Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Lotsa Updates

Hey there! I'm back from my writing retreat, and about 2/3 done revising my YA novel. My friends Amy, Kristen and Heidi were the perfect companions. We were very focused (my parents were a bit scared, I think) and got crazy amounts of work done.

Here was our schedule of insanity for about 4 days straight:

8:00 a.m. - Wake up
8:30 a.m. - Walk into town for Starbucks or Coffee Bean, walk back, cook some eggs for breakfast
9:30 a.m. - Briefly discuss goals for the day; head to separate rooms/corners/outside shade tables
1:00 p.m. - Reconvene for lunch (Mom set out salad, bread, cheese, cookies, chips & salsa - Go Mom!)
2:00 p.m. - Read, write and revise more (I also played hooky one or two days and went swimming)
5:30/6/6:30 p.m. - Reconvene for a glass of wine, walk back into town for dinner (thanks, Dad!!) or farmer's market with my parents
8:00 p.m. - Hit Borders or head home, read, write and revise a bit more
10:00 p.m. - Meet up again, discuss our day, and read excerpts from past or present work. This was such a fun way to end the evening.

On Friday we stayed up till 2 a.m., like a slumber party. Special thanks to Heidi for flying out from Seattle. It felt like a real retreat with an out-of-stater and I think it motivated us to work harder.

Since then, I've learned that my blogging buddy Caroline Starr Rose sold her middle-grade novel. Big congrats to her! Looks like she'll be able to put all her publicity ideas into motion.

I won't be able to update my blog very much during the month of April. Two reasons:

1. My tendonitis is flaring up again (this tends to happen when I revise; it's not the typing, it's the scrolling, text-highlighting and clicking with the mouse that gets me)

2. My husband Joe will be in Boise, Idaho, performing his awesome magic for the lucky patrons of Mystique. Check out his video blog on the subject here. He's bringing the desktop computer with him, so I'll be limited to weekday usage and some weekends at the library. I think it'll be good to give my hands a bit of a break (and finish unpacking) while I wait to get feedback on my YA novel.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

If Only There Were a Container Store for Ideas

I hit the Container Store in Century City last night after work. It's the best place ever! I got, well, containers for old journals so I can stack them up dust-free in the closet, a wine rack, coffee, flour and sugar containers, a double-hook for our housekeys, a magnet that displays how to convert cooking measurements (did you know a cup is equal to .06 of a gallon?), a shoe rack and a mini-garbage can for the bathroom.

I wish there were containers for ideas. You could seal them up, store them away and keep them fresh with all the details intact for when you have time to write them.

I'm about to start revisions on a new novel (the one I finished in December), but I have ideas for three new stories creeping around the edges of my mind, fighting to get in, and I'm scared I'll forget some of the juiciest bits.

Off to my retreat tomorrow. See you next week and happy writing, everyone.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Does it Ever Pay to Not Get Paid?

I'm not talking about writing for free -- though I've done that in the past to build up local newspaper clips. I'm talking about turning down paid writing work in order to have time to write something that may never pay. About a year ago, I reduced my freelance writing (paid blogging, film reviews, Hollywood columns and novel coverage) because continuing those assignments, along with working a day job, left me no time or ability to work on my novels.

The decision earned me anxiety and insomnia; I feared I was crazy for turning down work. Could I have used the money? Absolutely, in the short term. But in the long term, I have to believe my novels will become a source of income one day. If I don't believe it enough to give it everything I've got, who will? Besides, the joy I get from creating stories and characters, even if just for myself and my friends, outweighs the frustration I feel when I don't have the time or energy to pursue my real passion. Life is short.

A month or two after deciding to focus on my unpaid writing, I was lucky enough to sign with a wonderful agent. I'd like to think the two are connected.

Kind of a serious entry for a Friday, but it's been on my mind because of my writing retreat next week. I plan to get a lot done.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

We're Famous! Kind of!

Pardon My Youth, the YA book club I belong to at Skylight, got a mention in the L.A. Times this weekend. The article discusses the success of the YA genre and why its audience is broader than many people think.  They also quote our book club founder, the awesome Cecil Castellucci (author of "Boy Proof," "Queen of Cool," and "Beige" among others).

Thanks to Kristen for the link.

To any Southern Californians who are reading, we'd love to see you at our next meeting, March 28th!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Line By Line

Whenever I get stuck or need inspiration to keep writing (or to write better), I think of lines from books that were so powerful they stayed with me for years after reading them.

Here are five of my favorites - paraphrased! Let's see how horribly I butcher them...

"I probably shouldn't have given the guy who pumped my stomach my phone number, but who cares? My life is over anyway." - Carrie Fisher, Postcards From the Edge

"The world breaks everyone and afterwards some are stronger in the broken places." - Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms

"I suppose at one time in my life I might have had any number of stories, but now there is no other. This is the only story I will ever be able to tell." - Donna Tartt, The Secret History

"It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done. It is a far, far better sleep I go to, than I have ever known." - Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities (I first heard this line in an episode of Cheers. Frasier was trying to trick the other barflies into listening to classics. Years later I discovered the real context of the line.)

"There's a tree that grows in Brooklyn...No matter where its seed falls, it makes a tree that struggles to reach the sky...It would be considered beautiful except there are too many of it." - Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

Anyone else memorized (or un-memorized, as I may have done) lines from your favorite books?

Monday, March 8, 2010

Five Days of Reading & Writing

I'm hosting a wee writing retreat (aka "having friends over to my parents' rental in Palm Springs") later this month, and I'm trying to decide how best to use my time at the event.

I can't type on laptops and I'm not bringing a desktop computer, so I won't actually be typing, but I can grab a pen, Holly Lisle's One-Pass Revision checklist, and revise my new YA novel by hand. I can also spend some time researching (I've loaded up my library holds list) and diving into "Sin and Syntax" by Constance Hale for some refreshers.

Also, I plan to plot against my liver. It's a WRITING RETREAT ;)

Other suggestions are more than welcome.

* CONFESSION: I have never revised a manuscript in one pass and don't think I ever will. Ha!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Book-to-Film: How Does it Work?

Lots of book-to-film deals were reported recently.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett was bought by Dreamworks. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith will be produced by Tim Burton. Incarceron, a dystopian YA novel by Catherine Fisher, got snapped up by Fox 2000, and Ally Carter's Heist Society sold to Warner Brothers in a bidding war.

Considering that two of the four have only just been published, how did they grab films deals so quickly?

Well, they likely generated interest a long time ago. I don't know specifics about the above deals, but when I worked at a TV movie production company, my bosses subscribed to Publishers Weekly. They would skim the announcements and loglines for all the projects that had been sold to publishing houses, and then contact the Sub Rights (subsidiary rights) departments to find out if the film/TV rights were available. Often we would get emailed copies of the novels pre-publication, at which point I wrote coverage -- a detailed summary with comments -- on the stories.

I'm sure the authors' agents also worked very hard to get the novels in front of producers early on.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Ageism in Hollywood? You Don't Say

Got an interesting piece of mail the other day, offering to include me in the settlement of a class-action lawsuit that's been going on since 2000. Apparently every network and studio in Hollywood was sued on counts of age discrimination.

The letter I recieved said that if I'm over 40 and have been attempting to get work in TV or film, I might be entitled to compensation. I don't fit into either category, but it was kind of nice to see the issue being addressed.

On the plus side for so-called "older" actors and writers, TV Land just picked up 10 episodes of the new show Hot in Cleveland, starring Valerie Bertinelli, Wendie Malick, Jane Leeves and Betty White (yes, from Golden Girls). Nice!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Enter the Scene Late, Get Out Early

That's a standard rule of screenwriting, and I think it applies to commercial fiction as well. I majored in TV/Radio (...yeah) with a minor in Screenwriting, so you'd think that rule would be tattooed to my brain, but I had to re-learn all the old script edicts once I started writing novels.

It's hard somtimes to cut to the heart of a scene. We fall in love with certain descriptions, background info, or dialogue, and it pains us to cut it.

But here's the thing: the reader will never know it's missing.

Have you had any epiphanies about shorter scenes? Have you removed whole chapters, or fought to keep something in?

Monday, March 1, 2010

Jury Duty, Part Six: If You Thought the Judge Was Cool Before...

Guess what I got in the mail at my new place this weekend?

A letter from the Judge! Thanking us again for our service, and inviting us to write him back with any thoughts on the process, suggestions, or questions. Why is he so cool?

I'm totally gonna write him and ask why they chose the alternate juror by picking 12 names instead of one.