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Monday, June 30, 2014

June Check-In

Where did June even go? Wasn't I just writing May's check-in, like, yesterday? It was a good month. Certainly lots of things happened.

Writing: 
Word count: 31,451
This month easily broke the records set by the previous months. In fact, a third of my grand total for the year so far was written this month. It really does help to have a steady WIP. I haven't quite hit 20k yet but I'm loving it so far and looking forward to seeing how the rest of it goes.

Reading: 
This month: 2
Total: 20
Should be: 25
I've reduced my goal to 50 books once again for the year because I don't see myself getting caught up and making it to 100. I spent most of the month reading Son by Lois Lowry, through no fault of the book itself. I'm just having a really hard time settling down to read when there's so many distractions.

Movies: 
This month: 8
Total: 22
Should be: 25
I should be able to get caught up pretty easily at this point. Movies I highly recommend from this month are Monuments Men, What's Your Number, and The Book Thief. I was worried about TBT in particular (the book is one of my favorites of all time and I'm known to be critical of movie adaptations) but it was actually very well-done. I also watched X-Men: Days of Future Past and it kind of surprised me. Okay, a certain character didn't surprise me at all, but there were some other things that were a nice surprise.

I hope everyone had a great month and that July proves to be even better.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

What's Up Wednesday: June 25

What's Up Wednesday is a weekly blog hop created by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk to help writers stay in touch.

What I'm Reading: 
I did actually keep my promise from last week to have a new answer to this question. I finally finished Son by Lois Lowry. I'm not going to write a review of it because I'm not sure what to say (and also because I took so long reading it), but I did enjoy it and it made me want to go back and reread the first three books. Next up, I've started a memoir called The Horse Boy by Rupert Isaacson.

What I'm Writing: 
Progressing a little bit slower on LP this week. My word count is up to 16k and climbing. I have a good idea of where I'm going, but I'm not so sure of what's happening now and that's slowing me down. I am a pantser by nature but I do keep a rough list of future scene ideas and questions that need to be answered.

What Else I've Been Up To: 
Over the weekend, I passed my road test and got my drivers' license. Yes, I got it a bit later than most people. I took drivers' ed in high school but I had a lot of driving-related anxiety. I took my road test for the first time before leaving for college and failed. Then I went away to college (where I could walk everywhere I needed to go) and there wasn't time during the brief holidays I was home so it just didn't happen. Well, now it's done!

What Inspires Me: 
I was pretty nervous for my test so to help calm down I would remind myself of all the things I would be able to do once I had my license. There were simple things that driving to visit a friend or getting my hair cut, and more complicated things like driving myself back from college or volunteering at a therapeutic riding stable. 

Have a great week, everyone!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Get Back on the Horse

There's a saying in the horse world that sometimes comes up, especially among young riders. "You're not a real rider until you fall off a horse seven times." I hit that point several years ago and here are the lessons I learned that I also apply to writing.

Fall #1: 
I was up on an old, bombproof gelding responsible for giving me the "horse bug." I wasn't experienced enough to know how to do much more than hold the reins. There was only a thick blanket between me and the horse. My gelding was following his pasture mate and, of course, they both decided to trot. The blanket started to slip and I landed right on my tailbone. I was completely fine and while I don't remember getting back on the horse, I must have at some point. 

Moral: The first fall is always the hardest. It'll be a shock to your system but get right back up there and you'll be fine.

Fall #2 and #3: 
By this time, I was under the instruction of a professional trainer (if you use the term "professional" loosely). The mare I was up on was a difficult mare to ride. The first time she threw me, we were trotting over poles of various widths apart. I was trotting over the tightest ones and she wasn't collected enough, so she decided to leap. I went over her shoulder. The second time around my heels came up over a cross-rail and, once again, I went over her shoulder.

Moral: Some things are going to be hard to handle but with a lot of experience you can learn. Despite that, there are some things that are outside of your control (agents, publishers, the market) but, at the same time, there are other things that you can. If you concentrate on the latter, you'll be able to overcome the things that you can't. It's all a learning experience. If you make a mistake, learn from it and move on.

Fall #4 and #5: 
I stuck with the same instructor and was introduced to a very sweet but very green gelding. He was five years old and I had no business riding him. My first fall off of him came when he spooked at a giant dryer in the corner of the arena and the second one was over the simple thing of a saddle sitting on top of the arena gate. 

Moral: If your instincts are telling you that you need to get out, get out. Odds are things aren't going to get any better if they can't be worked out. If things are getting so bad that you're starting to think about giving up on your passion, maybe it's time for a change.

Fall #6: 
This one came off my own horse, Lady, at a tiny schooling show. My barn's tiny indoor arena was divided into a little show arena lined on one side with stands for the parents. Behind the stands was just enough space for riders and horses to stand while they prepared to enter the arena. One second I was sitting in the saddle waiting for the announcement to enter the ring for my first class. The next, I was sitting on the ground.

We figured that Lady must have spooked at the arena door banging and shot backward so fast she tripped. I went flying off as her hindquarters hit the ground in front of me. Someone grabbed me and helped as I scrambled to get as far away from her as possible as she got back to her feet. In short, Lady was fine, I was fine, and we won two trophies that day, including the class that I had been waiting to enter at the time.

Moral: If something happens before a big moment, get back on the horse and get in that arena. Don't let anything shake you. It doesn't matter if everyone saw you fall, get out there and do your best.

Fall #7:
One of the things Lady taught me in the year that I owned her was how to sit a buck. It was terrifying at first, but gradually I learned to get over my fear, pull her head up, and push her forward. During one normal lesson, I asked Lady to pick up a canter and she gave me the wrong lead. I asked her to trot so that I could correct it, but didn't wait until she did before I nudged her with my outside heel. She bucked through a flying lead change (something that I didn't even know she could do) and I went flying. I jumped to my feet, laughed it off, and hopped back on to try it again.

Moral: If something happens, laugh it off. And if your story surprises you with unexpected brilliance, embrace it. Harness that and play with it a little. To this day, one of my biggest regrets with Lady is that I never tried to get her to do a flying lead change on purpose. Don't let that happen to you and one of your stories.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

What's Up Wednesday: June 18

What's Up Wednesday is a weekly blog hop created by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk to help writers stay in touch. My apologies for reading so few blogs last week. I use feedly to help keep track of posts and it was down for several days last week.

What I'm Reading: 
To hold myself accountable, I'm going to make a promise. Next week, I will have a new answer for this question. I need to get in gear because I've been informed by people who actually watch it that the Game of Thrones show has caught up to where I am in the books. Which means I need to take advantage of the hiatus to get ahead if I want to stay that way.

What I'm Writing: 
Making steady progress on my new WIP, nicknamed "LP" for the time being. I hit 10k at the end of last week and then took the weekend off writing, but I've started up again this week. The original premise that I had in mind is not exactly what's coming out now. While I'm excited about the change, I'm also not quite sure where it's going.

What Inspires Me: 
My niece. She's five years old and has a wild imagination. I took the weekend off writing so that I could spend time with her. I can't believe how fast she's growing up!

What Else I've Been Up To: 
Trying to spend as little time outside as possible (the humidity is killer) and waiting for the storms that are inevitably going to roll in. I like thunderstorms but when you have a leaky roof and a storm-phobic dog it causes more problems. It's still sunny outside and I'm already working to keep him off my bed.

Have a great week everyone and stay safe if you're in/near the storms!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Five Things to Look for in Submission Guidelines

When querying, you should read the submission guidelines for each agent carefully. While the basic process is typically the same, some agents do have some preferences on how queries should be sent and what they should include.

1. How?
Some agencies use an online form for queries, so keep an eye out to see if this is the case. If it's not, then check to see how queries should be sent. Most agencies seem to accept e-queries these days, some of them exclusively. However there are still some agents that only accept snail mail. Whichever method you intend to use, make sure you're finding agents that accept it.

2. Agency policy on submitting to multiple agents
There are some agencies that ask for a query to be submitted to only one agent at the agency. Therefore, a no from one is a no from all. Other agencies allow submissions to multiple agents, but not simultaneously. I keep notes on which agencies are "no one, no all" to make sure that I don't accidentally query them twice.

3. Submission emails
Some agencies have one email account for all queries and others have individual accounts for each agent.

4. Special instructions for subject line
I don't see a lot of these, beyond including "query," but they do happen. Some agencies where all queries are going to the same email will ask that you include the name of the agent you're querying. Many agencies ask for "query" to be included, otherwise the email might end up in the spam filter.

5. Extra things to include
Agents will ask for a wide variety of things to be included with the query. Typically sample pages (ranging widely in length) and/or a synopsis. Most agencies I've seen won't accept emails with attachments, but there are some that request sample pages as them.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

What's Up Wednesday: June 11

What's Up Wednesday is a weekly blog hop created by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk to help writers stay in touch.

What I'm Reading: 
In books, still Son. I've been distracted lately in doing research into criticisms of Cesar Millan (you may know him as The Dog Whisperer from National Geographic).

What I'm Writing: 
Exciting news for this one for once. I finished Weredragon's polish a couple weeks ago and sent it to a friend who gave me some great comments and pointed out some things I'd missed. I've had a SNI  floating around my head for several months now but it was just a premise. I had ideas for two characters, but I was still lacking their basic personalities and that's the important thing to me when I start writing. On Sunday, I started writing and I've already hit just over 7k. There are dragons and sorcerers and captured princesses and I'm very excited about it.

What Inspires Me: 
New characters. I work with a vague outline to give me some idea where I'm going, but mostly I'm a pantser. I like to discover new things about my characters as I write and watch them form their own identities. I'm really excited about the girls in this story, especially the main character, Kaiya.

What Else I've Been Up To: 
Getting the house cleaned up for when my friends visit next month. Finished season two of Supernatural. Started season two of Stargate SG1. This weekend my brother and his family, who I only get to see a couple times a year, will be up for the weekend so I can't wait to see them.

Have a great week!

Monday, June 9, 2014

What Comes First?

No, this isn't one of those chicken or egg discussions because I can go on for far too long about that question. I started a new WIP yesterday and it got me thinking about what element of the story comes first when I get a new idea.

Sometimes it's the characters. The people in my story are extremely important to me and usually they come first. They're personalities and sometimes looks pop into my head. I can hear the voices. Sometimes I get a feel for their story right away and other times it remains a mystery for some time.

Most of the time, it's the premise. With Weredragon, I had the simple idea of a girl stuck in the woods because she transformed into a dragon at night. From there Helena and Tristian came about to take on that premise. That's what happened with my current WIP. I thought of the basic idea but the characters didn't come out to play until I had to come up with names so that I could actually start writing. Under this umbrella, is the occasional incident when I come up with a dystopian idea and the world comes to me first. Cardinal Three was like that in that I had the basics of my worldbuilding figured out long before I had characters or a plot.

Rarely, it's the plot. I'm a pantser who tends to figure out plot as I go so this doesn't happen to me very often and when it does, the plot is a fairly vague one. Wrecked, a WIP that I will eventually find the courage to revise, came as a partial plot. Usually I have to dig deeper with the characters or premise to figure out what the plot will be rather than thinking of it as the initial idea.

What about you? When you get a new idea, what's the first thing to come to you?

Monday, June 2, 2014

May Check-In

What do you mean we're halfway through 2014 already? May wasn't a bad month but it wasn't a great one either. I'm having a little trouble getting back into the rhythm of blogging and thinking of things to talk about.

Writing: 
Word count: 14,398
I'll be finishing up Weredragon's final polish today and then I have every intention of starting a new WIP that doesn't have a nickname yet but does also involve dragons.

Reading: 
This month: 1
Total: 18
Should be: 50
I just haven't been wanting to read lately. It's not for lack of books, I have entire stacks that I really need to get to. I'm planning a personal read-a-thon in the next couple of weeks so I can hopefully work my way through at least a few of them.

Movies: 
This month: 6
Total: 14
Should be: 25
This was a big movie month for me. My favorite for the month is a tie between The Normal Heart and Black Swan. Both movies were amazing but I love the for different reasons. Normal Heart made me fall in love and then ripped out my heart. Black Swan twisted my brain into the most beautiful knots.