Monday, May 31, 2010

the fog has lifted

ever wake up from a two-month writing spree and find the rest of your world suddenly in focus?

and i don't mean you look around with serene clarity and a satisfied sigh of a job well done.

i mean you literally look up and see all the things that have blurred into the background for weeks. that pile of laundry and the stack of dishes in the sink are crystal clear. all those fuzzy shapes on your "to do" list now look like words demanding your immediate attention. you can finally see your cozy writing work space for what it really is - a big mess in the dining room that will have to be cleaned up tomorrow.

this is the kind of focus that hit me today.

i sent the new manuscript to Agent Almost last night, and when I woke up today, a weight had been lifted off my shoulders.
but the fog lifted too, and i realized i have a couple days of "catch up" ahead of me to get back on top of my chores and errands and other real-life responsibilities.

all this is to say.... i won't have a video blog posted for a little while yet. (not that you're all tuning in every day dying to see it, but i like to keep my promises.)
so hang with me, and i swear - a vlog will come. it's just delayed.

in the meantime, my beta and i are cooking up something fun and hopefully educational for you blog readers. stay tuned... ;)

Sunday, May 30, 2010

thank you

this is for my beta.



that is all for today.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

side effects

creative urges driving you crazy?
itching to put pen to paper?
infected with words and need to purge?

for so many of us, the only cure for these maladies is to write.

writing sooths our souls, scratches that itch and empties our brains before we go mad with ideas.
i popped the writing pill, and now i'm addicted. hopelessly.

it's too late for me, but i'm here to tell the rest of you: writing should come with a warning label, because there are side effects... serious side effects.

WARNING:
Writing has been known to cause ailments, including, but not limited to:
Insomnia
Shooting pains in the wrist
Back aches
(please consult your doctor about ergonomically designed chairs)
Mood swings
Obsessive-Compulsive behavior
Severe side effects may include:
Hearing voices
Loss of time/Daydreams bordering on blackouts
Psychotic rambling
If you experience one or more of these severe adverse effects, please consult your manuscript and increase your writing dosage until all the voices in your head bleed out onto the page.
....or maybe that's just me. ;)
speaking of side effects, i have discovered one awesome side effect of interviewing the most impressive YA blogger around -- HOLY BLOG TRAFFIC, BATMAN!
my hits for yesterday's interview with the fabulous T.H. Mafi have been off the charts.
and better yet - i found some new friends!
Welcome, new followers:
Meredith, Angela, Helena, Matthew, MBW and "Writing Again" !!!!!
welcome as well to:
Vic, EJ, Jamie, Kara and Julie - also recent additions! :)

i believe i mentioned something recently about doing a vlog post if my followers hit 25. guess i'll have to make good on that promise sometime in the next week.
how about this -- when i hit "send" on the email to Agent Almost with my new manuscript, that will be the day i vlog.

i would say, "don't hold your breath," but go ahead and hold it - because i promised him i'd have it in his inbox early next week.

YIKES! guess i should get to work!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

secrets of a successful BLOG

in 2005, Technorati (the ultimate tracker of the blogosphere) reported: a new blog is created every second.

by 2008, the same group was tracking more than 100 million blogs.

it's now 2010, and you're trying to grow your blog following, to create a voice that can be heard over the online cacaphony. i understand why the above statistics may make you want to give up.
but a successful blog can emerge from the din. in fact, one blog that started quietly in march of this year, is now screaming louder than just about any other page in the circle of pre-published YA author blogs - netting hundreds of followers in a few short months.

don't be jealous. just Grab a Pen, and get ready to take some notes... because i present to you an interview with represented author and blogosphere sensation, the one and only:

(but you can call her Tahereh)

ej: you've been blogging since march. some people have been blogging for years and have only a couple dozen followers. you have 425! as a pre-published author, that is a fairy tale. do you have any idea how your blog exploded virtually overnight??

thmafi: um. yes and no. i mean, i don't think my blog actually exploded or anything, but i do think it's pretty cool that people like it enough to follow. i really want to say i have no idea how this happened, but that's not entirely true -- because i researched industry blogs for nearly six months. i read EVERYTHING. i watched popular blogs not only for their amazing content, but because i wondered at how and why they were successful. i studied these things pretty closely. i took the time to ask myself what *i* would want to see in a blog, and made it happen. from the aesthetics to the content -- i never post anything haphazardly.

a couple of points:

a. write with a specific group of people in mind. this helps tremendously, because having a target demographic makes it easier to customize posts. in the literary world, our interests are simple enough: we're looking for a community. we want support. we want to feel like we're not flailing, miserable, lonely and doomed to fail. we want to laugh off the bad times and smile despite the rejection that is an invariable element of the publishing world. there's enough dreariness in life that there's no need to point it out on in a space you hope to share with others. we can't stomach so many depressing things every single day; there has to be an outlet. there has to be a bright spot of hope somewhere, and as much as i try to create that in my own life, i try to recreate it on my blog.

if i had to guess at one thing, i'd say that the upbeat atmosphere i try to maintain in my small internet space is by far my most effective tool in bringing people together.

b. your blog has to look GOOD. if you have enough of a platform, this isn't always necessary, because people will want to read what you write regardless. but it's just like going into someone's house -- if their living room is cluttered and chaotic, it doesn't matter how many times they invite you to stay for tea -- you're going to want to run. you have to create a welcoming environment with soothing colors and graphics and SIMPLICITY. too much clutter is never a good thing -- especially not on a webpage. and if you have too many graphics glittering and glowing and blinking at people, it'll only serve to distract from the focus of your blog. your MAIN header. your MAIN objective. create categories, spaces, different areas that focus on different things. keep your posts clean, minimal, easy to read.

BOTTOM LINE: make things as easy as possible in every single way. links? easy to access. articles? easy to access? pictures? easy to access. everything has to be user-friendly. don't confuse people. (ej note: i should point out here that the green "grab a pen" and "TH Mafi" text above this interview are both clickable links to Tahereh's blog. i probably should have made that clear. on Tahereh's blog, anything clickable is clearly stamped with a 'CLICKY!' note. i'm learning already.)
ej: authors/bloggers often struggle to find topics to write about. you seem to have a bottomless well of ideas. what have been your most successful blog topics - the ones that drew the most hits and/or comments?

thmafi: this is hard to answer, because the response is so varied and vague. people love Funny just as much as they love Inspirational. they love Motivational just as much as they love Informational. it's not JUST content. it's about how you PRESENT that content. be focused when you need to be, be researched when you need to be, be self-deprecating when you need to be, but no matter what, ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS be humble, be patient, be kind. ALWAYS.

ej: ZOMG, your blog is TOTES overflowing with voice! FOR SERIOUS, it has more voice than edward cullen has sparkles!!
do you think a consistent voice/persona strengthens your blog and why?
(if that question reads like it's in another language, you clearly haven't been reading Tahereh's blog: Grab a Pen)

thmafi: absolutely. i never even thought about this when i first started blogging because my "voice" is just my "voice". it's the same voice i use in text messages, in emails to my family, in random notes passed back and forth between friends. but in retrospect i realize the same "voice" we ache for in literature is just as important in a blog. after all, you expect readers to READ. people want to know there's a human being behind those words. so be HUMAN. be willing to laugh at yourself; don't be cold, collected, sterile or TOO PERFECT. no one wants to be friends with a machine. we like people we can relate to, people who have shared our pain and can empathize with our struggle. being sincere, being GENUINE -- this is your voice. embrace it.

ej: are you - and if so, HOW are you marketing your blog? do you cross-pollinate with tweets and forum link love?

thmafi: i don't market my blog except through twitter. i always let my twitter-friends know whenever i've posted a new blog entry. i try to keep up with the blogroll on the AbsoluteWrite forums, but sometimes i forget to update it. so... no, not really marketing it.

ej: your blog posts often come with fun and fancy graphics (that i believe you create yourself, right?), which can only mean your blogs take twice as long to put together as everyone else's. how do you possibly find the time?

thmafi: yea, if i remember correctly, every single graphic you've ever seen on my blog thus far has been of my own creation. so yes. my blog posts sometimes take FOREVER to make -- sometimes upwards of a few days, sometimes a few hours. (wow. and i thought i spent a lot of time on my blog!) i don't think i've ever written a post in under an hour. in addition to writing the post itself, i read and reread my posts for editing, formatting, grammar-mistakes, etc., at least five times before i even post it. and then i read and reread the post at least a few more times after i post it. i hate coming across blog posts that seem to have been written carelessly, riddled with errors of every kind. i never want to be that way with my readers. i never want to let them down. but i have no idea where i find the time, haha. i think the answer is i don't. i just never seem to sleep.

i don't mind though -- i blog because i love to do it.

ej: what made you decide to start blogging (and in what way is that decision related to your writing, if at all)?

thmafi: i've always wanted to blog. always. i've loved the idea since middle school. i had a couple of personal blogs in high school, and random people would always find me and tell me i was funny and/or strangely entertaining. i'd always be surprised that someone thought my trip to Home Depot was hilarious. i've always been comfortable with words, but i didn't want to start blogging as a WRITER until i had an agent. in a strange way, having an agent gave me a sense of purpose -- a kind of validation for devoting this much time to a blog. i think i needed that push.
(Tahereh is represented by Amy Tipton of Signature Literary Agency.)

but i also think it's incredibly important to build a platform as an author. i think anyone interested in pursuing the literary dream should have internet presence. the internet is our oyster these days, and we need to take advantage of it. it's FREE. it's a free resource. it's incredible. and the possibilities are ENDLESS. we just have to know how to use it.

ej: pay it forward! whose blogs inspired/impressed you and whose would you recommend following?

thmafi:
http://www.therejectionist.com/
http://www.misssnark.blogspot.com/
http://blog.nathanbransford.com/
http://www.blogger.com/www.jetreidliterary.blogspot.com
(JUST FOR RIDICULOUS FUN: http://www.blogger.com/www.hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com)

ej: this one is open. give us your best advice for bloggers looking to grow their ranks of followers/besties.


thmafi: this is a dangerously open-ended question. i could write a BOOK in response to this question. but if i have to boil it down to a few simple points, i'd reiterate the importance of being sincere. reach out to others and spare people a comment or two on their blogs. be kind. be supportive. don't bring angst and negativity into the blogosphere. connect with people on a human level while supplying them with something they can actually use -- information of any kind, as long as it's PERTINENT. and even then, don't go overboard. mix it up. don't be too serious or too outlandish all the time, because people will get bored. don't be pretentious and don't OVERSHARE with personal details. leave people wanting more.

it sounds kind of complicated, but it's not -- it's called being human. we have a million different interests and emotions, and our moods are constantly changing. think about yourself and your own interests. think about the things blogs have done that've turned you off.
and then AVOID all of those things.

but no matter what, don't forget to SMILE. :D
*****
and i hope this interview made all of you smile.
now, the best way to better your blog is to watch and learn, just as Tahereh suggested. so I suggest you start by observing how she does it. check out the "Grab a Pen" blog at: stiryourtea.blogspot.com.
THANK YOU, TAHEREH!! CONGRATS ON YOUR BLOGGING SUCCESS AND GOOD LUCK ON YOUR PATH TO PUBLISHING!!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

impossible endings

gah! writing challenge fail AND blog fail!

missed yesterday's post because, simply, it was friday, and i had fun stuff to do. :)
i also wrote only a couple hundred words yesterday, which means i have my work cut out for me today and tomorrow.

my 'drop-dead'line for sending this polished puppy to Agent Almost is the 27th. that will be two months to the day that i got my revision letter. that seems like a reasonable amount of time, and the journalist in me just HAS to work on a deadline, or i'd never get anything done.

NOW, on to the REAL POINT OF THIS POST: ENDINGS

working on my own ending has me thinking about just how difficult it is to satisfy an audience, especially if they've been fans up to the end.

tomorrow, LOST comes to an end, and i have already resigned myself to the fact that i will most likely be disappointed. no matter how genius their story, how cleanly they wrap it up, there is nothing they can do to make me go "wow" at this point.

and here's why:
the best part was the mystery.
the guessing game, the trading theories with other fans, the anticipation, the "aha!" moments that only led to bigger mysteries. the appeal was in the not-knowing.

my book (without giving too much away, and with all modesty and humility) is very much a "will-he-won't-he-and-how" page-turner. once i get to the end and answer those questions, i feel anything i say beyond that will only be disappointing, because the anticipation is over, and that was the fun part.

i like to think of this as Harry Potter Syndrome. there was so much hype and anticipation over the epilogue, it almost didn't matter how JK Rowling ended the actual story. everyone was just dying to know what happened after that. and, inevitably, most folks were disappointed. they wanted to know why their favorite character was left out of the ep.. or just exactly what ron and harry had done to revolutionize the auror system, etc... basically, we wanted an encyclopedia, not an epilogue. (and bless JK, she's giving us one.) but the point is - there is nothing she could have written that would have made all the millions of potter fans say: "ahhh. perfect."

the manuscript i sent to the 4 agents who requested fulls had the wrong ending - the easy ending.
i punted.
as a result, i got one outright 'no' - two 'revise and resubs' that both mentioned the ending - and one Agent Almost, who also nixed the ending but gave me a chance to fix it.

that just puts a girl under more than a little pressure to make it "ahhh perfect."

Thursday, May 20, 2010

superpowers

you know that question people sometimes ask... 'if you could have any superpower, what would it be?'
i hate that question. (ok, i don't really hate it. and, ok, i'm usually the one asking it.) but the point is - i never know how to answer it. it's too hard to pick just one! i often fall back on invisibility or supernatural charm, but those never actually feel right.

well tonight, i finally decided.

but let me keep you in suspense for one second while i tell you how i decided.

i have been writing since i got home tonight - a solid two hours. i put off all my chores. i neglected my dog. and right now, i'm even realizing that i forgot to eat dinner.
what do i have to show for all that? ...STILL only one-third of my new ending written.

i already know this week of goals is going to end this way:
BlogChallengeWIN - WritingChallengeFAIL ...EPIC FAIL.

i was thinking about that as i closed my manuscript tonight and said to myself: 'I wish I had more time.'
and i realized it's something i say all. the. time. i don't think more than two days ever go by without me saying, 'There aren't enough hours in the day.'

so i have finally hit on it.
my superpower would be... TO CONTROL TIME.

i wouldn't even need some mega-time-warping-bending-traveling sort of superpower. i just want to be able to freeze time with the blink of an eye.
blink. 6 hours of sleep just became 8.
blink. 1 hour of writing in the morning is now 4.

and i could speed it up if i wanted to too.
blink. that 9 hour work day just zipped by in 20 minutes.

you get the idea.

so, what would your superpower be?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

cover art



this is a little array of book covers i love. i see bloggers post their faves all the time, and i wanted to share mine too. you can see i like simple covers and the occassional captivating facial close-up.
i especially like the covers that manage to be super simple and still tell a story or evoke an emotion. there is humor in the "flipped" cover, suspense in the "time" cover and a sense of the bizarre in the "the little girl and the cigarette" cover.
what kind of cover draws you in?
by the way, i managed to get through my beta chapter revisions today, so half of today's goals accomplished, for those of you keeping track. ;)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

the rules of writing/life

i've learned so much about writing since i decided to pursue it seriously. the knowledge i've gained could fill an encyclopedia. and lately i've been thinking - so many of the "rules" of writing are really universal truths that can be applied to life in general.

so here are a few, off the top of my head.
The Rules of Writing ...Life

1) Your backstory is probably a lot less interesting than what's happening right now.

2) When you hit a rough patch, don't give up. Push through it, and keep moving forward with your story.

3) Don't just tell (people how you feel); Show them.

4) As much as your story sounds like a dozen others out there, it's probably completely unique.


5) When you get to "the end," you're just getting started.

Give me some more! What writing rules can you apply to your own life?