We’re In New Yooork…Well, Almost!

Writing Song of the Day: “Empire State of Mind” Jay-Z ft. Alicia Keys

Taken from: SCBWI

Yep, you read that right. We’re about to take our SECOND trip to New York. The first didn’t really count since it was one of those day trips on a bus. This time, we’re gonna spend a WHOLE weekend there. And we’re gonna be amongst our brethren, other writers! We are attending our very first, SCBWI New York Conference.

While we’ve gone to the LA conference four years in a row, we wanted to change things up this year and try out the New York winter conference. We’re hoping to take in NY on Friday, experience the whirlwind conference on Saturday, and hop back on the plane Sunday. The goal of attending the conference is to get our mojos going again. With the hectic schedules of our lives, our writing has definitely suffered. We want to get to work on revising our 2013 NaNo novels and hopefully the panels and keynote speakers will inspire us to get our crap together.

Don’t worry, we’ll tweet and Instagram throughout the weekend and give you a brief wrap up when we get back next week. Yes, we’ve given you promises before on this blog that we haven’t kept…but this one we promise to keep. Promise. We swear on all that is Joseph Gordon-Levitt. And you all know how we feel about him!

Taken From: http://fashionvertigo.com/joseph-gordon-levitt-covers-out-october-2013/
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Cuz We Write: The Remix

Writing Song of the Day: “The Phoenix” by Fall Out Boy

Taken from Forbes.com

This seems vaguely familiar, huh? Don’t adjust your blog roll…wait, is it even still called that?

Anyway, WE’RE BACK! And we’re all changed and new and shiny. We’re ready to get back into this blogging thing and keep you guys up-to-date on our lives because we know you care.

We’re so close to 2014 and with that in mind, we’ve been remixing our lives since last spring. How so? Well, if you really wanna know…

  • We left our former jobs! That’s right, we got out of the classroom and the school building. We’re both working on doctoral degrees (Pam full time at The College of William and Mary, Quita part time at Old Dominion University–shifting to The George Washington University) and Quita took a promotion to work in a school system’s administrative offices. 
  • We changed our eating habits–once again. All summer, and throughout the fall, we tried eating clean. It worked well at first (we both lost around 7-8 pounds) and then we gained all of that weight back. Something wasn’t clicking so we’ve gone back to a low carb lifestyle. So far, so good.
  • AND, did you see our new banner? Yeah, that was created by our second sistah from another mistah, Natalie Henry (recently featured The Huffington Posted for a Hunger Games themed wedding–ahhh!) and it’s perfect for our newly remixed minds.
  • Finally (and this is one we wanted to tell you about a month ago) we rewrote both of our very first novels for NaNoWriMo this year. Pam worked on a new version of WANTS to get to know her characters again and Quita revisited a novel set in the 1960s called CHASING MANSON (a novel adaptation of a screenplay we actually wrote together). 

Whew! That’s a lot of changes…Oh! And another big one–we moved for the SECOND time within four months. We just can’t stay settled. Who knows, in a few months we may be updating you all on more changes.

So there you have it. All of our changes. What have you remixed in your life lately?

Changing My Revision to a Re-Vision

Revising Song of the Day: “When Can I See You Again” by Babyface

So last June, Quita and I had the pleasure of attending a novel revision retreat with none other than editor extraordinaire, Cheryl Klein–which we blogged about here. You see, I was there to primarily focus on Wants, but Project J wouldn’t stop nagging me. Psst, it kept saying to me, remember how much awesome potential I had?
Remember I did–so now I’m taking a stab at another round of revisions to make it the humorous, yet heartfelt, novel that I know it can be. Not that these revisions are easy (but are ANY revisions?). Sure, I love revisiting the story and characters, but I’m putting WAY too much pressure on myself to make it awesome and shiny and perfect…so much so that I’ve cried out in despair to both Quita and my lovely agent just like this:
Okay, maybe I wasn’t that dramatic, but I was pretty close. So, when we’re this overwhelmed with revisions, what can we do to take the proverbial chill pill and just get ’em done? Well, I take to heart something the awesome Cheryl Klein said at the aforementioned retreat:
Try not to think of it as a revision, but a re-vision.
I may not remember the exact wording, but the message still resonates with me. Now I’m asking myself: How else do I see this story? What else can I do to help it reach its full potential?
1. Reread the story (duh). But this time while I was reading, I made notes of the scenes I HAD to keep, and the ones that I could probably do without. The same can be done for characters.
2. Write scenes out of order. I have been a tried and true plotter, starting from Point A to Point B. But for this revision, I’m starting to think of scenes that I would have liked to include in the previous drafts. You know how most DVDs have deleted scenes? And you know how sometimes you’re like: why didn’t they keep that scene? It kicks ass! Well, that’s what I’m doing for Project J–and hopefully these outtakes will find a home in the actual manuscript.
3. Just let the protagonist lead the way. A few weeks ago, I posted about taking personality tests for your characters. After doing so, I “found” Jonah again, and just started letting him speak to me. Sure, that may sound crazy to some, but I’m amongst my brethren here. Hopefully, you all understand what I mean. What he tells me to write may hit the cutting room floor, but get it down on paper first, weed it out later. That’s how a re-vision should be.
So, despite the initial panic, I think I’m slowly but surely finding my groove with this revision. I’ve come to terms that while the overall story may stay the same, the way I get there may be different. And I’m okay with that.
So, do you all have any revision tips you’d be willing to share?

Free Friday: Personality Tests for Your Characters!

Revising Song of the Day: “Cult of Personality” by Living Colour
You know that feeling you get when you bump into an old crush? A part of you is excited to see him–to check him out, see how he’s aged, get those butterflies all in your stomach. However, there’s also the chance you’ll be a bit terrified: Oh my God, why did I EVER check him out? Look how he’s aged! I shouldn’t have had that omelet for breakfast…
Yeah. That’s kind of how I feel about revisions. I’m either going to open up the manuscript and get all giddy like a middle school girl…or I’m going to want to puke all over my keyboard (thankfully, the latter has never happened. Yet.).

As you probably can tell, I’m strapping on the fingerless gloves and diving back into revisions for Project J. I’ve always struggled with plot–so during my first few rounds of revisions, I focused on climaxes and conflicts and resolutions, oh my!

But then I lost my character.
That’s right–I struggled with my main character. I NEVER thought I’d have trouble with character, but when I zoned in on plot, I forgot about letting my protagonist guide the story.
So what did I do? I popped open an issue of Writer’s Digest and read a great article by Mike Nappa, “Skill-Builders for Fiction Writers.” One of his suggestions was to complete personality tests for your characters. I thought: hey, I’m a writer. I’m a counselor. This should be fun!
And it was. I knocked a couple of those babies out, and soon I remembered what it was that I loved about my main character, Jonah. I remembered who he was and what he wanted and how he thought–and the butterflies were still there! So, I thought I’d share some of my faves:
Personality Type: This quiz only has 4 questions, but it reveals if your character is an introvert or extrovert. A thinker or a feeler. A scheduler or a freestyler. Pretty cool.
The Stress Test: Allow your character to pick 3 pictures. The one he/she does NOT choose reveals what he/she is stressing about. Great way to figure out potential conflict.
Driving in a New City: Your character gets lost with his/her partner. How does he react? This is awesome in seeing how your character interacts with others.
I could go on and on and on with all the cool quizzes that can help figure out your character, but instead I’ll direct you here so you can choose more of you own.
So what do you think? Can personality tests help you with revisions?

Distance Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

Revising Song of the Day: “The Space Between” by the Dave Matthews Band

So, something interesting happened this past weekend–
ME: I don’t feel like revising my thesis.
QUITA: Me neither.
ME: (thinks) Hey–I never read my NaNo WIP from last year.
QUITA: Hmm, me neither.
ME: Want to do that?
QUITA: (shrugs) Whatever.
And so that’s what we did. To read about me and Quita’s NaNo 2010 novels, you can click here. Or, if you’re lazy like me, I’ll save you the extra click–I wrote about fairies, and she wrote about genies. You see, we wanted to write outside of our comfort zones, so we both decided to write supernatural YA stories. And you know what we found out?
They weren’t THAT awful.
Of course, they’re by no means perfect either. It’s just that while we were writing them, we both whined about getting words on that paper. We both declared that they had to be the worst things that we’ve written. Ever. But as I read through my first draft, I found myself laughing at parts that were meant to be funny. I found myself flipping the page to see what will happen next.
So what does that mean?
Just what pretty much everyone else has confirmed. Time away from your WIPs is absolutely crucial. You need to be able to see your writing with a fresh pair of eyes. My first step in revising is: Read your story for personal enjoyment. Pretend that this is a story that you’ve chosen from a bookshelf, sit back, and just read it like you’re a fan.
Now what? Well, I do what I do before I review any other book. I look at what works and what doesn’t work. I think about the characters: do they sound the same? Are they all needed? What are their motivations? I consider the plot and whether or not the story builds to a worthy climax, and if it results in a satisfactory ending.
So yeah, I think Quita and I both plan on revising these babies now. And I can’t speak for Quita, but this revision might just be for me. I won’t worry about submissions and whether or not there’s room in the marketplace for my little fairy story. And sometimes, when you’re writing just for fun, the work really shines through.
What about you all? Have you fallen in love with a project again that you haven’t read in forever?