protagonist who I can’t wait to share with my daughter in the future). While the stories of these two writers couldn’t be more different (seriously–they’re worlds apart), they’re both utterly engaging, unputdownable, with voices that are unique and enviable. And, if reading Alison’s and Temre’s incredible manuscripts isn’t enough, I get to read Christa‘s next week. Lucky me!

3. YA Book Club, brain child of brilliant Tracey Neithercott, has an official August selectionThis is Not a Test by Courtney Summers. I’ve read this book, therefor I can say with supreme certainty that it’s amazing. We’ll be discussing This is Not a Test via our blogs and blog comments on Monday, August 27th, so you’ve plenty of time to hunt it down (like you’d hunt down a zombie), read it, ponder it, and write about it. I can’t wait to blog hop and check out everyone’s thoughts on this astonishing book. For more info, click on the image below…

4. I have agent-suggested revision notes! You might recall that, with great trepidation, I sent my WiP off to Agent Vickie a few weeks ago. Then I waited nervously and ate a lot of chocolate and tried not to bug her while she read the manuscript I’ve been working on for more than two years. Well, Agent Vickie has now read it and she’s on board with it (yay!), and she recently sent me an email full of shrewd feedback and invaluable suggestions for improving the story. Mostly, this revision will consist of digging deeper, strengthening character motivations, and fleshing out backgrounds. This is the phase of writing I enjoy most (drafting = yikes!), and I’m currently letting all that feedback simmer in the depths of my mind so I can start brainstorming and dive headfirst into the work next week. Can’t wait!

5. Kindergarten. My girlie started school on Wednesday. First of all, how am I old enough to have a school-aged child? And second, how am I going to fill my days now? I’ve been a stay-at-home mama since the day my daughter was born. Now I’m just a stay-at-home… person? I mean really. One can only do so much grocery shopping and cleaning. Luckily, I have plenty of CP reading and regular reading and revising (see above) to keep me busy. And thankfully, my girlie is doing fantastically at school. So, I guess I should just be grateful for all the extra writing time and stop watching the clock, counting the minutes till pick-up. Right? RIGHT?!

Pretty girl all ready to go!

A little nervous and a little sad once reality set in. Luckily, she pulled it together and let me leave with minimal fuss. (Thanks to my dear friend Meghan for acting as paparazzi and snapping this photo through the classroom window… I love it! ♥)

A successful first day! (Again, my sweet friend Meghan… She brought my girlie flowers at pick-up time!)

Tell me: What do you have going on this weekend? Reading? Writing? Fun in the sun? (We’re cooking out with neighbors and going to a professional soccer game… Fun!)

MAY I tell you something about writing?

Because it’s Memorial Day and my parents are visiting and my creative energy is pretty consumed with a rewrite, I’d love to share a previous post (originally HERE), an oldie but a goodie, about how I overcome the dreaded writer’s block.

Writers Block

My Miracle Cures…

1. I eat. Sometimes healthfully. Sometimes not. Often Bottle Caps, my drug candy of choice. 

2. I read. Books on craft. Young adult fiction. Entertainment Weekly. Whatever.

3. I exercise. Run, walk, bike, yoga–anything weather appropriate.

4. I hang with my daughter. We color. We play Princesses. We make beaded necklaces. Anything creative and fun.

5. I brainstorm with my husband. His ideas are sometimes random and unusable, but he thinks outside the box and he’s an amazing sounding board. Also very supportive.

6. I write drivel. I type out sweeping descriptions of the setting. I fill in backstory. I let my characters have meaningless conversations. Sometimes they just make-out. This stuff almost always gets the cut, but it often helps to get good words flowing.

7. And, perhaps most helpfully, I plot. Or replot. Because when I’m blocked, it’s usually because I’ve taken a wrong turn. I’ve written something wrong earlier on, and that something needs to be identified and corrected.

Tell me: What are your cures for writer’s block?

{Oh! Don’t forget to enter my Reading is Sexy Giveaway if you haven’t already! It ends tomorrow at midnight!}

MAY I tell you something about (my) writing (process)?

I’ve read some recent posts by a few Blog Me MAYbe-ers about their processes for plotting and first-drafting. I love learning about how other writers do what they do, and I find the differences in our individual methods so fascinating. I thought I’d share a bit about how I go about getting words on the page.

I’m a plotter, both in writing and in life. I like to have a plan for everything: day-to-day activities, traveling, tackling the grocery store, and, most definitely writing.  That’s not to say I’m completely rigid. I CAN be flexible. Things change – of course they do – but anytime there’s a change, especially where my WiP is concerned, I prefer to make a note of it on my outline. :)

oh hello

Here’s my basic process for plotting and first-drafting:

1) Once I’ve stewed over an idea for a good, long while (like, months) I write a one sentence pitch. This forces me to boil that often vague idea down to its true essence. Later, I use this initial pitch to write a three-line pitch, then a full query-type blurb to eventually pass on to my agent.

2) Next I make a list of any scenes I already have in my head, which is pretty much an enormous brainstorming session. This often takes awhile, and I add to the list as inspiration strikes and new scenes take shape.

3) I tackle a beat sheet, plugging scenes into appropriate places, and coming up with new ones to fill in the gaps. The beat sheet I use is a melding of the one in Blake Snyder’s Save the Catthe phases in The Hero’s Journey, and the layout detailed by Susan Dennard in this fantastic Pub(lishing) Crawl post titled How to Write a 1-Page Synopsis. My personal beat sheet has evolved to look something like this:

Ordinary World 

Inciting Incident – What event/decision/change prompts the main character to take initial action? 

Meeting with Mentor 

Plot Point 1 – What action does the MC take that changes the book’s direction?

Conflicts & Character Encounters – MC meets new people, experiences a new life, meets the antagonist. 

Midpoint – Another no-going-back turning point for the MC.

Rosy Glow – What happens that makes the MC think all’s well?

Plot Point 2 – Winning seems imminent, but the antagonist somehow defeats the MC and ends up more powerful.

Crisis/Black Moment – MC must fight through her emotions to find strength for the final battle. 

Lightbulb Moment

Climax – Final blowout between MC and the antagonist.

Resolution 

4) Once I have a complete beat sheet, I make an outline, scene by scene and color-coded according to plot lines and character interactions, one I follow pretty closely once I begin to write. Detailed as my scene outline is, it isn’t set in stone. I add and delete as I go, because once I start writing, the story comes to life and certain aspects inevitably become more or less important.

5) I begin the first draft. I usually write scenes in order, but if one gets me stuck, I just type in a quick place holder (AWESOME CONVERSATION ABOUT KISSING HERE) and move along. In the past, it’s taken me anywhere from one month to three months to complete a first draft. I like to write at least 2K a day when I’m drafting. I’ve found that if I don’t, I lose my momentum. I think we all know how difficult that is to reclaim!

So, that’s pretty much how I do it… It goes without saying that once that first draft is complete, it undergoes major revisions. Like, years worth, sometimes, for me anyway. Occasionally I wish my process could be less formulaic. It seems much more romantic to sit down with an idea and just start writing, but in the past that’s only earned me 133K words of crap. Plotting works for me, so for now I’m sticking with it!

What are your thoughts on plotting and first drafts?

MAY I ask something about you?

I’m visiting over at Jessi Kirby’s blog today. She’s the author of Moonglass (love!) and just-released In Honor, and she’s posted an interview I did on my past road trips, which is pretty perfect because I’ve been road-tripping my ass off over the last week. I’d love it if you’d read the interview, and please do check out Jessi’s books if you haven’t already. She has a way with heartbreaking-cool-romantic contemporary, and her writing is gorgeous!

Now, for a question…

What’s your favorite part of the writing process?

{For me, revisions, definitely. I have no trouble brainstorming ways to improve what’s already written, and I love delving deeper — fleshing out characters and layering plot lines and dropping in setting details. Starting from scratch, the blank pages and the hundreds of loosely connected ideas swirling around in my brain… Those terrify me!}

MAY I tell you something about the Page 69 Test?

A week or two ago, I blogged raved about attending Seattle’s YA or Bust tour stop. In case you’ve forgotten or are unaware, YA or Bust featured contemporary YA authors Nina LaCour, Stephanie Perkins, and Gayle Forman, who discussed writing and their books. One question they were asked during the panel portion of the event had to do with character development. This question got the authors extra excited. “Let’s do the Page 69 Test!” Gayle suggested.

You can find out more about the original Page 69 Test HERE (it’s a cool and unique book blog). The YA or Bust authors have modified the initial idea to demonstrate how they develop character. Nina, Stephanie, and Gayle each read an excerpt from one of their novels (from page sixty-nine, obviously), and then discussed how the excerpt revealed something about the passage’s character(s). Nina used her MC’s reaction to his setting to reveal more about the kind of person he his. Stephanie showed what one of her characters carried in his pocket, which spoke volumes about his personality. And Gayle read lyrics written by her MC, which illustrated the pain he was going through when he penned them.

I learned so much from the YA or Bust Page 69 Test, I thought it would be fun to do my own. Below is an excerpt from page sixty-nine of my manuscript Where Poppies Bloom, and below that, I’ve shared a bit about the story’s MC, Callie, and her friend Tucker…

Kittens. Several, wriggling around, making sad little mewing sounds. Their eyes are open, but they’re tiny. They look like Daisy Cat, gray and white, and they’re very cute. I’m unexpectedly grateful to Tucker for dragging me out here.

“I think this is where my aunt found her cat,” I tell him.

“You’d think their mother would’ve come running to the noise they’re making. She must have abandoned them.”

I stare at the kittens, thinking of the photograph in my pocket. I can’t help but wonder if whatever may have scared off their mother is the same entity that’s been scaring me in Stewart House.

“Cal? What should we do?” Tucker asks.

I pull my eyes from the kittens and look at him. “I don’t know… nothing?”

“We have to do something. We can’t leave them out here.”

“Why not?”

“Because they’ll freeze. Or starve.” He gives me a teasing smile. “You don’t want dead kittens on your conscience, do you?”

Something about my expression must change—darken—because his smile vanishes.

Hopefully this excerpt shows how profoundly Callie is impacted by the mere mention of death, and a bit of the push-and-pull she’s going through as far as normalcy — she resisted Tucker’s initial invitation to go outside, yet she’s surprisingly happy that he managed to convince her. The mention of Tucker’s “teasing smile” speaks to his good-natured personality, as well as his comfort level with Callie, despite the fact that she tends to hold him at a distance.

Tell me: What’s one way you’ve revealed character in your own writing? (Oh, and if you give the Page 69 Test a try on your blog, let me know… I’d love to check it out!)

Friday Five…

It’s been so long since I’ve done a Friday Five,
I couldn’t help myself…

1. Writing Update – I’ve been deep in the throes of revising one manuscript and rewriting another. Sheesh… The writing process is HARD! And, it’s mostly the reason for the relative quiet here on my blog–revising and rewriting have sucked up all my creative energy. Plus, my husband’s been home for about a month now (yay!) and we’re still in that happy place of wanting to spend tons of family time together. So, when I’m not squinting at my computer screen and eating my weight in Ghiradelli Bittersweet Chocolate Chips, I’m hanging with my two favorite people.

2. #MarchPhotoADay – I’ve recently fallen in love with Instagram, a photography iPhone app that lets you edit your photos with all kinds of cool filters and then share them with your friends on a feed. This month I’m participating in one of Instagram’s many photo challenges: #MarchPhotoADay. I’m thinking of it as another way to stretch my creativity, and it’s super fun to see how other people interpret the prompts. Here they are:

And here’s my submission for Day 2, FRUIT:

You should definitely join in if you’re an Instagram-er! Oh, and if you want to find me there, I’m katyupperman.

3. Flawed – I was lucky enough to read this stunning contemporary YA novel by debut author Kate Avelynn early (it’s being released this July by Entangled Teen) and let me tell you, it is absolutely heart-wrenching. Like, you won’t be able to put it down because you’ll be THAT stressed about the future of the characters. If you’re a fan of books like Elizabeth Scott’s Living Dead Girl and Tabitha Suzuma’s Forbidden, you should definitely check out Flawed. (Click the cover and you’ll be redirected to Flawed‘s Goodreads page.)

Flawed
Sarah O’Brien is alive because of the pact she and her brother made twelve years ago—James will protect her from their violent father if she promises to never leave him. For years, she’s watched James destroy his life to save hers. If all he asks for in return is her affection, she’ll give it freely. Until, with a tiny kiss and a broken mind, he asks for more than she can give. Sam Donavon has been James’s best friend—and the boy Sarah’s had a crush on—for as long as she can remember. As their forbidden relationship deepens, Sarah knows she’s in trouble. Quiet, serious Sam has decided he’s going to save her. Neither of them realize James is far more unstable than her father ever was, or that he’s not about to let Sarah forget her half of the pact…

4. Homeland – I know I’m a little late jumping on this bandwagon, but have you seen Showtime’s Homeland? Holy hell… The first season was AMAZING. My husband and I don’t agree on many TV shows, but we flew through this one and are already itching for more. Homeland is fast-paced, powerful, and densely layered. No character goes without garnering at least a bit of sympathy (seriously–even the terrorists have clear motivations for acting the way they do), and every single episode is a game-changer. Plus, Claire Danes is freaking fantastic. Recommend!

5. Military Ball – Last weekend my husband and I lived it up at his unit’s Military Ball. Have I mentioned how happy I am to have him home? 🙂

So… What’s on your plate for the weekend?

Musings of a struggling rewriter…

Rewriting… easy-peasy. *rubs hands together* This is going to be FUN!

*stares blankly at computer*

*embraces procrastination*

Okay then. I might be in over my head a bit here. Perhaps I should revisit my beat sheet? Complete basic outline? A DETAILED outline?

Eek.

*yanks at hair* How the hell do you replot a WHOLE STORY?

I used to know these freaking characters inside and out, but now… Who have they become? Who do they NEED to become?

*runs miles and miles and miles*

*ponders*

Huh. All this time I thought I was REWRITING, but I was really just tinkering… polishing a turd, if you will.

*has epiphany*

Must start from square one!

Okay… I might actually be making progress now. No, wait…

*groans* *cries* THIS IS SO MUCH HARDER THAN I THOUGHT IT WOULD BE! *shovels handfuls of bittersweet chocolate chips into mouth*

*finally secures a fragile hold on sanity*

Good thing my 2012 word is RESOLVE, because that’s what it’s going to take to get this thing done.

*writes*

*writes some more*

Last week SUCKED. Meeting my word count goal was like pulling teeth. But this week… Hmm.

Wait! Is that…? Oh! I think it is! The urge to write! I actually WANT to write.

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Happy Friday the Thirteenth. 🙂 How’s YOUR writing coming along?

Goals, 2012

Now that 2012 is upon us, I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want to accomplish in the new year. I toyed with the idea of writing down some resolutions, but somehow that felt flat, like making  a bunch of empty promises. I just haven’t found the motivation to do it.

Still, I’ve been setting some mental goals (most significantly: write at least a thousand new words, Monday-Friday, and keep up with my current exercise routine). Then I read a post by my brilliant friend Erin Bowman referencing writer  Jessica Corra, who blogged about how she picks a Word of the Year instead of making traditional resolutions. She strives to keep that one word in mind throughout the year.  Jessica said: Resolutions are too compartmental, too specific and practical. I prefer a word, an attitude, a way of being.

I love this idea. In fact, I love it so much I want to do it too!

I’d planned to mull over my word for a few days, until I’d settled on the perfect one, one that would express the attitude and mental posture I want to adopt for the entirety of the upcoming year. But, there was one word that popped into my head almost immediately, one I kept coming back to over and over again. What is that word?

RESOLVE

Resolve kind of encompasses all the goals I’ve set for the year, big and small, and it will hopefully help me to accomplish them. For me, resolve means, simply, setting my mind to something and making it happen. Choosing to make responsible decisions even when they’re not easy or fun or popular…

Ordering a salad over a cheeseburger at Red Robin. Walking my dogs even if it’s windy and cold. Writing to my daily word goal, regardless of whether I’m tired or grumpy or uninspired. Starting my day early, with yoga, even when my bed feels warm and cozy. Reading my prerequisite one craft book per month even when there’s a hot new release I’d rather pick up. Walking past my daughter’s M&M treat even though they look incredibly tasty. Staying strong, mentally and physically.

So, that’s it.

RESOLVE.

Hold me to it, would ya? 🙂

And on that note, I’ll be taking a bit of a blog-cation over the next several weeks. I’ve come to the realization that my writing vs. blogging time has become a bit unbalanced, and that’s something I need to remedy. I mean, what’s the point of keeping an “Aspiring Author” blog if I’m not really, um, authoring anything?

I’ve got some lofty aspirations for this New Year, specifically: Finish the rewrite of tentatively entitled Cross My Heart, and complete a first draft of something shiny and pretty and exciting and new. Plus, my husband’s deployment will come to an end in approximately six (SIX!) weeks, and I’ve got lots to do to prepare for his homecoming.

That’s not to say that this blog will be entirely wordless. I still plan on participating in some of YA Highway‘s Road Trip Wednesdays, and I’ll definitely  share some Bookanista recommendations, but things around here will be quieter. Sort of like her…

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What are YOUR goals (writing or otherwise) for 2012? And what will your one word be?