If You Missed the WB Live Chat on Plotters & Pantsers . . .

March 22, the Write-Brained Network hosted its March live chat.  The topic?  Plotter or  Pantser—Where Are You?

The gist . . .

This topic didn’t yield a full hour’s worth of conversation, but it was a great turnout and so much fun to chat with people in real time!  And we found other things to discuss. 😉

First, some working definitions:

Plotter—one who outlines before writing

Pantser—one who “flies by the seat of his pants” when writing

Basically, we went around and discussed our processes, and I’d say it was pretty much split between those who use at least a broad method of outlining (i.e., they have a rough idea of where their story is going) and those who are true “pantsers.”

We also talked about authors who claim to be one or the other (Stephen King, Meg Cabot & Annie Dillard have all said they’re pantsers, and we had a bit of a debate as to whether or not we really believe it).

RESOURCES

Those who plot shared some of their plotting techniques as well as helpful plotting books:

  • Save the Cat: The Last Book on Screenwriting That You’ll Ever Need (Blake Snyder)

*Click here for more STC-related resources

  • First Draft in 30 Days (Karen S. Wiesner)
    • One Write-Brainiac is currently working on this, and at least one other has used it in the past.
    • Basically, here’s what it looks like*:
      • Days 1-6 Preliminary Outline (character/sketching/plot sketches and summary outline)
      • Days 7-13 Research
      • Days 14-15 Evolution of the Story
      • Days 16-24 Formatted Outline
      • Days 25-28 Evaluating the Outline’s Strength
      • Days 29-30 Revising the Outline

*Here’s a more detailed overview

OTHER SUGGESTED READING

  • I was fortunate enough to hear one of our Write-Brained Network workshop speakers, author David L. Robbins, speak in June 2010 at the Southeastern Writers Association conference on the very subject of plotting.  He warns not to do it too thoroughly, as the story will not unfold as it should (recordative vs. recollective writing).  He recommends what he calls “baseball writing.”

Here’s the write-up I did on his session.

  • Write-Brainiac and upcoming young adult author, the Diana-Fox-repped Cristin Terrill, is participating in A Round of Words in 80 Days, where she plans to write a book in said amount of days (sort of like NaNoWriMo, but with more wiggle room).

Check out her post on the topic here.

  • Not really plotting-related, but Annie Dillard’s The Writing Life was suggested as a must-read for all writers.

Want in?  Join us April 26 from 9-10 p.m. EST for our next WB Live Chat!  Topic: Poetry Panel.

Whadd-Updates: 2/9 Name-Dropping Edition

I have been somewhat absent from the blogosphere as of late. That’s because, in the last three weeks, I have done a lot of things.

  • Spent a few days in Georgia, visiting friends
  • Facilitated a Shenandoah Writers meeting
  • Met with the fabulous people of the Arts Council of the Valley, who are helping me and the Write-Brained Network put on our WB Workshop
  • Gone to the dentist—not all that time-consuming, but it did take me away from work
  • Gotten my hair cut (not a pixie—sorry to disappoint)—ditto from above note
  • Traveled to Front Royal, Va., for a mini writers’ retreat with Sara McClung and Cristin Terrill
  • Gone with Jodi Meadows to an author reading/signing of debut literary novelist Hannah Pittard (The Fates Will Find Their Way)
  • Gotten sick

Here’s what I’m currently doing:

  • Trying not to be sick
  • Writing interview questions for both Wendy Toliver and Meg Cabot (I’m interviewing them for an article for the 2012 Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market [Writer’s Digest Books], and I need to send the questions, um, Nowsville, if I expect to meet my March 1 deadline.  Wha??)
  • Contacting potential speakers for the WB Workshop
  • Building a Web site for the WB Workshop
  • Oh yeah—and I also started querying (in a *tiny* round) my latest YA manuscript, so this is why I have to distract myself with all the other stuff.  So I won’t go nuts.

I was going to write a post about how wonderful and ooey-gooey it made me feel to see my former students and my Georgia be-fris, but decided I don’t have the brain power to dedicate to that this week.  All my energy needs to be focused on interviewing those two awesome authors.  And I definitely think the urge to clone myself and stick one Ricki clone back in Georgia would overwhelm me, so I don’t even want to go there.

I also wanted to write about how much fun I had at my writers’ retreat this past weekend, but Cristin did a great job of it here.  I agree with her wholeheartedly—that getting together with other writers and realizing you all think you suck is really important for a writer’s sanity.

I will say, however, I would recommend a get-together like this to anyone.  I felt completely recharged come Sunday morning, and I actually wish we’d had another day, since we all seemed to be much more in work mode—you know, at, like, 11 p.m. Saturday night.  Next time, we vowed we will add at least a day or two more.

NEWS

We now have a date for the Write-Brained Network’s workshop.  We have a title, too.

Drumroll, please . . .

The One-Stop Workshop

for the Serious Writer:

A Roadmap from

“How to” through “I Did”

 

Mark your calendars for 9.10. 11, folks—for a full day of tips from the pros as well as writerly camaraderie.

Okay, well, that’s it for me at the moment.  I hope you can bear with me through all this craziness.  I promise to be back with a super awesome “In the Blogosphere” this Friday or Saturday.

Happy Wednesday, everyone!

In the Blogosphere: 10/18-11/12

“In the Blogosphere” is a series, which lists links to writing-related blogs I’ve stumbled upon throughout a given week (usually).

I’m admittedly behind with my Blogosphere posts—I have tons of links saved, dating all the way back to the summer (oh noes!)—but they are all still worth a look.  I’ll catch up eventually, right?

AGENT STUFF

Here, author and D4EO literary agent Mandy Hubbard gives some spillage on some holes in the market as well as subgenres all editors want (hint: middle grade!).

Writer’s Relief talks lit agents—and how to find the best one for you.

Other than announcing he’s leaving the agenting world (!), Nathan Bransford has more bad news: the rejection letter of the future will be silence.

Here, FinePrint Literary’s Suzie Townsend chats about the waiting game.

We all know it’s important to build platform, but do unpubbed writers need to blog? Andrea Brown agent Mary Kole of Kidlit.com weighs in.

WRITING TIPS FROM COOL PEOPLE

Over on her blog, YA author Michelle Hodkin gives an ironic example of what your first pages should look like.* (Hint: if this is what your first pages actually look like, get that delete button ready!) *She also gives links to fabulous resources for fixing up those first pages.

Thinking of planning a trilogy?  Please don’t get started until you read this post by YA author (and my pal—hee!) Jodi Meadows.

Over at the Guide to Literary Agents blog, Chuck Sambuchino shares five screenwriting tips [from Neil Landau and Matt Frederick‘s 101 Things I Learned in Film School] *all* writers can use.

A DAY IN THE LIFE

Ever wonder what full-time writers do all day?  Over at Writing it Out, Across the Universe author Beth Revis live-blogged a day in her busy writer life.

While we’re living vicariously through others, middle-grade author Stephanie Blake shares how she got plucked from the slush pile over at Adventures in Children’s Publishing.

GETTING READY

As you know, I’m a huge enthusiast of writers’ conferences.  Well, so is the University of Cincinnati and Writer’s Digest’s Jane FriedmanHere, she talks about the benefits of attending these functions.

Having trouble formatting your synopsis? Here’s a checklist of the essentials, from WD.

Going along with that, Write Anything’s Annie Evett talks about the importance of building a writer portfolio—how to, what to include, etc.

Worried you’ll lose your blog content? Guest blogger Peta Jenneth Andersen explains how, over at Guide to Literary Agents blog.

Nanu-nanu!

Over at Self Editing Blog, author John Robert Marlow talks about jumping the gun.

NANO-TASTIC!

You may be participating in this writing marathon, but you can still be healthy about it. Write Anything’s Annie Evett tells us how.

Here, YA author of awesome Maureen Johnson answers a slew of NaNo questions.

Here are some NaNo DOs and DON’Ts, courtesy of TerribleMinds.

And over at Write Anything, Andrea Allison offers some Web site aids to help you stick with it.

MORE COOL STUFF

I heart Meg CabotHere’s an interview L.A. Times’s Carolyn Kellogg of Jacket Copy did with the author extraordinaire this summer.

Um, coolest thing ever?  Make your Twitter feed into a daily newspaper!

In the Blogosphere: 9/12-9/17

“In the Blogosphere” is a series, which lists links to writing-related blogs I’ve stumbled upon throughout a given week (usually).

I’m admittedly behind with my Blogosphere posts—I have about 50 links saved, dating all the way back to June (oh noes!)—but they are all still worth a look.  I’ll catch up eventually, right?

GET WRITING!

My weekend plans fell through, so now I will be sitting at home [probably with all the lights on all weekend because this will be the first time I’m staying home alone at my house—how lame am I?] with my computer and my beagle.  Which, as much as I love them both, can also both be time sucks!  But I’m buzzing on my WIP right now and would LOVE to get to 30,000 words by Sunday.  It will be a bit of a challenge, but I’m up for it.

Adorable little baby time suck. And a bunch of crap she'd dragged out everywhere and was chewing up. (And my husband's foot.)

All-grown-up time suck. 🙂

That said, here are some resources—some of which I’ve used and some of which I haven’t yet but might have to employ this weekend, in order to get words written.

  • Write or Die—You can set your word count and your time goals, and this interface will get IN YOUR FACE [well, if you set it that way] until you reach your targets.
  • WriteRoom—This is for Mac users.  It’s a full-screen writing environment that rids you of the “clutter” of word processing programs.  [Referred to by The New York Times as the “ultimate spartan writing utopia.”]

  • WordWatchers—This has been working for me this month—and this isn’t just shameless self-promotion, as a number of writers have been getting tremendous amounts of work done using this writing program.  It’s through The Write-Brained Network and, like its sister weight-loss program, is something each individual designs to fit his or her lifestyle.  All us Write-Brainiacs participating have set challenging goals, and while we haven’t all been hitting them each week [guilty!] we have been getting tons of work done. And, some people have finished entire projects or gotten over slumps, due to the prodding encouragement of others.

QUERYING & SUCH

Here, literary agent Jennifer Laughran busts publishing industry myths that most writers believe or have heard.

Yeah, but this is real, though.

Two takes on the 5 stages of querying:

  • The first, a guest post by writer Anne Gallagher on the Guide to Literary Agents blog
  • The second, by the inimitable Tahareh

When when those rejections come, Holen Mathews at GotYA offers some constructive questions you need to ask yourself.

SOCIAL MEDIA TIPPAGE

Social media got you down? [If you’re Greyhaus Literary’s Scott Eagan, then yes.] Author Jody Hedlund offers some advice on how to use it effectively without allowing it to take over your life—and writing time.

And here, Daily Writing Tips lists 40 Twitter hashtags for writers.

CRAFT

I was going through my saved posts for “In the Blogospheres” today and came across this little jobby, by Heather Trese at See Heather Write, on the importance of having a pitch . . .

. . . which goes hand in hand with the post I wrote this week on plot vs. situation.

It was really hard to narrow down which picture I found to be the chachiest. So I went with this one.

Here is a lovely post by Christina Mandelski over at Will Write for Cake wherein she discusses the importance of setting in a story.

And here, Writing for Digital talks about the value of a good editor.  One edit quite possibly changed the entire course of American history!

FANGIRL LOVE

I heart you, John Green.

I heart you, Meg Cabot. [the Allie Finkle #6, Blast from the Past, review she links to at the end of this post is MINE!]

PLUG!

Inky Fresh Press interviewed little ol’ me!

Grounding is important.

Happy weekend, everyone! Come harass me on the WB or Twitter and make sure I’m getting my words written!

Book Review: Meg Cabot’s ‘Blast from the Past’ Delivers Just That

Remember that time in grade school when your class went to “Pioneer School” and only you and one other girl wore pants (the rest wore bonnets, hoop skirts and aprons)—and that fake teacher lady made you stand up in front of your whole grade and went, “Why’d you wear your brother’s britches, young lady?”

No?  Just me? (Thanks, Mom.) Well, I’m thinking it must have been Meg Cabot, too—or else, that fake teacher lady must have told her about it—because Blast from the Past, Cabot’s latest middle-grade novel, lived up to its title for this reviewer.

In this sixth installment of Cabot’s “Allie Finkle’s Rules for Girls” series, fourth grader Allie Finkle must overcome a slew of obstacles: convince her parents she’s responsible enough to buy her own cell phone (she’s shed blood, sweat and tears saving up the $36—and it is her own money, after all), save her cat from being sealed up inside the walls while the construction guys rid her house of dry rot (ew—and snails!) and survive her first-ever field trip (to lame Honeypot Prairie, not somewhere cool like the SpaceQuest planetarium or the Dinosphere or the rare collectible Barbie exhibit at the Children’s Museum).

With her little brother insisting on wearing a hard-hat in public, Mrs. Hunter possibly getting married and moving away and Cheyenne O’Malley being—well—Cheyenne O’Malley, Allie has more than enough on her mind without having to also worry about the presence of her ex best friend, Mary Kay Shiner, and the rest of her former classmates from her former school, Walnut Knolls Elementary.

In the effortless way only she can, Meg Cabot disguises life lessons with humor, and she crafts memorable, true-to-life characters. Joey will remind you of that kid in your grade school who always got the nose bleeds, Brittany and her crew will take you back to those girls who wore training bras and made fun of you because you didn’t (unless you’re a dude—then she’ll probably remind you of someone else) and Allie will remind you of the girl you hoped your fourth grade teacher thought you were.

The premise of the entire series is that Finkle (or Stinkle, as Scott Stamphley calls her) keeps a book of rules—which she writes, based on what she learns throughout her adventures.  While a lesser author might use this as an opportunity to get on her soapbox, Cabot infuses Allie’s rules in a way that always feels fun and never feels preachy.

Although it’s the sixth book in the series, one can read Blast from the Past without having read the first five (although if you pick up the others, you’re promised five great middle-grade reads!).  As with any of her books in any of her series, Cabot weaves in the characters’ backstories to perfection.

With just the right amount of pop culture references and an authentic middle-grade voice, Cabot offers valuable guidelines for kids to adopt in their daily lives—and she makes it fun.

I highly recommend this book—and the entire series—to any reader, from middle-grade to adult (one who *ahem* still acts like a kid).

**And for my writers out there, this is a fantastic example of tight plotting, great voice, seamless backstory infusion, and character development.

Favorite quotes from Blast from the Past:

It was like President George Washington and I were practically the same person.

Allie’s thoughts upon discovering Washington’s 110 Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior

Boys do even weirder things than that to show girls that they like them, such as try to wipe boogers on them.

Allie’s thoughts about Mrs. Hunter’s “old friend” throwing rocks at their classroom window and sending her flowers

According to Mrs. Danielson’s class, all they had at Honeypot Prairie were people dressed in old-timey clothes, who talked in old-timey talk, refusing to answer the simplest question like, “Where is the bathroom?” without going, “Well, there, young feller. If you want to take a bath, you have to pay five cents to do it at the grand hotel! That’s the only tub in town. But if it’s ye olde water closet you’re talkin’ about, you’ll find it down the milking trail, behind the bake house, but to the right of the ye olde covered bridge!

Oh, okay. Thanks for that. That explains everything.

Allie’s thoughts after finding out their field trip is to Honeypot Prairie, a one-room school house

Here's Cabot and me at RWA10! *dies*

RWA Freaking Rocked – Part 2

**DISCLAIMER:  There is an obnoxious amount of exclamation points in this post—but that is how RWA made me feel, so get over it.**

To see part 1 of my adventures at the Romance Writers of America national conference in Orlando, click here.

FRIDAY

  • I woke with a shot of adrenaline. “OMG—You’re teaching today!” So, I went over my PowerPoint again, fixed my links (don’t ask), and set out toward my designated room.
  • When I got there, I realized I forgot the one thing they specifically told me I needed: a Mac LCD projector hookup thing-a-ma-jiggy.  Fear not—I had left it in my room—however, I had to sprint down the escalator (you never realize how slow those things really are until you’re in a hurry), across the ginormous lobby, back to my wing of the Dolphin, up to the fifth floor, and then back again.  In my adorable, but not-if-you-have-to-walk-in-them (and especially not-if-you-have-to-run-in-them) 3″ black heels.

So much fun!

  • I cursed myself as I threw my computer bag this way and that, in search of the stupid plug (“Great—now, you’re going to be late, sweaty, and out of breath for your session!”).
  • But all was well.  Just got some blisters, but that’s it.
  • And get this: People actually showed. A good amount of them—to see me!  Or to see my session!  Even though the Harlequin book signing (where NORA ROBERTS was signing), the Avon book signing (where MEG CABOT was AGAIN signing at a time I couldn’t see her—boo!), plus a ton of other fabulous sessions were going on at the same time!  (All grammar nerds, no doubt!)
  • And people wanted to hire me to edit their manuscripts!  (Not that I don’t already do this—I do!—but it was great that folks liked me and what I had to say enough to want to entrust their babies to my care.  That’s a huge deal!)

  • So, I spent the rest of the afternoon and evening riding my session high—relieved things had gone well and ready to relax and enjoy the rest of the conference.
  • We (Cambria, Kaylee, and I) went for sushi, and I had eel—unagi! Kaylee and I referenced the episode of Friends where Ross has “unagi,” and I fell in love just a little more with her.  😀  I ate California rolls (mmm!)  with roe (<—ew, but whatever).  I ate dragon rolls—with spicy tuna in them.  Translation: I really lived on the edge that night!

Pic #1

Pic #2

Pic #3

  • We took a hundred of pretty much the same three pictures (see above), in attempt to get the perfect one, and we ended up hanging out with Wendy Toliver again (yay!) and awesomesauce women’s fiction/nonfiction author Jenny Gardiner.  During said hang-out, I revealed my not so secret fangirl crush on Meg Cabot and how I was super excited for the next morning, when I could finally meet her at her “chat” session.
  • More pictures.  More fun!

SATURDAY

  • I danced out of bed (yeah, not really), so thrilled about my first chosen session of the day—the moment I’d been waiting for (well, other than my session) was about to commence: “Chat with Meg Cabot”!
  • I got to the room, and she was late . . . and I seriously thought to myself, God does not want me to see this woman for some reason.  Woe is me! But then, we found out she was just doing her make up outside the room, and she arrived shortly before a panic attack ensued.
  • She was fabulous.  I don’t know how she does what she does—I really don’t!  She basically talked and answered questions for an hour, and after that . . .
  • . . . I got her to sign my Princess Diaries!  And I took a picture with her!*

Chat with Meg Cabot!

Meg Cabot and ME!

  • I was dying.  And all my friends made fun of me (in a loving way, of course) the rest of the day.
  • Kaylee and I had a mound of fries for lunch and went to some fantastic sessions—I can’t wait to blog about them!—and publishers’ book signings (including one, where two agents, an editor, and an author simulated what happens in an acquisitions editorial meeting.  Very eye-opening!).
  • Exhausted, I thought I’d have a few hours before the 2011 RITA & Golden Hearts Awards Ceremony to pack up all my newly-acquired books, relax, and get ready.  This was not exactly to be*, but I did eventually get my books packed and shipped.
  • The RITA & Golden Hearts Awards Ceremony was inspirational. I teared up a lot of times, listening to the acceptance speeches, and it really made me feel like I was a part of something big. And important.  And, most of all?  It made me feel like this is really . . . possible.

TWITSOM & M.G. Braden

Cambria, Leia, Kaylee, and me

Us with Shawntelle Madison

  • Afterward, I hung out in the lobby, took a million more pictures, and said my goodbyes to all the amazing folks I’d met throughout that week.
  • And Cambria, Kaylee, and I made plans to room together next year. 🙂

*And then, some thing really sad happened, but that is for the next post.

RWA Freaking Rocked – Part 1

I have been on a blogging hiatus for the past week (I’m sorry!), but it’s because I traveled to Orlando, Fla., to speak at the 30th annual Romance Writers of America conference at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort.

I took 22 pages of typed notes (yes, I am a freak), so I will definitely be posting lots of installments of “Pointers from the Pros” (like, probably for the next six years!)—and I still have a few from the SWA conference to roll out as well!

It was an amazing five days, though.  Here is a rundown:

WEDNESDAY

  • I missed the “Readers for Life” Literacy Autographing (where about 3,600 attendees bought books and got them signed by 500 (yes, you read that right) authors—RWA raised $55,000 for ProLiteracy Worldwide, Orlando’s Adult Literacy League, and the Nashville Adult Literacy Council—all in two hours!) because I had made my travel plans too late in the day (a.k.a. *before* I knew MEG CABOT was going to be there!!!).
  • Thank God for Twitsoms (Twitter soulmates!!!), because mine (Cambria Dillon) not only bought Runaway for me, but she also waited in line and had Ms. Cabot herself sign it—and all before we’d even met IRL (in real life, for all your leet-speak impaired).

Here is my Twitsom (left) getting my book signed by Meg freaking Cabot (right). How lucky am I??

  • Okay, so after I threw my stuff into my room, I hightailed it to meet Cambria in person—pretty much immediately.  We went to dinner with three other super-cool chicas: paranormal romance writer Kaylee Ruddle, debut YA novelist Gwen Hayes (please check out her Web site—it’s beautiful!!), and the newly-agented and fully awesome Leia Rice.
  • Cambria and I classed it up with some Sam Adams, while everyone else drank pink champagne and other equally dainty drinks.  The five of us had a faboo dinner, complete with a free tiramisu and lemon shallot (<—is that that it was, ladies?  I’d never had it before), since there was “a problem” with my order (I believe the problem was that one of our THREE servers forgot to put it in . . . )
  • Then, we went off to karaoke, where I chickened out, like I knew I would.  Still a karaoke virgin.  But at least I got to meet YA author Wendy Toliver (with whom I’ve been exchanging e-mails for the past two years)!  She was awesome, and we all took some pics to commemorate the night.

Wendy & me!

From L-R: Kaylee Ruddle, Leia Rice, Cambria Dillon, me. This was before Kaylee & Leia's *awesome* rendition of "Don't Stop Believin'."

THURSDAY

  • We had a lovely lunch, where, gee—who was it again?  Oh, that’s right—NORA ROBERTS gave the keynote address!  One of the highlights of her speech?  When she said, “You know, people always like to tell me that I had it easier than they do today, because it’s so much harder to get published now.  You know what I say to them?  ‘Bullshit.'”
  • Ms. Roberts’s speech was quite quote-worthy that way, and had I not been scarfing down delicious key lime pie, I might have taken copious amounts of notes.  Alas, I opted for fat.  But I got chills several times, as she talked about her great love for all things RWA and how she met some of her very best, life-long writer friends there.  It made me get the warm fuzzies for my new BFFs, Cambria and Kaylee. 😀

Aw, TWITSOMS!

  • I went to the RWA PRO Retreat pretty much all afternoon, where there was not only an editor panel, an agent panel, and a talk by novelist Stephanie Feagan, but agent and author extraordinaire Donald Maass (or, as I like to call him: The Donald) spoke!  (More to come on all that in “Pointers from the Pros.”)
  • Between the afternoon workshops and dinner, I kind of freaked out for two reasons: 1) MEG CABOT was there—and I saw her in the lobby!!  And I was so afraid I wasn’t going to get to meet her, it was like torture!  2) As you can see, there were people like MEG CABOT and NORA ROBERTS and THE DONALD speaking at this conference . . . and then . . . ME!  So, the weight of just how awesome it was that somehow *I* was going to be speaking on Friday morning started inching up my esophagus, and I felt crazytown with excitement (and, also, nerves).
  • We (and by “we,” I mean Cambria, Kaylee, and I) kept it low key for dinner and ate with some other cool chickadees, including December Gephart and Bria Quinlan—where Bria, Kaylee, and I discussed everything from Buffy to Firefly.  True soul sisters!  Then, we met Romance Diva M.G. Braden for drinks before turning in pretty early.

I ❤ you guys!!!

More to come in Part 2!