Monday, November 23, 2009

Bored now ...

If you're freaked about whether your first 250 words are good enough, do yourself a favor and read this post.

That is all. Short and sweet.

Happy Monday-is-almost-over to all!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

If I were an agent, I'd need more meds.

Have you ever heard of the Secret Agent contest? It's held once a month at this amazing blog, and if you haven't checked it out before, you must. Basically, you enter the first 250 words of your completed work, and that month's Secret Agent reads the entries and picks one or more winners. These winners get really cool prizes, usually in the form of submitting a partial or (eek!) a full to the agent in question.

Since my MS is nowhere near ready for public critique, I didn't submit this time. I did, however, attempt to comment on as many of the entries as possible. Here's what I learned this go-around:

1) Being an agent must be tough. Agents are attentive, persistent, and patient. Really, really patient. In fact, they may be gods.

2) I'm not crazy about people starting their stories with things like, "My momma always warned me not to play near rose bushes," or "My best friend, Roberta, always said that life is like a box of crayons." This kind of beginning sets itself up for an internal monologue or, worse, an info dump. And dumps aren't pretty, no matter what color you paint them.

3) Typos are killer. Proofread, proofread, proofread. And, for the love of all things holy, proofread!

4) Prologues: I could leave 'em or take 'em, so long as they don't read like backstory. Backstory makes me a little drowsy. And it kind of makes me cringe.

5) And here's the real kicker: If you don't pull me in within the first 2 or 3 lines, you've lost me. I don't need you to start the story off with a literal BANG! (in fact, that's normally too much for me to handle); I just need you to start the story off where the story actually starts. Granted, my limited attention span has probably caused me to miss out on a few slow-building gems over the years, but it's also opened my eyes to the works of authors I'd never heard of before and just-so-happened to pick up one day, whilst wandering aimlessly through the bookstore (one of my favorite activities, by the way).

Moral of the story? I may not be an agent, but I AM a reader, and an avid one at that. So, if you want me to read your stuff (and you might not; that's your perogative), then write something true (or truly fantastical), something honest (or honestly deceptive). Write something that is worth being said. And make sure you are able, from the beginning, to get a reader to care. Because if you can't do that, then the incredible world you've spent months (or even years) building may never make it any further than a word doc on your computer.

Monday, November 16, 2009

If you want people to compliment your baby, wash its face first.

If you're like me, your MS is your baby. You change it. You clean it. You feed it. You watch it stumble and tumble and crawl and fall, and you try not to cry when it skins a knee. Like any other mother I know, you also have a difficult time seeing its flaws. You block out the unruly hair, the pudding-stained chin, the (gasp!) smelly diaper. Your baby is your life, and it is perfect, by God. Every last inch of it.

So what do you do? You enter your baby in a beauty pageant, of course! Because your baby is the cutest baby alive, and you're sure all the judges will see it, too. You fluff your baby's hair. You pile on the makeup. You wrap your baby up in a big, sparkly dress. And then you sit on the front row, video camera in hand, and wait for the victory you know will come.

Except, sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes, the judges don't see what you see. Sometimes, your baby gets rejected.

It's cruel and it sucks, and you find yourself getting a little bitter about it. "That judge didn't know what she was talking about," you tell your friends. "My baby is perfect," you repeat ad nauseum. And you ignore the looks on your friends' faces, because if you really pay attention, you'll realize that maybe, just maybe, those judges weren't so wrong after all.

Beauty is subjective. We all know this. But that doesn't mean we can throw a tiara on a dirty, smelly kid and pretend everything's A-OK. Judges are harsh. They have to be, what with the upteen bazillion Pageant Queen wannabes they see every week. If we want our babies to win, we have to make them shiny and pretty and sparkly and genuine, before we send them onto the stage. Anything less and we're not only wasting the judges' time, we're also wasting ours.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Tuesday Newsday: early signs that November will rock.

Last night, I was all mopey and tired and hating work, so I logged on for a blogger high (um, I mean pick-me-up. like coffee. totally legal.). And what did I find? Only the best news I've heard so far for November:

The lovely sister-sister writing team of Lisa and Laura Roecker (a.k.a. "LiLa") is going to be published!! Can I get a woot woot?

*The crowd says, "Woot Woot!"

Here's their Publisher's Marketplace blurb (which I totally stole from their blog; don't tell): From Publisher's Marketplace: Lisa Roecker and Laura Roecker's A Kate Lowry Mystery: THE HAUNTING OF PEMBERLY BROWN, a quick-witted mystery starring a private-school sleuth with attitude and pearls, who receives an email from her dead best friend, to Daniel Ehrenhaft at Sourcebooks, for publication in Spring 2011, by Catherine Drayton at Inkwell Management (NA).

Congrats, girls! Try to remember the little people. Or, at least don't have us arrested for stalking if we show up in your backyard in Team LiLa t-shirts, bearing Twizzlers and "Vote 4 LiLa" bumper stickers. (Um, I mean at your front door. With like, a card or something. Whoa. Creepy moment there.)




Monday, November 2, 2009

Dear silly, teenage me,

I'm getting older now--and, hopefully, a little bit wiser--so I think it's time I tell you a few things. Dispel rumors. Make life easier for you. So, without further ado, I present to you, my so not-grown-up self, a list of things I wish I'd known when I was your age.

1) Enjoy the days where it takes you 5 minutes to roll out of bed and throw your hair into a ponytail and your body into the first clean t-shirt you see, because someday soon your face will refuse to walk out the door with you. At least not without concealer, and mascara, and of course some lip gloss, and a little blush couldn't hurt.

2) You follow him around. You leave anonymous notes in his locker. You act like an idiot any time he's within eyesight. This is not love. This is infatuation. In fact, it might even be a crime. Find a new hobby.

3) What this, you say? You still think you're in love with him just because he's pretty? Try this one on for size, then: He marries his high school girlfriend b/c he knocks her up on the senior trip, and then he cheats on her a million times and gets older and divorced and wayyyyy less hot than he was in high school. The world is no longer his castle. You do not want to be his de-throned queen.

4) Nice guys are better than jerks. Hang out with nice guys instead.

5) Those girls you think will be your BFFs-4-life and smile big and cheesy beside you in fancy bridesmaids' gowns? Not one of them will come to your wedding, much less be in it. So enjoy it while you can, but remember this: your lifelong friendships will not develop in high school. And yes, this is actually for the best.

6) Oh, and your very, very best friend? She was selfish in 7th grade and she'll stay that way for as long as you know her. Accept that and move on, or let her go. And if you're mad at her, talk to her about it. Don't let it fester. Because if you do, then one day the two of you will be so far apart that even sharing an apartment can't hold you together any more. One day, you won't even know her.

7) Stop being such a jerk to your little sister. She IS your friend. You DO love her. She is probably the greatest person you know. And she WILL be standing next to you at your wedding ... even though she's so sick she can barely walk, much less smiile for the camera.

8) Read more. Write more. Live more. And for the love of Pete, do not throw away all of your old journals! They are nowhere near as humiliating as you think, and no one cares enough about who you crushed on in 6th grade to publish it to the world. No one except for you, that is. Your journals are gold. You will kick yourself in the ass on a daily basis if you don't realize this now.

9) Yes, you are in love. No, it's not meant to be. These things happen. Don't put off the inevitable because you're worried about hurting him. He will be okay. You will be okay.

10) Sometimes, thinner is not better, so put the tweezers down and step away from the mirror. Slowly, with your hands over your head ... Trust me, you'll thank me for this some day. (And while you're at it, could you throw that blue eyeshadow into the trashcan?)

11) Don't be cruel to others just because you can, or just because other kids are doing it. It doesn't make you cool. It makes you a bully.

12) Your parents love you and they mean well, but they are not always right. Don't blindly accept their world views as your own. Research. Meet people. Open your mind, and your heart.

13) Sometimes, it's okay to be selfish. Don't go to law school just b/c you think it'll make your parents proud. Think about what will make you happy first.

14) Your fourth grade dreams were not made of pipe. You can be a writer. It would help, though, if you got more practice now so you could play less catchup later.

15) Sure, it's fun to sneak into adults-only clubs and sip wine coolers when no one's looking, but no, you don't wish your were grown up already. You'll (hopefully) have plenty of time to be an adult later. With lots of grownup responsibilities and problems. You only have a few more years to be reckless and stupid, so take advantage of that while youth is still a valid excuse.

Bonus) Say it with me: MySpace. Facebook. Twitter. Start them. Invest in them. whatever. And, if all that sounds way too technical, I give you one word: Snuggie. It may never make sense to you, but if you make it, they will come.

With love,