Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The End of NaNoRevMo

Holy Christmas lights, Batman.

It's November 30th. Which officially means that today is the end of NaNoWriMo. Anyone write 50,000 words of a novel this month? (If so, I am in serious awe).

For me, it means that it's the end of NaNoRevMo. I'm pretty far along in revising my WIP. Although, I won't be finished by tonight (I wish), I'm pretty sure I will be finished with a complete pass by the end of this upcoming weekend. And I'm pretty happy about that.

I have to admit, this hasn't been the easiest month of writing for me. There have been a couple of snafus along the way, some more major than others. But today, I found this still from a Nintendo commercial and it made me feel better.

The thing is, add a few years to that boy and he could totally be the main character in my WIP. (*mysterious voice* Make of that what you will...) It made me really happy to see him. His name is Dave, by the way. (*mysterious voice again* Make of that what you will too even though it tells you absolutely nothing.) I think I might tape this picture of a younger Dave up above my laptop to get me through the next few days.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

'Tis the Season!

Last year, I had the opportunity to be a mentor for Girls Write Now.

Girls Write Now is a New York City-based organization which pairs a professional female writer with a teen writer from an underserved public school. Each week, mentors and mentees meet up for an hour-long one-on-one session while 6 times throughout the school year, the group gets together for genre workshops ranging in everything from fiction and journalism to memoir and sketch comedy.

It was one of the most amazingly supportive, creatively intense, ideologically pure programs I've ever had the pleasure to be a part of. I got to experience firsthand some of the most exciting and powerful new voices and I know for a fact that my mentee, Sharline, made me a better writer by pushing me with her commitment to excellence (and she really was excellent).

The organization has been going strong for 13 years and has even been recognized by the White House. This year, GWN's holiday drive is trying to raise $80,000 to continue their award-winning program.

Since writing and teens are two subjects near and dear to our hearts, we at the Class of 2K12 have pledged to help! We're trying to raise $300 for GWN through our First Giving page and I'd like to ask you to consider giving $10-$20 to this extremely worthy cause. You can donate securely and easily here.

Thank you!! And even if you aren't able to give, I recommend you check out Girls Write Now's site. It's sure to bring you some inspiration and holiday cheer.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thanksgiving Is That Holiday Where Manuscripts Magically Revise Themselves...Right?

Checking in from NaNoRevMo! I finally made it past page 100 yesterday in my revisions. Of course, the second half of the book is the one that needs the most from-scratch work but let's not focus on that at the moment.

It's Thanksgiving week so let's focus on the reasons to celebrate:

- a shortened work week
- a delicious home-cooked meal courtesy of my amazing mother.
- oh and my sister's mashed potatoes! Which are also amazing, especially when she makes them extra lumpy for me.
- the fact that Thanksgiving calories, much like birthday calories, don't count. *
- the fact that I will magically emerge from this 4-day weekend much farther along in my revisions, exactly like the Pilgrims of yore. ** That is what is meant by revisionist history, yes?

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Anyone have any exciting plans (writing-related or not) to share?

*This may not be factual.
**This may also not be factual on both counts.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

5 Ways Being a Screenwriter Helped Me Write a Novel

The rumors are true...I am an outliner.

The truth is I need to see the plot naked and bare and without all the frills of, you know, good writing. Things like fully-formed sentences or descriptions that make sense...they only drag me down when I'm first embarking on a novel.

And for this, I have to thank my screenwriting background and film school, where I learned all about beats, character sheets, three-act structure and more craft commandments at whose ground I now worship.

Check out my Class of 2K12 blog post all about it here.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Birthday Bash #29: 90s Prom

Get ready to have your minds blown...I never went to prom.

I know what you're thinking. You want to give me that speech Annie Potts gives Andie in Pretty in Pink, don't you? At the very least you want to give me a hug. When I was in high school, I had at least one older co-worker tell me that I would regret it forever if I didn't go to prom...

I'm here to tell you that not only did I survive not going to prom, but I never looked back and wistfully wished I had. It just wasn't for me.

BUT...when it came time to throwing my 29th birthday party, I decided it would be great to make it 90s-themed. And then I decided it would be great to have my prom, my way (a la Johnny Castle in the pivotal final scene of Dirty Dancing). my 90s prom:

Everyone got to be prom king and queen.

My friend Jenny dressed like it was the 1890s because, as she rightly pointed out, I did not specify which 90s.

We danced until 4 AM.

Some of us interpreted dancing as "Hammer Time."

Beanie Babies were handed out as party favors.

The decor: Prom posters, obviously. Some very spirited friends came over and helped me make these. (In what was a very "green" move, they were actually zombified, spookified and turned into Halloween posters the following week).

The costumes: We had everything from real prom dresses to 90s goth chic. Crispy bangs to boy bands and--even--a celebrity sighting involving Bodyguard-era Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown. It was pretty spectacular.

Naturally with laser backgrounds.
Clearly, the greatest boy band picture of ALL TIME. All they need is some marionette strings.

The music: While making my 11-hour playlist (seriously...and that was whittled down), I began to realize just how schizo the 90s were. You had your very early 90s extension of the 80s music, followed by grunge, followed by bubble gum pop and techno dance club hits. It was mad crazy.

And even though I was following a rule of 1-2 songs per artist, I realized it was impossible for me to cut out a single one of the four totally amazing Gin Blossoms songs that you and I know and love. So they all stayed. That's right, people. Nirvana got two songs but Gin Blossoms...FOUR. Who wins in life now?

Prizes: Superlatives such as "Best Dressed" and "Most School Spirit" were voted on. The prizes were hella cool DVDs such as Clueless and Reality Bites.

In short, I'm pretty sure this was way more fun than my real prom would ever have been. Honestly, did you get genuine Beanie Babies at your prom?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Tuning Out to Tune In

I love blogging, Twitter and social media in general. I love connecting with people online and this past year of being introduced to a wonderful world of other writers--and actually being considered one of their own--has been filled with wonder and delight.

At the same time, my real writing (the one where I'm trying to tell cohesive long-form stories, not write silly tweets about 90s pop songs that are inexplicably stuck in my head) sometimes needs that encouragement and energy of all these wonderful other writers. And, sometimes, needs to unplug, needs outer silence so that I can tune into what the story alone is telling me.

It's a conundrum I've been struggling with lately. I'm currently revising a new story that I feel very passionate about. But I also know it's not there yet; it's not great...but it could be. And for that to happen, it needs all my focus.

Unplugging is very difficult. There isn't a day that goes by where I'm not online; there hasn't been in over a decade now. Lately, there isn't a day where I'm not on Facebook or Twitter or thinking about blog posts. I want to be involved in this community. I want to hear other people's amazing news and read their stories.

But I think, at least for the next few weeks, I'm going to have to limit my social media usage. I need to cut out some of the noise so that, hopefully, I can hear the (right now too quiet) strains of what this story needs from me and where it wants to go. I sincerely hope I can do it justice. And I sincerely hope I can momentarily disconnect without feeling disconnected.

Monday, November 7, 2011

MG Author Spotlight & Giveaway: Interview with A.J. Hartley

I'm so pleased to have this month's MG author on my blog. A.J. Hartley is a New York Times bestselling author and a Shakespearean professor. His first middle grade novel came out just last month. It's called Darwen Arkwright and the Peregrine Pact and it's filled with adventure, fantasy and a great, great friendship at its core. It also has a British protagonist (and, you might know, I'm a bit of an anglophile) and is a novel suitable for boys and girls of all ages.

Read on after the interview to see how you can enter to win a copy of A.J.'s book!

Eleven-year-old Darwen Arkwright has spent his whole life in a tiny town in England. So when he is forced to move to Atlanta, Georgia, to live with his aunt, he knows things will be different - but what he finds there is beyond even his wildest imaginings!

Darwen discovers an enchanting world through the old mirror hanging in his closet - a world that holds as many dangers as it does wonders. Scrobblers on motorbikes with nets big enough to fit a human boy. Gnashers with no eyes, but monstrous mouths full of teeth. Flittercrakes with bat-like bodies and the faces of men. Along with his new friends Rich and Alexandra, Darwen becomes entangled in an adventure and a mystery that involves the safety of his entire school. They soon realize that the creatures are after something in our world - something that only human children possess.

To borrow (and modify) a question from James Lipton, what’s your favorite middle-grade appropriate “curse word” or insult?
A.J. Hartley: As a Brit, all my favorite curse words are a bit obscure. My current favorite is "chuff": a nicely flexible Northen English curse which can mean happy or pleased (as in "I'm right chuffed that Chelsea lost on Saturday") but is also a less specific intensifier: "He's a right chuffin' idiot, he is." Or "What the chuff do you think you're playing at?" "Chuffin' 'eck!" is the exclamation form. It's a chuffin' useful word to have in your arsenal.

If you could step into a magic mirror and go anywhere, where would you go?
AJH: I have favorite places in the world. Delphi, in Greece, for instance. Uxmal, in Mexico. Kenilworth castle or the Castlerigg stone circle in England. But I think if I had a truly magical mirror I'd want to be surprised. Take me somewhere completely unknown. Somewhere impossible.

You're already a bestselling author, but Darwen Arkwright is your first children's book. Were there any challenges you didn't expect in writing for a younger audience? Were there any similarities in your process?
AJH: It really is a completely different process in some ways, and not at all in others. I hope that in the end children's, YA and adult books are all finally about story, character and good prose, but the MG market is entirely new for me and in many respects what I've tried to do with DARWEN feels like an entirely different entity from anything I've written before. At first I worried that I might be pitching the language at too sophisticated a level, but I talked to R.L. Stine about this and he assured me that if I considered "dumbing down" the book, I would be making a huge mistake and that my readers would sniff out that they were being condescended to. In the end, I took the path of a great storyteller like Dickens, who knows how to be absolutely clear and straightforward without simplifying his ideas. Shakespeare too, though his language seems more arcane to us now, is often at his most powerful when he is most simple in his word choice.

One of the things I love about writing middle grade books, though, is that I don't have to worry quite so much about genre, since MG is defined by age group rather than literary categories. When I write adult books I'm accutely conscious that I'm often blurring or straying entirely from the genre I'm supposed to be working in, and that this will irritate my editors and readers. I don't feel that in MG. So long as the story makes sense according to its own internal logic, I don't worry if the tone shifts, or that some scenes are closer to horror than to fantasy, humor to sci-fi etc. I'm also delighted that I don't have to DECIDE not to write literary fiction for younger readers, or that sensational story lines might disqualify me from being a 'serious' writer :)

Like Darwen, you're an Englishman who now lives in the South. Do you remember the first American phrase/idiom that really caught you off-guard?
AJH: Tricky. Like most Brits I've been exposed to American language use through film and television from an early age, and British English continues to morph towards an American standard. No one where I grew up would ever use the word "guys" to describe a group including women, and when I first spent time with Americans I found it bizarre to the point of irritation. I now use it all the time regardless of gender. I still refuse to use "momentarily" to mean "in a moment" rather than "for a moment." I just can't get away from the grammatical logic of the thing no matter how many times I am told someone will be with me momentarily. But then I also wince when people (everyone, now, it seems) use "impact" as a verb... I know, I know. I'm a fuddy duddy. Which is ironic, when you think about it. No one says fuddy duddy anymore except fuddy duddies.

What are two MG books you'd recommend and why?
AJH: John Masefield's The Box of the Delights, because it's old and reminds me of childhood Christmases, and is one of those archetypal Travels to Other Worlds stories (like my own) which I always loved as a kid. The resolution of the story feels a little dated now, but I love the villainous card-sharping curates on the train who, when looked at the right way, look like foxes...

Right now I'm just discovering (somewhat behind the curve) the delights of Rick Riordan's Kane Chronicles. Fun stuff. I love the bickering narrators and the sense of ancient magic.

Oh, and can I add Joseph Delaney's Last Apprentice series? Tales of seventeenth century Lancashire witchcraft. I grew up in the bleak hills which are the core of the stories and he manages to master an understated creep factor which really gets under your skin. The first MG books to actually give me nightmares for a very long time!

Thank you A.J. for an awesome interview. My goal for the year is to find a way to use 'chuffed' in daily conversation.

And now, I'm right chuffed to present this giveaway! (Mission...accomplished)

The giveaway is now closed! Congratulation to winner, Aiecha, and thanks to everyone who entered!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

NaNoWriMo --> NaNoRevMo?

As you may know, November is National Novel Writing Month, often shortened as NaNoWriMo. It's when a lot of writers pledge to get their novels completed by the time November 30th rolls around. If you follow a lot of writers on Twitter, expect to see word count tweets galore!

I know a lot of writers have had success with this. I even recall Stephanie Perkins writing in her acknowledgments that she finished the first draft of Anna and the French Kiss because of NaNoWriMo.

I've actually never attempted NaNoWriMo before but, as it so happens, the timing worked out that I'm just about to embark on edits on a manuscript I wrote earlier this year.

So I decided: I think instead of NaNoWriMo, I'm going to spend the month of November trying to get all my edits done. NaNoWriMo will TRANSFORM...into NaNoRevMo. (Originally, I was going to go with NaNoEdMo, but I think NaNoRevMo sounds much more Transformer-like, don't you?)

I fully admit that revisions are much easier for me than writing first drafts, so I know I'm not going to to be doing anything near as impressive as an 50K word count in 30 days. But I do have some extensive editing work to do and I think having the month-long goal will help spur me along!

Anyone else partaking in NaNoWriMo this month or, like me, in NaNoRevMo? Has anyone done it in the past and perhaps has some advice or wisdom to share?