Friday, December 31, 2010

Revising My Fear

What am I so afraid of?

A year ago I had no idea I'd really write a book. I also didn't realize that writing the book would be the easy part. When you're writing everything is fresh and new and filled with possibility. It's okay if you suck because it's just a first draft. Writing was surprisingly un-terrifying for me.

I had a vague idea of what revisions looked like, as an outsider listening to other people's stories, but I had no true understanding of the process. Now I'm in the middle of the process and I'm terrified. What if my second draft sucks, too? What if I am forever doomed to write "short" books and no one wants them? What if my characters moved too fast or too slow or are too one-dimensional or have too much backstory and are confusing? WHAT IF I FAIL?

I look around at all the amazing people I've met online and in person this year who do this, over and over again, and I don't know how they do it.  How can they take these nuggets and turn them into amazing publishable works?

Six weeks ago, I was completely overwhelmed by the process of editing my book. So I walked away. I took a break to read and relax and sit back and let it all sort of wash over me. At first even this was scary. I didn't know what to do with myself. I caught up on a lot of reading, which only fed my neruoses at times, because they were all so much better than me. But eventually I began to enjoy the reading again, and saw the differences in style and characters and began to learn from what I was seeing.

Now that time is up and I'm still terrified, but I think I found the antidote to my fear: action. I asked some of these friends what they do to self-edit. I have a list of things to look for. I have amazing friends pre-reading so that they can give me insights on plot holes and characters I know I'll miss. I have a printed copy, a purple pen, and a lot of coffee. I CAN DO THIS.

I want to say that 2011 will be filled with less fear on my part, fear of doing and of failing and even of succeeding and what that will mean for me and my life. But that would be lying because I am scared of change by default. I am also, however, relentless. I will not let the fear stop me from pursuing my dream. I will keep working on this novel until it is the BEST NOVEL I CAN POSSIBLY WRITE. It may still suck, and it may still be too "*insert negative word here*", but it will be mine and I will be proud of it. So here's to action and conquering fear. Here's to 2011 and a publishable book. Written by me.

So Happy New Year, everyone! One way or another, 2011 is going to rock.

Fearfully optimistic,
Leigh ;)

Saturday, October 30, 2010

A Writer, A First Draft, and a Plot Bunny

A writer, a first draft, and a plot bunny walk into a bar. Why? Duh. To get a drink.

I totally understand why writers need to drink now that I've FINISHED MY FIRST DRAFT. That's right, it's done. An entire mediocre book is sitting on my hard drive, waiting to be revised and polished into a totally kick-ass book.

When I first started writing, I had no idea the amount of work that occurs once the book is actually "written". So I'm in the midst of a re-read, making little notes about the places where I totally copped out and the ones where I just didn't know my characters well enough yet and the ones where the reader will be all "WTH are you smoking?" And it's actually kinda fun, but also kinda daunting.

And then it happens. Just in time for NaNoWriMo (which is like crack for writers), a sexy little plot bunny sidles up to me. She's wearing MAC lipstick and Louboutins. She oozes "pay attention to me."

Shhh... I'm hunting Revisions.

So, I wrote the plot bunny down. I tucked her away in a nice little folder and told her I promise I'll pay attention to her once my revisions are done.

I really, REALLY like her Louboutins, though, so I better revise quickly. NaNoReviseMo, anyone??

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Motivation for the Home Stretch

I am almost done with my first draft. Give me a second to process that. There is roughly 90% of a book on my hard drive. That I wrote. And in a few weeks, it'll be 100%. Of a book. That is mine.


I wanted to share what is motivating me for this last leg of my first draft.  A while ago I saw a quote on twitter. I normally ignore all of the uplifting quotes and motivational blurbs that make their rounds on social networks, but this one struck me. (I don't come here to be uplifted, people! I come here to mock!)

It felt really fitting in the overall scheme of my book, so I made it into a desktop background. Now, when I'm writing, every once in a while I'll hide all my windows and this is what I see:

Adium Yoda approves.

I may not have any laundry folded, and I may hot have any dishes done, but this background and I will have a BOOK FINISHED in a few weeks. Wish me luck. (And, if you're writing too, I'd love to hear what's motivating you right now.)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Trends, Agents, and Other Scary Things - Lessons from the AWC

I have SO MANY things to say about my trip to the Auburn Writer's Conference this past weekend. I got to see a ton of amazing writers and panels, workshop with hilarious Rachel Hawkins and her agent Holly Root, and take my picture with the infamous Archer Barbie, courtesy of conference organizer Chantel Acevedo. (Archer is from Rachel Hawkins' Hex Hall and the upcoming Demonglass.)

Archer is full of WOE! I am not. Oops.
While talking books is fun, I was really impressed with how much I learned about the business side of writing. Rachel's morning workshop "Are You There Ghouls? It's Me, Buffy," covered the hows and whys of writing a paranormal coming-of-age story. We talked about fun stuff and her process and all sorts of good info. (Did you know that vampires represent SEX? Let me tell you, we discussed the heck out of that.) *wink* I'm not going to tell you the rest because she might ban me from reading her books if I give away her secrets. And then both Archer and I would be full of woe. WOE.

Of course, we also touched on market trends, completely freaking me out. You may not realize this, but a book that's coming out right now was purchased by a publisher roughly two years ago. So if the current trend is "YA Books About Skateboarding Koalas!" you can't say "Well, that's FAB because I'm writing (or should write) a book about a skateboarding koala!" You've already missed it. UNLESS your book is fresh and new and amazing and defies trends anyway.

(We're going to pretend that my book is the latter, and luckily there are no skateboarding koalas in it.)

So what's a writer to do? In Rachel's words: "Write the damn book."

Then I was lucky enough to take a query seminar with Holly Root, Rachel's Agent of AwesomeTM.
Rachel Hawkins and Holly Root
Holly went over some of the workshop participant's query letters, gave us all pointers, and was basically the most excellently accessible person EVER. She was sweet, funny, honest, and - most importantly - not scary. I know, I was shocked. I mean, she doesn't look scary, but agents are these amazingly powerful people who laugh at your manuscripts and rip you apart on twitter, right? Uh, no.

Agents are normal people. Well, as normal as people eat, sleep, and breathe books can be. The most important things I learned from her? Holly said that she strongly believes that "Talent will find a way." That good agents respect you as a writer. They want you to be the best you can be, so that they can sell the best book possible. If you hear 'no', it's not necessarily 'no' to you - just not the right book, not at the right time. Prove that it's the right book at the right time by being you and using your voice.

If you're lucky, which I believe Rachel is, you get exactly the right person to be part of your team. If you want proof as to just how normal an agent really is, get her to admit what the last book she read 'just for fun' was. No, I'm not going to divulge her secret, but trust me. She's normal. 

So what did I take away from this conference? A desire to write the best damn book possible, and faith that it'll find its way. But I'll leave out the skateboarding koalas. (And maybe vampires too.)

Friday, October 1, 2010

Falling in Love (With A WIP)

Okay, so I've been sick. Like, feverish-can't-get-out-of-bed-call-in-reinforcements-SICK. After spending all day in bed yesterday, though, I had to sit upright today. And while I was sitting upright, playing stupid FB games and thinking about napping, my brain started to do that irritating thing that Writer's Brains do where it fires off convos between characters. And once it starts, it generally doesn't SHUT UP until you write them down.

So, in the interest of getting better (and getting to take a nap), I did. And the most AMAZING thing happened: It works. I suddenly understood one of my characters so much better. And after all this time writing, plugging along happily and thinking "Wow, this all is clicking SO WELL," it finally, really, TRULY clicked. I GET it. It WORKS. And I'm in LOVE with my WIP. Big pink fluffy hearts of love. (and doom, because part of what I love is this new aspect of DOOMINESS I'm working in.) So, if you'll excuse me, my WIP and I will be skipping through flower-filled meadows and taking long walks on the beach. And then maybe we'll take a nap.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Censorship is Not Parenting (#SpeakLoudly)

I have some shocking news for you: People still try to ban books. I know, right?

I have some MORE shocking news for you: I'm a Christian mother of two children and I think that censorship is complete and total bullshit.

There, I said it. Not bullshit, because I say things like that all the time. But I admitted, for all of the internet to see, that I have a religious worldview that colors my actions and the way I live. And that worldview is NOT the same as this man, who is trying to ban Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, among other books. Why did I just do that? Because I don't need people like him to try and "protect" my children. I'd like to let him know, loud and clear, that protecting my kids from the "dangers" of the written word is MY JOB.

It's up to ME to read a book and decide if and when my child is ready to read it. And I very, very much intend for my daughter to read books like Speak. I can only hope that seeing a fictional girl go through difficult times will help her to understand that she doesn't have to. That she should be strong and SPEAK UP. That's what books do, after all. They put us in situations that we (hopefully) haven't been in. Whether it's fantasy or straight-up non-fiction, if we experience something with a character then it's possible to learn from that without ever physically experiencing it ourselves. What more could a parent want for a child then to give them life's hard lessons without having them hurt??

This is why I think that books dealing with difficult subjects aren't just good, but VITAL to a child's growth. Just as I, as a teenager, came to understand that my faith - which is part of what makes me who I am - will only grow stronger by questioning. If you question something, then you look for an answer. I don't want to raise children who are sheltered from the world and grow up never asking the important questions. I want to raise kids who think, who question, who explore, and who, ultimately, are all the stronger for it. I hope that the children influenced by Mr. Scroggins find a way to do the same.

Other posts/resources you might like to read:
Michelle Hodkins: Speak Loudly AND Carry a Big Stick (How books get banned.)
Myra McEntire: Speak Loudly (A very insightful writer's perspective.)
ALA's Banned Books Lists
Whimsical Fic-ery: Our Favorite Banned Books

Monday, September 13, 2010

SRS BZNS & Belief

I have a confession to make: I don't take a lot of things seriously.

As a stay-at-home-mom, this works in my favor. It's much easier to relate to a 5 and a 2 year old that way. Even in my adult-life, I take time to understand the gravity of a situation just so I know how to mock it. So, when I went to the Decatur Book Festival two weekends ago (read about it here!) I was totally psyched for the fun. What could be better than books, people who WRITE books, and people who READ books all in one place? (Answer? Nothing.)

I was not, however, prepared to be hit in the face with a desire to be *gulp* serious about writing books as a business. (See what I did there? *snort*) I've been writing for a while now, but I try not to think about the whole 'what happens next' part. I mean, sure, I know that I'm writing an amazingly incredible story that you all will be just IN LOVE WITH the moment it's published. Some part of me has kinda sat back and said "And if you never finish, it's no big deal. You're just doing this for you." See that? I was giving myself an out. I wasn't SERIOUS about it.

But then I met real writers and saw how much they LOVED it. And I thought about how much I loved it. And about how much I wanted to be ONE of them. Other people in my life could see this desire even more clearly than I could. Cheryl (one of my very best friends and prereaders/cheerleaders) gave me the 2011 Guide To Literary Agents for my birthday because she believes I'll really do it. My husband wrote, in my birthday card, how proud he is of me and how he truly believes I'll accomplish my goal of being published. If they believe in me, shouldn't I actually believe in myself?

So, I'm headed to the Auburn Writer's Conference next month. It's about time I start taking this whole 'writing' thing seriously. I even ordered business cards:

Okay, so there's a limit to the amount of serious I can handle. *wink*

Monday, August 30, 2010

Writing Inspiration

You know how certain songs remind you of the place you were when you heard them? Or smells remind you of what you were doing when you were eating that food? I get those flashes with writing. I'll be doing something normal (you know, because writing isn't normal) and something will strike me and my fingers will just itch to get to a keyboard. Right now I'm sitting here trying to get into my writing mindset and I thought I'd list out some of my writing cues.

Music is HUGE for me. I especially love story songs. The following always make me want to write a story about what's going on, or at least to continue the mood. Some of my current favs are:
1. The Genius Next Door - Regina Spektor
2. Yankee Bayonet - The Decemberists
3. Fifteen - Taylor Swift
4. Hideaway - The Weepies

My Kids
This seems counter-intuitive, since my kids are usually distracting me from writing, but childhood really is magical. Sometimes my daughter will look at me from the corner of her eye, nose crinkled with mischief, blue eyes sparkling, and it will just take my breath away. Or my son, with his dimples and curls, will say something and my heart will literally ache with love. Hopefully someday you will read my work and will see that I pretty much always will have a curly redhead and a bossy MC. Now you know where I'm getting it from. *winks*

Odd People
Do you ever notice someone when you're out and make up a history for them?  Maybe it's the really old lady with too much makeup, or a young woman who's eyes are just TOO far apart to be normal. I'm intrigued by non-conventional beauty. Perfect symmetry and Barbie-doll looks are just boring. But the ridiculously mismatched couple with more than a foot and half height difference? Oh, I just want to run home and write a story about them.

Other Writers
I love seeing how other writers work. What sort of environment do they need? How are they distracting themselves researching? What sort of music are they listening to? For example, my friend Heather set an epic word count goal a few weeks ago and tweeted this picture as part of her prep. Now I feel the need to have exactly this environment:

Except maybe I'd add wine.

So, what inspires you?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Ghosts vs. Mermaids - An Epic Battle of Awesomeness

The fabulous Rosemary Clement-Moore and Tera Lynn Childs are co-hosting a contest to answer the age-old question of "Who is better, ghosts or mermaids?"

While mermaids hold a soft spot in my heart thanks to "The Little Mermaid", the answer was obvious: ghosts. I considered using cultural references to prove my point. (Is there a Mermaid Hunters International? No. No there is not. And don't even get me started on "Splash!" versus "Ghost".) In the end, however, I decided to write a short story. After reading, I think you'll agree. *nods seriously*


Moira glanced from the body in her arms to the apparition floating in front of her. “Look, I already said I was sorry. There are rules.”

Rules? You murder me in cold blood and then quote some sort of code as an excuse?”

Dropping the body, she put her hands on her hips and leveled an icy stare at him. “Okay, first of all, everything I do is in cold blood. I'm cold-blooded. You're a scientist. You should know that.

Secondly, did you honestly think that you could dive down here, take pictures of a mermaid, and survive to tell about it? Do you think we've kept our existence a secret for this long by waving hello and then sending you people back to the surface?”

She flicked her tail at him dismissively and dove to retrieve his body. Every few feet his image would appear before her, scowling, until she finally stopped and let out a frustrated growl.

“Isn't there a white light you should be floating toward or something?”

“Well, no. I'm assuming there's something I need to do here first. Isn't that how it works?”

“Don't look at me! I'm a mythical creature. We don't do white lights. When we die we rejoin the great sea-goddess in the eternal ocean.”

She hefted the body into her arms and began to swim again.

“Where are you taking me?” he asked, keeping pace beside her.

“Look, I really don't have time for the questions, okay? I'm supposed to be at a court lunch in 30 flips.”

“Oh, I'm so sorry to interfere with your charming serial killer functions.”

“Dear sweet Oceans, I told you! I can't leave evidence behind. I didn't kill you because I wanted to. I did it so that my entire race of people wouldn't be at risk. Can't you understand that?”

She stopped at the edge of the Great Gaping Maw and dropped him, watching as his body fell into the abyss.

As she began to leave, she noticed that she was having trouble breathing. It was as if something had wrapped itself around her gills. She clawed frantically at her neck, but to no avail. Within several minutes the ocean around her went black.

Opening her eyes, she watched as her body drifted down into darkness.

“Oh, hell.”

“My sentiments exactly,” the ghost-diver said from beside her. “I thought avenging my own death would free me.”

“I can see that,” she conceded. “But it didn't work. So now what?”

He shrugged.

“I don't know. Haunt someone?”

Grinning wickedly, she pointed toward her home.

“Follow me.”


See? Ghosts always win in the end. *grin*

Monday, August 9, 2010

Weekend of AWESOME: Update!

This is just quick little note because I really want to squee with the universe. My alone-weekend was an amazing success. See that little WIP #1 over there in the sidebar? *points to sidebar* I was able to write almost 10,000 words this weekend toward it's completion. Now, sure they're not all fab, and they're not all going to stay, but I just couldn't stop writing.

When my husband and kids came home he asked how my weekend was. As I babbled on and on about the wikisearches I did and the plot that I outlined, he threw in a casual: "I thought for sure you were going to see that vampire movie." My response? "What vampire movie?"

What. Vampire. Movie.

I still haven't seen Eclipse. I have an entire kid-free weekend, the perfect time to go by myself to the theater, buy a large popcorn, and veg out. It didn't even occur to me. This manuscript made me forget about Twilight.

This is epic. And Awesome.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Earning That Book Dedication

My husband is an amazing guy. He's a great father, an excellent provider, and very patient with my many faults in the housewife department. (No, don't worry, this isn't turning into some bad 1950's-era sitcom. He's not perfect, he's just perfect at dealing with me and my imperfections.) The biggest problem we have, actually, is that he wants to spend too much time with me. (I know, such a shame, right?) *winks*

He works a lot, and he works very long and irregular hours. So when he is home, he wants to be spending time with the kids and I. Now, obviously, I enjoy spending time with him. We are married. But sometimes I want this crazy thing called "alone time." I want to be able to go off on my own and sit and write and not feel like I'm ignoring my family. But somehow I always end up sucked into watching whatever he is watching on TV, or discussing some inane detail of our day, or doing whatever else it is that married people do when they're living their lives together.

So, a few days ago, I teased him that if I EVER finished a book, he wasn't going to be in the "thank you" page. In fact, I told him I'd dedicate the book to my ability to write IN SPITE of him. (I may have thrown in some very detailed descriptions of the many ways in which he distracts me. Which, of course, distracted us both from my joking tirade. Hey, I said we're married. We're not dead.)

And then, yesterday, he gave me the greatest present ever: he took the kids to his parents for the weekend. He has no expectations of me. He doesn't want to come home to an uber-clean house or any of the other things that I normally feel guiltily compelled to take care of when I have free time. His instructions were simple: "Eat well, sleep, and write."

And that's exactly what I've been doing. Since he left I've written about 4,000 words, have plotted out probably 3/4 of this book, and have napped. Twice. He has more than earned his book dedication.

He's also earned the right to distract me when he gets home. I'm looking forward to it.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Plot Bunnies In Space

I've had this nagging little plot bunny in the back of my mind for a while. It's spunky, and may have a spaceship and a hologram for a sidekick. And it won't. shut. up. So a few days ago, finally, I opened a fresh document and figured I'd get it down so I could move on. But as I typed, I found I didn't want to move on. It didn't just flow, it poured out of me. I was so excited that I even forced my HUSBAND to read a scene. And he's NOT a YA reader.

But still, I felt guilty. Wasn't I cheating on my WIP with this bright, shiny, new idea? The one that I just figured out the ending for? Shouldn't I continue with the 3/4 written work since, you know, it's THREE QUARTERS DONE? Then I remembered something the very wise (and possibly gifted with some sort of black magic) Heather told me.

When I decided to pull my fanfiction (yes, you who are new here, I wrote fanfiction) and focus on original writing, I was terrified but thrilled. Heather listened to me freak out, then talked me down and then said something like: "You could prove me wrong, but I bet you get two-thirds of the way done with your rewrite and then start something new. These things just work that way."

At the time, I couldn't imagine putting all the work into that much of a manuscript to just set it aside. I may have laughed. A few days ago I told her that she was right. And that I was really, really happy about it. Now, if you'll excuse me, I left a heroine in distress. With some aliens. #awesome

Thursday, July 29, 2010

A Pen and Paper Storm

I've never considered myself a pen-and-paper writer. I find ink much more intimidating than a blank Word document. It could be because "delete" is much easier than scratching out pen marks. Or it could be a type of rebellion against the years of school and note-taking that led me into adulthood. Somewhere in my mind, lined paper equals preparing for exams and lectures that bear no importance to my daily life.

To fight this fear, I keep buying cute notebooks to throw in my purse so that I'm ready when inspiration strikes. Inspiration is usually outweighed by the gravity of WRITING IN INK and then staring at my own scribbles. This is why I bought a netbook. It's a cute little red HP number. It's not fast, or flashy, but it works. With it and Dropbox, I have my WIP at my disposal just about anywhere.

This perfect system was tested a week ago. My husband and I went to Eastern Europe on vacation without kids. Visions of sitting in a cafe, typing away by the Danube, gave way to the reality of a fun but packed vacation. We had a great time. We saw life from a different perspective. We did not have ANY down-time that didn't involve a train or a plane. And I discovered something about myself: I can't write on a train or a plane.

I dutifully took out my tiny computer, opened my document, and stared. And stared some more. And finally opened Bejeweled Blitz and gave up. The problem with the Word doc is that it's perfect for when I'm ready to WRITE but not for when I need to THINK. Sometimes I don't even realize which stage I'm at until I sit down to try. I finally get why the blinking cursor is so scary. Fortunately, I came with a backup notebook. It's small, and cute, and the only way it could be less scary would be if it was pink. It doesn't say, "Write your novel here!" Instead it says, "Jot down ideas! C'mon! No pressure! You know you want to!"

Which is exactly what I did.

On a train from Prague to Budapest, surrounded by loud Europeans and field after field of sunflowers outside my window, I brainstormed. With a pen, paper, and a cute little notebook. By the time we'd arrived, I'd figured out how my WIP was going to end.

Don't tell my husband, but it may be my favorite part of the trip.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Writerly Wolf Pack (OF DOOM)

I read a blog post a while back by Myra McEntire about how writers tend to run in groups. I may have just seen The Hangover, and somehow reading this turned into a fit of giggles with my writing partner, Cheryl, about how I was a one-woman wolf pack no more. Once we were done throwing quotes at each other, we realized it was true.


I have a wolf (Cheryl) who listens to me complain about every flaw in my plot, and rejoices with me when a scene comes out just right. She also bravely shares her work with me, and allows me to do the same.

I have a wolf (Rain) who not only cheers me on, but makes sure I don't lose focus on why I started writing in the first place and encourages me to read. She's perky and relentless.

I have a wolf (Sophie) who reads my scenes with the eyes of a reader, and lets me know what sounds good and what falls flat. She swoons with me over the hot boys, but tells me if they're talking too much (or too little.)

I have a wolf (Sara) who sends me pretty pictures for inspiration and always tells me the truth. She also bakes me cucpakes when she's in my neighborhood, and trust me when I tell you that you wish she'd bake for you.

And I have a wolf who is sort of like a den mother (Heather), giving me the hard advice I need when I need to hear it, but making sure I don't give in to the temptation to give up. (Also, she added "OF DOOM" to my wolf pack name, so she's completely made of win.)

The most amazing thing about my pack is that, save Cheryl and Sara, I've never "met" them. I was lucky enough to bumble into them through various internet mediums and we bonded over shared interests (reading, writing, Hot Boys With Swords.) As much as I wish we could meet over coffee and brainstorm, there's usually someone around no matter when I shoot off an email or tweet an SOS. Besides, I can drink coffee and bullshit plan from my couch, so it works.

In fact, Twitter has gained my Wolf Pack (OF DOOM) several Secret Members, who are so secret that they don't even KNOW they're in my wolf pack. Please don't tell Julie Kagawa or Rosemary Clement Moore that they are Honorary Ancillary Secret Unaware Members. They might stop talking to me on Twitter if they realized that their tweets of "Oh, hey, that's funny!" or "Ash is mine!" meant so much to me. I think Jamie Harrington suspects, since she IS Totally The Bomb, but she still answers my IMs. *does the Secret Handshake*

If When I finally complete my manuscript, the words on the page might be mine, but they never would have made it there without these women. This post is just to say thank you, since I don't have the luxury of an acknowledgements page. If you're a writer too, I hope you're half as lucky as I am.

Long Live the Wolf Pack (OF DOOM)!


Tuesday, June 29, 2010


Okay, so this is more of an intro and a test than anything else. I'm just posting to say hello and put my stamp on my new, writer-ish blog. Why do I need a writer-ish blog, you ask? Well, mostly because I'm sure I have thoughts occasionally that don't fit into any of my OTHER blogs. And, also, because I wanted an excuse to look for a blog design that says "evil genius meets writer full of whimsy." Did it work? ;)