Friday Things

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Happy Friday!

Today is my second to last day at the company I’ve worked at for the past eight years. It’s surreal. But an odd thing has happened in the past two weeks’ since I’ve given my notice: I’ve gotten less nervous about my impending new job, and more just plain excited.

Which helps immensely, since I’m the kind of person who’s terrible at making decisions and is constantly second-guessing herself. If you prescribe to astrology, you could say it’s the Libra in me. If you don’t, you could say it’s just how I am.

Anyway, here are some things I hope you find interesting:

1. The unintentional last words of 13 writers

2. Something that has always bugged the hell out of me

3. I love this advice, especially this line:

Love isn’t enough. Marry the person who brings out your best and will stand beside you at your worst.

4. Some advice on navigating this newish social platform–immensely helpful to those of us who work on social for a living/are writing for teenagers for a living.

Reading: This (after DNFing this). It’s really different. I’m not sure I like it. The prose is beautiful though, so I’ll probably finish it.

Writing: The YA fantasy. At the same time, in a fit of excitement, I submitted my YA contemporary to an agent via a #PitMatch on Twitter–my first time submitting this manuscript to an agent–and received this very nice rejection email:

We felt the writing was quite lovely and from the synopsis the plot looks intriguing. However, our guidelines require that our books not include drug/alcohol use or progressing beyond kissing, among other things. We do encourage you to keep submitting to other publishers because we feel the manuscript has promise for another house.

Yeah. My book includes drinking, smoking, and “progressing beyond kissing” (most of it in the first few chapters). I feel kinda dumb for submitting to them (though I don’t see anything about these guidelines on their site), and at the same time, it’s one of the nicest rejections I’ve ever gotten. It gives me hope that this manuscript will be more well-received than my first.

Watching: I stopped watching this after the first few episodes, because I did not like it. I find the writing and acting to be sub-par. However, I was encouraged via Twitter to give it another shot. I still don’t think it’s all that great, but it does hold my attention and it’s something to have on while cooking, so there’s that. And I like Bellamy. (Though not really anyone else.)

Listening to: Maybe I should take this category away because I tend to listen to the same stuff over and over. Though I am starting work at a music-related company next week so that may change.

Cooking: I made this soup this week and it was simple and delicious.

Have a lovely weekend 🙂

Image found on this amazing Tumblr

Writing Tip: The Myth of The “Great Idea”

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The other day I was talking to someone about my book. I don’t always love talking about the fact that I’m writing a book, mainly because people who’ve never attempted to get into publishing have no idea how anything works and when you tell them you’re writing a book, they assume they’ll see your name on the bestseller list in a couple months’ time.

But anyway. After I vaguely described to her what the plot was about, she said this:

“That’s a good idea! I feel like all I’d need is that one great idea, like Harry Potter or the Hunger Games, and then I’d be rich!”

It took a tremendous amount of self-restraint to not start lecturing her right then and there.

Instead I’ve saved my lecture for this post.

This is something I encounter not only when talking about writing, but in my job in marketing as well. People are always talking about the “next great idea”. As if “ideas” are these elusive, slippery things floating out there in the ether, and all you have to do is grab one and boom! You’re rich.

My boyfriend, who works in video game development, has encountered the exact same thing. “I have this great idea for a game!” is something he hears constantly.

As for me, I have a list of a dozen different ideas for novels, and I’m adding to it all the time. A little spark of something, a flash of a character or a theme–I jot it down, occasionally start fleshing it out a bit–and harbor excitement that this could really be something someday.

Ultimately, when it comes time to write a new novel, I look through that list of ideas and pick one to turn into something.

And that’s when the hard part comes in.

This character isn’t coming together, or I don’t actually like the voice I’ve started writing this story in, or this theme is going to be really difficult to incorporate into this kind of a story (you should never start with theme anyways; more on that later), or this tiny idea isn’t expanding itself out into a full-blown plot.

And that’s when I know:

Coming up with ideas is easy.

It’s executing them well that’s hard.

Ideas are important–don’t get me wrong. Without the initial idea, you don’t have a novel or video game or marketing plan in the first place. But if you look at the successful books/video games/movies around you, you’ll find an interestingly common pattern.

Feel free to argue with me on this, but I’ve found that the most compelling stories are not the ones with the most out-there, original ideas.

JK Rowling–who by the way, I worship–did not come up with the concept of children who can do magic. Harry himself actually pretty closely follows the very typical hero’s journey, the one followed by every hero from Frodo to Luke Skywalker.

Likewise, The Hunger Games is not the first dystopia. It actually very closely resembles the plot of Battle Royale. And the reasons that writers like Nicholas Sparks and James Patterson are bestsellers? It’s not because they’re constantly coming up with revolutionary, amazingly original ideas. Actually, from the works of theirs that I’ve read, both of these writers have a tendency to write the same kind of stories over and over again.

 “There are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before.”–Willa Cather

These books didn’t succeed because of their “great ideas”. They succeeded because these writers are good at writing compelling stories.

You don’t need a plethora of good ideas to become a writer. You need the talent, know-how, and most importantly of all the willingness to put in the work to turn your ideas into something great.

Cool image found here

Friday Things

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Happy Friday!

First off: I made a huge change in my life this week. I got a new job (!!!) Then I quit my job at the only company I’ve ever worked for. I’m elated and terrified and sad and happy. But nothing ventured, nothing gained, and all of that.

All this life-shifting has left very little time for writing, which is the one downside. But things will settle back down eventually, as they tend to do, and I hope to be back on track with my WIP shortly. Bonus: I will no longer be frantically updating my resume and applying to jobs, so that should free up some precious time!

Here, some other things that made my week:

1. Have I mentioned I joined SCBWI  (The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators)? I did, and in just a few short weeks I’ve found an amazing critique group. Good critique groups/partners are worth their weight in gold, and I’m so grateful for the insightful feedback these women have already given me. PSA: If you’re a writer with a finished draft that needs looking at, find a good critique group, stat.

2. This list of untranslatable words is just lovely.

3. A list of the best travel apps to have when abroad (not that I’ll be traveling anytime soon! 😦 )

4. 10 ways you’re making your life harder than it has to be. I definitely do some of these, especially the first one. Note to self: stop.

Reading: I finished this, which was amazing, and am now about halfway through this, which is also amazing in an entirely different way.

Writing: I started some polishing on my second novel–“YA Jersey Shore Contemporary”–after my critique group. I forgot how much I liked this book 🙂 I also just dove back into the YA fantasy and am currently in the middle of the First Turning Point, which is exciting. Need. More. Time. To. Write.

Watching: This awesome book has been turned into a Hulu miniseries. I watched the first episode last night, and it was great. Watch it! (But read the book first!)

Listening to: More of these guys.

Cooking: This is perfect for wintertime. Simple, easy, healthy, and perfect with fresh bread. What more could you want?

Image of a chessboard, just because, found here

MK’s Book Reviews: All The Bright Places

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Apologies for the longer-than-expected hiatus! It’s been quite the busy week and a half. Changes are coming my way. Which is terrifying, but good. I hope. More on that later.

Today I want to talk about the reason I bawled myself to sleep last night. Unsurprisingly, it was because of a book.

You may have heard of this book; it’s been all over the internets lately. It’s even going to be a movie. So we can all go bawl in public. Woohoo.

Is this book worth the hype?

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