Tag Archives: Angel Punk

I don’t know anything about writing. Or do I?

I’ve been pretty silent on the blog and on twitter lately.  I like to think I can tweet helpful nuggets for writers as well as the occasional spattering of encouragement, but I’ve been coming up empty.  I find myself staring at the screen thinking, “I don’t know anything about writing.”

This is kind of dumb because I’ve been writing full time now for a couple of years.  I’ve got four books out and the Angel Punk novel is under contract.  I should know a thing or two, right?

Nicole Marie Schreiber recently posted on how to reconnect with your WIP after a long absence from it.  She spoke about nurturing the love affair with your book.  It strikes me that I’m anticipating the break-up with my WIP and that’s why I feel so clueless about writing.

Things I know about myself: I’m all-or-nothing. I don’t know how to hold back.  I’m a believer, and I fall in love hard–very hard.  Last July, when I signed on to write the novel for Angel Punk, I committed, immersing myself in the project and the team.  When I’m writing, each character is real.  Everything that happens to them, happens to me.  Mara bleeds, and I hurt.  Lovers kiss and I swoon.  I have lived and breathed Angel Punk.  It has been my world.

And we’re going to break up…

I’m doing one more set of revisions before I send the manuscript to my editor.  I’ll have a little bit of time on my hands then I’ll do another set of revisions and…  we’ll be done.  I’ll have to say good-bye.

In a recent interview (her first in 35 years), Anne Tyler said:

“When I finish a book, I send the book to New York to be read by my agent. I picture them on a train, and my heart is broken. I mean, I’m thinking of how they’re sort of limited people or shy people, and they’re just so brave to be going up there on their own. It’s really anthropomorphic. But then, after they get accepted, so to speak, and they’re a book on their own, I’m like a mother cat with kittens. I never think about them again. They’re gone.”

Knowing what I know about myself, I doubt I’d make a very good mother cat.  I like to gnaw on things.  I don’t like to let go.  So while I may know a thing or two about writing, I suck at breaking up.


We can still be friends, right?


Writing–like archery–requires a target, constant adjustments to your aim, and lots of practice

As I type, my back, shoulders, and arms are very sore from archery practice.  The bow in the picture is a compound bow with a 30 lb draw, which means it takes 30 lbs of force to pull the string past the point of highest resistance.  After that, it is relatively easy to hold, allowing the archer time to aim with care.  It’s a very different technique than with a long bow, which is generally a fast draw and shoot affair.  In either case, however, it takes a lot of practice to become a consistent shot.  And if I switch bows or arrows or move back or if there’s wind, I have to make many adjustments in order to continue to hit the target.

A writing career is very similar.  We have to constantly adjust to changing conditions and always re-focus on the target.  In January of every year, my critique group, Viva Scriva, has a goal-setting meeting.  We review the preceding year and set our sites anew for the coming one.

Here’s what my 2011 goal list looked like:

  1. Spend Jan-May finishing the first draft of my new YA novel.
  2. Focus on building my relationship with my agent.
  3. Build the VivaScriva website.
  4. Spend June-August researching new nonfiction book.
  5. Spend Sept-Dec drafting aforementioned nonfiction book.
  6. Rebuild my website.
  7. Write those two magazine articles I didn’t get to in 2010.
  8. Keep up with my newsletters.
  9. Book 4-6 school visits or conference talks.
  10. Build a solid marketing resource book for myself and the Scrivas.

So how did I do?

Pretty darn well on 2, 3, 6, 8, and 9.  (I’m especially proud of both my website and the Scriva site).  The “new YA” novel (1) is at about 50K words (2/3 done probably).  I had to set it aside in July when I signed on to write a YA novel for Angel Punk (I know there are worse problems to have!), but it’s far enough along that I’m confident that I can finish it up when I have some time.  Plus I’m about 55K words into Angel Punk so I do deserve a self-congratulatory pat on the back for writing well over 100K words in 2011. 4, 5 and 7  were scuttled, and 10 is a jumbled pile of papers in a corner of my office.

Looking over the last year, I see that the target I was aiming at changed dramatically with the contract for Angel Punk.  All my goals had to be readjusted, but my core direction remained and remains the same: to write for kids and teens about heros, adventurers, and scientists.

I’ll leave you with a great TED video in which Richard St. John answers the question: “What Leads to Success?”  In it, he talks about the eight secrets of successful people include focus and hard work – keys to archery as well as writing.

What were your goals for 2011?  How was your aim?

When writing inflicts collateral damage on real life

Garth Nix gave a fabulous speech a few years back about how writers take kernels of reality — images, emotions, events, people — and spin them into fiction.  No longer recognizable (usually) because they are  both more vivid and raw than reality was and also deeply interwoven into the narrative, these kernels take on a life of their own.  But they retain the smells and sounds of truth and that is what enables a skilled writer to evoke an emotional response in a reader.

An example:  Last week I worked on a fight scene that is built around a fight I narrowly avoided when I tried to intervene in a domestic dispute between two strangers.  There were lots of reasons I should have walked away from that situation, but I didn’t partly because I wanted to help and partly because I was an angry young woman with something to prove. I drew on those feelings to write the scene, and I hope that it makes the reader believe in my character’s reasons for getting involved.  I want them to feel like her choices were inevitable and if they had been in her shoes, they would have done the same things.

Cool, right?

What’s not so cool is when there is blow-back.

Sometimes the fiction bleeds back into real life.  Last year, I was working on a young adult novel that centers around the unlikely friendship of a fifteen-year-old boy and an eleven-year-old girl brought together by shared tragedy.  Their tragedy is one I’ve lived.  When I showed the first chapters to my critique group, Nicole asked me if I was really ready to write that book.  Was I ready, she pushed, to feel what I would have to feel?  Could I take going back to that place of broken-ness day after day after day?  What about critique on something so dear and so raw?  Would I be able to handle it?  Ultimately I decided that I was ready for it, but I definitely spent much of the year draped in a touch of depression.

Now I’m writing an impulsive, reckless, limit-pushing heroine.  To get Mara right, I’m drawing on what good, responsible kids would call their “gap” year between high school and college.  For me, it was twelve transgression-filled months, which I’m damn lucky to have survived at all.  (Not getting my ass-kicked in the aforementioned fight being one example of many dangerous situations I landed myself in.)

Now I’ve grown up and made good and am generally a respectable citizen, but writing Mara means digging up the dirt and drawing on it.  I’ve abandoned the indie folk rock I usually listen to and have switched to much more hard-charging, punk inspired music.  I’m reading edgier fiction and watching edgier movies.  It’s all supposed to make my writing better and more real, but Mara’s impulsiveness is rubbing off on me.  I’m pushing more limits than I usually would.  I’m taking more risks.

So far, there’s been no serious collateral damage…  except the blue hair.  Thanks, Mara!

UNWIND by Neal Shusterman kept me up way too late last night. Disturbed my dreams.


Scriva Michelle suggested that I read UNWIND because Neal Shusterman uses multiple third person POVs and I’m working on a similar approach for Angel Punk.  (For more on Scriva assigned reading, click here.)

Wow.  I had to say it again.

First, reading it made me feel good about my POV decisions in Angel Punk.

Second, I have never read a dystopian novel with such a novel premise (not class warfare, not zombie virus, not environmental collapse).

Third, kudos to a writer who’s willing to take on an explicitly political (and explosive) topic (prolife/choice) in a young adult novel.

Fourth, double kudos to him for never, ever taking the easy/expected way for his characters.  How brilliantly he puts them in the vise and squeezes them tight.

I’m impressed.  I’m inspired.  And yes, I’m deeply disturbed.

P.S.  The Bookshelves of Doom were also overwhelmed with wows upon reading UNWIND.  Bet you will be too.

Transmedia, Talk Back, and the Power of Story


So my new project, Angel Punk, is a transmedia project, and I’m going to be on a panel at KidLitCon in a few weeks discussing transmedia.

“What the heck is that?” you ask.

Transmedia means storytelling through multiple forms of media: film, text, images, audio, blogs, tweets… you name it.

“How is that different from Star Trek?” you ask.

Good question.  Star Trek, Star Wars, Harry Potter, and other astronomically popular franchises started in one form of media,  a TV show, a movie, or a book.  It became popular and the story spread to other media forms.  Transmedia starts out in multiple places.  We recognize that there are multiple points of entry into a story both because some consumers prefer books or gaming or movies and because some facets of the story are more interesting to some readers than others.

One key component  to transmedia projects, however, is consumer (I hate that word but reader/viewer don’t cut it) participation.  More than ever we want to be a part of our favorite stories.  I have a quidditch t-shirt.  I geek out following Neil Gaiman on twitter.  I get sucked into online explorations of the Game of Thrones universe.  Most transmedia projects want talk back.  We want to know what people like and don’t like.  We want to include consumers in the process.  We want some collective consciousness on board for story telling.  If you think about it, it’s like that game where everyone takes turns making up a few lines of a story.  I love it!

See you around the social media fire pit for the next story session!

Writing Incongruities (or Mucking Out Stalls in Full Make-Up & Heels)

Recently, I spent the morning dolled up for the Angel Punk team photo shoot.  (Thank you, Levy Moroshan, for the gorgeous new picture on my home page.)  Wait until you see the mid-air jumping shots!  Hilarious to shoot even if I was a tad terrified about breaking an ankle in my heels.

Then I proceed to go home and muck out Sir William’s stall.  The photo to the left is his high fashion shot.  A neighbor was hanging around while I worked, and every time she got a glimpse of me, she laughed at the incongruity of my heavy make-up and less-than-glamourous activity.  (I did change my shoes!)

But the process of writing is like that: sometimes exciting and sometimes pedestrian; sometimes a red carpet walk and sometimes a work-out at the gym.  And the writing itself should be like that.  Forget the predictable.  Go with the incongruous.  It builds better story!

WHEREAS, the Writer is an experienced writer of heroes, scientists and adventurers…

Rarely do legal contracts amuse, entertain, or titillate.  But the contract I signed this week did all those things.  Do you see how excited I look posing in front of my Angel Punk post-it note plot/character board?  And the title of this post, you ask?  Actual quote from the contract:

“WHEREAS, the Writer is an experienced writer of heroes, scientists, and adventurer…”

That line got me thinking about another line, the line working writers need to cross from hobby writer to professional writer.  I spent many years as what I would call a hobby writer.  I wrote when inspired.  I wrote when I got dumped.  I wrote when I felt all Zen.  Words were a way to process my internal experiences and to understand my world.

I got very lucky with my first book.  Paddle My Own Canoe was written out of grief and as a tribute after my grandmother died.  I read it at her memorial service.  The editor who published my grandmother’s memoir was in the audience.  She approached me about publishing the poem, which we did the following year.

And thus I stepped over the line…  I put aside the other professional plans that I laid out.  My husband agreed that it was time to give writing the full-time chance it deserved.  For me that meant, joining professional writing organizations, taking workshops to improve my craft, printing business cards, and writing on a regular schedule.  But perhaps the most important step was claiming the title.

“What do you do?”
“I’m a writer.”

And now…  with four books out and a contract for a YA novel that will be out next year, I wear that appellation pretty comfortably.  I’m ready to take it up a notch.

“WHEREAS I am an experienced writer of heroes, scientists, and adventurers.”