I was asked an interesting question at Ringling College last night, and I have something else to say about it. "How do we help men who can't write women well?" was the question, and I gave a kind and tolerant answer. Try to teach them. Beta their work. Hope for the best. BUT. 1/
I also added that the reading public votes with their dollars. Buy the books with well-written women who are not objects, damsels, vessels, or plot points. Spread the word about them. Email the publisher. And don't buy the books that do a bad job. Leave honest reviews. BUT. 2/
We're in a new, weird world where folks feel pretty comfortable saying awful things in public, whether against women, POC, LGBTQIA And we have to find it in ourselves to speak up, honestly and calmly and thoughtfully. "I disagree," we can say, and why. "I don't like it." 3/
Seeing a lot of questions about R&Rs, which is when an agent reads your query and pages, generously offers incisive critique, and says, "If you make the edits I've mentioned, I'd be glad to look again." So let's talk about that. 1/
Here is the kind of thing you might see in an R&R:
* it's hard to categorize as MG, YA, or adult; pick one & refocus
* it starts slow; cut the 1st chapter & revise
* tension lags; plot drags; protagonist needs motivation
* ending doesn't land
* I don't believe the romance
Things a new writer will think about an R&R:
* if I cut the 1st chapter, it'll work as is
* if I change the title/protag name, it'll work
* if I don't send it back within 20 minutes, she'll forget me
NOPE NOPE NOPE.
Take your time. Dig deep. Make it the best book possible. 3/
So I make it a point to be available and involved here on Twitter. If you have an unGoogleable writing question, I'll try to answer it, whether with 1 tweet or 30. But you might notice I never answer negative tweets. Let me tell you why. 1/
1. Negativity is parasitic garbage. I don't want it in my head, and I don't want to spread it. If you're convinced that the game is rigged and the world is against you, IT IS. Because of the way you're thinking about it. That's not sustainable for a career creative. 2/
2. If you're whining at me instead of taking advantage of an open forum to ask me anything about writing, editing, publishing, novels, comics, cons, or self-care, and the best you can come up with is mealy-mouthing, there is nothing I say that will help you. Lost cause. 3/
Some thoughts today about what it's like to write a great book that never finds a wide audience. Did you know that the 4 books of the Shadow series have received a total of 7 starred reviews? That's kind of a big deal. And yet... no one's ever heard of it, really. 1/
We thought Wake of Vultures would land with a splash back in 2015. I went to SIBA, I went to sales conference and spoke w Mario Batali. The book did ok, but not great, was never in Target or the airport, despite amazing reviews. Why? NO IDEA. No one knows! Because publishing. 2/
When you're a new writer, you think that if you just write a great book and do everything you're told to, the book will find its wings and soar. You tick all the checkboxes and wait for the world to love your book. Sometimes, even w publisher support, it just doesn't happen. 3/
I had a little epiphany yesterday regarding hobbies. See, I went to a yoga class in the zoo, then exchanged my mats for my DSLR camera and just floated around, taking pictures. I never go to the zoo without my kids, so it was a delicious treat. Just me and my camera. 1/
So there, I am, taking pics at the zoo, and this mom asked me if I was a professional photographer. And I said no. And she asked me what I do with my pics. And I was like... nothing? I share a few on social media, but that's it. And they were puzzled. And it made me think. 2/
Somewhere along the way, I got the idea that hobbies had to be practical, that they had to lead to some ultimate end. A softball trophy, a gallery show, knitted goods, a publishing career. I forgot that hobbies are supposed to be for pleasure alone. 3/
So, shall we talk about PITCHING? No, not with a softball, although I was on the All-Star team for that as a kid. How do you craft an elevator pitch? How do you write a hook? How do you spitball ideas without freaking out? This is a skill you need in your writer's toolbox. 1/
First, an elevator pitch. You need one short statement that you memorize that can sum up your book easily for any modern person. It's best to mix 2 concepts, maybe 3. And if you're not sure about your work, practice on other well-known properties to get limbered up. 2/
Frex, here are some of my pitches:
Wake of Vultures = It's Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets Lonesome Dove.
Hit = It's a teen mercenary in a bank-owned America.
Sparrowhawk = Alice in Wonderland meets Fight Club with Alexander McQueen.
Ladycastle = Feminist Monty Python for kids. 3/
So here's our topic: HOW DO YOU STAY ON COURSE WHILE WRITING A BOOK? How do you stick to one idea instead of letting all the other ideas crowd in? How do you maintain focus and sift through your choices? 1/
Firstly, you might dig this thread about BLINDERS:
It talks about how to maintain energy, focus, and concentration while writing a book. But rn, we're talking about generating and using ideas to help your book. How do you choose the right ingredients? 2/
Real talk: The first time I tried to write a book, I didn't get past the first paragraph because I couldn't decide on the heroine's eye color, and I felt like if I got that wrong, the whole book was doomed. BALDERDASH. Eye color doesn't matter, and Find & Replace can fix that. 3/
It's Friday night, and I am PMS personified, so I will tell you a sad story. In 2009, I made a vision board and painted all the things I wanted in my life. Two of them were: Get weight down to 140, get a hobby, and find a job making $1000/month from home. That's what I wanted. 1/
I recently found the vision board and was delighted to see how many of my 2009 dreams became real. I found a hobby: writing. I turned it into a job making $1000/month (or more!). I weigh exactly 140 pounds. But here's the sad thing. 2/
Every day, I feel like I'm not making enough money and like if I take any time to rest or smell the roses, I'll fall behind and tank my career. And every day I look in the mirror and wish I weighed 10 pounds less. I have everything I wanted... and it doesn't feel like enough. 3/
So according to yesterday's tweet, the writerly fears popping up the most are:
* fear of never finishing
* fear of never finding an audience/being read
* fear you're not good enough
* fear you'll never go pro
* fear you won't have time to write all your stories
You are not alone!
I've mentioned this before, but I don't think I would be a writer today if I hadn't undergone a fundamental mental/emotional change back in 2008, when my son was born. Dunno if it was giving birth, dividing my consciousness between 2 babies, or XY chromosomes in my blood... 2/
But something big shifted in me, and I no longer let fear stop me. I was a VERY fearful kid. Not open to experience. Heavily introverted. Terrified of new people and places. Bad traveler. Never took risks. Was terrified of rejection/hurt. And then all that... disappeared. 3/
Here's something to talk about this morning: BLINDERS. Blinders are these little flaps on horse bridles that keep racehorses or carriage horses from seeing 75% of the world so they don't freak out and can just do their job. Writers need blinders, too. 1/
A big part of writing is transforming meaningless ideas and wild expectations into a solid object. Ideas are easy and plentiful and worth pretty much nothing unless you do the work to get them down on paper and perfect them. But your brain is lazy, and distractions are many. 2/
Now, I know procrastination and research are a big part of most writing processes, and we know all writing processes are different. But many of us have a problem with being distracted instead of turning our ideas into books, and for me, that requires management. Blinders! 3/
Shall we talk about motivation, then? About why we create and what keeps us going? Honestly, it doesn't matter, so long as you keep going. That's the soul of being a writer-- you just keep writing. Even if you fail, even if it's hard, even if you worry it isn't your best work. 1/
I was a visual artist working in a non-profit arts center, before kids. Then a SAHM. When my youngest stopped sleeping, so did I. My brain broke. Husband suggested I write a book. My answer? SURE WHY NOT. Because all fear was gone, then. So I threw myself at that crappy book. 2/
The 1st book felt like a mad dare. Like challenging the gods. But I wrote it, edited it. Then learned how to query... by googling. The first few rejections hurt, but then I realized... they didn't matter. I could keep writing books and querying them forever. I got stubborn. 3/
Okay, gang. My old thread about writing a synopsis disappeared, so LET'S TALK ABOUT WRITING A SYNOPSIS. Because it doesn't have to be scary. It's just work, simply time on task. Writing the book was the hard part. So, how do you write a synopsis? Here's my process. 1/
Writing a synopsis is not hard. Repeat: WRITING A SYNOPSIS IS NOT HARD. But you must dedicate yourself to the process 100%. I think most folks stare at their book and try to write a synopsis by remembering everything that happens in 100k words. Don't do that. It wastes time. 2/
Here's what I do. I get a notepad and a pen and open my doc. And I skim through THE ENTIRE BOOK, writing down plot points. Action + emotion. So, yeah, it takes a 3 hours. At the end, I have pages of notations like:
- Nettie awakened by black mare
- goes outside, meets stranger 3/
So I'm working on a novella, and I need about 6k of story. And it's making me think about how to fill in those empty spots in your outline, when your character needs an adventure that works as a linking scene. So let's talk about that. 1/
First of all, as I cogitate on a book, I get ideas for certain scenes and keep a running list at the bottom of the doc. Frex, from Wicked as They Come: ghost in a lighthouse, apple orchard, angry ex in a rowboat. So I look to see if one of those will work in the space given. 2/
This list of scenes comes from flashes I get as I flesh out the worldbuilding and character. But they're more about a visual. I have to consider the emotionality and how to make this scene a liver, not an appendix. It has to MATTER, not just be pretty and take up space. 3/
If I could change 1 thing about my debut year as an author, I wish someone in power had looked me in the eye and said, "You wrote a good book, and you're a good writer, but we are not pushing your book. There is no way it will hit list. Just have fun." Truth > disappointment. 1/
Because y'all: THEY KNOW. They know how to sell books. There is no mystery. It is in the publisher's hands. And now that I've witnessed the difference between a decent book tossed into the chummy water and a bestseller-to-be pushed through, I wish I'd known that in 2012. 2/
With my first... heck, 3 books, I spent release week watching Amazon like a hawk, thinking people would find the book, and love it, and spread it, and it would get the love it deserved, and it would become a bestseller. Sorry, no. It takes WORK. Tons of push. And $. And luck. 3/
So let's talk about writing schedules. What's got 2 thumbs and has never followed one? THIS GIRL. So what motivates me to write, and, more importantly, what motivated me before I had contracted deadlines? The answer may surprise you. 1/
Only one thing drives me to write books: OBSESSION. Ferocious love. From the beginning, I've thought of writing as my escape, as this special and important calling. Not drudgery, not *eyeroll* work. I get this fierce, desperate glee as I plan a story. Like planning a vacation. 2/
I don't think of my books as lofty literary works, as tomes that contribute to the betterment of humanity. I think of them as pulp, as escapes, as part of the long tradition of fireside tales. It helps take off the pressure, I think, not trying to write 'literature'. 3/
One night, I woke up at 4:12am, heard a sound, panicked, and ran outside. I ran so fast I almost slipped going down the stairs. My blood pressure went nuts. Why? Because I'd left the hose running in the pool. And that made me think about TENSION IN WRITING. 1/
So often, early writers will neglect tension unless it's OMG THE MOST TENSION EVER THE END OF THE WORLD. When you're focused on worldbuilding and plot, it can be easy to forget the frustration you feel when a coworker eats your sammy or someone you dislike calls. 2/
Confession: For my first few books, my agent advised I create an Excel spreadsheet, break the book down by chapter, and rate each chapter on how much tension was in it. My first book was, um, mostly 4s. That was eye opening. And a good tool for inserting more tension. 3/
So here is a story about the dumbest $40 I ever spent and how I turned it around. Gather round! 1/
So yesterday, my mom offered to keep my kids overnight. I've been working 12 hour days, writing and editing, so I flailed and recognized my need for adventure and decided to force Disney World upon my husband. It's only an hour away, and we had 16 days to use up 2 FL tix. Yay! 2/
But we had to hurry, so we packed our bags and got on the road at 4:30 to hit dinner at 8:30 at Epcot. Easy drive, cheap hotel, hit Soarin' and Spaceship Earth and skidded in to dinner at San Angel Inn. Great date! So happy! But then. Disaster struck!! 3/
Today's topic: Getting past THE BOTTLENECK. THE BOTTLENECK is what I call it when a task grows so big, so pendulous, so painful that it settles on you like a little depression-- but you're so deep in it that you can't see it. 1/
How to know if you have a BOTTLENECK:
* you felt fine, but a task arrived, and then you felt bad/anxious
* you dread the task
* you feel like the task is chasing you
* you have trouble doing anything else
* you're neglecting all other tasks while procrastinating on this one 2/
THE BOTTLENECK, for me, is often something that doesn't actually move me forward. A task from the past, something that matters more to other people than it does to me. Sorting shit after my dad's death. Doing an edit on an old book. Paying a debt. Unpaid work. DON'T WANNA. 3/
So I was thinking today about this concept I call "The $50 solution to a $2000 problem." Do you guys get this? It's basically where you get caught in a thought loop instead of doing the easy solution. For example: 1/
Every day, I work inside the house, and it makes me feel kinda stir crazy. So I start thinking I need a beach retreat, or a trip somewhere new. I get researching on Expedia. But what do I really want? Fresh air. So I bought a little patio bistro table and chair at Target. 2/
Our lizard brains are sensitive but not always clever. Brain shouts LET ME OUT, you think it means Hawaii. But it just wants a walk. Or you think you need a gym membership and personal trainer when you just need to walk around the block and do some squats. Go easy/cheap 1st. 3/
One of the most important skills to learn if you want to write IP = how to show voice right out of the gate. That's why you generally need many books under your belt-- so you can dive into the pool instead of slowly immersing in chapter 1. It has to be there from page 1
My first few books = the first chapter was me slowly immersing, telling myself the story and making it 'real'. Why? Because it didn't feel real to me and I felt like I had to make the reader know everything I knew. With time, I learned to get where I was going faster.
But you can't ramp up to being Han Solo. You must immediately be in that voice, w those mannerisms, good enough to please superfans. And that's a skill that can generally only be learned through years of doing it wrong until you figure out how to do it right in your own books.
We have a question: What was it like writing your first book? Was it overwhelming? Answer: Nah, it just felt out. LIKE BABIES DO. Let's talk about it.
I wouldn't be a writer at all if my brain hadn't broken. See, when I was 31, my second child stopped sleeping, and so did I. 3.5 hours a night, if I was lucky. And I straight-up started hallucinating. I heard mice talking in the walls. But... there were no mice.
So I went and asked my husband about these mice, and since he's a psychologist, he handled it in the best possible way, which was not locking me up a la The Yellow Wallpaper. He put me on a sleep schedule and suggested I commit to a hobby just for me, a creative outlet: Writing.
I noticed several threads today on how writers glomp, and how many of us ache to join a glomp, especially with writers we admire. And how that often goes awry. And how it's awkward on both sides. And since I'm stuck in this dang airport for 2 dang hours, I HAVE THOUGHTS.
I wrote my first book in 2009. I didn't know anyone in publishing. So when my first book came out in 2012, I'd never been to a con. This poor little introvert had to quickly level up as a crafstman and public figure. I felt so awkward, like a hopeful imposter who didn't belong.
So here's how I LEARNED TO GLOMP. First of all, I went to the local indie bookstore with my galleys to make friends. They were so nice, and they said another new local author had stopped by recently, so I looked him up on Twitter. And luckily, that was @JamesTuckwriter!
A thread this morning on FLIPPING THE SWITCH. This is the name I've given to a certain set of behaviors I exhibit whenever I make a major change in my life--or even a series of little changes. Happens most often as I come out of a depression, and it's invaluable to me.
First, to paint a picture, here's what my depression looks like: I slowly fall into it without noticing. I don't like bathing. I sleep too much. I never feel awake or energized. I eat mindlessly. I withdraw from people. I wear only pajamas, hair in a bun. I lean into work.
I don't generally realize I'm depressed until I'm about to come out of it and can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I read self-help books, clean up my diet, and cogitate on how to feel better. So when I feel a roadblock, I stop and consider why. And try to hack it.
Oh, my friends. 99% of the time, I can smile politely when strangers want to chat about Star Wars. I do not engage. I do not let on my deep roots or my current involvement. But tonight, when a cashier tried to geeksplain me, I LET THE NEXU CAT CLAWS OUT.
I was buying a BB-8 lanyard-- for the Disney cruise I'll be on as a guest speaker for Star Wars Day at Sea next week-- and the cashier said, "This is not the droid you're looking for." And I said, "I assure you that it is." And he said, "Well, do you know what that's from?"
So I said, "A New Hope."
And he said, "No. Star Wars."