Personal Note: A faithful reader has suggested a song she feels fits the trilogy, and after hearing it I think she's supremely right. "Come On, Get Higher" by Matt Nathanson.
My brain has been somewhat catastrophic of late. I'm not sure if it's timing, or schedules, or simply my body detoxing from giving up caffeine for Lent (I'm not Catholic, but I really like the idea of sacrificing something you dearly love as a testament of faith, both to God and to others).
I've considered writing about multiple subjects, including doing a book review, more backstage glimpses into how I write, and a few sort or mental one-liners, sort of a "Fire Sale" of random statements.
Unfortunately, I can't get my thoughts together the last couple of days. I really want to edit but find myself unable to get into my groove. That BUGS me. My husband would say it's a discipline thing. He's a Vulcan; he's big on self-control. He could be right, but maybe not.
So, tonight I'm waiting until all sonlings are in bed and then I'm going to tuck in, as it were. We'll see how it all turns out.
Personal Note: A faithful reader has suggested a song she feels fits the trilogy, and after hearing it I think she's supremely right. "Come On, Get Higher" by Matt Nathanson.
Because otherwise you might be tempted to ask me where my friend, 'Ms. Maddy' teaches and go punch out a few lights before giving her a hug, and while admirable, it'd probably get her fired.
A glipse of life from the other side of the mirror, readers; in many more ways than one.
Mad Hot Math
Personal Notes: For whatever reason, Ben likes the 'z' sound best and so most of the time when he babbles it sound like he's singing "Wannabe" to the toucan from The Lion King. Secondly I gave up caffeine for Lent. That means no coffee, regular tea, no chocolate, and most sodas. And that's just off the top of my head. Draw your own conclusions about that.
Now, onto business. Let's assume you've decided to write something longer, a novella or or perhaps a full-blown novel. Let's also assume, like me, that you are known for not finishing your random, out-of-your-mind schemes (watercolors, anyone? Knitting? Collage?) and you are aware that you drop most projects right in the middle because you get bored with them. What do you do to keep that from happening to your new literary endeavor?
I suggest analyzing your likes and dislikes. Look through your time and figure out what activities or treats you find yourself going back to again and again. Granted, snowboarding might not be the best example (snow, after it stops being fluffy is wet, and I have yet to discover a paper or electronic that likes 'wet') but try to think of something portable and weather-friendly. Now, see if you can adapt that to writing time. If you prefer your atmosphere you're more likely to return to it.
Secondly, for some it helps to have a very set routine. Me, I can't really get the mojo flowing unless it's completely dark except for one small lamp and the computer screen. I also need a hot drink and a glass of water. Food's bad, though. During initial creation (writing the very first draft) I stick to movie scores and other instrumentals that way lyrics don't bug me, but I still have a sound that moves me forward. After the first draft I develop a playlist and let it repeat as long as I'm editing.
You, however, may be the exact opposite. I stay in a small, dark room because the outdoors and I kind of hate each other, plus I'm a little ADD, so I need the dark to keep distractions to a minimum (if I can't see it I can't be distracted by it). Also, the music, coming from the tiny computer speakers right my the monitor/keyboard keep the back half of my brain busy while focusing the rest right toward my objective.
If you like Nature, or light, or anything else that might make me cringe, do THAT. My formula won't be yours. The point is, with a little careful study, you can find out what makes you stick with something and then make it work for your writing.
Me? It was wanting to rub it in my (usually very nice) husband's face when he laughed about me never finishing anything. *evil grin*
Personal Note: I use "Sweet Italian Creme" creamer from one of the bigger brands (red cap??) in my coffee until around eight in the evening. If I have coffee after that I switch to a frou-frou Vanilla or Mocha Capp because they keep my brain on and remind me of hot chocolate.
One of the cliches of writing is that phrase 'Write what you know', which--while very good advice--sounds like a Top Ten list of things newbie writers take as gospel (yes, I'm a newbie; let's not rub that in, shall we?).
But think of it this way, if you don't know your subject matter you'll just end up sounding like a pompous idiot. Do you want to sound like a pompous idiot? No? Well, alright then, you've got alternatives.
1. You can do exhaustive research on your subject (I keep getting mental pictures of rolling landscapes in Scotland when I think about this), adapt your new-found knowledge to your own personal style, and then let the result pour out of you. When done right this is an excellent option and I plan on taking it on one day.
2. Write what you know, i.e. something you're already pretty familiar with. Take stock of all the things that make you who you are and then find the universal truth about all of them that everyone else experiences as well. What are the hardships you've suffered, the joys you've been blessed with, the mysterious you finally understood one day? What about those things connect you, the individual, with THEM, the rest of the people in the world?
I'll tell you why I chose to write YA novels, and I'll try not to babble. That's not a guarantee, just a promise to make the effort.
- For one, out of all the stages of life, I've always liked adolescence best; before I got to be a teen, after I grew out of teendom, and yes, even while I was one. I connect pretty well with young adults because I remember and if there's one area in my life where I don't have to work at being empathetic, feeling for those kids is it. Plus, I like talking to teens; if I can't pinpoint why something isn't working that sweet braintrust of mine will tell me!
- The novels are fantasy-based because--if nothing else--I am a hardcore, to the marrow, "gimme, gimme, gimme" dreamer. I know the paranormal elements of fairy tales aren't real, I'm not delusional, but I still love them. I want a person who holds the world in his hand but has enough humility and grace not to let his position rule him.
- And last, the love story. My first series has carries the prevailing message that love conquers all. Why? Because I believe it. John and Paul, whether you reference the Beatles or the apostles, had it right; All you need is love, baby. Romantic love, familial love, agape love, strength and sacrifice to do what is best, be what is best, for those you love.
And so I remember. I take myself back and I think about what teenage me would have thought, felt, done about teenage him (of course there's a him!) and I apply it to a character, in her own words, with her own maturity level (Joss is so much more mature than I was), and her own characteristics.
If I didn't have those memories, I wouldn't know, you know?
Just found my mail to find the following in my inbox. It was written to a teen who test reads for me and who is a writer herself. DAY MADE!!
"Today at school, we had to take the [standardized writing assessment]*. The prompt I got to write about was one person that was an influence on my life. I picked you. Yep, that's right! You got a whole essay written about you. It looked like a "4" to me. 4 being the best score you can make- 1 being the lowest. Five paragraphs long. I felt cool, too. All the other people that got that prompt wrote about their mom."
*Details muddled to protect the author. AND SHE GOT A GOOD GRADE, SO THERE!
This is why I do it. I'd forgotten for a few minutes today. Also, I feel very . . . humbled and honored.
Personal Tidbit: You can get my favorite socks here. They are massive amounts of rainbowy-striped goodness.
Guys, right now the likelihood of breaking into the writing biz looks bleak. Not only is the recession forcing everyone from publishers and huge retail book chains to literary agencies of all sizes into scaling down but now it seems all those other people--the ones who've never tried writing before--are getting laid off, and a lot of them decided, "Hey, I can add to my income and use this extra time to write that book like I always wanted."
It's difficult not to resent these people because they're stacking the already-insane odds even higher against 'real' writers (what makes someone a real writer as opposed to a delusional one is an existential debate for another day). Agents' slushpiles are growing by leaps and bounds, making it harder for them to find the diamonds in the rough. It's also irritating because the message seems to be, "writing is so easy a laid-off cave man can do it", which is insulting to people who consider writing the main career calling in their lives.
When I heard about this the mental image of a factory amidst a union strike came into my mind, and those 'new writers' were the replacement workers--the 'scabs', if you will--breaking through the picket lines. Only of course we of the original workforce, the ones who have always been doing this job, aren't on strike. We're just being struck.
So, the new challenge is seeing around the ungracious feelings and in finding something that gives you hope regardless of the current standing of the book business.
Here's to your success!
Personal Note: I really hope I'm missing something in Kelly Clarkson's new song, "My Life Would Suck Without You", because if not, WHAT A HORRIBLE MESSAGE!!! Girls, your lives will totally NOT SUCK without a boy, I don't care how awesome he is.
Whew! Now that's out of my system, to the point of this blog post. The chances are good that if you're reading this you've never actually met me which might make it more difficult to believe that I am NOT a nice person. Trust me on this one, I'm not. I'm selfish and lazy, and a lot of other completely horrible things. Socially awkward, impatient, judgemental, insecure, and sarcastic (maybe that one's not sooo bad) to name a few.
But I do have a great deal of this little thing called 'respect for others' and it goes a long way to make it seem like I'm a nice person. So let's talk about manners and respect as they pertain to the soul-eating steps of breaking into the writing business.
First off, remember how when you were a kid, a student, and you saw your teacher outside the confines of your school. If you're still a student, even better; you're more fresh for this analogy. So weird! Your teacher--for all intents and purposes--seemed to be an actual human, and stranger still, a human with at least something of a life. You couldn't quite put the two entities, your teacher and the person before you, together. Now, take that 'alternate reality' feeling and apply it to your concept of 'Literary Agent'. Yeah, somewhere on the other side of that inbox you just mailed a query to there is an actual human with a life outside of office hours. You didn't mail your query to a program. You mailed it to an individual with personal tastes, preferences, and dislikes. Be mindful of that. When you query an agent take the time to research him or him. Not only does it clear you of a major hurdle (not following submission guidelines=instant rejection) but it helps you better understand the fit you might have with the agent. Plus a little initiative is bound to go a long way. If you think of them as human they are more likely to do the same with you
Secondly, I am quickly learning that this business is no different than many others in that it is absolutely flooded with resources such as 'how to's' and insider info (the kind that might get you published, not arrested). But one of the biggies is 'connectivity'. Simply put, who you know, or even better who knows you. You've got to get your name out there, in the business public's eye. Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, all fantastic. But you can't virtually gang-bang them. There's an etiquette. Don't cyber-stalk an agent to the point he or she is considering a restraining order. Don't get up in faces. Don't be clingy. Remember, these are people who are spending their time and energy to get a job done well and what time you take from them better be worthwhile and contribute something of value, otherwise you will get a reputation as 'best avoided'.
And last but not least, if you wouldn't use that kind of language with your mother, don't use it with a potential connection. The agent will appreciate it, and your Mama will be proud of you.
Personal note: Paramore's "Fences" is totally big-band-swinging around and around in my head. Dig it.
You might have wandered over here from one of a few places, and more than likely I've had pretty much the same name at all of them. There's a fantastic reason for this.
Simply put, my name's my name. I was born with it. Hades, actually I was conceived with it. My dad once said to my mother something like, "Dear, one day we'll have a daughter, and we'll name her 'Amethyst Greye'," and my mother replied something like "Wonderful! And we can call her 'Amy' for short . . . but first we have to get married."
I put an end to the 'Amy' nonsense at the age of twelve. 'Amy' was the most popular girl's name the year I came into the world and therefore much too common for an original individual such as myself.
My mother is pretty sure the 'Greye' comes from my father's biggest literary obsession, Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. Remember, Gandalf started out as 'Gandalf the Grey'. Dad threw on an extra 'e' to make it more feminine, and there you have it.
I like to think--even though he passed away when I was four--my dad somehow knew I would grow up to be someone who needed an outstanding name and that's why he obliged.
Amethyst Greye Alexander. Doesn't it sound like it'd be right at home on the cover of novels?
ALSO! Please look to your left at the heading entitled 'Declarations'. That, my friends, is my triumph over technology for today. Every time you refresh this page you get another favorite quote of mine randomly displayed. Only ten right now, but I have evil plans!
I've followed a few agents on Twitter for a few weeks now and I have to say, just those tiny, 140 character glimpses into their jobs have made me much more sympathetic to what they go through in a day. As a writer, I understand how a rejected book proposal feels from this side of the monitor, how it feels impersonal, invalidating, and other nasty things. And I knew--somewhere in the back of my mind, behind a dusty window--that agents had to slog through a pile of unusable projects, hoping to find one with the right fit, but it hadn't really hit me.
Wow, people. Just wow. The other day I watched as three agents actually had a race to see who could get through the emails in her inbox the quickest . . . two were still up at two A.M., and the other one was crowing with joy that her number was under fifty. Because that was something she hadn't seen in forever.
On another occasion one of the chronicled the last fifteen or so, whether she rejected or asked for more, and why. Two thirds of the submissions hadn't even tried to follow the clearly listed requirements for proposals to this agent. That really surprised me; if you're asking this person to take a chance on you I'd expect you to research that person as much as possible and follow any guidance to a T. It's COMMON SENSE, people.
And last, another agent, who seems very, very personable, rejected a manuscript proposal only to have the rejectee write back to her with a nasty insult, I assume because that person is a childish brat and can't be bothered to react in a more mature fashion.
So, when I get back to sending out novel submissions you can bet I'll be doing it with a whole added perspective, one of sincere respect for the person who is willing to put him or herself out there like that.
Seriously kids, learn from this.
Personal tidbit of the day: Gimme a second, I've got to steal a pair of my husband's socks.
I write (so far) for what people in the biz would call the 'young adult' or 'teen' audience and the funny part is knowing a lot of teens who themselves are writers. So, for those kids I give a few really general pointers that some wonderful people have given me over the last six months or so (credit will follow the main post).
In no particular order:
- It's a time-saver just to start out writing your manuscript in the formatting parameters you're going to end up with. That usually means 1-inch margins all around, double-spaced (a line-width between each line of text), a font like Times New Roman or Arial in the 12 point size. In black. Cutesy colors usually annoy readers.
- Passive Voice. If you have a sentence that uses I was/they were/we were/she is or any other similar conjugation of a being verb see if you can replace the 'passive' being verb ('I am') with a stronger, more specific verb. Ex. "I was laughing like a hyena," becomes "I laughed like a hyena," and makes 'I' the active noun in the sentence. I learned this the hard way.
- Always make sure your verb tenses agree. Past, present, future? Pick one and stick with it.
- Use adverbs (words that end in -ly. Happily, worriedly, arrogantly, etc.) as little as possible. You can usually figure out a way to reword the sentence using the adverb as another part of speech and the statement will sound stronger for it, you can change the dialogue to reflect the emotion. Adverbs often come off as a sort of prosaic cop-out. This comes from a recovering adverb addict.
- Think about your audience as you write.* This might have been my biggest problem. I'm a hardcore word geek so my vocab sometimes explodes in a burst of syllables. Treading the line between introducing new vocab and not going overboard is tough, but possible. Research helps (especially if you're writing something historical--your readers will appreciate the authentic feel of era-appropriate language).
And that's my Top Five Tip Starter Kit for Young Writers. I know it's common sense to most people who work with books, but for those just starting out these are things I think it helps a ton to know on the outset.
*I actually have a pretty funny story about that. When another writer friend and I become famous we're going to tell the world about it. . . and the world will totally laught at us. Erm, I mean WITH, totally laugh WITH us. o.0
Valentine's Day is a GREAT excuse for not working on your book. Your birthday is another. Together they make quite a pair. But what do you do if you want to work on your book but you just can't get into your groove? What if you're stuck?
I am soooo stuck. There's a transistional scene in Silver I have to rework, and it's kicking my rear end. I've been staring at it (or avoiding eye-contact with it) for at least four days. I'll start writing it one way only to be disgusted with that, change directions, and have no idea where I'm going.
What helps us with these boulders? A good mocha capaccino? My warm sweater? Surely my "writer" playlist contributes a little (right now I'm hearing U2's "Trip Through Your Wires"; I'm such a B-sides lover). But what can I do to really get things percolating?
The most frustrating thing is that I can't ask you for tips because everyone is totally different. Your tricks probably wouldn't help me, or mine you. I suppose I will just have to suck it up and growl (internally, of course) until the story comes back to me.
So, here's to hoping Tristan, Joss, and Drew feel like talking. After all, it is Valentine's Day.
And my birthday.
I have noticed a trend with the current series. It happens to every major character in one or another book--sometimes more than one--and even happens with me on occasion.
All of us have lost our ever-loving minds. Some might argue that the characters' minds are stolen, considering how their minds come to be lost (i.e. their author decides it's time for them to lose it), but all the same, the brain flies the coop and is temporarily unavailable for consultation.
In my case, of course the loss is caused by one of two things:
- The classic "Internal Struggle", wherein I argue with myself over the quality of writing, if the characters' actions are realistic, or some other thing.
- The classic "External Struggle", wherein I try really, really hard not to kill anyone in my house for not giving me half an hour, just thirty consecutive minutes, to stare at my monitor until the former struggle resolves itself.
Trust me, the characters' loss of all logical sense is much more entertaining than mine . . . and usually less explosive. I have all sorts of variations of 'lost your/her/his/my/their mind/s' running around those books by now finding them should play out sort of like a verbal Where's Waldo?
Meantime, personal factoid of the day? I like vanilla much better when it comes to coffee or ice cream, but I can eat my weight in truffles.
Have now kicked technology's butt all over Hades and half of Georgia. COMMENTS WORK!
Yes, my name really is Amethyst Greye and has been since birth; before, actually.
Now that we've gotten that out of the way, here are some other significant things about me:
- I've got three young sons and they are all very pretty because their dad, AKA my firefighter husband, gave them gorgeous eyes with lashes that go on for miles.
- I'm turning thirty-one on Valentine's Day this year, but no one believes it, least of all me.
- I have a pin that says, "If the house burns down, remember your priorities; save my books". I'm not even kidding.
- I'm a little darker than you'd think upon meeting me. I mean in personality. In skin tone I resemble Casper.
- I love being there for young people who just really need someone older to ask about the tough stuff. I can't stress this enough.
Oh, and did I mention I'm a writer? I am indeed, a writer. To read the first chapter of the first novel, Silver*, in the Dionadir trilogy, just follow this yellow brick road here . . .
Congratulations, you fell into the hole with me! We get to scramble our way back out together! But don't worry, Ben's finished blessing his Cheerios and is onto bigger prayers, so I feel like we've got a good chance of making it!
In the meantime, if you are having trouble sending up a smoke signal there are only about four billion other ways to find me. I'll restrain myself and give you three.
- Amethyst Greye via Twitter
- Email is beautiful, isn't it? firstname.lastname@example.org
- Silver's Facebook Account
I check all of these daily, usually multiple times.