Thursday, November 25

Update

Hello everyone! Yes, it's me. I'm back...ish. I thought I'd give you an update on how I'm doing!

Okay, so the swelling finally went down a few days ago. It was getting crazy there for a while. I could barely move my fingers, that's how swollen they were.  As well, I'm no longer on the antibiotics, thank-freaking-God. They were doing crazy things to my stomach and making me so dizzy. Now, pain I can deal with. Dizziness I can't. If someone even so much as moved the wrong way, my head would spin. Not fun.

Anyway, now that the swelling and dizziness are gone, I'm left with... pain. It's not as bad as it was a few days ago, but it still hurts quite a bit. Whenever I shiver, I get zaps in my arm. It's really freaky. But it makes sense, since I did have surgery on a nerve. However, the worst times are when I'm just sitting there minding my own nerve-y business when BAM, it freaks out and sends shooting pain up and down my arm. It's just lovely.

In a week I go see my surgeon and find out exactly how everything went. I imagine he'll take this bandage off my arm (I'm praying he takes it off my arm) and gets rid of the stitches. And yes, I will take pictures to show you all, lol. Unfortunately, since I'm going back to school next Tuesday, that means I'm going to be stuck with the bandage for at least 3 days of classes. Grrr.

In other news, winter has arrived here in Alberta. The same night I got home from the hospital, it started snowing. And snowing. Oh, and snowing some more.  And then it got cold. On the 23rd, we were actually the 2nd coldest place on Earth. Not even kidding.  So remember that whole, I shiver and I get pain, thing? Yeah. Think about that for a moment.

But to leave today off on a happy note... I SAW HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PT 1. ON MONDAY! Gah. It was SO worth the pain. I sobbed like a freaking baby. I just wish we'd been able to go opening night, but the dizziness would have kicked my freaking ass all over the theatre.

Oh! Another happy thing that happened since we last spoke... I got a scholarship! Woot woot!

xox

Thursday, November 18

In The Beginning... A Guest Post by Tina Lynn

Hello all! So here is the final guest post for this week. I hope you've enjoyed them so far!  Today we are going to have my third critique partner Tina Lynn from Sweet Niblets talk to us! Tina is currently kicking butt on her NaNo story, Ten.

***

In the beginning

Yeah, I know. Stressful, is it not? Those three words sound off in my ears as I read them, like the peal of some enormous bell shaking me to my very foundation.

Okay, so I’m melodramatic :D

Anyhoo, about beginnings…

There is a lot of stuff out there. Your first chapter has to pop. <--- Make sure to read that last word with the proper enunciative respect. (Yes, totes just made up a word. I do that.) Oh, wait…forget the first chapter. Your first paragraph has to really draw them in. *ahem* Excuse me. I’m sorry. Totes backpedaling here, BUT IF YOU DON’T GRAB THEM BY THAT FIRST SENTENCE YOU’VE NEGATED THE MERIT OF THE REST OF THE ENTIRE BOOK!

Now that’s pressure. *A lot* of pressure.
So, here is my superawesomenevertobeforgotten advice.

Let. It. Go.

Hello! You are just starting to write the darned thing. You barely know your characters yet. (And for those that have mapped out elaborate character sheets…admit it, you barely know them, either). As the story unfolds, we get to know them. Learn their quirks, turns of phrase they like to use, how they react to things. They reveal secrets to us, secrets they entrust to us and us alone. You simply don’t know them well enough in the first sentenceparagraphchapter. You. Just. Don’t.

So, relax, push through to the end, and when you get there the beginning may just open itself up to you. (I accept no responsibility if this is not the case).

And if you are one of those lucky, lucky folks that can get that perfect beginning the very first time around, I hate you you are a freak an anomaly. And a very lucky one at that. (Insertion: I think Tina might be talking about me, guys. Oopsie).

Yeah, so that’s my (hopefully encouraging) post on beginnings. Wave to Natalie…and be sure to offer up Get Well Wishes and Chocolatey Dreams for her. Of course, she’s probably totes stoned out of her mind. (Has to be to ask *me* to be a guest blogger.) So, she may not do anything but watch the words float off the screen and swirl around her head…and giggle…and bat at them like a kitty cat. Scratch that last, her arm is in a gigantic cast.

So, what are your thoughts on beginnings? Dying to hear them.

*blows kisses to Natalie*

Natalie Update: Pictures!

Lynne here: So my little poopski is still in a lot of pain and general discomfort in her arm.  As you can tell the right hand (shown on the left side of the photo) is somewhat larger than the left.  The hand has been compared to: a meat cleaver, Mrs Dursley (Harry Potter's aunt in HP3 as she was turning into a giant floating balloon) and the hand of the dead fat guy in 'Seven'. Pretty. 
We've had a sweep of winter come through, so Nat's been wearing mittens on her gimpy hand, which looks suspiciously like Cookie Monster (shown here). 
Beautiful flowers she received from Christopher and his family (Martha, Jim, Adam, Natalie, Kip, Lyndsay, Granny, Pawpaw) Thank you!)
She is holding up well despite the nausea, dizziness, swelling and pain.  
Bye for now, Lynne

Wednesday, November 17

Perseverance Through the First Draft: A Guest Post by Melissa

To continue the guest posts this week, my critique partner Melissa from Chasing the Dream is here to talk to you all! Mel is currently revising her first novel, a YA Dystopian.

***

I was going to title this post “How to Keep From Setting Your First Draft on Fire,” but I thought to myself Hey, that’s not a good way of thinking. And I promised Natalie I was going to write about perseverance while drafting, so what better way to begin by having a positive title? ;)

Anyway, writers generally have two ways of thinking when they’re working on the first draft of their WiP: they love it or hate it. Then there’s folks like me who do a little of both. Seriously, some days I’d fly through a chapter, loving every word that flowed from my fingers. Others, I’d sit and stare and stare and stare some more, hating every word I’d written. Then I’d get discouraged and procrastinate (my procrastination methods of choice are Twitter and blogging). Sometimes the procrastination would last for days. *whispers* Or weeks. Trust me, you do NOT want to do that. So here are a few ways to keep yourself going until that first draft is done.

1.  Tell yourself to keep writing, no matter what. Yes, I know it’s tough, but if you stop for a very long period of time it’s even harder to start writing again. If you feel you absolutely have to take a break, make sure it’s only for a day or two. Keep the writing momentum going.

2.  Get some cheerleaders. Not real cheerleaders, but folks who understand how important writing is to you. It could be anyone: spouse, friends, siblings, your kids, or critique partners. In my case, I couldn’t live without my CPs. They’ve talked me down from the ledge more times than I can remember =)

3.  Reward yourself. Set a daily or weekly goal of what you want to achieve and pick out something you really want. If you meet your goal, watch that movie you’ve been dying to see or buy something you’ve been eyeing in the stores for a while.

4.  Understand that the first draft is going to be bad and accept it. If you listen to the EIE (Evil Inner Editor) too much during the first draft, you’ll never finish. You’ll avoid letting others read your work in fear of causing them permanent eye damage, therefore making them to hate you forever and ever. Not so. By embracing whatever comes forth, you will keep the writing momentum going (see number 1). Then you’ll end up with a draft that CAN and WILL be fixed.

5.  Realize your draft is going to shine during revisions. First drafts are for getting the story out of your system. It’s getting the framework down on paper. It’s putting the clay on the potter’s wheel. Revising is when your story will really take shape and become its sparkly best. After all, diamonds don’t look like they do in the jewelry store when they’re first mined, right?

There you have it folks. These methods may not work for everybody, but they’ve helped me.

Do you have any methods to stay positive while drafting your books?

Tomorrow, Tina Lynn from Sweet Niblets is going to blog about beginnings, so don't miss it!

Tuesday, November 16

Character Development: A Guest Post by Diana Paz

Hello guys! So while I'm recovering I have arranged for my three critique partners to do guest posts for you this week!  First up is Diana Paz!

***

Hi everyone, I’m Diana Paz. ~waves hello~ Natalie is recovering from her surgery and as her devoted and adoring friend, I’m here to help with a guest post about character development.

I’m *not* a character development wizard, not by a long shot. But when Nat asked me about guest-posting, I remembered some great workshops I took while at the SCBWI conference last summer. My character development notes are all jumbled together from two workshops, one by YA author Carolyn Mackler and the other by Claudia Gabel, an editor at a YA imprint at Harper Collins and also a YA writer herself.

They both talked in depth about character development and creating believable characters. Here’s what I learned:

Know what your main characters want. What they want will drive their actions.

 Understand your character.

  • Claudia Gabel suggested writing up character “resumes” that included everything about the character.
  • Not only birthday and favorites, but hobbies, most liked and least liked people in their lives (and why), whether they read magazines, what kind of TV shows/movies they watch. Go on and on! Music, holidays, there’s no limit. She said for her own books, she easily had ten to twenty pages of character background!
  • Think about how your character reacts to situations that don’t relate to your book/story. What does he/she do on a rainy day? What is his/her reaction to witnessing a shoplifter? How does he/she tackle a boring assignment/chore/job?
By knowing what your character wants, and understanding your character, you’ll be able to create scenes that are genuine to that character. And your character will feel believable, making the entire scene, chapter and book believable.

By the end of the book, there should be a notable shift in what your character wants. Character growth is show when he/she no longer wants the same thing--or wants the same thing but for different reasons.

Dialogue should be unique to each of your characters, especially main characters. Dialogue should *not* be interchangeable.
  • If you’d be able to have a different character say the same thing a main character says, in the same way, the dialogue isn’t unique enough.
  • Without attribution, a main character’s speech should be recognizable.
  • All this happens because you as the writer *know* your character.
Try to sum up your character in two words, one adjective and one noun. For example, willful snob, rebellious loner, overbearing busybody. Just like you can think of one or two words to describe your closest friends, you should quickly be able to do so for your characters.

I really enjoyed these workshops and this conference, and I learned a lot. I’ve noticed that after writing up character resumes, scenes flow a bit faster. I’m more in tuned with my characters, and I know more readily their reactions. I hope that by understanding my characters that much better, my story overall will be that much stronger.

***

Thank you Di!  Tomorrow we have Melissa from Chasing the Dream coming in, so make sure to stop by!

Monday, November 15

Surgery went well...

Hello everyone!  My name is Lynne, and I am Natalie's mom.  She underwent surgery to her right elbow this morning, and is now home and resting.  Yah pain meds!!  Yoohoo!!
The surgery went well and according to the Doc- was in the nick of time as the pinched and trapped ulnar nerve (elbow) doesn't appear to have suffered permanent damage (only time will tell).  Her lower arm and hand are pretty swollen though and she is groggy from the anaesthetic. 
Her spirits are good - affirmation that she had a serious problem in her arms is a comfort - no you aren't crazy (about that anyhoo ;-) I love you!). 
Left arm is next, no date set yet - but we are in Alberta Canada - so a couple months for necessary procedures is not uncommon - universal health care isn't all it's cut out to be.  Oooohhh here's 2 examples from today alone:  we had to sanitize her arm ourselves.  Yup you heard me - here's a spongy thingy- go scrub that down for 10 minutes. She also had to walk into the OR and hop up on the bed herself.  It was set too high up and they didn't want to waste the time to move it down, so an intern did finally help her up.  We were almost expecting them to insist she make the bed and wash the linens when she was done.  The nurses and staff and surgeon were excellent and very nice though, so that's good.  Ok, so I have rambled on enough for today. 
Thank you to everyone for your well wishes, they mean a lot. 
Bye for now!
Lynne 

Sunday, November 14

Surgery Time!

Okay my lovelies, this will be my last post for a while. I need to be at the hospital tomorrow (Monday) at 6 am. My surgery is slated to begin at 7:40 am. Eeeks!  I can't say how long I'll be away, but my mum will keep you updated!

This week I have arranged for my critique partners to come in and post for you guys, so make sure to stop by!

If you'd like to say hi while I'm away, feel free to email me: nataliemurphy [at] live [dot] ca

nat
xo

Saturday, November 13

How To Pitch An Editor: The Session

Finally, the last post is here! Yay! If you missed the other two posts, they are here and here. So today I'm going to talk about what to do during the pitch session!

Here we go!
  1. First thing's first, introduce yourself and shake their hand! Remember, you must be professional.
  2. Don't just dive into your pitch. Stop, pause. Ask them how their stay is going. Talk about the weather or the conference/workshop you're at. They've been hearing pitches all day, so you want to stick in their mind (in a good way).
  3. Once you've chatted a little bit, start your pitch. Do it slowly. Make sure to breathe and look at them (but don't do the creepy stare-down thing, lol).
  4. Next is the question/comment period. Don't be afraid to ask them questions, too. This is a great opportunity to just talk to them-- use it!
  5. Regardless of whether you got a request or not, thank them for their time.
And now, the part you've all been waiting for... *drum roll*

My own pitch session went extremely well. She was really enthusiastic about my story and requested pages (yay)! We talked a bit about the difficulties in selling a medieval and she gave me some encouragement and advice =)

So there you have it guys! I hope you enjoyed the posts and learned something!

Remember, next week I'm having guest bloggers, so make sure you stop by and show them your support!!!

Friday, November 12

How To Pitch An Editor: Forming The Perfect Pitch

Alright, so Wednesday's post was all about the basics behind a pitch session. If you missed it, the link is right here. Today I'm going to talk about how to form the perfect pitch!
  1. Do not give them the whole plot of your story. This is not the time for a synopsis. Remember, a pitch is like a query. You'd never give the ending away in your query, so why would you in a pitch session? You want to grab their attention, not spill the beans on everything.
  2. Start with your hook. This is generally one line that shows the high concept of your entire story. This gives the agent or editor a hint/introduction to what you're going to be pitching them.
  3. Use your query letter to form your pitch. I learned that forming the actual pitch isn't all that hard if you already have a query letter written. (If you don't have one written, get on it). Simply look at your query and cut it down. Get rid of sentences that don't need to be there for an oral reading. This is also where you can add a few explanations that you couldn't have in your query letter due to length restrictions. Make sure it's snappy and exciting. When said out loud, it should run about 2 minutes in length, but it depends on your session time limit. Mine went 2 minutes and I had 9 minutes total.
  4. Cue cards are your best friends. Once you've prepared your pitch, write it down (or print it out) one cue cards. This helps you from getting lost, trust me. Agents/editors don't mind you having paper with you--they prefer it. On mine, I'd broken up the paragraphs and put specific sentences into bullet points. This helped me remember to breathe (lol) and also provided me with great opportunities to pause and look up at the editor (remember, you can't just read it, you must present it!)
  5. Write down important information (character's names, story title, etc...) at the top of your cue card. Trust me, you may forget.
  6. Be prepared to answer questions-- any and all. This goes back to the number one rule: know your story!
  7. Practice, practice, practice! Practice your pitch, your answers to questions, your acceptance of a request and your acceptance of a rejection.
There that's not so bad, right?  Don't forget to stop by tomorrow for the actual pitch session itself!

Did anything surprise you? Scare you? Help you?

Thursday, November 11

Lest We Forget





They went with songs to the battle, they were young.
Straight of limb, true of eyes, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.
Lest we forget...

-- Laurence Binyon

Wednesday, November 10

How To Pitch An Editor: The Basics

As some of you know, I pitched an editor at the workshop I attended a few weeks ago. It was the most terrifying thing I've ever experienced in my short writing career. While there is no antidote for that (anyone who says there is is lying), I do think it helps if you're prepared. Therefore, I thought I'd share with you guys how I prepared for this scary event and what happened.

Basic Things You Need To Know First:
  1. Your story. Inside and out. This means your story must be completed and every plothole and character snag fixed up. Think of the pitch as a query letter. You wouldn't query with an incomplete story, would you? So why would you pitch an incomplete story?
  2. Your time limit. Most pitch sessions run from 8-10 minutes in length (mine was 9). While this does seem like a lot of time, it's not. You must plan accordingly. You have to give your talk and leave time for them to ask questions.
  3. The Editor/Agent.  I don't mean you need to know them personally, but you need to know what they're looking for. Agents are easy to research, but editors aren't. I scoured the Internet for information on the editor I pitched (Avon's Tessa Woodward) and came up with next to nothing. However, what I did find encouraged me to pitch her. If you pitch a genre they don't represent, you just wasted your time and theirs. Not to mention you just turned a few of your hairs grey for no reason.
  4. Editors and agents are humans too. *Gasp* I know, shocking right? But it's true. They're still human, even if they hold our dreams in their hands. And from my experience, they're really nice, so give them a chance. Even if the pitch doesn't go well, stop and talk to them. Pitch sessions aren't just to get your story out there. They're also for networking, so use that to your advantage.
  5. Editors and agents know you're nervous. Trust me, they won't hold it against you. I promise. As long as you've done your research, they won't be upset with you if you stutter, choke, speak too quickly, or burst into tears. And for the record, I did none of those lol.
See, that wasn't so bad was it? Small baby steps, that's what I say! Friday I will post on how to actually write and prepare for your pitch. Then Saturday I will talk about the actual pitch session itself *gulps*

Have any of you guys pitched an editor or agent before? Did any of the points above surprise you?

Tuesday, November 9

A Much Needed Update!

Okay, so apparently I haven't posted in a very long time. Sorry 'bout that guys. I guess when I said I was busy, I wasn't kidding. I've been going non-stop for two weeks now. Man, I need a breather.

Anyway, I thought I would try and post this week for you all!
School:
  • This is where most all of my time has gone. I am now past the halfway mark and sprinting to the finish line. All of my grades are still in the "A" range, so I'm happy. Exhausted, but happy.
  • I only have 4 essays left for this semester. Since I had a total of 15 to start the semester, this is amazing lol (this number isn't counting the small dinky "long answer" types of essays. If I counted those, we'd be here all night)! By the end of this week, I'll only have 2 left to do after my surgery.
  • I finally got my final exam schedule! I have one at 8am on the 13th of December, one at 8am on the 16th and one at 2pm on the 16th. My other class is a take home essay. So I'm done by 4pm on the 16th! Woohoo!
Personal:
  • My surgery is in less than a week now. November 15th is creeping up real close!  I don't know the exact time yet, but I'll find out on Friday. I do know I'll be staying at least one night at the hospital. I'll keep you posted.
  • In other news, since my final exams are finished early this semester, I'm going to be going to Virginia for Christmas early this year! Yay! We haven't booked flights yet, but I imagine we'll do that this week sometime.
Blog News:
  • While I wont be here for a few days (duh) I do have some guest bloggers coming in! Yay! I'll post more later this week about what they'll be talking about so make sure you stop by!
  • As well, I've suckered enlisted my mum as a blog helper while I'm out of commission. She'll post updates on here for you guys so you're not in the dark about how I'm doing.
Writing:
  • Yes, *gasps* there is writing news. Querying is still going strong and it's going really, really well.
  • I've opened up my super shekret YA project again. Yay! I'm currently fixing up the beginning and changing a few things. I'm having a lot of fun with it, which is all that matters.
  • I entered a total of 3 contests the other week (one being the coveted Golden Heart). Phew, that was a lot to put together but I'm glad I did it!
  • I filled out all the forms to become a PRO Member of RWA. Yay!
  • I officially joined CaRWA (Calgary RWA).
So there you have it, a super quick update on everything. Wednesday, I will do a post on How to Pitch An Editor: The Basics so make sure you stop by!!
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