Monthly Archive: February 2015

February, briefly

February has a reputation as the shortest month that feels like the longest. Normally, I’d be inclined to agree. But we’re almost at the end of the month and for the most part, I never had any of those days or weeks that dragged on indefinitely. One thing we have had a lot of is snow—and I’m one hundred per cent NOT a fan of that. (I’m a bad Canadian, I know!) But instead of griping (much) about having to shovel the driveway or wear my giant winter coat everywhere, I have been using the frigid weather as an excuse to stay in and write.

This month, I have been…

HPMug

I solemnly swear that most of my characters are up to no good…

Working on: I can sense that I’m getting very close to that “snowball” stage in my current Young Adult contemporary WIP—that phase where you finally know the story and chain of events well enough for everything to flow without any roadblocks. I find that the middle of a MS is always the hardest part, and the part wherein it’s easy to lose momentum. The tension seems to sag, and I start to worry if I’m threading everything throughout the story well enough. Finally getting out of the middle and into something resembling the home stretch is always a great feeling. Plus, my pantser brain keeps trying to deviate from my outline, which at first was annoying—until I started listening to myself and realizing that sometimes instinct trumps logic.

I’m beginning to learn that if I stop to think about things for too long (and there’s a lot to think about with this story—so many secrets and lies!) I tend to remove myself from the flow of the story and get intimidated when I try to wade back in. So what I’m doing now is writing what’s in my head, knowing I can (and will) go back and make changes and shuffle things around.

Reading: This has been a particularly slow reading month for me. Usually I read at least one book a week, but this month I have been writing so much that I’m going to bed exhausted—and usually the bulk of my reading time comes before bed. I did read a couple books I really liked, though.

I finished SEND by Patty Blount, which is a really interesting story dealing with the issue of bullying. Although the subject matter is serious, I love the author’s use of humor and how authentic the main character, Daniel/Kenny’s voice felt. I really enjoy reading male POV in YA, and I think Patty does a great job with it.

I also read MORE THAN COMICS, the second book in Elizabeth Briggs’ New Adult CHASING THE DREAM series. If you’re looking for a great NA series to start with characters you’ll cheer for, I highly recommend this one. MORE THAN COMICS is set against the backdrop of Comic-Con, an event I knew nothing about going into the story. It was really fun to learn more about it through the eyes of the main characters, Hector and Tara.

Watching: My husband and I have been watching the BORGIA series on Netflix, which is really interesting. I don’t know anything about the history of the Borgia family, so I can’t comment on the historical accuracy, but the entertainment value is definitely there. It’s dark and sexy, with lots of morally challenged characters in impossible situations, which makes it very intriguing. Any show that deals with lies and corruption is right up my alley, and this one is no exception!

Speaking of which… as of tonight, you can find me firmly planted in front of a HOUSE OF CARDS Season 3 marathon… so long, productivity (for the next few days, anyway).

Anyway, that’s February summed up. Looking forward to more snowballing with my WIP and less snowballs outside in March!

A bit of news…

In fabulous Friday news, I’m thrilled to share with everyone that Italian rights to FIRSTS have been sold! Huge thanks to my wonderful agent, Kathleen Rushall, and the amazing Taryn Fagerness for making this possible. Favoloso!

I’m definitely using this as an excuse to take a trip to Italy and buy a new purse. And shoes. Right?

ItalianRights

“What now?” : Or, keeping momentum going

Every writer operates differently. Some people work in bursts, reaching giant word counts one day and writing nothing the next. Some fit in words whenever they can, wherever they can. Others, like me, do best with a routine. Since I work full-time, my routine involves at least two hours of butt-in-chair time at the beginning of the day, every day. Although I don’t have a strict word count goal (as per this post, where I resolved to be nicer to myself), I feel good if I hit at least 1000 words. Usually, I can accomplish this in less than an hour.

Usually.

But the problem is, sometime that two hours of butt-in-chair time doesn’t always constitute work.

There are mornings I sit at my desk, open my Word document, and stare at it. I make awkward eye contact with the fresh new chapter heading in front of me and consult any notes I might have made. My fingers hover over the keys. Then all of a sudden I’m on Twitter or checking out Publishers Marketplace or looking at purses online (shh, don’t tell my husband). Before I know it, I’ve wasted half an hour. Or a full hour. And then it’s time to get ready for work and I’m staring at a couple half-assed sentences and I feel guilty because I know I could have done more if I had only managed my time better.

I have been thinking about this a lot recently. About why it’s so difficult to get going some mornings, when other times the words flow freely. It’s easy enough to chalk it up to writer’s block or make up some excuse, but I wanted to identify the problem so I could find out a way to solve it.

The problem? Momentum.

I used to think momentum just meant writing every day, even if it’s only for five minutes, because you at least touch base with your story and characters that way. But now I’m looking at momentum on a smaller scale. For me, it’s not about writing every day as much as where you start writing each day.

When you’re going at that crazy, frenetic pace with your writing, when you know exactly what you want to say, it’s a heady feeling. It’s amazing when your fingers can barely keep up with what your brain is thinking. When you finish for the day, you feel invincible. You can’t wait to get going the next day and pick up where you left off. So when you sit down the next morning and find that the word well has dried up, it’s easy to wonder how the momentum stalled just like that.

What I’m coming to realize? That stopping at the end of a chapter—a logical place to finish a writing session—can make it that much harder to get going when you pick up where you left off. I’m finding more and more that when I stop off at a crucial point—even in the middle of a sentence—it’s infinitely easier to get going the next time. You’re dropped right back into the thick of things, and finishing one sentence leads into writing a whole lot more. You can latch onto your thoughts and inject yourself back into the story easier than if you’re just staring at “Chapter 26” and a scarily blank page.

I used to hate stopping partway through a chapter. I used to feel like a failure if I had to abandon a sentence halfway through. But now, I purposely look for places I can stop writing in the heart of the action. Because I know it’ll be that much easier for me to hone in on my story when I pick up the sentence. (And that much easier to keep Twitter and online shopping distractions at bay.)

And the best part? That heady, invincible feeling always comes back, and I’m excited about my story all over again.

I’d love to know—how do you keep momentum going?

#SixteensBlogAbout: How and Why I Started Writing

Grade4story

One of my fourth-grade creations. Thanks Mom and Dad for keeping this stuff, and digging it out for me!

This month, the Sweet Sixteens are talking about a question that really made me think. A question that took me back to the fourth grade, when I couldn’t hold a pencil right and made multiple trips up to my teacher’s desk to ask for more paper to write my stories on. I still remember the excitement of getting a fresh page and the joy I felt filling it with words.

The question? How and why I started writing.

The truth is, I didn’t know how I was supposed to be writing back then, or what constituted good writing. I just knew that I loved doing it. And that love is what started it all.

I filled those pages with stories about monsters and dragons and horses, and several retellings of the Little Red Robin Hood story. I wrote freely and quickly, not caring about things like voice or tense or character development, not knowing what was going to happen from page to page. I crossed things out when I decided they didn’t fit and left big gaps and question marks in the narrative. I renamed characters at will. And I didn’t know it yet, but I was beginning to have a serious thing for plot twists.

Fast-forward to now, when I’m a year away from becoming a debut author. A lot has changed. A lot more thought goes into anything I write. Under every new idea, there are numerous point-form notes and bullet points and unanswered questions. I think about things like finding a killer hook and introducing conflict. I wonder if people will want to spend a whole book with my main character. I consider whether my ideas are worth pursuing, if they are saleable in today’s market.

Maybe the biggest thing that has changed is that I go through phases where I find my inner editor to be almost crippling, a major impediment to progress. During these times, I’ll write something and erase it almost immediately because I have deemed it as not good enough already. During these times, I convince myself I have writer’s block and find reasons to avoid my story altogether. During these times, things like laundry and shoveling snow start to look appealing.

But looking back at my old stories—riddled with typos and gaping plot holes and illegible handwriting—I think maybe I could take some cues from my fourth-grade self. Maybe there’s something to learn from that little girl who didn’t care what anyone else thought about her stories, if people wanted to read them or not. She liked them—she believed in them—and that was enough for her.

Maybe part of my problem now is that I think too much and don’t trust my instinct enough.

I wrote FIRSTS very quickly—too quickly to have room for self-doubt to creep in. I wrote FIRSTS much like the fourth-grade me wrote her stories: fast and furious, with words spilling from my fingertips and somehow fitting into place. But since then, I have encountered bumps in the road with my other WIPs. Run-ins with my inner editor, who tells me to go back and fix what I have instead of moving forward. False starts and massive plot overhauls. It’s not easy to just write without a filter. But in 2015, this is exactly what I’m trying to do.

Because when it comes down to it, it’s so much more fun that way. And that’s the biggest lesson I can take away from my fourth-grade self. That writing is supposed to be fun, above all else. Frustrating and stressful and maddening at times, but also the best feeling in the world.

And while a lot has changed since I started writing, some things haven’t. I still have a love affair with plot twists. I still don’t know what happens from page to page sometimes, and I think that not knowing can be the best part.

Oh, and I never did learn to hold a pencil right.

THE ONE THING Cover Reveal & Giveaway!

I couldn’t be happier about being part of the cover reveal for a book I love– a book I couldn’t put down, even while I was getting ready for a New Year’s Eve party. (You try reading and applying eyeliner at the same time. It’s not easy. But more importantly, the book is that good.)

I can’t wait for THE ONE THING to be out in the world on September 8, 2015 so that everyone can know how amazingly talented Marci Lyn Curtis really is. Maggie is a main character you’ll want to spend more than a whole book with– she’s witty, sarcastic, and struggling to cope with a vastly different life after losing her sight. You’ll laugh out loud and reach for the tissues during this one– and as a writer, I know that being able to make your readers giggle one chapter and cry over the next is no small feat.

Without further ado, here’s a bit about THE ONE THING:

A soaring tale of life and love, of sacrifice and renewal, and learning to see people as they really are.

Maggie Sanders might be blind, but she won’t invite anyone to her pity party. Ever since losing her sight six months ago, Maggie’s rebellious streak has taken on a life of its own, culminating with an elaborate school prank. Maggie called it genius. The judge called it illegal.

Now Maggie has a probation officer. But she isn’t interested in rehabilitation, not when she’s still mourning the loss of her professional soccer dreams, and furious at her so-called friends, who lost interest in her as soon as she could no longer lead the team to victory.

When Maggie first meets Ben, she thinks she can add crazy to her list of problems. But the precocious ten-year-old isn’t a hallucination. Maggie can actually see him. She immediately befriends the kid, desperate for any chance to see again.

It turns out Ben’s older brother is Mason Milton, the ridiculously hot lead singer of Maggie’s new favorite band. Music is the first thing that has made Maggie feel alive since losing her sight. But when she learns the real reason she can see Ben, Maggie must find the courage to face a once-unimaginable future… before she loses everything she has grown to love.

And now… the moment we have been waiting for!

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TOT final cover (2)

 

*round of applause!*

What a stunning, beautiful cover!

Not only is Marci revealing her cover today, but she’s also giving away a really special prize. THIS really special prize. THE ONE THING earrings! If you want to be entered in a draw to win them (of course you do!), visit this page now! http://marcilyncurtis.com/updates/

TOTearrings

If you haven’t already, you can add THE ONE THING to Goodreads by clicking here!

MarciCurtis

Marci Curtis grew up in Northern California, where she went to college and met an amazing guy in a military uniform. Two college-aged kids and one dachshund later, she lives in Maryland, where she laughs too loudly and eats peanut butter off spoons. Her YA contemporary debut, The One Thing, comes out September 8th, 2015 via Disney-Hyperion. Learn more about her at Marcilyncurtis.com.

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