Archive for the ‘writing / editing’ Category

November 17, 2010

It’s that time — the midway NaNo update. I had planned to tell you about my progress a little more often, but here we are on the downslope of November (don’t get me started on that…) and I haven’t told you how it’s going.

I knew going into NaNo as a gainfully employed person that I may not reach my goals, and not reach them I did. Well, I reached my personal goal of 1000 words per day, then played massive catchup the first weekend. I even topped my all-time daily word count and hit 4000 words in one day (in three sittings), for a grand total of 7000 words in two days.

The second week went better and I reached the NaNo goal of 1667 words almost every day. On Saturday Erica and I got together again and I wrote my daily words in one sitting. This may not sound exciting, but one of the purposes of NaNo is to train yourself to get into the habit of writing every day.

In 2008 I learned that I am able to write that much in one day. This year I’ve learned that I can write 1000 words in 45 minutes, as long as I have the story plotted out. Monday night I wrote my 1667 words in an hour and a half and passed the halfway mark (25K words).

Will I keep all of it? I hope so. I’m sure some will get cut but I don’t let myself write fluff just to reach my goal. Yesterday I only wrote 500 words, and while I’m disappointed at falling beneath my goal, I know that forcing it doesn’t work for me. I’ll catch up this weekend.

Finally, a brief excerpt. I realize I still haven’t told you the premise so this is a little out of left field, but I haven’t written my hook yet. This is the first draft, so bear with me.


Light pulses across the imitation leather of the dashboard.

Light. Dark. Light. Dark.

My eyes stutter and my heart jumps around in my chest, but I blink it away. My tongue strokes the grainy piece of cement stuck between my back teeth. The orthodontist swore he got it all, but that was as true as his promise that it wouldn’t be uncomfortable.

Uncomfortable. Right.

A tingling sensation pricks the tips of my fingers. I press them together, watching the blood shift beneath my skin. The tingling turns to those sharp needles that remind me of anything but sleep.

I press harder and my toes start tingling too. What the hell?

The dancing on the dashboard gets faster. The trees here are taller, straighter, and the sunlight strobes through the branches. My breath catches and a sudden heaviness pushes me deep into the seat.

I glance at my mom but she’s concentrating on the road, humming along with golden oldies or whatever the hell it is she listens to, oblivious to the fact that something very weird is happening to her daughter.

I close my eyes. The heaviness lifts. Too much. Now I’m floating and—

“But mom, I’m fine.”

My mom crosses the kitchen and leans against the counter. “Luz, you’re going. The dentist said your face will get all out of whack if you don’t get braces. Your entire face could change…”

A sense of déjà vu slams me over the head. I’ve had this argument. Next mom is gonna grab the stack of mail that dad set there earlier and toss it in the basket.

She does.


The words stumble out of me. “Mom…” The déjà vu doesn’t lift. This isn’t a memory. I’m not in the car anymore.

I’ve gone back to yesterday.


November 10, 2010

Last week I had the honor of meeting another online writing friend, Erica. We’ve been friends for a couple years and even though I’ve been in Michigan for over eight months, this was the first time we’ve gotten together.

She drove an hour and a half (!!) to join me at a local NaNo write-in. I’ve met quite a few online friends over the past year so my biggest concern was not recognizing her (Starbucks was filled with brunettes when I arrived) but I was her first. Once I realized that, I thought back to meeting MY first online friend and how nervous I was, but Erica was fine. We split a blueberry dessert minutes after meeting and debated skipping the write-in altogether. (Which probably would have been more productive.)

Neither of us had attended a write-in before and weren’t really sure what to expect. I haven’t sat in a roomful of people and been expected to write since high school, and even then I still talked to my neighbor. (Shocking, no?) We arrived about half an hour late (that dessert was goooood), sat down, and started taking pictures.

It’s a very important part of the writing process. Don’t question it.

There were maybe ten people there and while everyone had their laptops out (except for one girl writing by hand, oy) no one seemed to be actually writing. Conversations popped up at each table, then we all introduced ourselves. No one really knew what to say when I said I’m querying my novel from 2008. Maybe they aren’t writing with publication in mind, I don’t know.

Anyway, we shifted to the sofas since Erica’s computer was dying, and I was able to bang out 500 words — but that’s only because we did a word wars thing through the NaNo website. After the word wars one girl proceeded to tell us the plot for her SEVEN book series, then which jeans make her butt look good. Srsly.

Erica stopped at my house afterwards to meet Owen, who would NOT leave her alone. After twenty minutes of him gnawing on her fingers and trying to make her face his own, she headed out for the hour and a half drive home. Then I went back to writing.

We’re meeting again this Saturday, but I think we’ve agreed to skip the other writers and just do our own thing. And maybe go to dinner — but only after we meet our daily word goal.

Interview with S.G. Browne. Yes, There are Zombies.
October 29, 2010

Tomorrow I will have the honor of meeting S.G. Browne, author of the upcoming Fated, “a dark, irreverent comedy about fate, destiny, and the consequences of getting involved with humans.” Kirkus Reviews calls Browne “one of America’s best satiric novelists.” I’ve only known him for a couple weeks, but from what I’ve seen, I’d have to agree.

Browne was nice enough to answer a few questions about Fated, his writing inspirations, and how I should behave at this weekend’s zomBcon. If this interview is any indication, I think I’m going to have fun.

You’ve said one of your writing inspirations is Chuck Palahniuk. Who—or what—would you say inspired you to cross over to the mayhem of the afterlife?

My first love has always been supernatural horror, having grown up on a steady diet of Stephen King, Peter Straub, F. Paul Wilson, and Robert McCammon, among others. From 1990-2002, that’s what I primarily wrote. Supernatural horror. Three novels (none of them published) and four dozen short stories (a dozen which saw print).

In 2002 I read Lullaby by Chuck Palahniuk, a dark comedy about an African culling song. I’d never read anything like it, the blending of the dark comedy and the supernatural. Having written a darkly comedic short story about zombies the year before, I was inspired to turn that into a full-length novel, which eventually became Breathers. So really, I crossed over from supernatural horror to dark comedy.

It seems the transition has worked well for you. Your second novel, Fated, comes out November 2nd. In it Fate has grown disillusioned with assigning and reassigning people their fates—garbage collector, drug addict, career politician—then things get worse when he falls in love with a human. You swear this isn’t a contemporary romance, so I’m dying to know why you chose the name Fabio for your main character.

Well, I was looking for a name that started with F to go with Fate, preferably Fa-, and so I made a list of possible names. Fagan, Falco, Farnam, and a bunch of Arabic names, none of which really hit the mark. The only one that stood out was Fabio. It just seemed like a perfect fit. I can’t imagine him being anything but Fabio.

A very reasonable answer. And now I have every name that starts with an F running through my head.

Breathers, your first novel, is about a newly minted zombie and his adjustment to his new existence. Who was your inspiration for the MC? Was this your first encounter with this character?

I don’t think I have an answer for the first question. My inspiration for Andy, the main character of Breathers, isn’t anything I can definitively point to and say “That one.” He was just a character and a voice that developed as I got to know him. While I’m sure there’s a little bit of me in him and in all of my characters, none of my characters are me. And although he didn’t have a name at the time, Andy appeared in my short story “A Zombie’s Lament,” which was the short story upon which Breathers was based.

What made you choose to write from the perspective of the zombie?

I wanted to write a zombie story and thought: What if I were the zombie? But instead of being a stereotypical Hollywood zombie clamoring for brains, I was just a reanimated corpse who was gradually decomposing, had no rights, and needed some serious therapy. What would I do? Where would I stay? How would society treat me? I wondered if I could make the reader sympathetic to the zombie’s plight so that if he gave in to his Hollywood urges, the reader would be cheering him on rather than screaming in horror.

I love that you’ve taken a different approach from most other stories. As someone who isn’t well-versed in the whole zombie phenomenon, this definitely appeals to me.

On your website you advise aspiring writers to “Write what you want to write, not what someone else tells you to write or what you think people would want to read,” (which I think is FABULOUS advice). On that note, what would be your advice to someone aspiring to survive life—or their undead life?—as a zombie?

Good hygiene is a must. It’s tough to blend in when you smell like fresh compost. Pine-Sol soakings can help, but ultimately you’ll need to make sure you get a daily dose of formaldehyde, especially if you weren’t embalmed prior to reanimating. Even if you can’t get hold of the heavy duty stuff, formaldehyde can be found in shampoos, hair conditioners, household cleaning items, and most brands of cosmetics. It can also be found in diet sodas as Aspartame converts to formaldehyde when it’s left out in the sun. Other than that, I’d suggest staying away from hot, humid climates and avoiding roving gangs of teenagers, rednecks, fraternity pledges, and bowling leagues.

So pack plenty of diet soda. Got it.

You’re scheduled to be a panelist at zomBcon in Seattle this Halloween weekend alongside our mutual friend Stacey Graham, and the Twitter conversations leading up to the event have been a tad… um… boisterous. Are you more afraid of the zombies or meeting us?

The zombies are probably easier to reason with, but I’m apprehensive about their dietary preferences. And I’m sure there’s an inappropriate joke about getting eaten alive in there somewhere.

You may be correct.

Speaking of which, I’m worried that I’ll walk into zomBcon and be devoured. What does a newbie like me need to know before risking life and limb with a bunch of zombies?

First of all, respect their personal space. Zombies don’t like it when you get up in their face and so they’re likely to bite off yours. Back off. Second, don’t stare. Zombies are a little temperamental, not to mention self-conscious, and will take your gawking as a sign of disrespect. Wearing sunglasses is a good idea. And third, if you’re bringing any brains, make sure you bring enough to share.

Zombies have feelings? I never would have known. Okay, so no looking in their eyes. Is there anything I should avoid doing? Licking my lips? Showing off my juicy delts?

Are you talking about zombies or have we moved on to speed dating?

Well… ahem. If my attempts to avoid contact fail and I’m confronted, should I just play dumb? I would think that coming off as overly brainy is just asking for trouble.

Playing dumb is, ironically, always the smart play. Hanging out with a bunch of zombies is kind of like being a Democrat in a room full of Sarah Palin supporters. Dumbing it down is the key to survival. And if all else fails, just grunt a lot. Same goes for the zombies.

I’ve had some experience with that lately, so I think I’ll be safe.

Finally, which goes best with humans? A1 or Bull’s-Eye?

Bull’s-Eye. Nothing beats a good Breather BBQ like the big, bold taste of Bull’s-Eye.

Thank you Scott! I’m more of an A1 girl myself, so maybe I should douse myself before I arrive. Either way, I feel more prepared for zomBcon and look forward to meeting you.

You can learn more about Scott at his website And be sure to check out his site for Breathers, Undead Anonymous. Or stalk him on Twitter like I do.

Ahh, Plotting
October 27, 2010

One of the rules of NaNo is you cannot start writing the actual story until November 1st. I wrote eight or so pages last spring, and while I plan to use them, I’m no longer going to start the story in the same place so it’ll just be filler. I figure I’m going to need an extra 1000 words to pad here or there.

What you CAN do prior to November 1st is plot, outline, research, meet your characters, and whatever else you need to do to get ready to write the story. I also did a lot of research last spring so while I’m looking over those notes, my biggest task this week is outlining my plot.

I know how the story begins, I have a kick@ss ending (which can be turned into a series, but I’m not getting ahead of myself here) but the middle is a bit of a mystery to me. I have sticky notes all over my desk that say things like “betrayal” and “love interest” — things I need to weave in to keep the reader hooked.

Only a few days left to figure it out. Because I CAN’T start without knowing where I’m going!

Writers, how do you plot? I know quite a few of you are pantsers, so you’re excused from sharing your secrets. But you can still share a story if you’d like.

Stop! NaNo Time*
October 22, 2010

It’s that time of year! NaNoWriMo — National Novel Writing Month for those of you not in the know — starts November 1st and I’ve already signed up. NaNo challenges writers to write a novel in a month. Simple, right?

Yeah, yeah. Stop laughing. It’s been done before. Even by me. After the Fall, which I’m querying now, was a nano novel (affectionately titled nanonovel08 until I got to the second draft).

The thing that most concerns me is I’ve yet to write a novel while working a full time job. I know there are gazillions of people who do this every day — some even have FAMILIES — but I’m trying to be realistic. I fully expect this to be a challenge for me and I’m okay with not hitting the 1667 words a day goal. I’m mostly excited to be a part of the delirium.

For those of you who don’t write, consider this your warning that the month of November may be heavy on the writerly talk. I hope you stick around to cheer on me and my conanoers (tee hee, I just made that up) and if you’re good maybe I’ll tell you what my novel’s about before the end of November.

Now.. roll call! Who’s in?



* The post title is for Lisa.

Shiny New Notebook
October 18, 2010

Last week my coworkers and I went to a paper show in Grand Rapids. I have received TONS of HILARIOUS comments about how exciting a paper show sounds, but trust me, it’s exciting. Yes, the theme is paper, but it’s how the paper is presented that draws the crowd. Each company tries to outdo the next with unique designs, interesting die-cuts, and gimmicks that people will want to display in their cube for the next year.

Case in point, my new notebook!

It says Via over and over and is completely blank inside. PERFECT for writing, no? Since I’m starting my next novel in a couple weeks I was thinking I needed to get a new notebook, and this is exactly what I was hoping for. I’m writing YA so the colors seem very appropriate (although, really, I’d use it for anything). My MC has a Hispanic nickname (although she’s not Hispanic) and VIA is a spanish word.

Voila! (That’s French.)

October 13, 2010

I just thought I should get that out there. I don’t plan to give updates here unless it’s something fabulous, but after all the build-up over the past few months I felt like I should let you know I’ve released my baby to the wild!

Ineffective Motivation
September 27, 2010

I’m not sure when I started doing this, but for the past year or so I’ve treated reading books as a reward. If I have a project hanging over my head that I really need to finish I won’t allow myself to start a new book until I’ve finished it. I love reading so in theory this is a great way to keep me on track, but really it just makes me grouchy.

Reading is an escape for me, always has been, and I can get lost in a matter of pages. Screaming kids on a plane? Not in my world. Screaming weirdos on a bus? Well, maybe I hear them, but that goes back to the safety issue I talked about on Friday. I love getting sucked into a world someone else has lovingly created and forgetting about my own life for awhile.

*hums Billy Joel*

So back to my motivation. You’d think that by depriving myself of this joy I’d hurry up and finish my project (in this case my synopsis), right? Well… not so much. Instead I stare longingly at my TBR (to be read) shelf and grumble (internally) about this stupid synopsis.

What’s your motivation when all you want to do is lie on the couch and eat bon bons?

Exciting side note: My mom and I are going to see author David Baldacci tomorrow night! Maybe HE’LL write my synopsis for me.

Yet Another Sign That I Truly Am a Writer
September 20, 2010

I suck. My book sucks. Why would anyone want to read this? I don’t even want to read this. Why did I ever think this was a good idea? I may as well quit now and save agents the hassle of ignoring my query.

Ever had these thoughts? That’s been the constant monologue running through my head lately. I’ve written a query letter (well really I tweaked the version I wrote a year ago) but I can’t seem to get beyond that. I haven’t even opened a document to start a synopsis. I just don’t see the point.

Then it struck me that I must really be a writer because it seems each of my friends has gone through this at some point or another. Doubted themselves, doubted their writing, doubted the point in putting themselves through all this grief.

Since moving back to the US I’ve done a lot of comparing my pre-Mexico life with my life now, and the biggest difference is I wasn’t writing or dreaming of getting published. Or at least I wasn’t doing anything about it. I sometimes wonder what the heck I did with all my time. I certainly watched a lot more television, but I was rarely on the computer outside of work and I didn’t have ANY online friends or blogs.

I know that my life has a lot more value now and I couldn’t go back to my old way of life, so my only choice is to keep plugging away. Finish the draft and get the queries out. Start the next book. Keep making contacts. And most importantly, lean on my writing friends when I need a pep talk.

I know it’s only a matter of time before I’ll be returning the favor.

Special thanks to Nadine for talking me off the ledge this week.

Stories are Everywhere
September 8, 2010

As I left the plane behind me last night, I paused near the waiting area as an anxious family rushed forward. A caucasian couple a few years older than me, trailed by two teenagers and two little girls around six or seven years old, moved as one unit, then stopped a few feet away.

What made me pause is the little girls were Asian and were dressed in traditional (what I’m going to guess* were) Korean costumes and the person they approached was a nervous Asian teenager.

The adults smiled cautiously, then said her name. Hesitantly. Uncertainly.

I couldn’t help but stop and wait for her reply.

She smiled, looked down, then said yes.

They moved closer, excitement rippling through all of them, but especially the little girls. Their dresses — one pink, one red — stood out among the t-shirts and jeans most Midwesterners wear, but they were too intrigued by this newcomer to notice anyone looking.

At this point I gave them one last smile then continued on my way, but I couldn’t help wondering what I’d just witnessed. Was the teenager an exchange student? A relative of the girls? An orphan in need of a home?

Most likely she’s an exchange student, but I couldn’t help but imagine all the different scenarios that could have landed her on my plane and in my town.

Where have you seen stories lately?

*I lived with several Korean girls in high school and from what I learned then, I would guess this group was Korean.

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