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Nov. 12th, 2010

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NaNoReaMo: LEVIATHAN

Finally, a place with internet again!

As some of you may know, I’ve been utterly incommunicado the last couple of days. I’m still traveling with my family, and we’d been staying at a bed and breakfast on the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria, Australia. The down side? No internet whatsoever. The upside? About five minutes from all the wineries you could possibly want to visit. This was the view outside our window:



It’s been a fantastic couple of days, including moments like hearing koalas bellowing (yes, BELLOWING) during a moonlit tour of a wildlife sanctuary, walking through a maze of roses taller than my head, and driving down gravel roads covered by cathedral-like arches of high eucalypt trees. Plus, tons of delicious wine. All that said, I find myself missing the internet, but not in the way I would’ve expected. I used to get horribly antsy missing the internet, wanting my email and my games and whatever else, because I’d be bored without it. I find it to be rather different now—I’m not bored, with all the books I can possibly devour, and tremendously busy days. Instead, I’ve discovered that I feel a slight hint of loneliness without the internet. I want to keep in touch with all my new blogger/writer friends, and keep up on what they’re doing. I’ve just begun meeting some new folks and I feel the loss of those new tentative friendships way more keenly than I had expected. So though I’ve been having a brilliant time on vacation, I’m glad to be back in “civilization” with some internet, now that we’re staying at a hotel in Melbourne.

This is what I’ve been up to without the internet:



I’m a big fan of Scott Westerfeld’s UGLIES series, enough so that I will cheerfully read anything he writes because I know I’ll enjoy it. I knew absolutely nothing about LEVIATHAN before beginning it, though, except that it seemed to involve giant robots of some kind, and that was only from what I’d seen on the cover. As it turns out, it’s a story about two teenagers during the beginning stages of World War I, although It takes place in some sort of alternate history world, the science of which is such a delight to discover that I won’t spoil you for it if you haven’t read it yet. There’s cross-dressing, there’s giant war machines, there’s flying whales, there’s Darwinist geekery, there’s explosions and glaciers and castles and furtive escapes in the dark of night. Seriously, this book has basically everything you could ask for. Including a thylacine.

I also completely loved the illustrations, which were just PERFECT for the book. The artist, Keith Thompson, so clearly captured the characters and the swashbucklingness of the story. (Yes, that’s a word.) I normally get a flash of “Oh, that’s not right” when I see character illustrations, because my mental image is invariably not echoed in the pictures, but for some reason these worked perfectly for me.

My only complaint about the book is its ending. I won’t spoil it for you, but I will say that it felt very non-climactic to me. I usually love open endings for books—in fact, I usually write them that way myself—but I like for the main conflicts of the story to be resolved, with just that sting at the end of the story to come. THE HUNGER GAMES is a great example of that kind of open ending, as is THE GOLDEN COMPASS. Unfortunately, LEVIATHAN doesn’t end with an opening so much as it doesn’t end… it just stops. I was two paragraphs into the afterward before I realized the novel had ended and I was reading about the ratio of fact to fiction in the history, and not a strange way of starting a new chapter.

All of that said, I think that when your biggest disappointment with a book is that it ends, you’re doing pretty okay.

Nov. 7th, 2010

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National Novel Reading Month!

My posts have been scarce lately, as I've been in a bit of limbo with my writing and, more recently, traveling without steady access to a computer. The up side to this is that I am reading a TON.

I actually have to remind myself to read. This isn't because I don't love it, because I do--but I get similar pleasures out of writing and reading, and often when I make time for that in my life, the writing takes over. Especially when I have a project I'm really buckling down on, all my free time goes to writing and my pile of books gets sadly neglected. Something I've learned only in the past year or so is that when I don't read, my writing suffers. My creativity falls. I get sad. Basically, everything starts to slide if I'm not reading enough!

So this month, since I'm not doing NaNoWriMo, I've decided to do NaNoReaMo--read as much as I can within the month! I'll post the books I've read here as I finish them, along with little blurbs about them.

I'm off to a roaring start, one week into November and four and a half novels read. The half is Cassie Clare's CITY OF GLASS, but as I started that at the end of October I can't count it.

So on with the books!

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Oct. 26th, 2010

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Halloween, NaNo, and sundry stuff.

I keep getting people asking if I'm planning to do NaNo. I've never done it in the past, just because something weird in my brain rebels against the idea of the impetus to write coming from outside myself. I totally love NaNo time, and get behind all my friends who do it, cheer them on, am happy when they get really into it--but I've never felt the desire to join in the fun for some reason. Anyway, this year I've come REALLY close to doing it, just because my housemate Amie is doing it, as well as the few writerfriends I've met in the Melbourne area, and a bunch of my friends back in the U.S. too. It even comes at a convenient time--I'll be querying by then, and working on my next novel. But it JUST hit me why I can't do it: I'm traveling and having family coming to visit starting November 1st and not leaving until November 20-something. Duh. (Yes, I only just made this connection now, okay, I'm dumb). So, to answer everyone: Alas, no, I'm not doing NaNo this year.

Updates! I'm still tweaking THE IRON WOOD, mostly because I appear to be incapable of letting it go. I'm waiting to hear back on a critique, while going over some line edits and suggestions from some friends who've been awesome enough to read it for me. I'm hoping to be ready to send it out in a couple of weeks though.

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Oct. 9th, 2010

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The Pitfalls of Passive Protagonists

As some of you know, last year I attended an absolutely phenomenal workshop, the Odyssey Writing Workshop up in New Hampshire. I had no idea when I applied just how great it would be, though. In all honesty? I went thinking to myself, “Well, I already know how to write. But this will be great for making connections and learning about the publishing world.”

That delusion lasted approximately twelve minutes into the first lecture on the first morning of the first day.

I encountered a lot of surprises in my own writing over the six weeks of the workshop, but the one that was by far the hardest to swallow was this:

I wrote passive heroines.

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Oct. 3rd, 2010

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You know, there might just be lots of extra pesky words cluttering up your manuscript now and then.

See what I did there? Haha.

Anyway. It's no big secret I'm trying to cut my manuscript right now. It needs to drop about 12,000 words to fit within the YA fantasy word limit of 100k. I’m getting a lot of help from other writers who’ve taken a look at my manuscript, especially Amie Kaufman and more recently Kat Zhang. Ultimately, though, I’m the one who has to make the call on the cuts.

Do I stand by my manuscript, and query agents with it even though it’s over the magic word limit? Or do I cut it, potentially at the expense of the story, so that it fits, and make certain I don’t alienate agents who are turned off by the high word count?

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Sep. 24th, 2010

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Contest! Gratitude! Stuff!

Yeah, I'm not doing much better than single words, here.

I just got back home and sat down to find my Twitter DM and Gmail inboxes flooded with congratulatory messages, and my sleepy brain (it's past midnight here in Australia) had to really clank and whir a while before I realized what was even going on. As it turns out, my entry in the Adventures in Children's Publishing pitch-to-query contest won!

I'm so excited that it sounds rather lame to even say "I'm excited." I was in love with this whole contest and process before, just because of how helpful it was in terms of whipping my rather sad query into much better shape. I just want to say a big THANK YOU to the participants for being awesome, and for being brave enough to post your work for the world to see with the express purpose of being critiqued. It's not easy. It's not easy at ALL. I've met so many awesome people throughout this process. There's a reason I love the community of YA writers. You're an awesome group of people.

So what now? Well, tomorrow I need to go back over my first three chapters. I've actually been intending to do this for a while. Of the whole manuscript, the beginning needs the most work, simply because I want to reduce the amount of exposition I have in there. Trust your audience, Meg. They'll get it even if you don't lead them by the hand. But yeah, it also just so happens that the first three chapters are what I now need to submit to Sarah LaPolla, so now there's double incentive!

I'm really glad I have revisions all ready to go. Lesson learned: even if you're not expecting to win, you'd better darn well prepare for it anyway, because you'll feel pretty dumb if you're not ready when you do!


And because a friend just pointed out to me that I've never actually posted my query on my LJ, I'll paste it below. This is about draft #4112 of this query. This is the version that I wrote specifically for this contest and for Sarah LaPolla, hence the personalization at the end.


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Sep. 11th, 2010

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Update and Contest!

Hey guys! It's been all quiet from me lately, and I apologize for that. Life got hectic for a while, what with WorldCon, followed by the world's biggest wind storm blowing our garden wall down, and all of us having to run around and fix it and figure out what to do with the dog, etc. And then, since we've got company coming Monday, I've been frantically Cleaning All The Things. I am more or less back now, but with that friend from the U.S. coming to visit on Monday, I'll very likely be incommunicado at that point too.


Just wanted to wave my hand around and say I'm not dead! Yay! I wanted to do a blog post following WorldCon about my experiences with it, because I know so many people who would've loved to come, but the energy levels just aren't allowing that right now. I still plan on it--if nothing else, I have to explain how I managed to end the con sitting at a bar with John Scalzi, Carrie Vaughn, Delia Sherman, and Ellen Kushner--but it might take me a little while to organize my thoughts.

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Aug. 27th, 2010

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Query Contest over at Children's Publishing

The deadline for entries has already passed, but the KidLit gals over at Adventures in Children's Publishing are having a fantastic contest/workshop to help writers polish their pitches. I'm learning an absolute ton just from reading other writers’ pitches and the comments on them. I highly recommend it to anyone who’s ever written a query, is writing a query, or may one day need to write a query. Comments are open to contestants and guests alike, so feel free to join in on the critiquing process!

Plus, bonus: my own pitch is up there, for THE IRON WOOD, the book you guys have been listening to me babble about for the past few months.

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Aug. 15th, 2010

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What inspires you to be inspired?

I think most writing blogs at some point do a post on inspiration. What inspires you? they ask, and I always love reading the answers. The ones that are similar to my own sources of inspiration make me feel like I'm part of a secret club of creative geniuses, and the ones that are different often introduce me to new methods of inspiration that I might not have even thought about.

But that’s not what this post is about.

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Aug. 2nd, 2010

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10 Things I Have Learned About Revising (aka, how not to die)

In no particular order:

1.  If you're writing along, plowing ahead in order to finish a draft, and you think of stuff you want to change later but don't right at that moment because you want to finish, MAKE A NOTE OF IT SOMEWHERE.  You aren't actually going to remember later, no matter how sure you are at the time that you will.

2.  Outline outline outline.  Even if you're a writer who abhors outlining ahead of time (like me), do try outlining your plot after having written the first draft.  This makes it so much easier to see the problem points, and visualize the pace of your plot. 

3.  Try to leave the house sometimes.

4.  Take a break between the first and second drafts.  Even if you think you're on a roll and should keep up the momentum, you are going to want to die in about a week.

5.  Start the new draft with a clean document, rather than saving a copy of the previous draft and making changes to it.  If there are sections that aren't getting rewritten, then copy/paste them from the old draft to the new one in SMALL chunks.  This forces you to actually look at what you're putting in, and keeps you from glossing over it. 

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