Tuesday’s Taking Care of Business Tips for the Writer

First, a moment to listen to Bachman Turner Overdrive’s Taking Care of Business because I bet your brain went there.

And now to take care of “end of the year business.” (Yeah, I know that there’s an entire month following November, but I also know that my brain is hijacked by the holidays. Frankly, my brain’s kinda been hijacked by Bachman Turner Overdrive right now…)
Anyway, here’s a handy checklist of Things To Do (If You’re a Writer) for Taking Care of End-of-the-Year Business.
*Check your blog and/or website for dead links to your online work.
*Consider cleaning out some of those old, tired links and adding links to recent work. This simple step will give your blog and/or website a freshness as well as get rid of that static vibe.

*Find your Goals for 2011 (You did write down your goals somewhere, right?) and review. You’ll still have time to work on the goals you completely forgot, and you’ll end the year feeling wonderful about the goals you accomplished. (If you can’t find your Goals for 2011 then I have a suggestion for what your very first goal for 2012 should be.)
*Take a mathematical look at your blog stats. Compare what posts generated excellent traffic to those that did not. Extrapolate and use the results to improve your stats next year. (I was looking at a picture of Albert Einstein right before I wrote this post.)
*Make a list of the writing books and/or business tools you’d like the Beneficent Mr. Hall to stuff under your tree. Of course, he’ll probably only stuff those goodies under my tree. But hey, you can ask.

*Clean your desk, work space, cubbyhole, whatever or wherever you work. You’ll start the new year with an organized perspective. (And you’ll probably be shocked at what you find amongst the mess. Well, I assume you’ll be shocked. My desk hasn’t looked that clean and organized since I took that picture a couple years ago. But I never said I take care of all my business.)

Finding Something Friday: 2011 Goodreads Choice Awards

If you want to be a writer, you’ve got to be a reader.

Yes, I know you know that. But are you reading? Not the newspaper, or the magazines in the checkout aisle, or the cereal box on the breakfast table. I’m sure those all make for mighty interesting reading. But what you’ve got to read is mighty fine books.

And what I’ve found today is the Goodreads Choice Awards over at Goodreads.

It doesn’t matter if you don’t want to be bothered with posting all the books you’ve read on Goodreads. Or that you don’t care about the really cool Goodreads widgets. Or that you might get sucked into playing that books trivia game and have a screaming hissy fit because you miss three questions in a row that, really, you knew but didn’t go with your gut first answer. Ahem.

No, writers. What matters is what you’ll find at Goodreads that’s going to help you become the best writer you can be.

You’re going to find lists of books. And with the Goodreads Choice Awards, you’re going to find 15 excellent, current books in each of 30 categories. You’ll find the best humor books (Want to write humorous essays? Check ’em out). You’ll find the best of the year’s memoir (Got a life story? Check those out.) You’ll find the best non-fiction (Thinking of a proposal? Look into what’s out there.). And you’ll find the best in fiction, from horror to historical, graphic novels to romance, picture books to paranormal fantasy.

So, off you go, writer. Goodreads is a mighty fine place to start finding, well, good reads. And if you’re like me, you’ve got an awful lot of reading to catch up on!

When Is A Debut Novel NOT a Debut Novel?

Yesterday, I read a blog post from Janet Reid (the literary agent). What I spied with my little eye was the bit about the writer who was very, very good but she’d turned him down because she’d seen that story a dozen times. A debut novel needs to be something fresh and new, she said.

Over the weekend, I attended an SCBWI conference where Alexandra Cooper (an editor) mentioned that writers should do their homework, see what publishers are buying and pay attention to what kinds of books are glutting up the marketplace. But what if a writer’s been working on a book for a couple years and NOW the marketplace is glutted with her kind of story? What to do then? Ms. Cooper suggested that perhaps that “overdone” novel might need to stay under the bed for awhile. A debut novelist needs something…yep, fresh and new.

The last query response I received was very sweet. I can’t remember the agent’s name off the top of my head, but she personally answered the email. Loved the title, she said, loved the humor, and she felt that the writing was good and that the book would find a home. But this sweet agent already had something like my novel. Honestly? It’s not the first time I’ve gotten a response along those lines.

And so I’m considering, or perhaps I should say re-considering, whether this manuscript is the one I should be putting out there as a debut novel. I really love this story. I love these characters. And I want to tell more of their story. A story that may, if I keep pushing, sell sooner or later.

But is it fresh enough and new enough to be a debut novel? In the last three months, I keep hearing this message, and now it’s beginning to take on an ominous tone, like a warning. To wit: just because you can get your first book published…should you?

Which just goes to prove that October may be all about scary monsters and things that go bump in the night, but what really keeps a person wide awake and terrified is freakin’ reality and the choices we make that might affect the rest of our lives. (Boo!)

Tuesday’s Thoughts on Random (But Writerly!) Things

So, I’m getting down to writerly business (Really. I am.), but I’ve got a few thoughts jumbling around in my head, banging to get out. And you know what they say, “There’s more room on the outside…”

*On Why I Don’t Journal

Someone asked me recently about journaling. The someone happened to be a non-writer, but writers often ask me if I journal. And the short answer is no, I don’t seem to be able to stick with journaling. I do write down funny things I’ve heard, or jot a story idea, and make endless Things To Do Lists, but that’s not the same as journaling. I write stories. I suspect that helps me work out the stuff I’d journal about, if I could stick with journaling.

*On Reading a Really Good Book (When You’re a Writer)

I’m reading Incarceron right now. Actually, I’m inhaling Incarceron. Before I started writing Young Adult fiction, I could read books and thoroughly enjoy the experience. But now, when I read a really good YA book, I want to bang my head on the desk, then throw my manuscript into the fireplace, light a match to it, and cry in despair because I will never, ever write something even close to that really good YA book. And then the Beneficent Mr. Hall finds me in a closet and asks, “What the heck is wrong with you?” I try to explain but it’s impossible to explain because of course, the man has such ridiculous faith in me until he really starts to worry and says, “Maybe you should try some other job?” Somehow, I manage to drag myself out of the closet and get back to work. But first, I read a really crappy book. (Coincidentally, I have a lot of stories where characters face their shortcomings.)

*On Looking for Mrs. (or Mr.) Agent

It’s a tough business, looking for an agent. Rejection is part of the game. And just for the record, I do not crawl into closets after every rejection (Mostly because I’d end up living in the closet.). But when I get a personal rejection, even if it’s just a reply with my NAME in it, I don’t feel so bad. And if an agent takes the time to say something nice, even if it’s just a couple words about the title, or liking the humor, I’m thrilled. It’s a crazy world when I’m fist-pumping over rejection.

So, I think I’ve got a little room in my head now to get back to writing. After I put a little ice on the banged-up part.

I Don’t Wanna Say Goodbye to the Summer

Technically, it’s still summer for a month or so. But I spent this week at the beach, and there’s just something about that last day, walking through the sand, that makes me think of that song, “Sealed with a Kiss.”
And yes, I know it’s not “goodbye TO the summer, but rather “FOR the summer.” But work with me here, people. I’m going with poetic license to make a writing point.

Yes, you were wondering when I’d quit whining and get to the writing. Ahem.
Have you ever considered the seasons of your writing? I work year round, almost every day, writing. But the work is not always that productive.
There are dry spells when the words and thoughts swirl by like dust motes and try as I might to catch them…swoosh, they blow right past.
Sometimes, a cold wind seeps into my writing, freezing a story in its tracks. I have to wait, then, for a crack of a bright idea to melt the sticking plot points.
And writing in the summer…well, there are days when a sudden squall pops up and the words flow, rushing from my neurons to the page. But there are more days when it’s just too hot to think up brilliant stuff, and I sit at my chair, thoughts languishing.
Then that first day of school looms on the horizon, and though I’m no longer school age, I say goodbye to the last Junior Hall, packing up and driving off for college, and I, too, am filled with promise.
I’m energized once again! So I suppose I will say goodbye for the summer after all. I just felt a couple of drops…I think a writing monsoon’s on the way!