Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Tuesday Teaser--I am a Rule Breaker

Okay, I’m not really a rule breaker. Not without seriously considering the consequences and ramifications of breaking the rule, and then it still takes me forever to decide what I want to do. I’m lame, I know. Right now I’m contemplating succumbing to the peer pressure laid on by one of my critters (thank you, Becca), and breaking one of the big rules about how a novel should start. There are plenty of agent sites out there with lists of things that agents don’t like to see for an opening scene. Opening with a dream is a huge no-no, and I’ve been leaning toward doing this for a while to ramp up my first chapter. Problem is, I can’t get past the thought of an agent passing on my ms because of it. Of course, I was breaking the no opening with dialogue rule before, so I don’t know what my problem is.

With that in mind, I rewrote the beginning of my first chapter. Now it opens with a dream and dialogue. I feel so empowered, going up against the man. :) Just wondering if it sucks you in and makes you want to read more, or does it just suck? Maybe there’s a middle ground?

And do you consider yourself a rule breaker or a rule follower? It seems like there are so many “rules” out there. It’s hard to keep track of all of them.

Update: I rewrote it again, so I removed it. Thanks everyone for your thoughts! They were very helpful in getting me where I think I need to be on this.

Friday, May 22, 2009

What's Your Motivation?

This post by Rebecca Knight started me thinking about why I write. I’m not the type who will tell you I’ve wanted to be a writer since I first held a pencil. In fact, when I was a kid, I wanted to work for Disney as an animator when I grew up (along with a long list of other things, but we won’t get into that--this post is going to be long enough as it is). I’ve always enjoyed writing--except for my sophomore year in high school when my English teacher tried to take all the joy out of it with the accursed 3-prong essay--but until I started this blog almost one year ago, the only voluntary writing I did was in my journal and a children’s book I wrote about five years ago. That’s still sitting in the darkest corner of my documents folder, waiting for me to do illustrations for it. As you can see, I’m very motivated to finish those.

My mother always kept a journal and encouraged me and my siblings to keep one as well. Since her passing, I’ve been very grateful to have a record of her life from her perspective, and it’s motivated me to keep up to date on mine. But the stuff I write in my journal is not something I want to share with the world or even something that anyone else would be interested in reading. So, how did I go from writing in a journal to thinking I'm capable of writing a novel other people will want to read?

Well, there’s a bit of arrogance behind the answer to that question. Whenever I attempt to do something new, it usually starts with the thought, “If so-n-so can do it, I should be able to do it too. Probably better.” This is usually not the case, but a little delusion never hurt anyone, right? I’m also very interested in learning new things, and that often plays a role in my decision to try something new, but the main focus is usually the challenge to do something as well as or better than someone else. I’m constantly comparing myself to others. Sometimes it’s frustrating, but it also motivates me to do better. Elana Johnson posted on this subject a few days ago.

Last fall, I read a book that I’m sure many of you have read, and upon finishing it, I thought, “If this got published, surely I can write something good enough to publish.” It was a nice thought, but I’ve learned since then that some people are just lucky and even if I could write the perfect novel (subjective, I know) there is still a good possibility I will never get published or even find an agent. I’ve also learned that my writing was terrible then (and not necessarily great now, but better, I hope), and I was seriously delusional about a lot of things about the publishing industry. But even knowing what I know now, I’m still motivated to write and share the stories that are floating around in my head. I think maybe I’ve finally discovered the thing I can be truly passionate about it. Miracles do happen. Now, if I could just make some money doing it. :)

So, tell me. What motivates you to write? Why do you block out the real world to delve into imaginary places? Is it something you feel compelled to do or just a creative outlet?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Rainy WIP Wednesday

It’s been overcast and drizzling all day today, and I’m loving it. The temp’s hovering around the mid-80’s--not fantastic, I know, but so much better than the 111 we had on Monday. It would be a perfect day if I didn’t have a tooth pulled this morning, and if I could get this New Kids on the Block song out of my head. I haven’t actually heard the song for ages and I’m not sure what triggered it, but it’s making me a little batty. I’m trying to flush it out with some Evanescence and Bush, but the stupid song really wants to stick around. The Vicodin I took for the pain in my mouth is starting to kick in, so maybe that will chase it away. And I apologize in advance if this sounds like I’m stoned. I’m feeling a bit stoned. My brain doesn’t handle narcotics very well.

Today’s not going to be very productive, but it’s been a pretty good week for my WIP. I finished the rewrite on my first four. I ended up keeping a lot more than I planned on, but I completely rewrote several key scenes, eliminated a couple of extraneous characters, and did some rearranging. I think it all flows quite a bit better now. Of course, that opinion could change tomorrow, depending on my mood. :) So, just a few more minor changes and I think, after I spend some time obsessing about my query letter, my ms will be ready for some serious querying. So exciting! And so scary to be so close.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


In an attempt to make my blog more professional--building a web following and all that business--I created a seperate blog for my posts about my kids and family happenings. I will probably make it private at some point (Like when I'm a super-famous, published author. :) I can dream, right?), but for the time being it will be public. So, for those who are interested in my kids shenanigans, you can check it out at http://www.anniskids.blogspot.com/.

Note: If you're looking for old blog posts about my kids, I've moved them all to my family blog.

QueryTracker Carnival

QueryTracker is turning two years old. To celebrate, they're having a party and giving away some awesome prizes, including a free custom website. Just post an announcement on your blog using the carnival graphic and post your link and real name on the QT blog to be entered.

They're also having several other contests with cool prizes and more entries for the free custom website. Check it out here or click on the picture below for more details.

Monday, May 18, 2009


I'm a little bummed I didn't even get an honorable mention in the Query Tracker contest, but for the most part, I'm just glad they finally announced the winners. The waiting was making me a little crazy--obsessively checking the QT blog for the post. Today was not a very productive day. And it doesn't look like there are any YA science fiction winners, so I'm pretending mine didn't get picked because that's not really his thing. :) Oh well, maybe next time.

Congrats to all the winners!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Tuesday, I mean Friday Teaser

Elana is having a contest over on her blog. Submit 250 words of dialogue and the winner gets a query critique or a first chapter critique. This is my entry. It's from my novel, so I thought I'd post it here as a teaser. I tweaked it a little to fit the maximum word count, but I think all the pertinent info is still there.

For a laugh, check out Becca's entry here. It's hilarious!


Removed. Check back for other teasers. :)

Thursday, May 14, 2009

I'm a semi-finalist!

I'm totally freaking out, and I hope I'm not jinxing myself with this post, but I feel compelled to share. I entered the one sentence pitch contest on the Query Tracker blog with the certainty I wouldn't win or even have a chance. I haven't even thought about it since hitting the submit button. So today, when they posted the semi-finalists and mine was in the list, I actually let out a little squeal of excitement--not something I would normally do. Fortunately, no one was in the office at the time.

I know my chances are still small, and I'm probably just getting myself all worked up for nothing, but the giddy part of my brain is winning, drowning out anything the rational part has to say.

It's going to be a long weekend.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Unexpected Side Effects

I saw Star Trek on Friday and it was awesome! I’m not a Star Trek fan. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a full episode, so I think that says a lot for the movie. It still had some of the corny lines that scream Star Trek, but I understand it’s necessary to stay true to the fans. The movie was incredible, regardless.

We also went to see X-Men Origins, which I thought was okay, but my husband filled me in on all the things that were wrong with it as we left the theater. As a long time Wolverine fan, he wasn’t happy with the creative license taken. Blogger Eric gave a more in depth explanation here. It contains spoilers, so don’t read it if you still intend to see the movie.

The side effects I’ve been noticing have nothing to do with these movies individually, but apply more to movies and TV as a whole. I can no longer watch anything without breaking it down to its base components--protagonist, antagonist, plot, subplots, are the villains sympathetic (The TV show Flashpoint does a great job of creating sympathetic villains.), how does it start, does it suck you in, is the interaction between the characters believable, etc., etc. Yes, I annoy myself too, and my husband :). I’ve always over-analyzed movies, as can be seen in this post about Terminator and time travel, that’s just the way my brain works, but it’s getting worse.

And then there’s the way critiquing has affected my reading. There are certain books I just can’t read anymore, because I find myself critiquing the writing and the plot--or lack of plot--like I’m some sort of writing expert. (I’m not, in case the sarcasm was unclear.)

So, does anyone else do this? Are these side effects normal?

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

WIP Wednesday aka Perfectionist Hell

For a period of about four weeks, spanning January and February, I wrote almost nothing. My characters pestered me to move forward, but I was afraid to write the ending, afraid it would be awful. So, I procrastinated. I edited and edited and edited what I had already written. I spent a lot of time researching query letters and everything involved in getting published--a very daunting process. And I spent a lot of time learning how to improve my writing.

One of the things I read over and over was rewriting is necessary. Not reworking and making what I already have better, but actually scrapping the old stuff and starting anew. On the same book! Pure insanity. That’s what I used to think. Since then, I have scrapped and rewritten small sections, but nothing too major. Until now.

Remember I said I spent a lot of time learning how to improve my writing? It was just two paragraphs back. You really should remember. Well, I think my writing did improve. I think it improved a lot. It’s still far from perfect, but so much better than eight months ago. Problem is, the stuff I wrote in the beginning? Total crap. I’ve been over it a gazillion times making minor edits and changes, trying to make it better, but I’ve never been totally happy with it. It wasn’t until I got a super awesome critique a few days ago, from the amazing Tere, that I realized just how awful it is. My sincerest apologies to all my beta readers who were subjected to it.

I still can’t believe I’m doing this, but I’ve decided to rewrite at least the first four chapters. So, how does one just delete 12,000 words and start over? I don’t know. Maybe I’m crazy. I’m feeling a little like that today. And I won’t really be deleting it, just putting it in a computer file, to sit untouched, never to be looked at again. For some reason, I can’t delete anything.

So, what I thought was my almost complete, almost ready to be seriously queried work in progress, is now my incomplete work in progress. Again. And now there’s a new story brewing, thanks to the short story challenge the other day.

I have made some progress this week. The first chapter rewrite is done. Though I didn’t truly rewrite the whole first chapter, just most of it. That one has been stripped to the bare bones six times since I started this project, so it’s less crap than the rest.

Does anyone else live in this perfectionist hell? I think I might lose my mind soon--if it’s not gone already.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Super Shorts

Elana J put out a call on her very cool blog to write a short story, using flowers as the starting point. I decided to give it a shot and I'm extending the invitation to all of you as well. Write your own short story, somehow incorporating flowers and post a link in the comments so I can check it out.

And head over to Rebecca Knight's blog for a funny story about plant life.

Okay, here's mine. It's just under 800 words. Enjoy!


Yellow Fields

The warm wind whipped through my hair. Row after row of sunflowers flew past my open window. My pulse raced.

A tug on my sleeve drew my attention. I jerked my arm free from my sister’s tiny hand. “What, Emma?”

She shied away, her lips turning down. “Are we almost there? The yellow flowers mean we’re close, right? That’s what you said.” Her last words came out in a squeak, her arms tightening around her porcelain doll.

I tried to soften my expression. “Yes, for the thousandth time, we’re almost there.” I shook my head and lifted my eyes to my mother’s face.

She stared at the road ahead, chewing on her lip. Her hands rested on the steering wheel, perfectly positioned at ten and two.


“Hush, Michael.” Her frown deepened, intensifying the creases around her mouth. She used to laugh. How long had it been since she smiled?

I slouched lower in my seat, folding my arms and returned my gaze to the sunflower fields outside my window. No. I have a stake in this too. “Mom, I am not a child. Stop treating me like one.”

“Michael, please.” She sighed, hunching her shoulders. “I don’t have the energy to argue with you.”

“Dad said I’m the man of the family now.” I watched as her face fell further, a tear trailing down her cheek. Emma whimpered beside me. My shoulders squared. No backing down now. “I’ve seen more horrible things in the last two weeks than most men see in their whole lives. I don’t care if I’m only thirteen. Stop treating me like a child.”

She turned to me with sad eyes and forced a tight, almost undetectable smile. “You’re right. I’m sorry. I never would have gotten through the last few days without your help.” She reached across Emma and patted my hand. “Let’s just get there first. Then we’ll talk about what to do next.”

“What if no one’s there?” My throat tightened. “What if it’s just like everywhere else?”

“Hush, Michael. You’re scaring Emma.”

My eyes fell on Emma’s quivering lips. Tears rolled down her face. She tried so hard to be brave.

I put my arm around her shoulders and hugged her. “It’ll be okay, kid. No worries.”

She sniffled and busied herself with straightening the curls in her doll's hair.

The sea of sunflowers pulled my eyes. The turn-off should be coming soon. The yellow flowers mean we’re close. Close. But will it matter?

A black streak outside my window. My breath caught. No. No. This isn’t happening again. A loud thud sounded on the roof of the cab. Emma cried out. Mom swerved in a vain attempt to rid us of the beast.

Four days. Four agonizing days without seeing even one other human, but we saw plenty of them. The metal roof groaned as black claws stabbed through, tearing a wide hole.

Emma’s piercing scream hit my ears as giant, slobbering jaws shoved through the opening. Row after row of sharp, pointy teeth glistened in its gaping mouth. The rank smell of death filled the air. It snarled and snapped at my sister’s head.

“Get down, Emma! On the floor!”

She obeyed as I fumbled with the latch on the glove box. It popped open. I raised the gun with trembling hands. Two bullets. Only two bullets left. Two more chances to save ourselves.

My mother nodded. “You can do it, Michael.” How could she be so calm?

The creature roared and slashed at her throat with its long claws.

“NO!” My finger closed on the trigger. A shot came, then ringing, loud ringing as we plowed into the field of flowers.

The monster slumped, its mouth hanging open. Long, rancid strands of drool dripped onto the seat next to me.

“Mom? Mom, it’s dead.”

She sagged against the steering wheel, her green eyes empty, staring. Deep crimson streaked down the front of her shirt. A lump rose in my throat. You’re the man of the family, now. My father’s words echoed in my mind.

I swallowed hard. “Emma, are you okay?”

She looked up at me, eyes wide, and nodded.

I took her hand and pulled her quivering body onto my lap. She moaned and cowered away from the dark, motionless form hanging limp from the hole in the roof. “Shh. It’ll be okay, kid.” I stroked her hair. “No worries.” My voice sounded hollow.

Smoke poured from under the hood as we climbed from the truck. I shoved the gun into the back of my jeans and took Emma’s hand. We started along the edge of the road, staying close to the sunflowers. The turn-off should be coming soon. The yellow flowers mean we’re close.