Monday, May 17, 2010

Cross my heart, and all that jazz

Disclaimer: I know a few things in this list are things I should be doing anyways, and this isn't a "I-won't-do-this-unless" whiny brat type deal. It's just a promise.

Here it is, peeps. The list of things Kira MUST do. I have two lists, actually. One must happen if I get an agent, and the other will occur if I get a book deal. Yeah.

List #1 (agent):

1) Participate in DM for a second time.
2) Bake 100 cupcakes and give them away at the arch (or other public venue if I've already graduated)
3) Do stand up Comedy (I can't get up the nerve to do this).
4) Pretend to be a student at Hogwarts for a day. Sigh.
5) Go to dinner at fancy shmancy restaurant with bunch of friends. Drink wine. (haha, I PROMISE)

List #2 (published):
1) Run a 5k. I'm not even kidding, folks. It'd totally happen.
2) Donate to charity. Like this one. Or this one. Or this one. Any other ideas?
3) Skydiving. Gulp.
4) Dye the tips of my hair blue.
5) I feel like a party is a given, but I'll write it here anyways. Super cool party. Yes.

Did I miss anything? Is there stuff on here that shouldn't be? Speak now or forever hold your peace...

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Productivity, anyone?

It's kind of amazing how productive I am in the writing area when I have so much pending school work.

God, I hope my parents aren't reading this.

Anyways, tomorrow I'll make my promises regarding the universe and if I get published and stuff (you remember that post, right?). And by tomorrow, I mean the next time I'm academically pressured enough to procrastinate via this blog.

This weekend was super fun, for various reasons. Mostly today, though as a whole I'm pretty happy with the past few days. Friday I went to Buffalo Wild Wings with a bunch of friends, then went back to the room for a few drinks and an epic (or maybe not so epic) showing of the Blair Witch Project (!!!). Saturday I spent in my room being a creeper. Luckily, one of my friends found me and decided to creep with me (by creep, I totally mean watching chick flicks and reading Percy Jackson).

But today? Today was EPIC. It started with a productive writing date at Kafein (1000 words. Not too shabby if I may say so myself). Then I hung out with my birthday friend (19, people. Wish her a Happy Birthday!!), and then SHE bought ME and a bunch of peeps dinner. Very classy place. Good food, too. Not gonna lie, the dessert was my absolute favorite part. Chocolate Fondant, anyone (see above picture)?

Afterwards, we went to a campus-wide Mulan sing along. Yes. We sang along to Mulan (like that one time) like a bunch of fiends, and it was so. damn. fun.

Even in the cold. Even in the unforgiving Chicago cold (It's MAY, if you haven't noticed, Chicago. Have some decency, why don't you?!). It was so worth it.

Which brings you all up to speed on my life. Right now I want more than ever to work on my WIP, but I have a paper to write, so I suppose I'll go wallow in my room like the procrastinating English Major that I am.

Hope your weekend was awesome too!!!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

I can haz compliments?

Yeah, so my grammar has fallen to lolcats status, if only because of my recent obsession with kittehs.


FINE. I've always been obsessed with those tiny, adorable little furballs, but lately there have been too many around for my own good. Like here:

Or here:

Yeah. It's tough living in a dorm when everywhere you go there are cats.

But cats, strangely enough, have nothing to do with this blog. Really. This post is about compliments.

Story time: I dated a guy in freshman year who helped me realize one of my biggest pet peeves. It wasn't a favor, and I wasn't amused, because he was the one committing this unforgivable sin. He gave me false compliments.


I HATE false compliments. As I complained to him that my fiction had been ripped apart (two weeks after we met, no less), he said, "they obviously don't know how great of a writer you are."

Alright, let's get something straight. I'm not an evil bitch, and I'm aware that he was probably trying to be nice. But he'd never read any of my stuff, and the comment just sounded false. I come from the singing world (alright, I was in choir through freshman year of college), and people are just loaded with fake compliments. You could cringe through an entire song and still smile. "That was good," you'd say, crossing your fingers behind your back.

But in singing, as well as writing, honesty is the best policy. Granted, it's nice to believe you're on the top of the world when you're just starting out, and most parents out there know they've lied about their kid's __ (insert annoying and underdeveloped hobby here), but once you're in the big leagues, once you take your craft seriously, you know more than anyone how annoying a false compliment can be.

Natalie Whipple posted about an issue on the other side of this coin. Sometimes (a lot of the time) writers just become wary of compliments all together. They doubt the validity of any compliment, no matter how sincere it may be.

So how do we solve this problem for writers and their well meaning friends everywhere? I think it needs to be worked on from both sides. Friends, listen to Doctor Seuss: Say what you mean and mean what you say. It's tempting to tell a white lie sometimes, and maybe you think that a small compliment couldn't hurt, even if it's not true. You might be right. Of course, you might be like the friends of those terrible singers who audition for American Idol.

As for the writers? We need to realize that not every compliment is false. Sure, take that compliment with a grain of salt. But ignoring genuine compliments in the writing business is almost as harmful as an inflated ego.

Balance, grasshoppers. Balance.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Editing the Beast

This post is exactly what the title says.

Are you ready?

So I just sent out (literally, just now) my manuscript to Mr. Agent from the contest. I feel excited, scared, nervous, hopeful, terrified, but above all, completely drained.


Because I was a dumbass and decided to start editing the book on WEDNESDAY. Mr. Agent posted the announcement on MONDAY. I've always sucked at deadlines, which will probably be bad if my writing career ever goes legit. On the other hand, I've heard that procrastination is an important talent for every writer to develop.

But now it's done, and I feel exponentially better about M-town. Whenever I go through an editing session with my book, I feel like I throw myself in a dysfunctional relationship. First I'm in love, then doubt flares up. Disgust comes into the equation more than once, but there's too much passion and intensity for me to give up on it. In the end, I love it no matter what. I see its flaws, but I also think the good qualities outweigh the bad.

Ignore the crazy, and let's continue.

I'm sure I've done posts on editing before, but I think this material is new, so here goes. I kept a sort of list as I went through each chapter, and I'm going to share that information with you now. Please don't use it against me.

1) Awkward writing. I wish I could tell you how to avoid it, but I do it all the time. In one of the first contests I entered, the judge complained about this and I almost had a hissy fit. Really? Awkward writing? How subjective is that?

It IS subjective, to a point. It's kind of like saying that Phoebe from Hey Arnold was awkward. Some could argue that she's just a smart introvert. But that Eugene kid that stalks Helga? The one with the loud breathing? Undeniably awkward.

Keep Eugene out of your writing.

2) Danger words. These vary for everyone, so just keep an eye out for whatever yours are. Chances are, at least some of them will be adverbs (I had to watch out for exactly, very, and slightly). Body movements became a problem too, because let's face it, you can only say "smile" a certain number of ways. Sure, your characters can nod, frown, squint, and sigh, but don't have them do it three times in one page.

3) First person stuff. I'm not sure if it's just me, but stuff crops up and all of my beta readers blame it on first person. I'm starting to agree with them. Let me explain: I noticed, I realized, I saw, I ...

Of course, you could just as easily write "he noticed, he realized," but I think it's easier to over use these phrases in first person.

4) Dialogue Tags. Authors and agents blog constantly about these, with good reason. This ties a little in with adverbs (he said quietly), but are quite hazardous on their own (I called, she chastised).

Keep it to "Said" whenever possible, because believe it or not, the reader won't notice most of the time.

5) Forcing action. If something intense is happening, don't ruin it by adding "suddenly" at the front of the sentence. Same thing goes for "in a second" and "momentarily."

Just don't do it.

6) Sentence structure. Keep variety going throughout the narrative. Don't have too many consecutive short sentences or long sentences unless you have a damn good reason.

7) -ing. I actually think these are fine, right up until they become the bread and butter of your book. Everything in moderation.

I had to rip all of these bad habits out of my book this week, and trust me, it hurt. It was also for the best. I think my book is exponentially better now than it was five days ago. Yay!

By the way, I see you guys. I know a BUNCH of people read this blog, but there's only 1 comment on my last post. I DO need some ideas to appease the publishing gods, so PLEASE help me out. Thanks ahead of time :)

Alright, I'm treating myself to some Supernatural before I start my history paper (eek!). I'll keep all you cool cats updated about Mr. Agent.

Much love,

You Tell Me: Appeasing the Publishing Gods and stuff

See, sometimes this blog falls into a funk, and I don't update for weeks. Other times, I can't help but update three times a day.

Like today.


Ok, so the amazing Veronica Roth, a NU graduate, recently got a book deal. Apparently she made a list of things she would do if that ever happened, and she came through on her promise, as evidenced here. Go watch it. Did you? Yeah. That just happened. Marshmallows.

She's not the only author to make such promises. In fact, many authors do it. I've read of some who dyed their hair various colors, vow to reenact certain music videos, etc. They do this in the midst of query hell, and it just occurred to me, that's where I am right now.

So what the hell?

Let's spice things up and offer a few sacrifices to appease the publishing gods! (Insert maniacal cackle here)

If you have any ideas for something crazy (keep it clean, people) or not so crazy, leave something in the comments. For now, here are a few of my ideas (which are at this point up for debate:

Normal stuff:
1) Lots and lots of community service. I'm talking campus kitchens, tutoring kids in English, music, and writing, maybe even Peace Corps (ok, that last one might be exaggerating).

2) Donating to charity. This one is actually a guarantee.

3) Run a marathon. This is a doozy. I don't want to do this, but it'd sure be a show of gratitude...

4) Do DM next year (this gives me a short amount of time. Let's just say I'll do this if I get an agent by October...) For those of you not in the know, DM is a 30 hour dance marathon, in which each dancer must raise 400 dollars in order to participate. I did it my sophomore year, and it was PAINFUL.

5) Take a few friends to dinner. Ok, this is kind of a cop out compared to the rest of them, but it's also important. AND it'd be a really nice restaurant. I've already picked it out. But if I told you, then I'd ruin the surprise. More on that later though.

That's all I got for normal stuff. Any suggestions???

Crazy stuff:

1) Dye my hair blue. No, really.

2) Impromptu musical concert starring me and my guitar. You'll find us at the Rock. Yes, I'm an attention whore.

Note: I'm thinking really hard, because I really want something crazy/embarrassing.

3) Oooh! What about a breakdancing (or other type of dance... after a few lessons), in public, recorded and then put on youtube? No. Never mind. Too much.

4) Skydiving. 'Nuff said.

5) Redbull. Best friends. Car. Roadtrip. Camera. Is that crazy enough? Eh, I'll do it anyways.

I'm so out of ideas it's not even funny. Anyone, seriously, tell me what YOU think I should do if I get an agent/book deal (again, keep it clean).

You have one week to leave comments. I'll consider them, and then next Wednesday, my official promises are going up. Then there's no looking back. It is SO on.

Beyonce and Mr. Hyde

Song of the day:

Yeah, that's the kind of mood I'm in, and Destiny's Child is the perfect cure. Actually, no. I think that listening to music that echoes the mood one feels only exacerbates it, though I'm still on the fence about whether that's a bad thing or not.

Today in English we're talking about Robert Louis Stevenson, who authored the famous Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The lecture is pretty enjoyable, considering how much it talks about change. In the words of my professor, "What happens when voluntary change becomes involuntary?"

As usual, it makes me think of werewolves and the problems my main protagonist in M-town faces. Obviously I can't divulge TOO much, but let's just say she'd never choose to turn into Mr. Hyde. She'd run the other way or even drink poison before choosing to make that transformation.

But that's the thing, isn't it? That particular change isn't voluntary for Rachel, but certain changes CAN be. It all depends on the way she views the situation. She can, like Dr. Jekyll, view her situation as a transformation into a monster, OR she can just view it as different.

Granted, Mr. Hyde was "A soul boiling with causeless hatreds" and Rachel just turns into a wolf, but still. You get the point.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Nathan Bransford is my hero

He's one of the coolest agent-bloggers out there. Just saying.

Today, he wrote a great post on series bibles. I've read a little about the idea before, and made one for my first novel (which made writing it exponentially easier). Read his post here.

Here's a bit of his post:

The Series Bible is a lifesaver when your brain has reached capacity.

What to include:

Characters: What they look like (just copy and paste straight from the book), how many brothers and sisters they have, important events in their past, personality traits, etc. Also, any unique schedules they have, hobbies, etc. I'd include all characters, major and minor. You never know who's going to reappear.
Worlds/Planets/Lands/Classrooms/etc.: What they look like, their backstory, any important details, etc.
Rules of Law: Any important/unique laws or conventions, styles, etc.
Any backstory that happens off the page: Make sure you know and keep track of all the key details.
Inventions/Special Powers: This is important, especially for science fiction and fantasy. When you invent something, even when it's just barely mentioned, it can create huge repercussions for the rest of the story. For instance, if you introduce a personal hyperwarp drive, whenever a character is in trouble your reader will be like, "Duh, use the personal hyperwarp drive, USE THE PERSONAL HYPERWARP DRIVE!!" Keep track of our inventions and powers, and make sure their rules of use are clearly delineated.
Anything else you need to remember for later

Your Series Bible will save you when you paper over a plot hole only to open up a big ole gaping chasm somewhere else in the book.

I would like to respectfully add:

1) Whatever outline you use

2) Pictures (if you're like me and slave over google until you've found THE PERFECT ACTOR to represent your characters, as well as THE PERFECT PICTURE of your setting, be it a dark alleyway, a regal old building, or a bunch of trees)

3) Important timelines (because it's really, REALLY easy to mess up timing in a book)

4) Planning for next books in the series/ Important notes about previous books in series

I think that's about it. Now go. Take a binder and make it a bible. You won't regret it!

Monday, May 3, 2010

A break from the doom and gloom

Alright, so in an astonishingly short amount of time, I'm over that particular rejection. That's SO last hour.

Agent Jim McCarthy posted the contest results today!! Now I need to edit a teensy bit more before sending the manuscript his way. Gulp.

I'm like, 98% excited and 2% scared. Or maybe it's 98% scared and 2% excited. That's what makes it so awesome though.

Click here to read the whole post, though I've pasted a bit of it below:

We have a winner from last week’s poll! At the end of the business day on Thursday, the author who had accumulated the most votes was K whose “I wondered if the girl at the front desk knew that things like me existed,” garnered a healthy 236 votes!

So K, bring it on! Send me your manuscript, and I’ll review it promptly.

Everyone else, don’t be discouraged if you weren’t chosen as a finalist or if you didn’t win. Do feel free to query me—there were lots of great entries!

Congratulations to all nine finalists! There were some amazing first lines!

Also, I must repeat this (because I'm so amazed that this happened): Super huge thanks to everyone who voted, tweeted, blogged, and linked the contest to Facebook! You're all awesome!!! Read my earlier thank-you blog here.

Alright people. Start your engines. Ready, set, edit!

I need a damn key or something

This post is more for my peace of mind more then anything else, but I hope you guys get something out of it, too.

I recently came across a post by Jill Corcoran, called "The Dissection of Rejection." It's full of inspirational quotes that I feel obligated to share with you:

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘press on’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.” ~ Calvin Coolidge

“Some guys they just give up living, others start dying little by little piece by piece, some guys come home from work and wash up, and go racing in the streets.” ~ Bruce Springsteen

"Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up." ~ Thomas Edison

Rejection is never the final word about your integrity or talent as an artist. It is even less about you as a person. Chant this in front of a mirror if you have to, but know it's true. Everything in life is subjective. I'm even taking a sociology class that studies how subjective humans are.

But another sad truth is that rejection will ALWAYS hurt. I've heard so many agents say that a writer should get used to rejection, and while I agree with them, I also know that it's impossible to truly be used to rejection. It always stings a little, and I think it's supposed to. After all, it means that someone didn't like something that you probably worked very hard on. Art is a difficult career to pursue, I think, because no matter what, someone will dislike it, and your work is inevitably a very deep part of you. It's not just business. It's personal.

Why am I thinking so much about rejection? Aside from the obvious answer about queries and agents and the publishing business, I just got rejected from a very prestigious, very competitive program on campus.

For the second time.

Like, twenty minutes ago.

A standard form rejection, the letter was straight to the point, and straight to the heart of my goals here at Northwestern.

I'm not going to stop writing, and I'm not angry. I'm just disappointed.

I said I'd be fine, and at the core of it, I am. I still feel like I missed out on a great opportunity though. How does the saying go? Every time one door closes, another opens? Well, I'm sitting here waiting for an open door. I refuse to walk away from it.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

A Treat for You

First of all, I want to thank EACH AND EVERY PERSON who voted, because I won the contest! I know I couldn't have done it without you wonderful people (literally, because I got like, 237 votes and I couldn't go on multiple computers or anything), so BIG HUGE THANKS! It was such an intense competition, and there were so many good first lines! I'll keep you up to date on whatever happens after this. Promise.

Since you guys helped me out so much, I feel obligated to share a little piece of happiness with you. So watch this video:

Did you watch it? Isn't it awesome? I know.

I went on a retreat this past weekend, which resulted in much happiness and sunburn. There were so many amazing people I think I would have had a blast in any setting, but to top it all off, we were on a farm (insert ridiculous amount of exclamation marks here)! There were kitehs that fit in the palm of my hand, mud covered dogs, s'mores, fields that stretched towards the horizon, and horses!!! I rode one for the first time, and it literally made my day. Made. My. Day.

Such a good weekend, but now, back to work. I think I'm getting a better grip on my new WIP, but I still miss M-town 2. I think I'll keep dabbling in it as I work on the new WIP, just to keep things interesting.

That's about all, so I'll wrap this baby up with one of my new favorite music videos:

Until next time!