Friday, October 29, 2010

Giveaway Time!

I am so excited to do this giveaway! I had lots of awesome comments and thoughts on my last post; many were in direct opposition to each other, so that was extremely helpful. Ha ha. Just kidding. Sort of.

Anyway, back to business. Since I'm doing this giveaway to celebrate the fact that I have 200 followers, I decided to ask you to list 200 of your favorite things about my blog to enter the giveaway! Woohoo!


HA HA, I'm TOTALLY kidding!

All you have to do is comment to enter, and tell me which "prize package" you would pick if the random number generator gives you some love. Yep, after all those conflicting thoughts on my prizes, I decided to leave it up to you to pick! So, in case you missed it last time, here are your options:

1. A package that includes anywhere from 1-3 books (depending on which ones I buy and other factors like how loudly SonB is or isn't screaming in the book store, or grabbing things off of the shelves, or how loudly or obnoxiously SonA is begging for everything in sight, therefore giving me more or less time to shop for you). And yes, I'm aware that was the longest, most rambling parenthetical sentence ever. But I'm giving you books, so no complaining, a'ight? Anyway, this package also includes CHOCOLATE!!

2. A gift card to Barnes & Noble, or Amazon, or maybe a surprise retailer, and... CHOCOLATE!!

3. A 10 page critique of your manuscript, and hey, because so many of you seemed quite keen on it, I will even throw in some CHOCOLATE!!

Hence, you do not have to make a choice that will limit your options of chocolate. And I may even be willing to get you the best chocolate known to mankind, called Marabou from Sweden. Trust me when I tell you it will make Hershey's taste like dog food. Okay, not quite that bad, but you get the idea. Although, I have never eaten dog food, and maybe it's not as bad as I imagine it tasting. Uh, a bit sidetracked there. What was I saying? Oh yes, the point is that Swedish chocolate is amazing and you will be happy you won. As for what comes with the chocolate, that is up to you!

So comment away! This giveaway is open until next Friday, November 5 at midnight. (MST) If you are really craving that Swedish chocolate and want some more opportunities to increase your odds of winning you may add:

+2 for already being a follower
+1 for new followers
+4 if you refer a new follower (they must credit you in the comments)
+1 tweeting/FBing contest (please provide link)
+3 for putting it in sidebar on your blog (again, please add link)
+4 for dedicating a blog post to the giveaway (once more, all together: link please!)

(and Melody for that amazing, sweet totally unrequested post you did on your blog, you may add +5 to your entry. Seriously, what a sweetheart! Don't know what I'm talking about? Go check out her blog and the post "covert operations" right now. Totally unexpected and about the sweetest thing EVER!)

Also, I'd really appreciate it if you tally up your points for me in your comment. Good luck, and thank you again for taking the time to read and comment on my blog! You rock!

P.S. Happy Halloween this weekend! Any fun plans?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

You know what 200 means...

*note: well, when I checked my blog earlier on Tuesday, I had reached 200... but apparently someone decided to unfollow me. *sad face* Apparently my rambling answers about loving Benihana and desserts and lots and lots of books and movies was too much for someone. Now I'm down to 199. But, you know what? It's close enough. So...

It's time for a contest! Woohoo! Thank you all for caring enough about what I have to say to follow me and comment on my posts. It means more than you know. As a way to say "thank you" I am going to do a contest. The only thing I'm having trouble deciding is... what to give away?

So now is your chance to let me know. What would you--my lovely, wonderful, awesome readers--like to win? Please vote in the comments and I will announce the contest prizes and what to do to enter on Friday!

1. A package that includes a book (maybe two or three depending on which ones I get) and some chocolate or candy.

2. A package that includes a gift card to Barnes & Noble or Amazon or something like that, and some chocolate and candy.

3. A ten page critique of your manuscript.

Let me know which one sounds the most appealing to you (and if you have any requests, let me know!) and I will announce the actual contest on Friday.

Thank you again; all of your support and kindness has been astounding.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Q&A answers!

Thanks for all of your questions! Here we go with my super-awesome answers.

Carolina asked: How many revisions did you go through before you got your agent, and how many after?

Well, my whole journey to getting an agent took me 6 posts to do, and it explained a lot of that, so I will try to condense the answer. I did tons of revisions on different books, but the book that actually got me an agent I did a couple of rounds of revisions before sending out to agents (with my CPs). It was a fairly clean draft because I was more careful while I wrote it and didn't have to do as much revising. After I got my agent, I did two rounds of revisions, one was a little bit more involved and one was mostly just line edits (change a word here or there, or move this paragraph around, etc.).

Carolyn asked me to let you all know how the signing went, which I did in my last post!

Christine also wanted to know the same question as Carolina (she loves hearing about other people's journeys). Again, I did a big series of posts about "my path to getting an agent" a couple of months ago. If you haven't checked those out yet and want to know more about my path, that's where to get the low-down.

Janiel asked: How many other projects do you have in the works? How's your heart? The kids? Is YOUR agent going to agent your future works?

I have four projects at different stages, two are done being revised with my agent, one needs more revising and one is my current WIP. My heart is doing so much better, I decided not to use the beta blockers or anything, and so far, so good. I'm very grateful for that, especially after the way my last couple of weeks have gone, ha ha! My kids are doing awesome, Kid A decided to join his K-3 elementary school Christmas choir and has his first practice in the morning. His last soccer game got rained out unfortunately, but he did great this season and loved having SHH (otherwise known as his dad) be his coach. Kid B is too dang smart for his own good. He's really beginning to talk a lot, which is so fun. One of my favorites is when he says "boat." He sticks his lips way out, in a huge pucker, to enunciate the 't.' So cute! And yes, I'm planning on my agent being my agent for a LOOONG time to come (preferably until the end of my career. When I die. Ha ha). I love her and we work together really well. I'm so happy to have her as my champion in this business and as a friend.

Jennie asked: how do you balance it all: mother, wife, blogger, author?

Oh man, it's really hard sometimes. Okay, all the time. My friend Ally and I have often joked about how we don't "have time" to write (as many people, usually people who aren't writers) like to assume (you know the ones who say, "boy I wish I had time to write a book!" ha ha. Yeah. Right.); we have to "steal" the time. I steal time from housework, from sleep, from relaxing or TV, or any number of activities. I try very hard not to steal the time from my kids or my husband, but let's be honest, sometimes they probably get the short end of the Mommy/Wife stick--especially if I'm on a deadline. I just have to cut out anything superfluous, and I have learned to work very quickly in the time I have. Especially now that I work from home at nights, too. (Which unfortunately does cut into my prime writing/reading time.) I try to think about ideas during the day, so when I sit down to write, I'm ready to go.

Sometimes the blogging part is the hardest part for me. Blogging, and reading other's blogs, and commenting can take up SO much time. But it's so wonderful, and the online community is so amazing, that I am determined to make the time for it. Usually late at night, or maybe if my kids are playing and happy I will jump on my laptop and try and hurry to sneak some blog reading in.

Really, it's just hard, but I do my best to juggle it all and make it work.

Elana asked: Your favorite food? Treat? Season? Give me some faves!

Ooh, boy. Food. One of my passions. I ADORE cooking and baking, so you have to be more specific if you want faves for food. As a teen I would have immediately said "steak and mashed potatoes" (which is still a favorite), but now I have categories. Favorite ethnic food: Thai, especially with Mangoes and Sticky Rice for dessert. Favorite restaurant overall: Benihana. Oh man, I'm salivating just thinking about it... Favorite dessert: super tough because I'm a huge dessert junkie. But my number one standby is an amazing brownie sundae. But, as any of my friends or family will tell you, I have a huge list of incredible desserts I make. I just love dessert. I could keep going, but I should stop. My stomach has started to growl.

I really love all the seasons (except the middle and end of winter, when everything's dead and ugly and it's not Christmas anymore so snow, and coats, and boots, and cold aren't fun anymore, and I just want it to warm up again), but to narrow it down, my absolute favorite Holiday Season is Christmas. Hands down. I just love Christmastime.

Colene asked: Your fav book? Movie? Fav guilty pleasure? Fav thing to do when you aren't writing, reading, mom-ing, working?

Oh boy, hard questions. I really love a lot of books. My over-all favorite book as a teenager was THE POISONWOOD BIBLE by Barbara Kingsolver. That book really made me want to not just be a writer, but an amazing writer that could do something like she did with that book. My favorite book series of all time is definitely Harry Potter. J.K. Rowling is my hero, and as I've said before, I would die if I could meet her. I love MATCHED, and PARANORMALCY, and THE DARK DIVINE and Julie Berry's books and Shannon Hale's books, and oh dear this could go on and on, so let's stop there. Just know there are many, many, many more. You can friend me on goodreads if you'd like to know more about my tastes.

Same thing with movies. I miss going to the movies all the time like I used to, but there just isn't time. The movies that I've absolutely loved the most this year are INCEPTION (by the way, I know for sure how it ended, if you want to know...!) and AVATAR in IMAX 3D. They were both so incredible. All time favorites would be super hard to narrow down, but a couple that come to mind are THE ULTIMATE GIFT (a smaller movie that was so powerful and beautiful and I love it), I loved all the LOTR movies, especially RETURN OF THE KING. I'm also a sucker for great chick-flicks, some classics are HOW TO LOSE A GUY IN 10 DAYS, ENCHANTED (kind of a kid's movie, but I love it), THE NOTEBOOK, PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, THE SCARLET PIMPERNELL, MADE OF HONOR, you get the idea. Can you tell I love books and movies? And that I can't make decisions?

As for a favorite guilty pleasure... hmmm, probably eating all those desserts I mentioned before. And my favorite thing to do besides writing, reading, mom-ing, working? Probably taking a hot bubble bath, except that usually involves reading, so um, sleeping? No, no, I know! Going on a date with my SHH. That doesn't happen nearly enough for my liking. I love going on dates with my guy--just us, no kids, no stresses, just relaxing and being together. Usually eating good food. And indulging in my love of desserts.

Carolina asked: When do you write?

I think I pretty much answered that already. Whenever I can steal the time, but especially at night, or during naptime for SonB (and if SonA is watching a movie or playing happily).

Thank you so much for all of your questions, I hope you enjoyed reading my (sometimes really long) answers!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Julie Berry Signing: In which I channel Halloween early

On Wednesday I had the opportunity to go to a signing for my friend Julie Berry and we had the bonus of Jessica Day George being there as well! They are both very fun and interesting to listen to, and I love both of their books.

Jessica is ADD (or so she claims), hence the knitting while answering questions.

Now, the reason why I "channel Halloween early" in this post, is because 1. I have bloody hair in all the pictures (dried, don't worry, I wasn't dripping or anything) and 2. I have staples in my scalp.

Yep, the hits keep on coming. In this case, in the form of cracking my head open on my granite countertop when I was standing up too fast without making sure I was far enough away from the ledge. I spent the afternoon in the Instacare, but I wasn't going to let a little thing like that deter me from seeing Julie. She was here from Massachusetts, hello! I haven't been allowed to wash my hair since the injury, hence the dried-on-blood-hair in the pictures. I finally get to wash it today. Hallelujah! (Can you say hat days?) So, ya'll wanted to see pictures of me looking not-so-great? Then read on--or look on, rather.

I went with my friends, book blogger Stacey (Aubrey) at My Pile of Books, and Jena. Since I rarely get to see Julie, when she said she was coming to Utah for some signings, we decided to go to dinner after one of them.

We hit up Cheesecake Factory, yum yum! (And yep, still rockin' the bloody hair. Luckily the staples are on the top/back of my head and not easily visible. Though that would have been kind of cool....)

Yeah, I look about like the day I'd had. But Julie is so adorable, I had to get a picture with her! I love her YA books, and have heard so many great things about her "boy books," The Splurch Academy for Disruptive Boys, that I got one for my sons. If any of you have any little boys or know any little boys (probably age 5-12) these books would be a great gift idea with the Holidays coming up. They are funny, inventive and have amazing illustrations her sister did all throughout. The illustrations actually further the story, so they aren't just for fun to look at. Check 'em out!
Anyway, despite my injury and the fabulosity (yep, that's so a word) of my bloody, stapled self, it was an awesome night!
So, what books are you hoping to get for Christmas? Or which ones are you going to give to others? I need some ideas... :)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Ask for it...

Thank you all so much for your comments on my last post - it really is gratifying to know that the things I'm sharing and the knowledge I've gained is useful to you. I will admit there are days that I think, "why am I spending so much time on this blog? Does anyone really even care about what I have to say? Especially when there are so many other blogs out there, written by authors who are more experienced/funny/knowledgeable/etc." Your comments on Monday (and many of my other posts as well) made me feel like I have something to offer, too. And I appreciate that more than you know.

Okay, warm and fuzzy moment over. I promise.

On to business. I happened to notice I'm at 192 followers right now. Wow, that is amazing! And I also noticed I haven't done a giveaway for a little while... hmm... 192 is pretty close to a nice, even number that starts with a 2 and ends with an 00. I'm thinking a contest will be showing up in the near future, most likely when I hit that nice even number. Wink, wink. Yeah, I know, totally subtle. Now, what to do for that contest? I will have to think about it. Stay tuned for what I come up with.

As for the title of today's post, I also realized it's been a long time since I've done a question and answer post. I usually try to do one every couple of months, just to mix things up and see if any of my new (or old) followers have thought of any questions they wish I'd answer. So have it: what are you just dying to know about me, or from me? Feel free to ask in the comments and I will do an answer post on Monday! (Friday is reserved for my recap of my friend Julie Berry's signing tonight at The King's English here in SLC! Go check out her new book, SECONDHAND CHARM. She is SO talented, trust me!)

Hope you are all having a great week!

Monday, October 18, 2010

What to ask an agent

I got quite a lot of responses on my post about making sure you're picking the best agent for you. Many of you expressed interest in what my list would be in what to look for/ask a prospective agent. So here is the list I came up with when I was trying to decide on my agent:

1. What did you like the most about my book?
2. Do you see or want any major edits done before submitting it, or is it ready?
3. What is your editing style?
4. What is your agenting style? (Hands on? Phone calls, emails, lots of communication or minimal?)
5. How often will you be updating me regarding the status of your submissions?
6. How many editors do you plan to pitch to in the first round?
7. What editors/houses do you have in mind to pitch it to?
8. Are you interested in repping just this, or all of my future projects?
9. Do you handle subsidiary/foreign rights?
10. Do you have someone on your staff who checks royalty statements for accuracy and errors?
11. Do you have a written agreement?

Those were the main questions I came up with, and actually printed off with a pen handy for my phone conversations with agents. It helped me find out some major points to expect in our professional relationship: What are his/her thoughts on my book? Are we going to be doing major/minor/no revisions? and how does he/she prefer to revise/edit? Is this agent going to be very personable with lots of contact by email and phone, or very distant--just the basic communications, only when absolutely necessary? What is their plan for my book and my career? Is this book the only one they are interested in or do they want to be an advocate for my whole career? How will all the details of a deal be taken care of? You should have a very clear idea of what your relationship and career would be like with this agent after you get the answers to all of these questions.

However, the most important part of these questions is knowing what YOU want. What kind of agent do you want/need? If you're not sure, try answering the questions how you wish an agent would answer, and that will help you figure it out. I hope this was helpful! Any additional thoughts or questions, let me know and we can continue the discussion on Wednesday if you'd like. Hope you had a great weekend!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Friday Five: The car accident edition

1. I've never been in a car accident before. Until yesterday. Car accidents suck. Especially when they're not your fault, but state law still says it is.

2. Teenage drivers suck. Okay, not all of them, but ones that have only had their license for a week, and slam on their brakes at a green light because his mom yells at him to let a car in. He, in particular, sucks.

3. Apparently when you go from accelerating because the light turned green to suddenly slamming on your brakes (in a construction zone with nowhere to go because the road is all torn apart so you can't swerve or anything), things don't always end well. Especially when you are a Nissan Altima and they are a Toyota Land Cruiser.

4. I was planning on getting in some writing yesterday, during my son's naptime. I had new music all ready to go on my iPod, my laptop was charged, the kids were happy and tired from going to a cornmaze/pumpkin patch/farm for the whole morning. Instead, he fell asleep from sheer exhaustion in my smashed up car while we waited for the police, and my MIL had to come get SonA because he had to go potty so bad he was almost in tears. A very nice police-man explained that even though it was the other person's fault, the law is that the person who rear-ends the other car is always cited and considered at fault. Which also sucks. He really was so nice, and I am grateful for that. Because the other people that caused the accident? Not so nice.

5. This wasn't even the worst thing that happened this week. Yeah, it's been one of those weeks.

Therefore, I didn't get anyone's blogs read in the last two days, and I'm really sorry. I will try to catch up over the weekend. Also, there were some great responses to my last post in the comments, so I think I will go ahead and continue that conversation on Monday. Something to look forward to! I'm sure your week has been better than mine (at least, I hope so!), so what have you all had going on?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Look before you leap

Aspiring authors who've yet to get one all dream of one thing (or person as the case may be). Their future agent. They want an agent, and they want one now. But there is wisdom in making sure you don't just find the first agent who will say 'yes.' You need to find the agent who is right for you, and for your career.

I've spoken with a few different authors/aspiring authors who have had to part ways with their first agent at different times. Does that mean the agent was a "bad agent?" No, it doesn't. In fact, not at all. In one case, the same agent represented two different authors I know. For one author the agent did a great job selling the author's work and working together, but in the second case after about a year, it just didn't work out. Same agent. Same skills. Different authors. Different results. So again, does it mean the agent was 'bad?' Obviously not, the agent did a great job for one of the authors. What it means is that every agent is a person, not just a means to getting you published. They have personalities (gasp!), they have editing styles, they have agenting styles. And what is a perfect fit for one author, might not be for you.

So, when you are querying and get to the stage where you are getting interest in your mss, make sure you take the time to really talk to the potential agents. Talk to their authors even, if you're still not sure. Write out a list of questions that mean the most to you. If you don't know what those questions should be, sit down and write out what factors/traits are most important to you in an agent. Not sure what they should be? Maybe I'll make that a future post. Off the top of your head, what do you think is the most important factor in choosing your agent?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Goal: accomplished!

There's nothing quite like setting a really hard goal, and then actually accomplishing it. I know a 10k wouldn't be very hard for quite a few people out there. But for me? It was a Big Deal. I've never really ran more than maybe 2 consecutive miles in my life before. I've done hard classes at the gym and things like that, but for some reason, running outside has always been incredibly hard for me. Part of it is my bad knee (I had major surgery when I was 16), so I used that as an excuse and never pushed myself.

Well, last weekend, I finished my first 10k -- 6.2 miles! (Actually, they messed up and it was actually 7.2 miles apparently!) Was it hard? Yes. Did I contemplate quitting during the training? A few times. But I didn't. And now I accomplished that goal, and I'm thinking about setting another, bigger one... like a half marathon. We'll see!

How many of us short-change ourselves, because we're afraid? Or don't think we can do it? Or use excuses to keep us from pushing ourselves? In the publishing world, there are going to be lots of ups and downs. (For most of us anyway.) You have to find the willpower and determination to push through the hard times, to not let your "bad knee" be the excuse that keeps you from becoming better, stronger, and accomplishing your goals. So much of anything in this life is mental--the power of our mind is immense. Believe you can, and you will. Continue to write and query and revise and write and query, and you will get that agent. (Even if it takes 2 and a half years like me!) Force yourself out of bed, push yourself on distance, on getting past the pain and exhaustion, and you'll finish that race.

I'm living proof!

Right before the last turn to the finish line! (SHH and my boys were there to support me... and document it.)

Me, my aunt DiAnne, and my mom right after the race - the 10k girls! :)

Signing my contract with my agent last April!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Friday Five: the hair, goals, JK Rowling and more edition

1. Okay, some of you wanted to see a few examples of my changing hair styles, well... here you go! (I won't be offended if you don't, feel free to scroll down to the rest of my random thoughts.)

I only went back about two and a half years, because this is going to be "pictures of Sara's hair" overload. Just warning you. That's why I added some with my boys, they are waaay cuter than I am. And SHH is waaay hotter than me. So, yep. (SHH, for those who missed that post, is "Super Hot Hubby.")

Here we go (and I skipped quite a few stages, that were different, but not drastically) :

March 08: natural color (almost), side bangs, pretty long!

September 08 (22 or 23 weeks pregnant, hence the strange pose hehe): highlights, LOTS of bangs, cut off about 4-5 inches.

October 08: cut off even more, darkened the highlights (often when I change my hair, I take "new hair" pictures to send to friends/family because they're always afraid--ahem, I mean EXCITED -- to see what I've done...)

December 08 (month before I had my second son): totally darkened it, with some red highlights, minimized the side bangs, just a trim since I didn't want to change too many things right before the hormonal craziness of having a baby.

March 09 (two months after baby): went WAY dark, no red. Almost black. This picture doesn't do it justice, but I wanted to post it because I have an exciting #2 thought that pertains to this photo. So the montage isn't over but:

2. I am with some of my friends at Julie Berry's signing at TKE in this picture. The exciting news, is that her new book SECONDHAND CHARM and her "boy books" THE SPLURCH ACADEMY just released, and she's coming back to UT for some more signings! Come out and support her. She is the most wonderful, kind-hearted person and SO talented. I loved THE AMARANTH ENCHANTMENT, and can't wait for her new book. I'm also going to get THE SPLURCH ACADEMY books for my boys. Yay! The signing at The King's English in SLC is on October 20, so don't miss it!

Okay, back to pics...

A little bit better shot of how dark it was, plus it shows my natural curl. And also, isn't my baby so cute? (He's 2 months old. I can't believe he's going to be 2 in January! Where did that time go??)

Summer 09: (I got professional shots done by my amazing friend/aspiring author/incredible photographer Erin Summerill at our critique group). My husband said if we're going to pay for me to get my hair done, I should do something drastic. So, I did! I hadn't cut my hair this short since third grade (because I hated it back then). But I kept toying with the idea and finally just went for it! It was a fun change, but I decided I didn't love my curly hair short. When it was straight I liked it more, but I still decided to grow it out. I also hadn't been this blond in a long time. The shadowbox was fun (light on top, dark underneath) and I kept it in varying degrees of lightness on top for over a year.

September 09: I started growing it back out and darkened the blond a little bit.

Spring 2010: Another awesome picture by Erin Summerill. My hair is getting longer and darker again...

My newest "professional shot" taken by my insanely talented hubby in August. A little longer, a little darker...

Present 'do: cut straight bangs, all over dark again, still letting it grow out.

So there you go! I change my hair a lot, huh? But it's fun.

3. I want to be J.K. Rowling. Or just steal her brain. Or at least her writing skills. It would be my dream come true to meet her. I think she's a genius. Watching her on Oprah only made me want to meet her even more. I think we could be best friends. Really, I do. Okay, not really. That makes me sound like a stalker, and I can't even afford a ticket to Edinburgh, so no worries Jo. You're safe for now. But, I do think you're amazing and I can only hope to have 1/10 of the talent you have someday...

4. I am running my first 10k tomorrow morning. My training hit a few snags (those lame heart troubles, my running partner [my cute mama] fell during one of our runs and hurt her knee and couldn't run for a couple of weeks, etc.), but I'm determined to do it and finish the race, and so is she. I will definitely not be vying for the top spot, but I'm excited to accomplish this goal. Many times life is like that, isn't it? We set a goal (or dream) and start on the path to accomplish it. We may think we're going to cross that line first, but hit some bumps on the road. Or major cliffs. You just never know. But as long as you keep going and reach that goal, does it really matter if you were first? As long as we finish with dignity and a sense of accomplishment, that's what counts, right?

5. I love fall! Curling up with an awesome book (or a laptop to keep writing what I hope will become an awesome book), a mug of hot cocoa, and a fire crackling behind the glass cover on the fireplace as the gas feeds it instead of wood... ah, a perfect evening at home on a crisp fall night. Except, I wouldn't mind a real fireplace, but hey, they're messy and who can beat the ease of flipping a switch to get fire? We finally got some real fall weather this week, and I'm loving it. I actually got to wear a sweater today! Now I just hope the fall weather can last, and not nosedive right into winter.

What are your thoughts on this beautiful, fall Friday?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Change... or be changed

Or something like that.

I'm sure you've heard the saying, "the only constant in this life is change." So better get used to it, right? Can change be a good thing? I like to think so. Some changes are hard, some are even devastating. However, some are exciting and fun. Like my hair. (You thought I was going to be all deep and stuff, didn't you? Ha! Fooled you again!) I love to change my hair. I get nervous about cutting it too short, because it takes FOREVER to grow back out (since it's naturally curly). But I even tried a short 'do last summer. I was brave. And when it comes to color, or variations of style/bangs/etc, I'm all about the change. I thought about posting a whole bunch of pictures from just the last two years to show how drastically I have changed my hair (over and over again!) during that time, but eh. That's probably not interesting to you. Or is it? I can if you'd like. It's almost funny to see what I've done. But anyway, I digress.

So what does this have to do with writing?

Thanks for asking! Let me tell you. Change is good. When you're stuck in revisions, or when you've written yourself into a corner, try changing something. Have the courage to do something drastic if necessary. Even though it might be scary, it could end up being the best decision you ever made.
The thing is, when you change your hair, you know it can easily be fixed if it turns out badly. If you don't like the highlights, get the dark color put back in. Badabing, badaboom. If you try the big change in your manuscript, and end up hating it, you can just change it back to how it was. Delete. Copy and paste. Voila. It never hurts to try, and you might be surprised at what a huge improvement the change might make. At the very least, you'll know you tried, and won't ever wonder, "what if I'd had the courage to ____."

So, what do you say? Any big changes you've been to scared to make, that you're ready to do now after this little pep talk? Come on, don't be shy. And don't be scared. What's the worst that can happen? Besides this:

Monday, October 4, 2010

A break is a good idea...

Unless you are always on one. I had a nice little getaway/break this weekend, and let me tell you... it was fabulous. Getting away from the norm, recharging, and unplugging from the internet is a good thing, every once in a while. The only thing is that I feel so... well... disconnected! I miss reading everyone's blogs and seeing how you are all doing. (And it was only for two days! I'll have to give that whole unplugging for an entire week thing a shot. Someday.) So, what did I miss? Any fun and exciting happenings over the weekend? (Well, and maybe even for a couple days before that. I wasn't totally disconnected at the end of last week, but close.)

As writers, it's good to step back once in a while. Taking a break from writing (gasp!) for even just a weekend can really help you recharge your creative juices. I believe it's important to get some distance from your writing every once in a while, especially if you're editing, so you can be more objective about it. Everyone's idea of how long that break should be is different. Find what works for you, and then do it. If you haven't done this yet, and are feeling completely drained of all desire to continue on, try taking a SHORT break. Notice the emphasis on SHORT. Beware of taking such a long break that you get too scared to start back up again. That is not taking a break--that is QUITTING, something to be avoided at ALL COSTS. Is that clear? Good.

Later this week, I will be discussing why I love change (especially when it comes to my hair) and why it can be a good thing. Don't worry, it'll be related to writing, too. But seriously, I change my hair a lot. If you don't believe me, take a look at my author picture on the sidebar (from last spring) and then look at the shot of me and my hubby a few posts back at our ballroom lesson. Yep, change is fun. Especially when it's easy to change back. Stay tuned for more...

P.S. If you're in the mood for something Halloween-y, check out the scary story action going on over at !

Friday, October 1, 2010

To Outline or Not to Outline... that is the question

I know there are a lot of different opinions on this one. Many people live and die by their outlines, while others can't stand to even hear the word, let alone use one. Many of us fall somewhere in the middle.

How do you feel about outlines? Love them? Hate them?

For most of the books I've written throughout my life, I didn't have an outline. When I was a teen, I think about half of my books ended up stalling somewhere around page 120-150, and I would just abandon them eventually. I was writing "organically" (though I didn't call it that at the time), just off the cuff, to see where the story would lead me... and yeah. Many times where I ended up was stuck. And then quitting and starting something new. "Hello shiny new idea, you look like lots more fun than trying to figure out how the heck to dig my way out of that mess!"

That's fine when you're writing for fun. But when you're writing to get published? Not so much.

For me, having an outline is a major help. My outlines vary from notes jotted down on a bunch of different papers (back of receipts in my purse, envelopes from letters we got in the mail, and now this cute little notebook that sweet Ally gave me almost a year ago that I now carry around with me). I have a black full size notebook that I also write notes in, and that I keep all my "stray" notes in as well. For HIDDEN (the book that I told you about in my "journey to getting an agent" series) and it's sequels, I ended up doing chapter by chapter outlines. With as many details and things going on that I needed to keep track of, that really helped me stay focused. I also wrote much faster because I knew exactly where I was going.

Am I saying you MUST use an outline? No. In fact, the book that got me an agent was one that I wrote completely off the cuff, with no idea of where it was going for about the first quarter of the book. I did finally write down a few notes for where I wanted the ending to go about half-way through, but that's it.

So ultimately, it's up to you. But I recommend you try both ways, especially if one of your manuscripts has got you stuck in a corner, dreaming of that shiny new idea.