Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Diving Deep

Okay, so I've got my new edits letter back from the lovely F, my editor, so I'm ready to dive deep into the next draft of Boundless. Only one big change this time, so hopefully we'll be in production soon.

And school just started, for me and my son. And I am writing the scenes for my short story, which is due soon, while my students are doing their writing exercises. Yes, I have reached that point where I may draft almost an entire story IN CLASS. I love the idea. I have 6 scenes to go. It tells you how tired I already am that 6 scenes seems like a lot.

I'm officially overwhelmed. I am keeping the metaphorical paper bag close by, just in case I need to breathe into it for a while.

So I don't have a lot to blog about currently, because blogging will take up time I don't have, but instead of my own post I thought I might offer you this, which is an interview I did that's up this week on the Starry Eyed Revue. I talk about my writing life, Boundless, my favorite characters, and a little bit about my new projects. I am also offering a signed copy of Hallowed for their giveaway and two little swag packs, so be sure to enter the contest while you are there.

Here it is! Enjoy.

I'll be back next time I come up for air.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Cutting Room Floor

I'm back to the grindstone with Boundless, working on a new round of edits. And I'm preparing for my son's grand debut into kindergarten. And I'm prepping for two classes that I am teaching at Pepperdine, also starting next week: my Intro to Creative Writing class and a YA lit class that I've never taught before and therefore have a ton of extra prep work to do. And I am writing a short story for an anthology. I have a very long interview to write up. And reading a friend's manuscript. And a bunch of other stuff.

In other words, I just got really freaking busy.

So, in the midst of all this craziness, I am coming back to Boundless with the intent to cut at least 5,000 words. At least. Whole scenes are hitting the cutting room floor. Whole scenes, people!

Trimming an entire scene always hurts like a paper cut.

In the past, I've taken some consolation in the fact that the deleted scenes from my books can be made available in different ways. I can use them as exclusive content for the Young Adult Scavenger Hunt, which I do twice a year, and there are a few other sites where my cut stuff has ended up since Unearthly was published. It makes the cut sting a bit less, knowing that even though the scene wasn't good or important enough to make it into the book, that doesn't mean that nobody will ever see it. Deleted scenes are fun!

But here's what's bugging me today:

Hmm, where to begin? Okay. Here goes. I try not to read reviews. I am getting better at it, too, the not-reading-reviews thing, I mean. I hardly ever check Goodreads anymore, because I ultimately think that it's not good for me as an artist. If I read too many reviews I start thinking differently about my story, not for the sake of the art, but for the sake of people pleasing. I start having imaginary conversations with people I don't know at 2am, where I say to them, pleadingly, "Yes, yes, I know that it's a love triangle, technically, but really, if you'd just examine the entire thing more closely, you'd see that it's not a real love triangle. . ."

It makes me think about Daniel Radcliffe during an interview, when he was asked, "Do you read what people say about you?" and he immediately responded, "No. That way lies madness."

Yes. Reading your own reviews=madness. I get that. I try to resist the temptation. Most of the time.

So imagine me this morning, sitting down to chop away at my current manuscript. I work for a while. I check Twitter. I check my email. A Google alerts comes up, which alerts me to the fact that somebody has just reviewed Unearthly 2.1. Wha?????! I think. But no, mustn't read a review, I think. But what the heck is Unearthly 2.1?

I click the link. Yes, it's true. There is an Unearthly 2.1, a cut scene from Hallowed. 252 people have rated this scene, and something like 30 people have reviewed it.

My first thought is, Cool, 252 people have read my deleted scene!

My next thought is, Wow, there are about 20 people who really don't like this scene.

My next thought is, Oh come on, people. It's a DELETED scene. Which means it didn't make the cut. It wasn't good enough. Relax! There are real scenes, IN THE BOOK, so go read those.

And I'm back to having imaginary conversations with people I don't know.

Sigh. Well, that's why I avoid reading reviews, isn't it? I remind myself. No biggie. Except now, when I go back to work on my Boundless manuscript, I think, well, this scene has to go, but is it good enough to ever see the light of day? Because if I release this scene, it will probably get REVIEWED.

This makes me want to revise the scene I'm going to cut. Which is so not the point of cutting extraneous scenes. And so not a good use of my time.

And, ultimately, it makes me less likely to want to share my deleted scenes. I cut them because they weren't good enough. To cut them and then have people criticize them for not being good enough is a bit like pouring lemon juice in my paper cut.

Ouch. Ouch, I say.

Now, I also want to make a few things clear. Prepare for the disclaimer:

1. Goodreads is good. As an avid reader, I adore Goodreads. As an author, it kind of terrifies me, but that's okay. That's natural. As an author, I should be scared of Goodreads. But I am 100% glad Goodreads exists. In fact, I attribute Goodreads to a big part of Unearthly's success. To date Unearthly has 3,781 reviews (and over 25,000 ratings), so many of them good. People are talking about my books, and I am so grateful that there is a place like Goodreads where they can talk about my books.

2. I think people, on Goodreads and elsewhere, have an absolute right to their opinions, and should be able to write whatever they want in their reviews. Period. I have imaginary conversations with some of my negative reviewers, but never in a million years would I ever dream of actually communicating with the writer of a negative review. They deserve to be able to voice their opinions without being confronted by the authors or their friends. (I do, however, sometimes think wistfully about the old days when all the critics ran in the same social circles as the writers and occasionally Hemingway liked to quote a critic's bad review back to him at a party and then punch him in the face. There was a kind of accountability for what you said, back then, before the basic anonymity of the internet.)

3. I most likely will release more deleted scenes, not to worry, because my publisher thinks it's good publicity and because, at the end of the day, I still like those scenes, and it makes me happy to be able to share them with people who will get a kick out of reading them. Which leads me to. . .

4. Maybe I'm overreacting. I am willing to consider this possibility. Maybe this whole post is a kind of knee-jerk reaction to the surprise of being reviewed on something I didn't expect to be reviewed on.

So tell me, what do you think? Are reviews for deleted scenes a good thing? Do you think this practice will make authors more hesitant to release deleted scenes, or is it just another sign of the technological age we live in, that we get to see and judge all content, not just what makes it into the pages of a print book? What should become of all that extra stuff on the cutting room floor?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Writing Short

I'm a writing fool.

I finished a novella yesterday, which was great fun. Unfortunately I can't tell you much about it. Stay tuned.

I celebrated finishing said novella by having ice cream for dinner. Don't judge: it was 86 degrees in my house at seven o'clock last night. (For more of why I don't just buy an air conditioner already, see this old post from last year's hot season. Still true this year.) I had a chocolate shake from McDonalds. With a cherry. Mmmmm. It was delicious. It was 750 calories. That's dinner.

This week I'm also working on a short story, which has brought a few things to light:

1. It's been a long time since I've written a short story. Like, more than six years. This blows my mind since writing short stories used to be what I did best. That's what I was trained in, after all. I have written two separate collections of literary short stories. I also got my publishing start with short stories; in fact, it was an old short story of mine that brought my agent to me. So writing a short story again feels like visiting a past version of myself as a writer. A ghost of the writer I used to be.

She's more concise than I am.

2. Writing short stories is hard. Before I'd written any novels, back when I was simply a proud short story writer, I used to tell my students that good short story writing was actually harder than good novel writing. You have to be ruthless. Economical. Smart. You have to make an arc fit within the span of fifteen or twenty pages. You're not free to ramble about the way novelists do. Every single word has to count.

Then I wrote a novel. And another. And another. Today, if somebody told me that short story writing is easier than novel writing, this would be my response:


And then I would quite possibly slap him/her.

Short story writing is not easier than novel writing. You don't have to keep 1400 pages of story straight in your head all at once. But short story writing is hard. It requires an intense focus. It's like a fast sprint, whereas novel writing is a marathon.

3. I am rusty at being ruthless. I find this odd, since my writer's brain is in good shape right now. I've been bench pressing more than 1000 words a day for quite a while. I'm fit. But this week as I sat down to write this story, thinking to myself, this will be easy, I can do it in an afternoon, I'm sure, I was struck by how lazy I've become when it comes to word count. I'm used to writing horizontally as opposed to vertically, which means that I often just let myself go and write whatever strikes me, focusing on getting something down and fixing it up later. (As the writer Chris Offutt used to say, "When I write, I throw in everything but the kitchen sink. . . and then I throw in the kitchen sink and turn on both faucets." Yeah. That's me. Sidenote: Is Chris Offutt that guy in the rocking chair on the credits of TrueBlood? Because I swear that's him.) Writing this way allows you more surprises, more discovery of the story as you go, but it's also less meticulous than writing vertically, when you don't leave a sentence until it's as good as it can be.

Writing horizontally also makes for chubby drafts.

This is the part of this blog where, if my editor was reading this, she would snort and point out that my last draft of Boundless was close to 115,000 words.

It's not fat. It's big boned, I keep telling her.

So this writing a short story is good exercise. I'm slimming down.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Writing For Joy

When I get stressed I am easily distracted. For instance: when I was working on the revisions for Boundless, I had to actively work to not play The Hunger Games, which is one of those facebook games where you spend about three minutes at a time on before you run out of "energy." Is it a good game? Um, no. Not really. There's nothing challenging or cool about it. But I still felt my mind returning, over and over, to the desire to play. Ooh, I would think. Maybe I have enough energy to pick all the roses in President Snow's garden. . . And off I would go.

Not productive.

I also had to work to stay off Twitter and facebook in general and refuse to give in to the urge to check my email every few minutes.

Why? I kept asking myself. You have work to do! Get to it!

But it was hard work. Intense work. My brain was metaphorically sweating, for hours at a time. And all it wanted was a little breather to do something mindless for say, three minutes.

What's funny to me is that pretty much the minute I pressed send and sent the new-and-improved Boundless draft to my editor, I lost the desire to play the game. Or hang out on Twitter and facebook. It took about a week of resting, getting adequate sleep, weaning myself off the caffeine I used via iced tea to get myself through the deadline, cleaning my house so that my mind felt uncluttered, but at the end of all of that, I felt like myself again.


And then I wanted to write. Not for work. Not for pay (although pay is good. I like pay.) but for the sheer joy of writing. For the fun of finding characters and watching them go do their unexpected things. For the beauty of language. For the play of ideas.

It is soooooo good to write out of joy again.

Right now I am working on:
  • a novella. Details on that to come.
  • a short story for a very awesome anthology that I was thrilled to be asked to be a part of
  • a new novel
  • and still stewing over the final changes I need to make to Boundless. Cuz we're not done yet, folks.
So yeah, I'm busy. Again. Still. Whatever. But it feels so good to write!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

YA Scavenger Hunt

Welcome to YA Scavenger Hunt! This tri-annual event was first organized by author Colleen Houck as a way to give readers a chance to gain access to exclusive bonus material from their favorite authors...and a chance to win some awesome prizes! At this hunt, you not only get access to exclusive content from each author, you also get a clue for the hunt. Add up the clues, and you can enter for our prize--one lucky winner will receive TWENTY-FIVE signed books, one book from each author on the hunt in my team! But play fast: this contest (and all the exclusive bonus material) will only be online for 72 hours!

Go to the YA Scavenger Hunt page to find out all about the hunt. There are TWO contests going on simultaneously, and you can enter one or all! I am a part of the BLUE TEAM--but there is also a red team for a chance to win a whole different set of twenty-five signed books!

If you'd like to find out more about the hunt, see links to all the authors participating, and see the full list of prizes up for grabs, go to the YA Scavenger Hunt homepage.

Scavenger Hunt Puzzle

Directions: Below, you'll notice that I've listed my favorite number. Collect the favorite numbers of all the authors on the blue team, and then add them up (don't worry, you can use a calculator!).

Entry Form: Once you've added up all the numbers, make sure you fill out the form here to officially qualify for the grand prize. Only entries that have the correct number will qualify.

Rules: Open internationally, anyone below the age of 18 should have a parent or guardian's permission to enter. To be eligible for the grand prize, you must submit the completed entry form by August 5, at noon Pacific Time. Entries sent without the correct number or without contact information will not be considered.

Scavenger Hunt Post

Today, I am hosting Angela Corbett on my website for the YA Scavenger Hunt!

Angela Corbett

Angela Corbett graduated from Westminster College with a double major in communication and sociology. She started working as a reporter for her local newspaper when she was sixteen and won awards for feature, news, and editorial writing. She has also done freelance writing. In addition to being an author, she works as a director of communications and marketing. She loves classic cars, traveling, and listening to U2. She lives in Utah with her extremely supportive husband and their five-pound Pomeranian, Pippin, whose following of fangirls could rival Justin Bieber's.

Find out more information by checking out the author website or find more about the author's book here

Buy the book from Amazon here!

Eternal Starling

A love so strong, even eternity can’t separate them.

Evie Starling has lived a relatively uneventful life hanging out with friends, gossiping about boys, and driving her 1966 Mustang. All of that changes when she moves to Gunnison, Colorado, to start college and meets two mysterious men.
For centuries, Alex Night and Emil Stone have yearned for Evie—but they each have their own reasons for wanting to be with her. When both men claim to be her soul mate and tell her about an unbelievable past, Evie learns that she’s not the person she thought she was. Soon, Evie finds herself in the middle of an age-old battle between the Amaranthine Society—the soul protectors, and the Daevos Resistance—the soul destroyers. With a past she doesn’t understand, and a future rife with danger, Evie has to decide who she can trust. But Alex and Emil aren’t the only ones who want Evie, and her soul is about to become the rope in an eternal tug-of-war.

Exclusive Content - Deleted Scene

Removed after YASh was over. . . sorry, it can only be shown during YASH time.

Enter the Contest

And don't forget to enter the contest for a chance to win a ton of signed books by me, Cynthia Hand, and more! To enter, you need to know that my favorite number is 17. Add up all the favorite numbers of the authors on the blue team and you'll have all the secret code to enter for the grand prize!

Continue the Hunt

To keep going on your quest for the hunt, you need to check out the next author! Click here!

Enter The Extra Hallowed Giveaway

In honor of this special event, I'm going to give away 2 extra signed copies of Hallowed. Just follow the directions in the rafflecopter below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway