May #WriteMotivation and OWFI!

Header image and thumbnail photograph by Hugh Lee and licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Header image and thumbnail photograph by Hugh Lee and licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

So I went to the OWFI conference last weekend, and the next thing I knew, I woke up and it was May 6.

How the hell did that happen?

Anyway. I’m pretty happy with how my April goals turned out, as I actually managed to finish draft two of MGG. However, my glee at finishing lasted approximately two weeks, because I did some location research while I was in OKC, and realized that I would have to change the setting of two significant scenes.

Oops?

On the plus side, I took a lot of pictures, so hopefully I’ll be able to get everything fixed up with minimal teeth-gnashing.

Here are my goals for May:

1) Write at least 3 reviews.
I have started one review! Hopefully I’ll be able to finish that this week.

2) Finish NaNo novel.
I’m clipping along pretty well on this, and I’ve finally finished the climax of the story. If I can keep up the pace, I should be able to finish this one fairly early in the month (she said optimistically).

3) Build a list of 5-10 agents to submit MGG to.
No headway on this yet, though I did find some great resources this past weekend that will help.

4) Revise MGG query and chapters 6, 7, 10, and 11.
Yeah, the chapter revisions are new, and are the ones added thanks to the aforementioned location research. A lot of the content will stay the same, but the blocking’s going to have to change significantly.

I have, however, revised the query letter at least four times by now (I attended a lot of query workshops at OWFI). I’ll get some feedback on it in the next two weeks, though, and revise it again.

5) Read 2 books.
I’ve already read one: Ash by Malindo Lo, which was a lesbian retelling of Cinderella. Overall, a good story. The whole thing had sort of a dreamlike quality to it, though that may also have been because I read the entire thing right after getting back from OWFI when I was completely wiped.

Stretch goals (because clearly I need more to do this month):
1) Finish at least one blog series that’s in the queue.
2) Read 4 books, including one nonfiction book.
3) Start revising 2013 NaNo novel.

That’s it for my May! What are you guys up to this month? Any particularly big goals on the horizon for you? 🙂

May #WriteMotivation – Week 1 Update

Well, this past weekend was the OWFI conference in Oklahoma City, which meant I was out of pocket for the better part of four days cramming my brain full of all sorts of awesome writing-related stuff.

The keynote speaker this year was Patrick Rothfuss, who was absolutely fantastic. He gave a really great keynote address and did a session on worldbuilding that was equally awesome.

He's also very gracious about random girls accosting him in an elevator for a picture.

He’s also very gracious about random girls accosting him in an elevator for a picture.

Plus, Rebekah won first place in the sci-fi/fantasy/horror novel category in the OWFI contest! (Go over there and tell her congrats!)

All in all, it was a very good weekend. 🙂

On to the goal updates!

Header image and thumbnail photograph by Hugh Lee and licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Header image and thumbnail photograph by Hugh Lee and licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

1) Critique the stories I’ve been sent and get them back to their authors by deadlines.
I’ve worked a bit on these, but not much. Hoping to get at least one of them sent back this week.

2) Read at least 4 books.
Right now I’m about 70% of the way through The Night Circus, which started off slow (very slow), but has picked up considerably.

3) Write at least two posts for a NEW blog project.
One down, one to go!

4) Start outlining 2008 NaNo Project, code name: SK.
Okay, so I’ve started this. I’ve also started work on the aforementioned urban fantasy concept that bonked me over the head. And I also got another idea for my ’06 NaNo (TSB) that I think could make it stronger.

So…um…I have no idea what will happen with this goal. Something will get outlined by the end of the month, that’s for certain.

5) Cheer on everyone else!
I cheered and clapped a lot at OWFI, but I will hopefully be doing more of that online for the rest of the month. 🙂

Ten Things I Learned at the 2012 OWFI Conference

OWFI has a special place in my heart, since it was the very first writing conference I ever attended ten years ago. This year was the first year I was able to go since 2007, and it was just as I remembered — perhaps even a little more fun.

Trying to condense all the awesomeness of two solid days of writing-related sessions and seminars into a single post is a Herculean task, but here are ten things I picked up from the conference this year.

10) Twitter has a follow limit, or: no, Critic, you don’t know everything about social media.

Normally, social media panels at writing conferences are fairly basic, since most people are coming at it from a beginner’s standpoint. As the popularity of social media sites has grown, though, it seems organizers have gradually started adding in more advanced information.

The social media panel at the OWFI conference this year had a number of gems and interesting ideas, and answered some questions I’d had for a few years. (Example: When do I need to create a Facebook page for me as a writer, especially since I have no book?)

Even though I’m familiar with how Facebook and Twitter work from a business standpoint, I’ve not spent the same amount of time using them from a writing standpoint. The basics are the same, but there’s different protocol for using social media sites for clients, for me personally, and for me as a writer.

Also, seriously: Twitter has a follow limit. Who knew? (People other than me, thankfully.)

9) A synopsis doesn’t have to be double-spaced.

When I saw they’d knocked the novel categories in the OWFI contest down to 25 pages from 45 pages in years past, I nearly had a heart attack. I spent an entire day editing my synopsis, paring it down to three pages, and at least another week reading and rereading it, slicing out every unnecessary word I could find. I didn’t want to waste any of the precious 25 pages on that synopsis if I didn’t have to.

Then, as I was sitting in the atrium waiting to go in to my first pitch session, I started talking to the lady next to me, who also happened to be the OWFI contest chair for this year. Turns out, your synopsis doesn’t have to be double-spaced.

My synopsis: 3 pages double-spaced, a page and a half single-spaced.

Something to remember for next year, right?

8) Writing conferences are chockfull of interesting people.

You meet all kinds of people from all walks of life, all of whom write in dozens of different genres. I talked to a former history teacher who writes thrillers and a woman who has a middle grade novel set in 1932 Ukraine. I met people who write fantasy and sci-fi and mysteries and young adult and middle grade and memoirs. Instead of “What do you do?”, the first question anybody asks is “What do you write?”

Plus, I got to meet people that I’d previously only seen online, or that Rebekah had previously only seen online. It was great to finally put faces to screen names, which brings me to my next point:

7) KT Hanna is even more adorable in real life than on Twitter.

Not even joking here, y’all.

6) If ever you think “I need to get this out of the way so I can get to the good part,” really rethink that part.

If I had a nickel for every time that thought passed through my head (especially during NaNo), I could go to the movies every weekend for the rest of the summer. “If I just get past THIS, I can get to the river monster/demon fight/city riot/admission of Twu Wuv.”

As you might suspect, that’s not the best way to write. If that’s what you’re thinking while you’re writing it, that’s most definitely what readers will think while they’re reading it.

This particular nugget came from a session on genre fiction done by Melissa Frain, an editor from Tor. On a related note, she mentioned that 99% of the submissions she receives have a prologue. Most of the time, people added the prologue because the first chapter “isn’t exciting enough.” Her response? “Think about the problems with that.”

5) Read your genre.

So you know what’s been done before and where you fit into the market.

4) Don’t read your genre.

So you DON’T know what’s been done before, and therefore can’t emulate anybody else.

3) After two days at a writing conference, you walk away with about 15 new books you need to read.

Here’s what’s been added to my list, either books or authors:

Anna Dressed in Blood
Jim Butcher
Kristen Cashore
Charlaine Harris
The Jeff Herman Guide to Literary Agents
The Glamour of Grammar
Bird by Bird

2) Never fall in love with your first draft.

When our keynote speaker, Steven James, was giving his talk at the Friday night banquet, this was the first piece of advice he had. While it’s something I knew, logically (kill your darlings!), it’s something that I’ve faced time and again as I’ve plowed through my edits on the 2006 NaNo novel.

It seems like every editing pass has me chucking something in the bin from the first draft. Entire scenes that I thought were oh-so-important have ended up on the cutting room floor because they don’t add anything to the story or characters or push the plot along. They’ve been replaced with scenes that I’m excited to write (See #6!).

(Related note: I went back and actually read the first draft of this story a few weeks ago. Let’s just say I’ve improved since then.)

1) Be yourself. Nobody else will.

Steven James also told a story about Rabbi Zusia, who had a dream that terrified him. He faced the angels and learned what question they would ask him at the end of his life. It wouldn’t be “Zusia, why weren’t you Moses, leading your people out of Egypt?” or “Zusia, why weren’t you Joshua, leading your people to the Promised Land?”

The question was: “Zusia, why weren’t you Zusia?”

A few days later, I was talking to Jessica and having a momentary freak-out because there is NO WAY my stuff is as good as Terry Brooks or Robert Jordan or George R. R. Martin, so why am I even bothering? (Raise your hand if you’ve never had that “there’s no way I’m good enough” moment. Congratulations, you’re an android.)

After listening to me for a moment, Jess turned to me and said just one thing: “Zusia, why weren’t you Zusia?”

Yes, THAT was when it clicked.

At the end of the day, nobody wants you to be the next J.K. Rowling or Stephen King or J.R.R. Tolkien. We’ve already got them. You need to be you.

Nobody’s ever seen the world the way you have. Nobody has the stories that you do. And in the end, that’s the question you’ll be asked: “Why weren’t you you?”

April Goal Wrap-Up and May #WriteMotivation

Header image and thumbnail photograph by Hugh Lee and licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0. Well, I have been terribly remiss in getting my April wrap-up and my May #WriteMotivation goals up.

To be fair, though, the last week of April went like this:

1) Sign up for three pitches at the OWFI conference, thinking I probably wouldn’t get any because I waited so late to throw my name in the hat.
2) Find out at 2 a.m. the Saturday before the conference that I got all three pitch appointments.
3) Fly into a panic and spend every spare moment researching the people I’d be pitching to and working on said pitch before I had to leave that Thursday.

My roommates are saints, you guys. I can’t count how many days I whipped out my pitch right after work and said, “Hey, what do you think of this?”

And they patiently listened and gave me feedback every single time, even though one of my roommates was also in the midst of finals. Seriously, where do I get the sainthood nomination packet?

Here’s where I stood at the end of April:

1. Upload at least another 6 weeks of Barenaked Archive posts.
Alas, I only got three weeks uploaded. I may try to get another three uploaded by the end of May, but I’m not holding my breath.

2. Post at least twice a week (not counting the Barenaked Archive posts).
Made it through almost the whole month! Considering how spotty my posting record has been over the past few years, getting even two posts a week up is a reason for celebration.

3. Finish the various critiques and correspondence that I have promised.
ALL OF THEM. HO YES GO ME.

4. Edit 6 chapters in my 2006 NaNo novel.
By the end of April, I had edited up to chapter 21. Considering I started at around chapter 10, I’M A LITTLE PROUD OF THAT.

And now, May goals and my current status:

1. Finish current edits on my 2006 NaNo WIP.
Since I made so much progress last month, I’m hoping to continue the trend. Unfortunately, I will not have as many weekends this month (I’ll be out of town for at least two of them, not counting the weekend I just spent in OKC), so I may spend a lot less time sleeping.

2. Post 3 times a week on the blog.
Okay, so I’m a little behind, but now that the OWFI dust has settled, I’m hoping to get back on the horse.

3. Get Buzz weird news and Buzz movies written and sent off by May 13.
These are the freelance articles I do every month. Got them both sent in by May 11, which means I am free up to work on more writing stuff.

Whew! Well, there you have it. Here’s hoping that I don’t look like this by the end of the month:

Scanners Head Explody

Any excuse to use this picture.

How’s your May going so far?

The Critic Does OWFI

The very first writer’s conference I ever attended was the OWFI conference in Oklahoma City when I was a wee young’un, only 17 years old. In fact, I was easily the youngest person at the conference by about 20 years.

My mother can attest to how much fun I had, because after the first night, I left her 3 messages on the answering machine because it kept cutting me off as I babbled about how much I’d learned.

This year, I’ve gone again, this time with three other fellow writers!

I’ve spent the past two weeks working madly to get ready. Hence the reason I haven’t posted at all since my last April update.

I’ll have a conference recap after I get back, along with my May #writemotivation goals and my final update on April.

Everybody have a great weekend!