Monday, August 30, 2010

I Have Hit a Wall.

I have hit a wall.

A wall I have avoided for a long time now.
A wall most professional authors need to learn how to climb.
A wall I have learned to hate.

A wall called... OUTLINING.

As most of you know, I am in the process of revising my book, but "revising" isn't a strong enough word. I am in the process of a full-on rewrite. This is something I chose to do but at the time didn't realize how painful it would be.

Last week, after successfully completing 40,ooo words, I realized one of my sub-plots wasn't working. In addition, the time frame was off and another sub-plot felt extraneous. To say that I felt like crying would be an understatement. I felt like ripping my hair out and stabbing myself with pencils. How could I have gotten 40,ooo words in and screwed up like this?

The answer?

No outline.

In my defense, I write like some wonderfully talented people paint. I apply layer upon layer of words until I get it right. If something doesn't feel right, I add (or cut) more words, smashing and crashing it around until a beautiful portrait emerges. This method has served me well, until now. Right now I need a master plan. An outline. And what really drove it home for me was watching my new favorite show "On the Road with Austin and Santino." Just like Project Runway, I noticed the guys draping their dress forms to decide what the finished dress would look like BEFORE they began actually constructing it. They were draping and pinning and moving fabric around without ever stitching a thing. Not to mention the sketches they were pausing to create. These were master craftsmen who were, in essence, OUTLINING their creations.


Yes, the dress form sealed it for me in terms of deciding I had to do this, but actually writing one still scared me to death. Outlining meant knowing everything that was going to happen before I wrote it. Right? Well, sometimes I just don't. Sometimes I discover my story AS I write it, so this outlining business has always made me feel boxed in, un-artistic, and uncomfortable.


SO, I did what I have learned to do for any dilemma. I prayed about it.

And the answer was the same: YOU NEED TO LEARN THE SKILL OF OUTLINING!

But, as God so often does, he sent several angels to lead the way.

To be continued...


To be continued with all of the outlining tips I have received and more about how I intend to achieve this. SF will also be posting about her experiences with outlining, including how it pertains to illustrations. And PLEASE, if you have any advice, we'd love to hear it! In fact, we beg you for it :)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Go Read This Chapter!

They aren't lying. It really is fantastic. And can you believe PW sent this insanely wonderful publicity?! Go Beth, Go! P.S. I LOVE the cover!

Across the Universe Book CoverYour universe is about to change.
Click here to read the first chapter of Across the Universe.
The journey begins 1.11.11
Website URL
Email us your thoughts.
Razorbill, a division of Penguin Books

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Relatives Came . . .

Me. This week.

I didn't get any writing done. But, I heard LOTS of great stories . . .

:-) sf

Monday, August 23, 2010

Let it Slide

This last week, I was forced to lay low as I had dental surgery that left me in excruciating pain all day. So, the first few days, I couldn't even think about my book, but, at about day four, I started to slowly get back to revising. However, that was also the day I had out of town company arrive.

This chaos made writing the "sub-plot" of my day, rather than the main one. But I have to say, it was refreshing!

Sure, I still wrote, but I had too many other things going on to really obsess about it. I just did what I could and let the rest slide. But here's what was weird. Rather than getting upset that I couldn't write as much, I found that I was using my writing time WAY better. I was slowly and steadily climbing that mountain and it was productive to say the least.

I dunno. I woke up this morning hoping to hold onto this very relaxed mode of writing. It works. It isn't stressful and its productive. You just do what you can and let the rest slide. Try it, you'll like it :)

Friday, August 20, 2010

Keep it Simple, Stupid

I recently read a great middle grade novel, NATURE GIRL by Jane Kelly. It's a classic fish-out-of-water tail about a New York City girl named Megan who gets lost in the woods and decides to hike the Appalachian trail. The voice is authentic and snarky--I fell in love with the main character. It is a great book.
While I was reading this, I kept thinking about a novel that I wrote several years ago--a similar story of displacement which was written in first person. The story is about Katherine who makes a connection with a wonderfully wacky art teacher whom she unexpectedly finds in a small Southern town. The art teacher has Katherine turn everything upside down that she has ever learned about art and technique--frustrating her and making her grow at the same time.

This novel has been sitting untouched for a LONG time, and I was eager to reread it and see if I could do anything with it.

Well, it's terrible. The language is overly descriptive and flowery, not at all the way a thirteen year old would speak. The book is episodic and full of flat characters. But worst of all? There is no action plot. None.

My book is all about the emotional plot, and that doesn't fly in children's books (I think adult writers can get away with it--think Eat, Pray, Love . . . no action plot at all, purely about Elizabeth Gilbert's emotional angst and growth). So, when I kept asking myself "What is the main character's goal? What does she really want? What stands in her way?" I couldn't come up with anything concrete--just a bunch of touchy, feely words like "she just wants to be happier."

We're all familiar with these plot diagrams. But, here's the deal--you need a diagram like this for BOTH the emotional plot and the action plot, and it's best for the emotional plot to resolve just before the action plot resolves.

In NATURE GIRL, there is an intense emotional plot in the book. The Megan's best friend's mother has cancer, and her friend has been pushing her away. Megan's also miserable about being out in the country and about having to deal with her older sister and her boyfriend. So, when she gets lost in the woods, she decides to go on a quest to reach a certain mountain where her best friend is staying for the summer. Throughout the book, the reader is pulling for Megan to reach the mountain despite all of her obstacles--both physical and emotional.

Simple, right? She wants to reach something that is real and tangible. She wants to climb a mountain. The other emotional stuff resolves as she makes her journey.

I've been listening to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire in the car as I sit in carpool lines. JK Rowling does the same thing--she has a very simple action plot that threads it's way throughout the entire novel. Harry is preparing for and competing in a wizarding tournament, and the reader really wants him to win (or at the very least, survive). There is plenty of emotional plot going on as well--Harry's longing for a parent, Harry being ousted by his best friend, Harry being misunderstood . . . but without the wizarding tournament to pull the reader through the book, it would be pretty boring. A school tournament--simple.

Sooooo . . . with my novel, I have come up with something to pull the reader through--an art contest that the main character desperately wants to win so that she can go to a summer art camp in New York. The book has got to be COMPLETELY rewritten, but I think it could work this way. When I think about it now, it just seems so simple . . .


Wednesday, August 18, 2010


I like to think I'm evolved... But the fact that I am hopelessly addicted to THE BACHELOR PAD might prove otherwise. Thankfully, my darling husband is addicted too, making me feel slightly less shallow.

What I love about this show is that it takes Survivor type tactics to a whole new level. The producers have wickedly pitted the boys against the girls, but they all share the same room. AND, they have to kick off members of the OPPOSITE sex.

It's hard to explain here how this all plays out, but let me just assure you, it's delicious.

Last night, one sideways move by a key player, and the entire game was thrown off. It was a sight to behold as Gia (my total fave) chose the wrong guy to give her rose to, which had drastic repercussions in the end.

Do any of you watch it? What's your take? My husband and I were sad to see Craig M leave because he is so drama. But we can't WAIT for next week!

Yours Truly,


Monday, August 16, 2010

Revisions . . .

Before I begin this post, how about a huge THANKS to everyone who made WriteOnCon possible. Was that a great conference or what? I hope all of you organizers are getting to hibernate for a few days (or at least, getting to have that much needed chocolate or ice cold mojito).

Soooo . . . . I received my much anticipated revision letter from my editor at Viking a few weeks ago. I was thankful to see minor revisions and lots of kind words. Most of the text changes were necessary to make things more clear to the reader, the reader is probably in kindergarten and really doesn't want to be confused, after all. It is amazing how much better my book reads after some minor tweaks and changes here and there.

Big sigh of relief (although, I will say that I would have turned the book upside-down and on its head if that's what my editor thought would make it better--just sayin'). These revisions were just changes of the text, so I'm not looking at my illustrations yet. Yet . . .

But, one of the suggested revisions involved a change that necessitated a change of the illustration. My editor had me flip two pages and when I did that, the facial expression on my character didn't make sense. I couldn't help doing a minor edit to the illustration, just so the story flowed properly.

This reminded me just how interconnected the illustrations and text really are in a picture book. And, I strongly believe if you write picture books, even if you aren't an illustrator, you need to do some kind of visuals as you write and revise--stick people thumbnails are fine. It can make all the difference in the pacing of the story, and it can make you see how big an effect a change in a fifteen word phrase in an 800 word picture book will have on the overall story.

What say ye picture book writers out there? I've never written a picture book text without also doing some sketching and thinking about the illustrations. I'm interested to know if non-illustrators who write picture books think about them visually or is it more of a verbal thing with the cadence of the words, etc.


Thursday, August 12, 2010


We have been waiting so long to post about this incredible debut and we can finally talk about it! YAY :)

Kody Keplinger has captured something truly insightful in her debut release THE DUFF.

So many people have written such glowing reviews of this book that we had a hard time coming up with something unique. But, one thing that we loved about this book was its complete and total universalism. Not only could we relate to feeling like Bianca as a teen, but we still feel like her sometimes at 40!

We loved how Kody captured that feeling of being "on the outside" whether you feel like you are not in the right clique in your job, or your community, or you aren't achieving what you thought you would in your career. We all know what it feels like to feel like you are on the "outside" of a circle of people. But what was so beautiful about this book was that it let you know that you are not alone. And more oft than not, you are NOT outside the circle. You're inside. You just feel like you're outside because you're human.

And we all feel that way from time to time.

Hi, this is SF, chiming in . . .

YES!!! Great post, Katie.

I, too, thought The Duff was amazing, and it really hit on that feeling of inadequacy that stays with all of us throughout our lives. How we perceive ourselves so often is a result of labels or self-perpetuated insecurity.

Kody hit one out of the park with this one!


Check out these other great Bookanista posts!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

How Cool is Writeoncon??

I am having so much fun with writeoncon. Are you?? If not, you need to head on over there STAT!

One of my favorite posts so far was this one by Rosemary Clement-Moore. I'm not sure why it struck me so much. I think I've never thought of my manuscript in terms of a sequence of REactions. I really think it will help me in my revision to stand back and think through how my MC REacts to her situations, and where those REactions take her.

I can't WAIT for tomorrow!

Thank you so much to Elana, Jamie, Lisa, Laura, Casey, Shannon, and Jen :) You guys take the cake!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Getting Tipsy

Not that kind of tipsy! This is when I give you a tip about writing.

So, I was stuck in my revision last week because I was drowning in stuff like this: MC goes to first period, then maybe we see her at lunch, next she visits with a friend, then at home, and before long, I was bored.

Problem: I was setting up her personality and other important facts in the story, but, I was being TOO linear.

Solution: Ask yourself how your MC would tell this story to her 50 year old friends on a bench in the future someday. Actually, that might not work, but I loved this photo. But asking myself this question did help me remind myself that I am not telling the story, she is. It's first person. So what would she tell me next if I didn't know her story. What would she think was important. What would she leave out, etc...


She'd skip all the mundane junk I was stuck in, maybe summarize some things, and then get right to the next important event.

Tah dah!

Tip. No. 1: Imagine your MC is the storyteller, not you.

Duh. How could I have forgotten?

Friday, August 6, 2010

Into the Box

I just dropped my three girls off at school this morning. Excuse me while I take a deep breath. Ahhhhhhhhhh.

The summer has been fun--I've gotten a lot of reading done (I'm working through my mountain, I mean stack, of books next to my bed). But, I haven't gotten a lot of writing done. For that, I need blocks of uninterrupted time, and I just haven't had that. I'm actually shaking, I'm so excited about digging back in. Plus, my first revision letter from Viking arrived this week--brilliant revision suggestions AND nothing too major. Yay!

One of the best books that I picked up this summer was Twyla Tharp's The Creative Habit.

Twyla is a world famous dancer and choreographer, and her book is about the work and structure that is necessary if you are going to be a creative person. It sounds a little counter-intuitive, yes? To be creative, you must have structure? But, she's right. I think unless you establish some sort of routine to protect your creative time and space, it's easy to let life's distractions get in the way. I highly recommend her book, it's just what I need and I'm going to spend the next week or so figuring out how to organize my time (for example, do the things
that I can do when my children are at home, when they are at home--no more laundry folding during the school day!).

And, today, I'm going to take Twyla's advice from her chapter titled "Before You Can Think Out of the Box, You Have to Start with a Box". Whenever Twyla begins a project, she unfolds a cardboard storage box, takes a marker and labels the box with the name of the project. She uses the box as a receptacle for anything having to do with the project--magazine articles, music, notepads . . . anything at all. When she is finished with the project (whether or not it results in something finished and performed), she stores the box away on a shelf.

I LOVE this idea. Although, Twyla recommends starting a project with a box, I'm going to work backwards, for now--I have several projects that are either duds or they are on the back burner, and I have disorganized stacks sitting around everywhere. Yesterday, I went to Office Depot and bought a package of cardboard boxes, and I'm going to archive my projects and store them away. That didactic, rhyming picture book with the "too fine art" illustrations (my first attempt), will go in a box with the rejection letters, illustrations, and marked up drafts in varying stages.

This is much better than tossing everything into the recycling bin! I love knowing that my work will live in an attic box somewhere, just in case I ever want to refer back to it.

Of course, I'll have to use a different process to archive my novels, but it will be easy to do on the computer. I'm going to create a file titled ARCHIVES, and divide it up by project. I can paste email rejections and revisions suggestions. Drafts from critique buddies. It'll work the same way, I just won't have a tangible box.

From now on, I'm going to keep boxes around so that if a good idea begins to form, I have a place to put it and everything else that goes along with it. And, then, when I'm ready, I can step out of the box and write my heart out!!

Have a great day, everyone!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A Dramatic Turn of Events

Last week I posted an entry entitled, What Kind of Writer do You Want to be? That question led me to wonder what my voice was. And was it possible that I had written a book in one voice, but my own was entirely another?

As many of you know, I wrote a book called KISS & MAKE UP - a book I am immensely proud of. But, through the submission process, I began to feel like there was more to the story. That maybe I hadn't gone deep enough. And maybe I hadn't even been true to myself as a story teller. Maybe I had altered my own God-given voice. Maybe?

These revelations were troubling, to say the least. I think they started to surface as I was working on EPIC NOVEL NUMBER TWO, which just sounded different than KISS. More insightful. Juicier.

And I wanted that for KISS.

In addition, I was blessed to read a few books during this period of time that touched me deeply and I knew I had shied away from that kind of tension in KISS.

And lastly, I listened to a book on tape. As I heard the voice of the first person narrator, I realized my MC did a whole lot more telling, than showing. D'oh! A total novice mistake.

SO, after much drama, boatloads of prayer, and many, many Tums, I decided to decline an offer in order to rewrite the book.

The book is great, but I want to make it fantastic. And I'm scared to rush out something I'm not 100% confident about, just to be published.

To say I am terrified would be an understatement. On the one hand, I know I am doing the right thing, but, the deeper I get into the rewrite, the more it veers from the original plot and the more scary it becomes.

Anyway, that's what I've been up to. But without blogging about it, I feel like I have nothing to say. So I decided to just be honest. So often we hear of writers selling their books and we wonder how? We think it was easy. Fast, even. Yet behind the scenes, more often than not, I hear that it was a long, tearful journey. Tearful in that it took much hard work - more than they ever thought they were capable of. But joyous at the same time. We're getting to chase our dreams, and really, how many people ever even get to try?

The day I declined the offer was one of the best of my career. I never thought I'd face such a low and at the same time feel more at peace than I had ever felt before. However, that Feeling lasted about a week and a half before its brother, Fear-of-Failure showed up for coffee. And it has become a daily struggle to shut him up.

Today I am on chapter eight, feeling really good about what I've written so far. Dare I say, it's the best thing I've EVER written. But, I honestly have no idea how this will all turn out, or how long it will take. I'm just trusting God to show me the way, leaning on this wonderful verse

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Lean not on your own understanding. Acknowledge Him in all your ways, and He will make your plot straight."
Proverbs 3:5-6

Oh wait. That should read: "And He will make your PATH straight."

Wish me luck!

Our Motto

Our Motto