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/

NaNo Update #1

Writing Song of the Day: “Half Alive” by Secondhand Serenade

So, we stole this idea from the awesome Katy Upperman. We had planned to give you all weekly updates on our NaNo novels but…well, we were doing ALL THE THINGS in addition to writing our NaNo novels. Since we both have crossed over the halfway point (woo hoo!), we felt this was a good time to let you all know how we’re doing…

Pam’s Update:

Progress (word count or a general status update): 26,404

Current Mood: Hungry. A bit overwhelmed. But, surprisingly, I still like my story.

Inspiration: Not a quote from anyone–but this is the first time during NaNo that I’ve written a story that I ACTUALLY believe that I’ll return to and revise. In fact, I can’t wait to start revising it!

Goals as of Today: I usually try to reach at least 2000 words, but I’m a little stuck. So tonight, I plot a little more and make up the word count over the weekend.

Recent Favorite NaNo WIP Bit:

“I see you didn’t have to go far for your costume.” I tug at his basketball jersey. I actually tug it. I guess a beer and a half does wonders to my confidence.

Brandon shrugs. “Lots of kids want to be basketball players when they grow up.”

“Lots of kids want to be Brandon Lane when they grow up,” I correct.

Non-NaNo News (because life DOES go on): Well, Quita and I had the AWESOME opportunity of seeing one of our favorite actors, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, in person (more on that next week)! In less exciting news, I injured my foot in an accident last month, and it’s still bugging me. Alas, I have to report to the doctor next week to see what’s going on. Boo.
In my downtime (ha!) I’m reading: I’ve been starting and abandoning lots of novels lately–with hopes that I can return to them once I get some extra time (because THAT will happen). I most recently cracked open Ellen Hopkins’ adult novel, Triangles. So good so far!!  

Quita’s Update:  

Progress (word count or a general status update): Over 26K

Current Mood: Agitated that I can’t just write and instead must be responsible. However, I am also getting excited about where my novel is going.

Inspiration: Two words: Five Guys.

Goals as of Today: I want to try and get at least 4k done by the end of this weekend.

Recent Favorite NaNo-WiP Bit:

“What do you know about voices?”

Walker tapped his chin. “Like cartoon voices? I’m pretty sure I know who talks Bart Simpson.”

Kenzie laughed. “No…like, voices, voices.”

Walker stopped walking and stared at Kenzie. “Like, voices in your head and sh*t? Like schizophrenia?”

Kenzie continued to walk, already regretting that she said anything to Walker.

Non-NaNo News (because life DOES go on): We just saw JGL LIVE last night. Also, I’m working on finding more internship opportunities in the publishing world.

In My Downtime (ha!) I’m Reading: Rage Within (Dark Inside # 2) by Jeyn Roberts. Proving to be just as good as the first book!

Both of Our Updates:

You should read this blog post: Shady Business by the uber smart literary agent, Sarah LaPolla. A very informative look at the legitimacy of newer agents and publishers.

Gratuitous Photograph (because we love ‘em!):

Joseph Gordon-Levitt at The National in Richmond, VA (11/15/12)
The moment where Quita lost it & cried…

For all of our fellow NaNo-ers out there, how are you doing? For the non NaNo-ers, what have you all been up to?

MAY I Tell You Something About…Our First Drafts!

Taken from rodneygainousjr.com
Writing Song of the Day:  “For the First Time” by The Script

Hello lovelies! Throughout May, we will be participating in the Blog Me MAYbe blogfest, which you can learn more about here. Since Mondays are all about telling you something dealing with writing, Quita and I thought we’d share some info about our new WIPs.

You see, we’ve been planning for WEEKS to complete a brand new WIP during the month of May–kinda our own self-imposed NaNoWriMo. We were going to give ourselves most of April to finalize our ideas and begin plotting.

And then April passed, and we still hadn’t settled on which stories we wanted to work on.

I fluctuated between writing a companion novel to the last YA I completed, a dark story revolving around a love triangle, and a humorous tale about two exes setting up each other on blind dates. Quita kept deciding between writing a  supernatural historical story, or a contemporary thriller. But no matter how many times we plotted and tried to start the first chapter, nothing seemed to stick. These ideas were dying to get out of our heads, but the execution was always lackluster.

Finally, this past Sunday, we vowed to just write nonstop for two hours to see what we come up with. I’ve now settled on writing a contemporary YA retelling of Hansel and Gretel, and Quita’s creating a historical YA about the bootlegging scandals in the 1920s (I think that’s the decade–hey, she’s the history buff, not me). With all of our recent whining, we finally found stories that we’re excited to write.

The downside? In order to meet our self-imposed deadline, we have to hold off on reading Insurgent–as well as City of Lost Souls for me. 😦

The upside? Once May 31st hits, we’ll have some awesome novels waiting to be read–not to mention a juicy burger from Five Guys. If you’ve been a long-time follower of this blog, you know how much we loves us some Five Guys.

How are all of you doing with your writing? Any new stories you want to share with us? Also, do you have hard time, too, deciding which project to work on next?

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?

Our 2012 Writing Resolutions!!

Writing Song of the Day: “The New Year” by Death Cab for Cutie

Okay, we get it…we’re about 5 days late in making New Years Resolutions, but we figure better late than never, right?

This time last year, we created 2011 Writing Resolutions (check those out here). This year, we decided to see if we met those goals while including ones for this year. Make sense? Yeah, not really, but we’ll take a stab at it anyway.

Pam’s Writing Resolutions:

1. Last Year: Revise the ending of Wants.
This Year: Done and done. Well, for now anyhow. Unless an awesome editor believes it needs more work. 😉

2. Last Year: Complete my 2nd YA manuscript and send to beta readers in the Spring.
This Year: Well, I did complete Project J, but it was a little later than usual. Either way, my lovely beta readers helped me get it all nice and pretty to send to my agent. Woo hoo!

3. Last Year: Revise my supernatural YA WIP (my 2010 NaNo project).
This Year: Yeah…that didn’t happen. HOWEVER, I did recently read it and it has way more potential than I initially thought. Since I won the Scrivener program, I think I may play around with this story a little this year and see if I can make it shine.

4. Last Year: Outline my 3rd contemporary YA novel.
This Year: Umm, I KILLED this goal. Not only did I write the first draft of another contemporary novel for NaNo 2011, but I also just started outlining my 4th idea. Boo yeah! This year, I’d like to revise the NaNo novel, and finish the 1st draft of the 4th idea. 🙂

5. Last Year: Write at least 500 words a day.
This Year: Yeah…that didn’t happen. However, this year, I’d like to write at least 3 times a week…even if I’m just jotting down ideas or creating character worksheets. I usually kick writing-butt during my summer vacay, too.

6. Last Year: Read at least 2 YA novels a month.
This Year: Okay, that didn’t happen either. This year, I’d like to read all of the books I put on my 2012 Debut Author Challenge list, and a handful of sequels that I’m anticipating (I’m looking at you, Insurgent).

7. Last Year: Read 6 adult fiction novels.
This Year: Nah, I think I failed this one, too. This year, I’d like to read at least 3.

8. Last Year: Get a book deal.
This Year: Well, no announcements yet, but I have a great agent and some awesome beta readers in my corner. I’m WAY more optimistic this year compared to last year, so we’ll see. 🙂

Quita’s Writing Resolutions:

1. Last Year: Complete my 1st contemporary YA WIP by February.
This Year: Boo yeah! I annihilated that one. I completed the novel around the spring of 2011–close enough to February, right?? This year I plan to finish the first draft of my new historical.

2. Last Year: Nab an agent with my historical YA, In Limbo.
This Year: Right before the year ended, I did just that!! And now we’re gonna work on the book proposal and see if we can get me one of them book deals!

3. Last Year: Revise my supernatural YA novel by April.
This Year: Nope–no such luck. BUT I do plan to revise this (it was my NaNo 2010 novel) by the end of spring this year. After reading through it, it’s not that bad actually.

4. Last Year: Complete me and Pam’s YA idea inspired by Inception.
This Year: Nope. That didn’t happen either. Neither one of us has had the time. BUT I hope we can revisit it at some point this year.

5. Last Year: Read more historical YA.
This Year: Hmmm, I think I read a total of three historical YA novels. Yeah, I need to work on that. Maybe I’ll give myself an actual goal this year…I will try and read at least 5 historical YAs before the end of 2012.

6. Last Year: Read more adult fiction.
This Year: Didn’t do this one, either. I will try and get more in this year, though–definitely. At least 2 or 3.

7. Last Year: Plot a new WIP by early June so that I can finish a draft over the summer.
This Year: This didn’t happen either. I was too busy revising my other novels in order to complete # 2 🙂 But I’m already outlining a new historical and I plan to revise my contemp NaNo from 2011.

8. Last Year: Write SOMETHING each day.
This Year: Yeah, right. With a full time job and two part time jobs–not gonna happen. But like Pam said, writing something at least 3 times a week will work. Even if it’s a quick short story or a scene for a new idea.

9. Last Year: A book deal.
This Year: Uh, no–but see # 2!

Whew, that was a lot! Have you all set any writing goals for this year yet?

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?

We Did It!!

Celebrating Song of the Day: “Oops!…I Did it Again…” by Britney Spears

Saturday, November 26, 2011 is a date that will live in infamy…at least in the household of two greedy, sleep-deprived cousins. You see, we managed to collect this:

That’s right–Quita and I won our second NaNoWriMo challenge! Can we get a woot woot? How about a little dance?

So yeah, my contemporary YA (with a hint of magical realism), So Now You Are Cursed, clocked in at a lovely 56,441 words. And Quita’s contemporary YA, The Captive Soul, ended at an awesome 57,205 words. So, as promised, we treated ourselves to this:

I tell you, victory has never tasted so sweet.
We thought last year’s NaNoWriMo was difficult, but this year was a pure juggling act. I had to work on revisions for another novel, while Quita started up a part-time job (in addition to her full-time one of yelling at…I mean, TEACHING high schoolers). Not to mention everyday we pretty much wanted to punch our WIPs in the face. But with will power, and the thought of chowing down on some Five Guys grub, we got through it.
So now what?
Well, we’re going to ignore our stories for a while–and by a while, I mean MONTHS. Then we’re going to eventually draft ideas for our next WIPs. But most importantly, we’re going to READ like it’s going out of style.
What about you all? Have you finished NaNo yet (if you participated, of course)? What are you going to do with your WIPs once you’re finished? But most importantly, how are you going to REWARD yourselves? 🙂