Friday, May 27, 2011

Is That Really Me? (Editing Tip)

I've been keeping busy with revisions for awhile and one of the things my agent suggested for me was so cool that I have to share it. She said to take a character from the last scene of your book (this should work with any character) and plop them into the first scene in your book and see how they would handle things differently now. This is a great way to see if your character has changed and grown and not remained stagnant. You can just imagine it, or go all hog-wild and actually re-write the scene with the character as he finished the book. It's incredible to see the differences and realize all the things you did right.

Check it out! :) Oh and also, have a great weekend!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Finding The End

One method for plotting out a book is to start with the end and then use it to get the beginning, middle, and all the bits in between. I'm trying that this time... but I usually know how a book starts--not how it ends. So, I'm asking you, my brilliant writer buddies: Have you ever done anything like this before? How do you find the end when you haven't even started the beginning? What if you plan the end and then write the book and the brilliant ending no longer fits? I'm super excited for the way this new project is lining up for me, but I would love to not totally screw it up before it starts... help?

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Writing Process

I'm getting ready to start a new project that I'm really excited about this week. Here is my big secret though... I HATE beginnings. After about the first ten pages I tend to say, "Well, crap. Now what?"

After years of experience though, I've learned not to question my own process. It gets the job done and it works. Messing with it only tends to mess with me. I might not fly through beginnings like Candi, or fly through the entire thing like Kasie and Natalie... but I get there eventually.

My strength is the end. Once I get close to the end I can't stop myself. I usually just lock myself in a room and write until it's done. And my endings are usually pretty solid, but I rewrite the beginning a hundred times.

But here's the thing. My method works for me. I can speed my method up by being more disciplined or I can drag it out forever... but when I mess with it, nothing seems to happen. I can't turn my writing process into those of my writing friends, and I shouldn't try. Mine works for me and I'm sticking with it.

What is your writing process? Have you ever tried to use someone else's process?

Friday, May 20, 2011

Following Trends

Awesome agent, Mandy Hubbard, posted this week about what is currently trending in YA and MG.  The the hilarious Kiersten White posted her idea that will meet all the trends.

My own personal opinion is that writing to trends makes you look every bit as silly and Kiersten did in her post, and a LOT less funny. Trends in this industry come and go so fast and the business moves so slow that timing is really all about luck.

Write what you love, work hard at your craft and eventually the rest will work itself out.

BUT if you happen to be, let's say revising to go on submission for a supernatural psychological thriller right when Mandy Hubbard says something like, "MANY editors would love a thriller/suspense/horror. Most said more of the psychological kind, not the slasher/guy-with-a-chainsaw kind, but there was room for both, really. If you've written something seriously, insanely scary, you're in luck."

Well then, you deserve a cookie.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

My Awesome Friend & Critique Partner: Kasie West

As you may have heard... my friend and kick-butt crit partner, Kasie West, just signed a two-book deal with HarperTeen. Can I get a HOLY CRAP, THAT'S SO WONDERFUL?

Because... it SO is! My examples for you are many. Please allow me to present them:

She's awesome (for being... herself... hello? have you met her? SHE ROCKS!). Her agent is awesome (for being a killer advocate). Her new editor is awesome (for recognizing genius when she sees it)... and yeah...

I think the whole thing is FREAKIN' FANTASTIC! Beyond all measurable amounts of FANTASTICNESS!!!

Now after all of these excited words, I understand you may doubt me. So I feel I have no choice but to provide you proof.

Kasie's Maddeningly Unhelpful Advice

Here are a few examples from her epic Monday posts. From Kasie, you can learn:

~ How to be extremely unproductive--warning plants and/or zombies may or may not be involved.

~ How to traumatize your children--no ducks were harmed (at least not mortally-wounded) in the making of this post.

~ How to clean your house--her rule on cleaning up toys = golden.

~ She leads the charge to ban the use of elbows--A brave and unexpected move. I choose to believe her that the lighting diminished the true carnage of the elbow bruise.

~ How to Quit Eating Chocolate-- of course, I don't think Junior Mints count, which is a massive relief

Kasie's Critique Partner Advice

Here are some words directly from her critiques. Bask in the genius:

~ "I think the paragraph I would eliminate is the one that starts with 'he held the pillow over her head...' " --This is always a good recommendation.

~ "What the???... Well, pooey and lots of ice cream... (Apparently my feelings hold no merit whatsoever) " -- in response to my e-mail about an agent rejection on a full from over a year ago... like I said, she's a genius.

~ "This is just my opinion.  I like it better than the previous version, but I think you could take it one step further.  Whatever you do, of course, stay true to your story and your gut.  :)  You're awesome." -- take notes. THIS is a good crit partner. Gives me her opinion, recognizes that it's my decision, and tells me the good with the bad. 

~ "The words "Blah, blah, blah-di-blah-blah" are acceptable fill-ins for pretty much anything in a first draft."-- 'Nuff said.

Kasie's Helpful Moves

~ She gives me a list of reasons NOT to go to the gym.

~ How NOT to write a query.

~ How to move past cool and into... Coolio.

If you haven't figured it out yet... she's beyond hilarious. She can always make me laugh and just seeing her number on my caller ID makes me smile. More than anything though, she is a good person, an incredible friend, and I wouldn't be the writer I am today without her.

I love you, Kasie. You deserve this and so much more. I am so excited to know that the world will now get to read your incredible books.

Now... we party! :)

Monday, May 16, 2011

Friday the 13th: a.k.a. The Day That Blogger Died

So, I was planning to do this blog post on Friday the 13th and how that particular date is near and dear to my heart as a supernatural thriller writer, but alas, Blogger pulled a totally spooky trick on me and wouldn't let me post it.

That's cold Blogger. Cold.

So, I'm posting it today instead. Basically, I just wanted to say a few things.

1 - Dark and spooky can be good.
2 - Learn to embrace the dark and spooky.
3 - Check out this blog post by Chantele Sedgwick on learning How to Scare People because man, Dan Wells is a genius.

That is all. Have a lovely, if entirely un-spooky, day.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Expectations & Other Things That Make My Head Explode

In the publishing industry, from year to year, month to month, day to day, minute to minute--it is more than difficult to know what to expect--it's impossible.

So, in an industry as volatile and ever-changing as ours has become, how do you maintain reasonable expectations of yourself and your work?

It's easy to measure ourselves based on the success of our colleagues.

I have one response to this: Don't.

Everyone has their own paths to publication, to their version of success. The learning curve in writing is steep and unending. Comparing ourselves to each other leads to depression, a desire to quit, and a very strong urge to pluck your own eyes out with a fork.

Again I say: Don't.

There will be those people who query ten agents and get four offers, but it's very unlikely that it will be you.

There will be those people who will go out on submission and their book will sell at auction or a preempt within the first month. That probably won't be you either.

So why keep going?

Because you're the only one who can decide your own limits.

Set your expectations on things you can control:
~ Your first book will most likely make your goal to be sure each one (#2 or #72) is better than the last.

~ Your first ten queries will probably attract nothing but make your goal to improve your query until the agent can't help but request.

~ Your first ten requests will probably still end up in make your book shine so the next ten will fight over you.

Make your goals about improving on your own successes, and learning from your own mistakes. Your success is between you and you. Don't drag anyone else into it.

If you just keep writing and improving--you are succeeding. Don't let anyone tell you any different.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Dude, You Guys are Funny.

So, you guys are hilarious. I loved all of the foreign translations you all posted this weekend and I have to name a few honorable mentions before I get to the winner.

Honorable Mention 1: by Chersti Nieveen

Spanish: Vale, puedes quedarte a mi lado, siempre que no hables sobre la tempertura.
English: OK, you can stand next to me as long as you don't talk about the temperature. -- why waste my time with the weather, let's get into the nitty gritty. Do you, or do you not love Adam Levine?

Honorable Mention 2: by Liana Brooks

Latin: Vah! Denuone Latine loquebar? Me ineptum. Interdum modo elabitur
English:  Oh! Was I speaking Latin again? Silly me. Sometimes it just sort of slips out -- Yes, I'm so refined that I often slip into other, significantly more fancy, languages. :-) Sounds like me. 

Honorable Mention 3: by Reece Hanzon

Spanish: Disculpa, podrias decirles a estos niƱos que es una maleducacion el burlarse de mi aunque no les entiendo?
English: "Excuse me, could you please tell these kids that it's rude to make fun of me, even though I don't understand them?" -- SO USEFUL on Thursday. :) Although, I did get a certain amount of laughter aimed in my direction... but whatever.

And the WINNER!!
German: "Ich finde dein mangeln an Hose storend."
English: "I find your lack of pants disturbing." <-- I think I would fly to Germany just to use this. :)

Submitted by: the awesome K. Marie Criddle

Congrats Marie! Send me an e-mail at JennJohansson7 at gmail dot com and let me know if you would prefer a signed copy of Dan Wells' "I Don't Want to Kill You" or a signed ARC of "Janitors" by debut author Tyler Whitesides? 

Thanks for playing everyone! You all made it so much fun.   

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Happy Cinco De Mayo & Signed Book Giveaway!

Buenos Dias mis amigos! I moved my Friday post to Thursday this week because I'm going to a conference this weekend and I wanted to be festive for this awesome Mexican holiday.

My son is in a Spanish Immersion track in his school and today I'm going to a local Mexican restaurant with about 100 elementary school kids who've all been assigned to only speak Spanish during the outing... did I mention I know about 5 words in Spanish?


Also, I'm SO excited about the conference this weekend. I'm in a master class with 3 other writers and the amazing Dan Wells...for THREE HOURS. There are only 5 people! That's a serious amount of quality time with one of my fave authors. I'm so excited to learn from the Master of Freaky-horror-dom (<--I was thinking of making him a button that says that. He can wear it next to his "I'm Not a Serial Killer" one. What do you think? ;)

What are you up to this weekend? Do you know any phrases in another language that you could teach me for my lunch date? It doesn't have to be Spanish, I'm open to anything at this point.

Tell you what, the best (not necessarily most helpful--be creative!) foreign language saying that is left in the comments gets a signed YA book from one of the awesome authors at the conference this weekend. :) Yay! Giveaways are FUN! Contest ends Sunday night, I'll announce the winner in Monday's blog post. Now teach me! :)

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Stupid Debt to the Universe, Anyway

Okay, so...thanks to my friend, the lovely and somewhat conniving Candice Kennington,( who apparently needs a distraction, and something she referred to as Universe brownie points) I'm posting this today instead of tomorrow. I can't focus on my revisions with this debt hanging over my head. This is take 52 in Project: Get The Universe Off My Back because I kept forgetting my name and at one point my nose disappeared from my face completely. I think it went for a taco. Also, apparently I have a chronically arched evil eyebrow when I'm singing that I was heretofore unaware of. I think that means I'm meant to write dark stuff, but that's just my opinion. So, yeah... please be kind and forgive my nerves.

There you go. The Universe is officially paid off and I don't even have to listen to Simon or Randy tell me that I sound "Karaoke" or "Pitchy".


Monday, May 2, 2011

The Power of Words

I had a different post lined up for today, but since the announcement last night, 10-year-old images keep flashing through my head and no post feels appropriate.

I don't want to preach and I don't want to celebrate. I want to remember all the amazing people who have died for my country. Last week, I was in Washington D.C. and visiting the monuments. What really struck me were the words engraved there. Today, they seem like the right words to share.

From the Lincoln Memorial:

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream...

With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day. ~ Dr. Martin Luther King

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can not hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. ~ President Abraham Lincoln

Field of Stars at the WWII Memorial
From the World War II Memorial: 

No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people, in their righteous might, will win through to absolute victory...

Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory, and our interests are in grave danger. 

With confidence in our armed forces, with the unbounding determination of our people, we will gain the inevitable triumph, so help us God. ~ President Franklin D. Roosevelt

From the Korean War Memorial:

Our Nation honors her sons and daughters who answered the call to defend a country they never knew, and a people they never met. 

I am the proud granddaughter of a Korean War Veteran who received a Purple Heart. May we all take today to remember the sacrifices made for our country and our freedom.