#AuthorToolboxBlogHop: Plotter Shmotter, Pantser Plantser

If you’ve been in the writing community for any length of time, you’ve probably heard of plotters and pantsers — people who plot their stories before they write them, and people who write by the seat of their pants.

Thing is, from talking to a lot of writers, it seems like everyone does a mix of things. This pantser outlines a little in advance as they go, or has a short list of major plot points when they start writing. A plotter may use a super loose outline, or knows that nearly everything on it will change by the end. So though most people pick sides like some odd writing sports team, it almost seems like they’re nonexistent.

What I have noticed, though, is that a lot of people who identify as pantsers end up spending a lot of time revising, and tend to enjoy it. And a lot of outliners take their time to create highly polished first drafts and avoid tedious revision they dislike. So, instead of pantsers vs. plotters struggling in an age-old writerly battle, I think something more accurate might be drafters and revisers.

How about you? Do you think you’re a drafter or a reviser? Or do you think I’m totally wrong, and you’re a pantser or a plotter?

Also, be sure to check out more writing advice the rest of the #AuthorToolboxBlogHop!

Bacon, out.

#AuthorToolboxBlogHop: The Mythical Existence of Writer’s Block

Writer’s block debates seem to come in waves. Lots of arguing about the existence of this apparently mythical psychological state that always ends up bringing out this statement: It doesn’t exist, only weak writers give in to writer’s block!

That one makes me want to scream.

Whether or not you call it writer’s block, I claim it does exist. And I’d go so far to say this mythical beast comes in different breeds:

  • Inadequacy – This is the kind of writer’s block you push through. “But my words suck, but no one cares, but, but, but!” No buts. Or butts, please. Only words. (If your words include butts, they count.) This beast may look big and scary, but is the easiest to conquer—you just have to face it first. This article has a a lot of good advice for knocking this one out.
  • Stuck – This is a toss-up. For me, personally, I need to write through it, because I normally find where I need to go by forcing the absolute worst thing to happen (setting people on fire is a favorite). Some people need to stop, sit, and plot, though. For others, this means they need to go back and edit. Learn how you work, and don’t let this one stop you—even if you aren’t writing words, keep moving forward. This beast is a little grisly, but may end up being an ally in the end. Maggie Stiefvater just posted a great graphic (and another version) of navigating the twists and turns of this battle.
  • Emotional Constipation – Oh, this writer’s block. This is the one that knocks you off your feet when your personal life explodes, or the publishing industry destroys you. It would be so nice if writing could only be a work of love, some magical process that’s entirely rainbows and unicorn poop and catharsis. But, if you’re like me, the greatest reward to writing is having others reading your work. Which adds that lovely, stifling expectation to every word you write. And of course any additional stressors in your life love to add on to it. For this one, I have no answer on how to get right through it. This is the one I feel is the most mythical, evil being of them all, gross and rotting and dripping and oozing with doubt and insecurities. You can try stabbing and punching and screaming at this one, but sometimes it refuses to move off your words, hoarding them just out of reach. And that’s okay. You’re a human (I assume). Sometimes you need to take a break and re-focus, re-charge. Then come back and stab that sucker through the eye socket.

What about you guys? Do you believe in the fabled create called writer’s block? Do you think my list needs to be longer? Wanna share your battle scars?

Also, be sure to check out more writing advice the rest of the #AuthorToolboxBlogHop!

Bacon, out.

Agent? Agented???

So! I have news. Agent news. :D

And of course I’ll post stats and stuff because I know writers must indulge their stalker tendencies. But I also know how many of my friends and followers are fighting the same battle, and how every success story you read about can feel like a hit against your own journey.

It’s like you’re in this field, playing this sport, and there is a stadium of people watching. They’re your writing friends, maybe your family, maybe even an amazing CP or two. These people who all are rooting and invested in you watch you strike out. And strike out again. And again. And again. And you tune in to watch other games and you see people building badass teams and getting home runs, or even more impressive when they get them on their own. And you stand there alone, rookie clothes hanging awkward, dirty, sweaty, gross, and worn on your shoulders. You have friends on your side, but a friend can’t come up to bat for you A friend can’t step up and relieve you of any of the stress and strain. They watch. And they cheer. But after hundreds of games, you don’t hear that cheering anymore. You’re the underdog who’s never touched the ball, never played in a big league game while you watch everyone flying by you. So I know stats and the like aren’t going to help. You’ve just gotta keep playing ball. Unless you need to take a break. I’ve definitely had some huge mental injuries that’ve taken me off the field. And if you ever need to talk, I have ears and I get it and I’d love to listen.

Anyways, I haven’t been at it as long as some. I haven’t written as much as other people. A few people know the special hell the past two years have dragged me through. And I still have a whole heck of a lot ahead of me before the prospect of being published is a real thing. But here’s the numbers behind where I am now:

Seven(ish) years and six(ish) books that were never queried. Then:

Summer Thunder (AKA Poop Dragon/Pitch Wars ’14 MS (Note that this novel was previously represented, and this doesn’t include the stats from before then)):

  • Queries Sent: 136
  • Partials Requested: 10
  • Fulls Requested: 8
  • Rejections: 135
  • R&Rs: 1
  • Offers: 1

Essence/The Magic of Memories (AKA Sassy Stove/ Pitch Wars ’15 novel/a novel that prooobably wasn’t ready to be queried):

  • Queries Sent: 77
  • Partials Requested: 5
  • Fulls Requested: 3
  • Rejections: 77
  • R&Rs: 0
  • Offers: 0

So, yeah! After sending a #MSWL query, then getting and completing a R&R that made my book about a million times better, I signed with Samantha Wekstein of Writers House. You can see my stats weren’t really great. Everybody who wasn’t an agent sung the praises of Poop Dragon,  but I had given up hope. I’m not being dramatic. The query I sent to her was going to be the last one I sent out and then I was just going to shut everything down.

For me, I kinda hate when people say it only takes one because that completely erases the hard work and garbage that comes with getting to that one. I think, it comes down to timing and relentlessness. Because way back when I first starting querying this MS, my now-agent wasn’t taking clients. If I had given up the day before than she posted that tweet, I wouldn’t be here writing this post.

And now I will have the moment I’ve been waiting for:

I HAVE AN AGENT OHMYGOSH I HAVE A FREAKING AWESOME AGENT, EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE.

olan-rogers-screaming

supernatural-ehrmergerd

this-is-awesome

avatar-excite

fosters-o_o-whoa

*ehem*

Bacon, out.

Bus

On Why You Should Keep Writing

Alright, so I haven’t been updating my short story project lately. It isn’t because I don’t enjoy them, they’re fun to write. It’s not because I don’t have anything to post, I have like three stories in the file that just need to be edited. It’s because….

*DRUM ROLL*

(You’re never gonna guess.)

My crippling self-doubt, yaaaay!

“Really, Bacon?” you say. “Didn’t you already write a post or two about this?”

Well, I probably did, but I have some new thoughts. So let me get to my point by way of a round-about story.

Anyone who knows me personally knows that my writing life has been hell for about two years now. I am Murphy’s Law. If it can blow up in my face and cripple me emotionally, you better believe it will and then laugh as I try to crawl back up. Sorry, no gory details because those wounds still sting. Sometimes it does get better, sometimes you can use that anger to beat everything back and move forward. But sometimes you keep getting beaten down and beaten down and beaten down, and that anger dies and becomes a ghost that haunts you with its creation.

You think about it before you go to sleep. You think about it every time you open a document. You think about it every time you hit send on a query. You think about it in the shower, while driving, at work, while eating, while reading, while you’re on the freaking toilet.

It gets to the point where you look for help, you ask anyone you can to help drag you out of the pit and you get the same, meaningless advice. And it’s equally awful to get, “You’ll get there!” as, “Why don’t you just quit?” Because you want permission to stop but you also want to find a reason to keep going and it’s this awful limbo.

So I’m a part of this Twitter DM group, and I I expressed my despair awhile back. It felt like they said (note that I’m emotionally constipated and what they said and what I heard could easily be two different things), “But you’ve gotten into Pitch Wars (a fairly large competition) twice! And you got into those other contests! And you made it into that writing retreat where they only accepted so many applicants! How can you feel this way?”

Which made me angry. And depressed. So I kinda slunk out the back door and ate too much chocolate and had a lot of good crying and played too many video games. (Because I’m a child, apparently.) They just didn’t get it. Sure, I got into these things, but I’ve never made it any farther no matter how hard I try. No one actually cares about the words I’ve written. I’ve gotten to the point I wonder if any of my critique partners give a damn.

And that brings me to today. I’m still at a low point. It’s hard to think about writing. Hope is a dangerous drug I’d like to ignore, please and thank you. But this morning I saw there were new messages I will probably ignore in the Twitter group, and then in the next second I saw Victoria Schwab’s post on being an “overnight success.” And I naturally I got a couple paragraphs in and huffed and puffed when I saw that she got an agent on her first book (I’ve written six or seven books in at least in as many years of taking this business seriously, with one agent that didn’t stay for very long), and then it hit me. I’m feeling the same way that Twitter group felt when they saw me despairing. I’d hit the level of “success” they’d dreamed of. And there I was whining and complaining I hadn’t gone far enough.

Does that make my struggle any less real? No. But it brought what I’ve been able to accomplish back into focus. I have done some things to be a little proud of and to be thankful for. And maybe if there’s someone actually reading this word vomit, maybe you’re thinking, “Well whoop-dee-do, you’ve done more than me and you’re just realizing it. What a special snowflake you are.”

Some day you might be in my shoes. You might be in my shoes right now, observing my spoiled-bratty-ness. I’m sure you’ve done something worth being proud of. Maybe you’ve gotten a request for a full manuscript. Maybe you’ve found a critique partner that loves your words. And above that, maybe you’ve written. I know that fact becomes static when you’re surrounded by writers oozing out of every corner of the internet, but take this from a writer who hasn’t made it anywhere near the top: go walk down a crowded street and remind yourself that you may be the only one there who can call themselves a writer. That’s something.

If you don’t learn how to be proud of what you’ve done right now, you’re going to be miserable. Because life sucks. Writing sucks even more. And if you don’t believe what you’ve done matters, no one else is going to do that for you.

It really made me understand what those authors mean when they say that having a book deal or an agent changes nothing. Because on a subconscious level, I still think it has to change something.

But it doesn’t change enough to matter. There’s nothing that will magically make you “enough.” You do that.

So maybe think about this for awhile. Maybe don’t. It’s up to you. If you’ve stalked me long enough, you know that I write in an attempt to bring a little itty bitty piece of magic into the world, and I’m still not sure my writing does that so I don’t know where I stand. But maybe me rambling out my feelings will help somebody else.

We’ll see.

Bacon, out.

Bus

Madcap Madness

Alright, everyone and their cat wants to know how the freaking fantabulous Madcap’s Aspiring Writer Retreat was. Now I won’t (and can’t, because I’m famous for my crap memory) share all the presentations and writerly cheat codes they shared, but I can ramble about how cool it was and what it meant to me. Yay?

Well, first off, a list of the amazing published authors that were there: Maggie Stiefvater, Renée Ahdieh, Dhonielle Clayton, Tessa Gratton, Sarah Henning, Justina Ireland, Myra McEntire, Julie Morphy, Natalie C. Parker, Carrie Ryan, Victoria Schwab, Courtney C. Stevens, and Brenna Yovanoff.

Every single one was amazing and had super freaking awesome things to say. From ideas,  plotting, revising, critiquing, characters, and world-building — you name the writing process, we probably talked about it.

It’s always fascinating to see how authors do things differently, no matter how many times I’ve read about revision or listened to podcasts about world building. There’s no one right way to do something. And as writing seems to be a constantly shifting puzzle of trying to find a right path to do the thing, seeing and learning so much from so many people was absolutely priceless even if I did know a lot of the concepts they covered. Because I don’t care how many years you’ve been writing, every good writer I know gets obsessed with a piece of the whole picture from time to time. Which is great for a while, but you need to remember what the core of writing is:

Being a creator, and telling that story.

Which was what this thing was all about, and what I totally needed.

You see, the next post on my blog was going to be a very ugly “I’m quitting writing” post. My finger’s been hovering over the “publish” button on that for a long time. It’s not that I’ve wanted to quit writing, it’s that I saw no other option with the hellish writing year I’ve had. I’m not going into details (you got lucky this time, non-existent audience), but I thought it was going to take a miracle to get me writing, and if I could’ve gotten a full refund for the retreat, I wouldn’t have gone.

Now, no miracles happened. I mean, Maggie’s cool and magical and all, but I think she was using all her innate powers keeping together that Nissan she bought while she was there (nope, not kidding). But the coolest thing about a retreat like this, even though there were forty-something odd people there, was that I got a lot of personal time talking to the authors and getting their opinions on things. Specifically the ugly little varmints running around my mind lately. And just like how everyone has a different way of writing things, everyone had different advice for me. Weirdly, it was all on point.

I’ve got a lot of thinking and work to do, but I’m going to try some things out. I’m not giving up yet because I love it too much to let it go. And I’ve inherited being as stubborn as a rock from my mom (thanks, mom).

So yep. The food was fabulous, the sessions were amazing, the location was beautiful, and the writers were the freaking best. Then when it was over we set boxes on fire and we took some of the ash home to perform writing rituals and it was great.

If you can, I totally recommend going to one of these things. I would be all over the next thing Madcap does (they don’t have it on their site yet, but you can sign up for the newsletter for when they do) except for, you know, being dead broke after this one. I mean, come on. Who doesn’t want to play a game of giant (Court) Jenga?

2016-03-14 20.39.39

Bacon, out.

Bus

The Fate of the Starry-Eyed Princess…

Yes, the new chapter is coming! No, I have zero ideas when I’ll be able to post it — if I were in a state I trusted myself to self-edit I’d have it up now. But my brain is currently made of mucus.

On a side note, I’m curious if anyone out there is reading and really enjoying it? Should I continue this project or quit while I’m ahead? I could always start another short story project again. There have been a some of you that have been great about giving prompts! But I don’t have much feedback to run off of, and I don’t want to drag the few of you along on something you don’t enjoy. Either way, my brain has hit such a wall I might take a hiatus from it. Anyhow, what do you guys think?:

 

THANK YOU everyone who votes! If I don’t get too much of a response, I’ll take that as an answer, too. I’ll also attempt to come up with other content to post (Maybe I know how to do something other than to tell weird stories?), but I’ll let you know later.

Bacon, out.

Bus

KBKL: On the Book That Mattered The Most

Originally from this post on the Kick-Butt Kidlit blog.

I’m absolutely terrible at keeping up with books being released. I read a good few every year, but I’m mostly scrambling to catch up with my giant to-read pile while also writing-working and working-working. So, instead of scrambling through my Goodreads list, for this month’s post I’m going to talk about the book that mattered to me most:

image

First, let me gush. This is a book I would have DIED for as a kid. I would have dressed up as Kymera for Halloween and gotten mad at everyone in my class for not knowing who she is, and then force every last one to read the book. It’s a flip flapping fantastic fantasy that’s a sort of re-telling of Frankenstein.

This book had perfect timing in my life, though. (I had enough books I would kill over as a child, adding one more might have been fatal.) I had the opportunity to get into a contest called PitchWars for the second time in a row! Being in it before, I knew how absolutely amazing it was. But there was a hitch: I had to switch my young adult novel to middle grade.

The work itself didn’t scare me. What did was that I’ve always been a YA and sometimes even adult author. What did that say about my work? Was it weak? I went to Barnes and Noble at one point and walked between the MG and the YA section, sobbing my eyes out.*

After I told my friends, a bunch of them ended up recommending MONSTROUS to me. The author went through a similar transformation: the original novel was YA turned into a MG after an editor requested it. And holy crow did she do an amazing job. It was dark, had big themes, and I adore Kymera’s huge character arc. It also had a dragon, which helped. It made me see how amazing MG is sometimes, and how cool it would be to maybe write the story a kid might want to kill over (hopefully not literally). Let me tell you, I’ve never been so excited to re-write my entire book and polish it in two months before.

So, moral of the very long story: a good book can open up your horizons in the most amazing ways, and MONSTROUS did that for me. Said novel that I changed to MG is now shelved because of a few reasons, but I still adore the premise, and I’m glad I took the leap because it’s a much better story.**

What novel changed your perspective on something this year? Anyone?

Bacon, out.

image

*I’m somehow not banned from that store, yet.
**Because I’m a curious bugger that’d want to know, here’s the short pitch for what that novel was about – HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE meets ALICE IN WONDERLAND: Trapped in a world of memory-eating magic, moody stoves, and soul-guzzling monsters, Emma’s an amnesiac with no one to trust. If she doesn’t remember her past to find home, this place will destroy her future.

2015 PitchWars Mentee Blog Hop: The Story (Or Lack Thereof) Behind the Story

Yay for the mentee blog hop! This contest is amazing, and what with last year’s being so awesome (you can read my old post over here) I couldn’t resist joining in this one. Same topic as last year, too: the inspiration behind the novel that got me in. Though there’s a little problem — I don’t remember what inspired the story.

Seriously, no idea where the plot bunny came from. I remember that I came up with the concept early on in my writing exploits, but thankfully didn’t write it then.

The only inkling of an idea I have of where it came from is one my all-time favorite authors: Diana Wynne Jones. Not only is one of the character’s named after a secondary character in the second Howl’s Moving Castle book (shhh), I’ve always adored Jones’s plot and world building. Her worlds are so vast and complex and deep that I can only aspire to be like her one day. Every time I re-read any of her books, I notice new things, I laugh at loud at the jokes, I believe every word she writes, I’m transported to a world that isn’t my own.

So, I don’t have a particularly amazing story behind my novel. It’s just my little love letter to an amazing author that managed to bring a little real magic into this world, and my promise to try and do the same.

Okay, done gushing. If you’d like to hear more stories of inspiration, check out the other Pitch Wars novel origin stories:

  • Amanda Rawson Hill
  • K. Kazul Wolf
  • Vanessa Barger
  • Michelle Tran
  • ES Wesley
  • Cindy Baldwin
  • Ashley Martin
  • ​Michella Domenici
  • Tracy Gold
  • Brian Palmer
  • Julie Artz
  • Joan He
  • Kyle W. Kerr
  • Ashley D. MacKenzie
  • M.C. Vaughan
  • Bacon, out.

    image

    Let’s Play: Horror!

    kickbuttkidlit:

    For a long time, I wasn’t a big fan of horror. I had a little phase as a young teen of watching horror movies, but they all felt the same after awhile.

    Until I discovered Amnesia: The Dark Descent. (Warning, very old video for this one.)

    I don’t know why I fell in love, but I did. I watched about five people play through the game, and as they all uncovered and theorized different things, each experience was unique. It was fun, too, because some of my favorite Let’s Players (people who record themselves playing games with commentary) started off with Amnesia as the first game they posted.

    It taught me a lot about storytelling in ways I would have never thought, being a fantasy author. Amnesia, for example, taught me how suspense could make you squirm for hours.

    And how about taking your expectations and twisting them against you in unexpected ways? Five Nights at Freddy’s is renowned for creating it’s own new niche in the horror genre, taking elements found in different game genres and applying them in a terrifying new format:

    And the Deep Sleep series. It’s a point and click game, the most inconspicuous genre in existence. And they will knock the pants right off you:

    How about killing it on jump scaring? A jump scare is something popping out of nowhere just to scare you – often seen as a cheap trick. But The Witch’s House jumpscares make sense. These scares get into your bones because, what’s going to come next? It’s a great lesson in surprising, yet inevitable:

    Last, but the opposite of least: The Last of Us. Hands-down the most thematically strong story I have experienced. Not so strong on the horror side, but it will bring your mind to dark places, make you wonder what it’s like to be truly human. It does take a little while in to pick up, but if you only experience one of these games, make it this one:

    And that’s all Tumblr will let me show in one blog post!

    So study outside your genre. Study outside your medium. Don’t just think outside of the box, jump into all the boxes, examine what’s inside, and steal all its secrets.

    Bacon, out.

    image

    Whoops, almost forgot to post this on the group blog. Look, its a thing!

    Dear 2015 PitchWars Mentees

    Congrats on getting further into the insanity! Pitch Wars was amazing and crazy stressful and so worth it. I learned so much from everyone, and made so many connections. And that’s what matters most: the community.

    I was an alternate last year. My mentor was awesome and was able to give me some notes on my full MS, so I hunkered down and got working on some pretty big edits. A bunch of the mentees and alts formed a group, and were there for each other every step of the way. They encouraged me and pushed me when I needed it. But that’s not when community mattered most.

    Then came the agent round! I tried to expect nothing since I was only an alt, but I got a few requests. And I sent out a batch of queries too, to test the waters. Within a month I had an offer from one of the agents who requested. And the group cheered me on and kept me going ‘cause some not-so-great things happened around the same time as that offer. And then there were the edits after that, and me questioning my every move — having an agent is a ton of pressure on you and your writing, let me tell you. The group was there for me through all of it, making it so I finally could write, so I got past my edits. but that still wasn’t when community mattered most.

    Long story short, I obviously don’t have an agent anymore. I’m not going to go into details, it wouldn’t be right. But it was devastating. I blamed myself and my writing and there have been many points within the past few months where I thought it wasn’t worth it anymore. When you get to that place where you can finally call yourself successful and lose all of it in the span of one e-mail, how can you not question it? It still sticks with me, whispering in my ear with every rejection I get, every mistake I make, every word I write, “Do you really think you’re good enough?”

    But the group of people I met through Pitch Wars keeps me going. I can say without a shadow of a doubt that I would not be writing now without that group. The pulled me out again and again, they encouraged me, and were there to help whenever I asked for it. You grow a bond with people when you slave so hard over your work together. And, sure, I could go and blame all of this all on the fact that I was in Pitch Wars in the first place. That request did come from the contest. But I would go through it again to get the community I’m so honored to be a part of.

    Writing itself is a solitary act, but it takes a village to raise a novel.

    So, good luck mentees! And if you didn’t get in, it’s not the end of the world. If you’ve been stalking and participating the hashtag, you’ve already started building your community.

    Now, the rest of the #DearPW posts:

    Amanda Rawson Hill: On Doubt and Hope

    Jennifer Hawkins: Last year at this time, I was you…

    K. Kazul Wolf: Congrats on getting further into the insanity…

    A.B. Sevan: Swimming with the Big Fishies

    Tracie Martin: What No One Tells the PitchWarrior

    RuthAnne Snow: 2014 Pitch Wars Mentee here, looking to offer…

    Rosalyn Collings Eves: Most of you are probably sick with dread…

    Peggy J. Sheridan: Welcome to the club…

    Janet Walden-West: The Long Game

    Destiny Cole: Yup, I’m talking to you…

    Kelly DeVos: Confessions of a PitchWars Alternate

    Mary Ann Marlowe: First things first…

    Mara Rae: I’m going to keep it short and sweet…

    Jen Vincent: Last year, on a complete whim…

    Kip Wilson: Congratulations, lucky mentees…

    A. Alys Vera: PitchWars is great, don’t get me wrong…

    Nikki Roberti: 3 Things You Need to Know

    Erin Foster Hartley: I’ve been putting this off…

    Bacon, out.

    image