Wednesday, February 17, 2010

RTW: Writing Places

I haven't done this in awhile, but over at YA Highway there's a thing called "Road Trip Wednesday," in which you can answer their question on your blog and then bounce around other people's blogs reading their answers. Did I make that sound confusing enough? Okay. Good.

This week's question: where is your favorite place to read/write?

I have what I like to call Screen-Looking Paranoia. That means that when other people are directly next to me or behind me, and could potentially read what's on my screen, I freak out and make my font so small I can barely read it myself and basically can't get any writing done. Therefore my options for public places to write are limited, unless I can find a place where my back is to a wall and no one is near me. So my favorite place is...

1. At my desk, in my room...

...with the door closed and my headphones on. Also, my desk has to be clean. Like...Spartan clean.

2. On the train, on the top level where the single seats are.

The train is a place where you are surrounded by people but no one talks to you. I also like the feeling of being in motion, for some reason.

3. In the library. Reference section.

Don't ask me "why Reference?" because I have no idea. Study carroll:

4. On my bed.

Sometimes the desk chair hurts my non-cushioned butt, so I migrate to the bed. Apparently doing homework/writing/whatever on your bed during the day isn't good for you, because it trains your body to think that the bed is a place of awake-ness instead of sleep-ness, and then you won't sleep as well at night. So I try to avoid the bed before I'm ready to actually sleep, but sometimes I just say "ah, screw it."

So there they are. Some of my favorite writing places.

Side Note

Just FYI: I swear, I'm not going to change this blog layout again. I think I've gone through five in the last few days. BUT THIS ONE IS GONNA STICK.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Enjoy the Random!

Item 1

I figured I would do a quick update, since I haven't teased or talked about anything I'm writing in awhile.

TM (the first thing I ever completed) is now in the trunk until future notice/until I figure out what to do with it. Deciding this was a relief, which is why I figure it's probably a good decision.

Divergent, which I've been babbling about for a few weeks now, is all shined up and query-ready. The first set of beta comments I got back included no major structural changes, so I made the edits and stared at it until I thought my brain might explode and then I decided to just jump on the query train already.

WIPs: I have two. I can't decide which one to go with (and I need to focus on one, because I'm not so good at splitting the focus). When I do, I'll probably chatter about that one.

Item 2

I've found some interesting websites/articles on The Interwebs recently that I thought I would share.

1. Biologically Immortal Jellyfish?

Yeah, that's right. AND I QUOTE: A jellyfish’s lifespan usually ranges from somewhere between a few hours for the smallest species to several months and rarely to a few years for the bigger species. How does the only 4-5 mm long Turritopsis nutricula (let’s call it T’nut) manage to beat the system? Well, T’nut is able to transform between medusa and polyp stage, thereby reverting back from mature to immature stage and escaping death.

2. Girl With No...Lady Business...Gets Pregnant?!

'Nuff said.

3. Wouldn't this make a great writer's retreat?

4. These would be even more awesome if I didn't think butterflies were gross. That's right, I said it. I think butterflies are gross. They are just normal bugs with pretty wings intended to distract you from their bug-ness. But still, enjoy these photographs.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Chicago Winters

For those of you who don't know, Chicago in the winter is a vast white wasteland that streaks your shoes with salt and makes you think that you know what the world will look like post-apocalypse/post-destructive-alien-invasion.

The reason I'm talking about this is that it's a huge part of my life and, let's face it. Sometimes you just need to complain a little.

Here are the things that are now part of my consciousness simply because of winter:

1. I want to go outside. Let me put on a pair of leggings (under jeans), a second pair of socks, a pair of faux-fur-lined boots, and a second sweatshirt. Then I will wrap a scarf around the lower half of my face, find my gloves, and put on my knee-length down jacket with a fur-lined hood, zip myself in, and walk around looking like an idiot:

(Yeah, that's me. Hi.)

2. I am out of vegetables. I could walk one hundred yards to the grocery store, or I could preserve my sanity and stay in here and eat grilled cheese instead.

3. Sometimes, when the wind blows just right, I can't smile because the air hurts my teeth.

4. I better shower now, because in two and a half hours I have to go outside and I don't want my hair to freeze. (It. Happens.)

5. How many cups of tea have I had today? Seven? There's room for one more. I need it to warm my hands as I walk to class. Through my gloves.

6. Maybe I should let myself get fatter. You know, just for insulation.

7. It's 32 degrees today-- that's BALMY! Let me trade in my Ridiculous Coat for a fleece jacket! Where are my sandals?

8. I just got an email from Northwestern telling me that the Frostbite Express bus line will be running tomorrow. I may or may not stay huddled under the covers all day.

9. A few days ago I stopped waving to people I know on the way to class. Because I don't recognize them in all their outerwear.

10. Crap. My glasses fog up every time I enter a building. As if I didn't have enough things making me look stupid right now.

And now, for your viewing pleasure...a reminder of SPRING!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Beta Reader Anxiety Issues (And How to Get Over It)

Every time I send a manuscript out for someone to read and scrutinize, I float away on cloud nine with the following irrational thought in my head:

My manuscript is perfect. All my feedback will be positive. My beta readers will toss rose petals in my path wherever I walk. La di da di da.

Let us not even approach the subject of how off-base that is. But really? I always have a short period of bliss in which I am perfectly happy with my manuscript. That short trip down la-la lane usually comes to a screeching halt about the moment that I get comments back.

A brief side note: I really do like all my beta readers. I think it's awesome they take time from their own writing in order to read mine. Also, I'm happy to revise. And I am fairly good at taking criticism. But I'm not going to pretend it's not hard. Because it is! And I think it is for everyone. This post will describe only my interior battle, the one that takes place only in the recesses of my crazy mind.

It's really dark in here.


The comments open my eyes to the flaws in my manuscript. And unfortunately, they usually come with the gut-wrenching fear that I suck and have always sucked and no one has told me yet and why, why didn't they just tell me so I could take up potato farming BEFORE I got my degree in creative writing? But this time is going to be different. Coming down off cloud nine does not have to mean leaping into a crap pit.

Here is my step-by-step formula for those more difficult beta comment reading sessions. (I haven't actually had these for D-- I think I better prepared myself this time. But I do remember what they were like for TM.)

1. Read everything through

It's like ripping off a band-aid. Just read it all right away so you know what you're up against.

2. Feel crappy

Just go ahead and give yourself permission to feel petty, mad, sad, embarrassed, whatever. Eat some cookies, watch some television, and mope a little.

3. Re-open the document

I have found that the real struggle is just getting back in front of the computer and opening the word document again. Once you do that, the rest is fairly easy.

4. Make a list

This is for the big things, the things you can't tackle with some copy-paste and a spell checker. Make a list of the grievances your beta reader had and then brainstorm ways to fix them...and make a list of those things. I've found that if you just have the list of grievances, you can get overwhelmed and start thinking the draft sucks. But if you have ways to address each of those grievances, even if the list is long, it's practical and purposeful. Tasks you can deal with. Punch-you-in-the-gut statements like "your beginning is 20,000 words too long" (Hello, TM. How are you?), not so much.

5. Insert line edits

It will make you feel like you're doing something. And you are!

6. Get to work

7. Marvel at the improvement in your manuscript. Aka: The Payoff.

This is what makes it all worth it. Climbing that ladder back onto cloud nine again. Except this time, cloud nine is a little more stable than before.

This is what I intend to do when the situation arises again. If it does. So good luck with your revisions, y'all.


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