The New Year – On Non-Resolution Resolutions

I aimed to take a like… week’s break following the end of a disastrous National Novel Writing Month… and I disappeared for over a month. Yikes.

NaNoWriMo was a bit of a mess this year… I spent a lot less time like this:

Fox & Katherine Writing

And a lot more time like this:

Not Writing

And admittedly some time like this:

Writing Under the Influence

But by the end of the month, I managed to hit 50k for the twelfth consecutive year. It wasn’t pretty, but it was done. As I mentioned here in an earlier post, I chose to write a serious world-building story about ‘good guy demons’ and a girl who unexpectedly becomes their queen on her eighteenth birthday. It has a lot of flaws, including the fact that the boy who was *supposed* to be the love interest you root for became a friend, and the boy who was supposed to be the sexy-but-not-perfect-match boy became the one you root for.

The pluses? I could conceivably turn this into a trilogy if I wanted to spend more time fleshing out the mythology and working on it. And most importantly: I hit 50k words of new material that I wouldn’t have written if it wasn’t for National Novel Writing Month.

Fox at the Cage

(And I had an excuse to go to the Cage like four days a week so I could write!)

But after the month ended, I crashed hard: creatively, emotionally, physically. I was worn the hell out. I barely touched writing (even in my blogs), and I didn’t even have the energy to pick up any editing on the project I’d started *before* November. I guess every so often you need that little break (which I’ll admit was full of lots of other fun things, like Christmastime).

But here it is now, the New Year, which sparkles and shines in such a wonderful way that you can’t help but *want* to make resolutions!

Unless you’re like me and hate the idea of resolutions, in which case the New Year makes you want to just give out a lot of hugs and smile and make lists about all the vague, non-specific things you’re going to do to make this year Fucking Awesome.

So, it’s *kind* of like resolutions, for those of us who are shit at sticking to plans.

My lack of willingness to use the term ‘New Year’s Resolution’ was the ultimate inspiration for 101 Achievements way back in 2009. I was so full of upcoming-new-year energy, but I couldn’t bring myself to do a ‘resolution,’ which has such a negative connotation anymore. And thus, the 101 List was born.

If I made resolutions, they would be like this:

~ Be more badass.
~ Clean all the things.
~ Keep up on photo editing (Full disclosure: this is like, the single biggest problem in my life. I can’t keep my pictures organized! And I forget to take some off of my memory cards sometimes! I just found like 90 pictures from 2012 that I’d forgotten about!)
~ Write like, all the time.
~ Stop flirting with boys (hahahahahaha).

And you can see how poorly I’d stick to all of those.

So this year, a friend of mine started this idea of 12 30-day challenges in 2014. No long-term ‘resolutions,’ just a list of 12 different challenges to attempt throughout the year. She invited any of us who are interested into a Facebook group for it to help keep us all motivated. Here’s my final list:

30 Day Challenges

Obviously, not all of my challenges are specifically related to writing, but a number of them are, and many of them are creativity-based as well. I thought this blog might be a good place to keep track of how I’m doing.

This month is a fitness challenge. It’s a long story I won’t get into on here, but I’ve been having some health issues lately that have contributed to the general feeling of no energy and some weight gain as well, so I’m trying to get back into the swing of things with what Trainer Mike has dubbed ‘NaSquaMo’ (that’s National Squat Month) and some cardio dance videos. Today was Day #1, and I did 30 minutes of exercise, plus my 50 squats, so I’m off to a good start!

As things start to settle down more now that the holidays are over, I’ll hopefully get back into creative pursuits more regularly, but I’m going to try to be forgiving of myself if things aren’t perfect right away. (And that right there is waaaaaay out of my comfort zone!)

So what’s everyone else feel about the New Year? Did you make resolutions? Anything creativity-related? I’d love to hear!

And here’s to a happy, healthy, creative, and Fucking Awesome 2014 to all of my readers!

Oh. Mah. Gawd.

Today, I had a glass of wine at one of my favorite afternoon-glass-of-wine spots, and I took out this ridiculous calendar (I’m talking ridiculous, as in, I mightaswell have written ‘wake up’ and ‘take some deep breaths’ in the details), and I made a list of WRITING GOALS ON SPECIFIC DAYS.

Tonight’s writing goal? “Query letter revamp.”

And… I DID IT!

Okay, okay, before I get out of control here, I should add that I did a *first draft* of the new query. Because, well, it’s almost midnight, and I have a fourteen-hour shift to put in tomorrow bright and early. So like… Saturday night, query-revamp will be complete. (Besides, all us rl srs writers know you have to let something sit for a minute before you edit it!)

One of the biggest faults of the old query was that the voice wasn’t present. My book is about death (and Death, the man himself). And there are serious subjects. But what makes it not a Debbie Downer of a teen romance is that it’s funny. (I mean, I think it’s funny, which, depsite what you may think, is not like your mum saying you’re pretty.) And you couldn’t tell that whatsoever from the old query.

It was like the polyester pants of query letters, that old one. This is a light, breathable fabric that won’t rip in the crotch if you pull out some Prince-style splits to celebrate.

Anyway. I’m pumped. I’ve breathed new life into my query, which makes me actually feel like I kind of sort of might want to query again. (Gosh, isn’t it wonderful when a word can be a noun and a verb and an adjective? I mean, probably, if the word isn’t ‘query’, which, well, I’m still emotionally scarred from this whole process.)

I feel like I was looking at that old query, going, “Oh hell no, no one is going to want to read this thing!” Because I think the key to this book is the humor. I think the humor holds it together when it would otherwise smother you with the Tough Stuff. And it’s a fine line, in YA stuff that deals with death and sexy grim reapers and hockey.

(I really hope the hockey bits aren’t a deal breaker. I guess I should start by querying Canadian agents.)

I need to get to bed, but I wanted to share. (Full disclosure: what I really want to do is do an end-zone dance and throw Gatorade on my husband. But I don’t have any Gatorade, because I’ve been trying so hard not to get hangovers.)

You’ll hear from me again once I press that shiny ‘send’ button on some agent emails!

Writer Retreat

Okay, sorry AGAIN for the delay between posts! To say that life is a little crazy is a bit of an understatement. I’ve been writing a bunch (and doing a bunch of things I haven’t yet had a chance to write about) on 101 Achievements, and sitting on the back steps of my house, trying to find where I should start on tearing up my yard to make some functional gardens (which has so far been so overwhelming that I am literally just sitting in the backyard and staring).

So obviously, my book, and my writing blog, and my general Carrie-Bradshaw-esque existence has been pushed to the backburner (except for the Carrie Bradshaw parts about going out to eat and reading fashion magazines – those, I’ve been pretty consistent about).

Which brings us to today, to a place where I do not live, with my little red sidekick.

Lucy Peeking
“Mommy, are you bloggin bout me agains?”

Through dangers untold and hardships unnumbered, I have fought my way here to the hotel beyond the City of Pittsburgh to take back the novel that I have forgotten about.

Yeah. That’s about it: I took myself on mini-holiday so I have no excuse to not sit around and WORK ON MY BOOK. (And play in the woods. I’m going to do some of that tomorrow, too.)

I don’t know what it is about a change of pace, a change of scenery. There’s something about being in a hotel room, or on a train, that clears my mind a little. I think it’s because I can’t think about dusting, since there’s someone who comes in to do that every morning for me.

So, I thought I’d actually dust off this blog (haha, see that agents? I’ve got transitions DOWN TO AN ART) and tell you my goals for this little trip:

~ Write a real knock-out of a synopsis.
~ Prepare about five queries to go out in the week.
~ Think really hard about what my business card is going to say for the blogger conference in two weeks.
~ Play in the woods.
~ Take my dog to the beach.
~ Nail the first chapter with a finesse that will surprise even me, the author.
~ Try out some new coffeeshops.
~ Find a wicked good Casear salad.
~ Run.
~ Read a few more chapters in Born to Run

I have somehow managed to snag the most majestic hotel room desk for the purposes of this trip. Behold:

Writer Retreat
Pretty sweet, right? I mean, ignoring the little pouty one in the front of the frame.

I have Yelped my coffeeshops beforehand, and I have MapQuested the state park I’m going to visit. I brought a jug of water, two bottles of wine (a Zin and a Malbec, since I know you’re wondering), and a whole load of poo bags for Miss Lucy. I also made a list of first sentences and paragraphs from my favorite YA books (and other, less-favorite, but massively-successful ones as well), to help me figure out what my first sentence needs to ZING.

And I promise I won’t use buzzwords like ‘zing’ anymore, unless I start writing Batman comics.

Wish me luck. I’ll be sure to update again about the progress (because blogging is an excellent distraction from the writing I’m *supposed* to be doing).

Adventures In Querying, Part Two

The big news is: I got my first rejection letter.

This is important for a number of reasons. First, it’s important because a rejection letter means that I actually sent a query letter to a living, breathing human being. This is a huge step for me, as I’ve spent months and months tweaking and staring at my query letter, ‘preparing’ to send it, and never doing so. So, while I really wanted to kind of run away and consider a career in being the crazy person who sits along the banks of the Charles River and talks to herself, I also kind of felt like, “You go, query-sending rejected girl.”

Second of all, this is the first of many query letter rejections that will go into my Lady Gaga-esque rejection letter dress, which I’m planning to wear to accept my first book award some day. I think it’s really essential to accumulate a decent amount of rejection letters early on, since I am a rather tall girl and would prefer a floor-length rejection letter dress in order to look particularly sweeping and lovely.

Finally, a rejection letter is like a gentle reminder to Query More Agents. No one gets accepted on the first query (and if you have, you should know that I, and every other aspiring author in the world, hate you). So now that the joy and terror of the first query letter is out of the way, it is time to move on to the next dozen.

Latest in my list of Query Terrors is the realization that the humor that is plentiful in my book is absent from my letter. Sure, your query letter is a thing of business, so you shouldn’t be tossing in jokes and taking it un-seriously. But the more I read through it, the more I wonder if there isn’t some way to sneak in a subliminal note to the agent:

Dear Agent,

I know that my query letter explains to you that my book is full of supernatural elements and features Death as a major player, but I want you to know that really, at the heart of all things, my book is funny. I assure you that, betwixt threats of impending doom and serious teenage relationship drama, there are jokes about polyester pants and cute hockey players.

All My Love and Dreams,

I realized this today, whilst querying an agent who is interested in humorous narratives. I found myself typing something along the lines of, “I chose you because you appreciate humorous voices” while realizing that, until she reads the first chapter, and not just the query (which she hasn’t requested, for the record, and therefore would not read unless she gets past this letter), she will not know whatever the fuck I am talking about.

It’s hard out there for a query-er.

Regardless, with all of that in mind, I’ve been working on continuing to query all sorts of agents who will probably never want my book, in the hopes of meeting that One True Agent who will love me unconditionally, and ever-so-slightly more than she loves my book. I’m going to attempt to figure out how to hint at the fact that my book about Death is not heavy-handed, and in fact, if watching my husband read is accurate, actually includes some laugh-out-loud moments. And mostly, I’m just going to be relentless.

Love me, world. Please.