Apr 22 2013

Revising, a Tale of Two Drafts

Right now, I just want to crawl into bed and take a nap, but I can’t because I have to revise Book Two.  As soon as I open up the Scrivener document, Ill embark on a long journey of editing, rewriting, deleting and polishing, one that starts with this first emailed critique from my (marvelous) CP, and then will continue on with my agent and with my editor and with my copyeditor, until at some point several months from now, Book Two will be a book shaped thing with a title and a satisfying plot and I won’t ever have to think about it again.

Whenever I draft, I would rather edit, and whenever I edit, I’d rather draft.  I don’t know why my head is broken this way, so that whatever work I’m doing is so agonizing, and then I don’t know why when things aren’t agonizing, I feel guilty, as if something being a miserable experience makes it a thing of quality.


Here’s how it’s going to go down:

Suffering Bethany’s Suffering Spiral of Suffering

1. Read CPs’ insights.  They are all geniuses and right about everything, and have solutions for me THANK GOD.

2. Open document.

3. Decide to jump right into revisions.

—Delay looking at book by looking at Community GIFs on Tumblr.

—Read Prologue.  Vomit and die.

—Open email to reread CP’s email again.  Find an email from mortgage lender instead.  Spend thirty minutes looking up refinancing options on Internet.

4.  Okay, jumping into revisions was a bad idea.  I should make A Plan of Attack.  Yes.


—Okay, Scrivener makes this easy.  Start inputting notes into relevant chapters.  Do this for fifteen minutes.  I AM A PRODUCTIVITY GOD.

—More Facebook, more Tumblr, a text to husband about how hard life is.

5.  Give up on Plan of Attack—I should just start making changes now.  I pick one thread that needs working on and follow it all the way through the novel.

—Except, wait, that thread connects to this other one in this scene, so I’ll just go ahead and change it while I’m here, and that actually leads me right into this other problem that needs fixed…

—End up revising slowly and chronologically, just like I always do.

6.  Repeat Step 5 every day for four week to eight weeks.

7.  Send to Agent Lady.

8.  New edit letter–repeat Steps 1 through 6.

7.  Send to Agent Lady again.  (If thumbs up, proceed to Step 8.  If thumbs down, repeat Steps 1 through 6.)

8.  New edit letter from Editor Lady.  (Repeat Steps 1 through 6 once for major revisions, once for smaller scale revisions, and once for line edits.)

9.  Copyedits.

10.  First Pass Pages.

11.  ARC review.

Listen, I’m not complaining in the traditional sense (well, maybe I am.)  I love that I get to make my books better.  I love that my books are going to be actual books on actual shelves and that one day, actual people will read them.  But it’s hard.  It’s all hard, but this is the part where you are continually confronted with all of the problems, all of the glitches and plot holes and typos that remind you that you are not a master of your craft, but only a hapless beginner.  And you know?  That’s probably a good thing.  I don’t like it when my karate instructor, perpetual coffee cup in hand, watches me do katas, but his corrections make my katas better.  Hell, even just the scrutiny makes me better; I lower my stances, strike harder, and focus on my hand forms when someone is watching.  As with karate, so with life and art and all that.  The corrections strengthen me.  The scrutiny pushes me further than I would have ever pushed myself.

But I’d be lying if I said that part was easy.  It’s not.  It’s so hard.

So how to get started?

I remind myself that this is a first draft.  (A first draft that took me five months to write.)

I remind myself that my ego does not need to be stroked.  My ego needs to shut up and chill out.

I remind myself that this is just a stage in the process.  Because the process includes its rewards too: moments of pure inspiration, books of the heart, meeting fellow artists, and seeing your book in public.  That stuff is tight.  That stuff is cool.

I had to legitimize my Tumblr addiction somehow.






Mar 27 2013

The Next Big Thing!

Look at me!  I was tagged in The Next Big Thing Blog Hop by Elizabeth Richards to answer a few questions about my debut novel coming in 2014!

1)      What is the working title of your book? LANDRY PARK TWO, a Tale of Woe and Misery and Atoms: The Dressening
2)      Where did the idea come from? This is the second book in the Landry Park trilogy and picks up a couple weeks after the Big Event that concludes Book One.  The initial germination for Landry Park came from working at my local museum, where playing with pictures of debutantes and pictures of fallout shelters began to create weird pictures in my mind.
3)      What genre does your book fall under? YA Sci Fi, although I would love to see “Future Historical” as a real classification someday.
4)      What actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?  Aw, crap.  I’m bad at this.  I still like Shailene Woodley as Madeline–she’s smart and thoughtful, which is exactly how Madeline is–although now Shailene will be (an awesome!) Tris, so I think it will be hard to see her as any other YA heroine for a while.  And I’d like Michael Fassbender to be her father just so I can drool over the idea of Michael Fassbender discussing philosophy in a three piece suit.
5)      What is the one sentence synopsis of your book? Oh, this is easy!  Gone with the Nuclear Wind.
6)      Is your book self-published, published by an independent publisher, or represented by an agency?  Landry Park will come out from Dial/Penguin in early 2014, and I’m represented by the amazing Mollie Glick of Foundry Media.
7)      How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?  The first book went through major, major revisions and took two years, but The Dressening only needed four or five months for the first draft.  (That’s fast for me.)
8)      What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?  For Darkness Shows the Stars, almost certainly.  Landry Park has distinct Austen overtones.
9)      Who or what inspired you to write this book?  I wanted to write a book that layered in thorny issues of responsibility and identity with beauty and romance and dashing army uniforms.  I wanted to write a book that could talk about atomic particles on one page and have a heroine kissing in a garden on the next.  I was inspired by books I love so much I wish I could read them all at the same time: Gone with the Wind, Mansfield Park, The Illustrated Man, Jane Eyre, Rebecca, Brave New World…
10)   What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?  Let’s see…a mysterious attack in the woods, ballroom dances, radiation poisoning, dresses, a flirty boy with a big smile, a mausoleum hidden in a maze…
So I’m passing the torch onto two fantastic authors, Laurelin Paige and Katherine Ernst, both good friends of mine!  Look for their posts next week!

Mar 22 2013

Bees? Yes, Bees.

I’m over at the YA Valentines professing my love for bees!

Also, I’m just now recovering from my delicious writing retreat in Texas!  It was five days of writing, talking, gin and jumping into a freezing-cold river.  I didn’t take any pictures because I’m lazy and also because I was either drinking or writing or both and forgot to think about it, but Michelle Krys has some great ones, including one of Anna Carey’s Daring Wasp Removal.  Anyway, it was a wonderful time, and I hope I get to do it again next year.

Oh, and I finished the first draft of Book Two.


Mar 4 2013


So lately it’s been a lot of waiting.  If you thought that the query stage was a trial of patience, brace yourself.  Publishing is all about waiting.  Waiting for an editorial letter, waiting for a marketing plan, waiting for a cover, waiting, waiting, waiting.

Right now, I’m in the waiting for a cover phase and it’s a fantastic mix of excitement and anticipation and genuine impatience.  A cover is something that everyone from the editor to the sales department weighs in on, and they take into account all sorts of practical variables that I would never think of, plus still find a way for it to be true to the book.  And I am super duper lucky that I’ve been invited to chime in with any thoughts or ideas I may have–not many authors can say that!  So, with so much expert input, these things can take time.

But, while I know all this with my brain, I am still impatient.  Waiting is hard.

I’m keeping myself busy, though.  Book Two is well underway–probably only 10,000 or 20,000 words away from being a real first draft that I can then rip apart and stitch back together (like Frankenstein’s monster.)  I won’t lie, Book Two is been a PITA, and this is only the drafting part–the easy part.  God help me when it comes to revision time.

Jan 11 2013

I’m Over at the League!


Talking about how amazing Level 2 is, of course.

Nov 30 2012

The Summer I Became A Nerd Cover Reveal!


Okay, so brief backstory here:  I had the chance to meet the hilarious Leah Rae Miller through a group of author moms on Facebook.  Turned out that we are music twins! (in addition to sharing a ton of political and literary perspectives.)  We both love Tool, A Perfect Circle, and Fiona Apple, and we’ll exchange good writing music from time to time.  Leah is one of the most genuinely intelligent, funny and warm people I’ve had the honor of meeting, and I couldn’t be more excited for her debut, coming May 7th, 2013.

The incomparable Leah!

Born and raised in northern Louisiana, Leah Rae Miller still lives there on a windy hill with her husband and kids. She loves comic books, lava lamps, fuzzy socks, and Cherry Coke. She spends most of her days reading things she likes and writing things she hopes other people will like.

Now, in case you need a refresher on The Summer I Became A Nerd:

On the outside, seventeen-year-old Madelyne Summers looks like your typical blond cheerleader—perky, popular, and dating the star quarterback. But inside, Maddie spends more time agonizing over what will happen in the next issue of her favorite comic book than planning pep rallies with her squad. That she’s a nerd hiding in a popular girl’s body isn’t just unknown, it’s anti-known. And she needs to keep it that way.

Summer is the only time Maddie lets her real self out to play, but when she slips up and the adorkable guy behind the local comic shop’s counter uncovers her secret, she’s busted. Before she can shake a pom-pom, Maddie’s whisked into Logan’s world of comic conventions, live-action role-playing, and first-person-shooter video games. And she loves it. But the more she denies who she really is, the deeper her lies become…and the more she risks losing Logan forever.


I know, right?  *grabby hands*

Ready. For. The. Cuteness?




Pre-order Links:

Amazon- http://www.amazon.com/Summer-I-Became-Nerd/dp/1620612380/

BN.com- http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-summer-i-became-a-nerd-leah-rae-miller/1113610315


Additional Links:

Goodreads- http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/14744489-the-summer-i-became-a-nerd

Twitter- https://twitter.com/LeahR_Miller

Website/blog- http://leahraemillerblog.blogspot.com/

Be sure to catch the Marked-to-Read contest on Goodreads in the weeks leading up to THE SUMMER I BECAME A NERD’s release on May 7, 2013. Watch Leah’s site, http://leahraemillerblog.blogspot.com/, for details on how to submit/enter to win, because I know you’re just as excited as I am!

Nov 28 2012

Young Adult Author Panel!

Gennifer, myself (plus an extra chin) and Lenore!


Well, despite me randomly having an extra chin in this picture, the panel went great!  Lenore and Gennifer answered a whole host of my diabolical (not really) questions and gave informed and educated answers, and then we all read from our books (there was a sneak peek of Landry Park in there.)

Now off to drafting Book Two once more.  I’ve sent the boys off to war, so there’s no making out right now.  Maybe some wandering in gardens?

Nov 27 2012

Come See Gennifer Albin, Lenore Appelhans and myself!

Come see us!  The panel is called DRAMA AND DYSTOPIA, but since neither Crewel nor Level Two fit easily into that category, it’s more like DRAMA AND SPECULATIVE FICTION.  But that didn’t have the same ring to it, and also didn’t fit onto the promotional handouts.

7:00 p.m.

Central Resource Library,

Overland Park, KS


Nov 20 2012

These Days Where I’m Made of Glass

I’ve been feeling depleted lately.  Depleted at the library, where my trip to England left me behind on several projects, and where there never seems to be enough time to catch up on said projects.  Depleted at the laptop, where I feel like so far Book Two is just a collection of kissing scenes, connected by moments of drinking and self-recrimination.  (So basically, my life.)  Depleted at home, where I am an increasingly shitty mother who constantly wonders how any higher power could have possibly subjected innocent children to someone as ignorant and irritable as me.

In karate, we would say repetition into repletion.  You do the forms over and over and over again, until they bore you.  Then until you don’t even notice them as you do them.  Then until you HATE THE VERY IDEA of doing them or of doing anything at all.  And then until you go on the deck one day, and you do the form, and you feel refreshed.  Until the form is like coffee.  Until the form is like this thing that makes you a better martial artist and a better human.

The idea is that you just keep doing your form, no matter what, through the boredom, through the distaste and through all the depletion, until you break through to the point where it refreshes you.

But I’m not reaching that point right now.  I’m doing the library form, doing the writing form, the mothering form, and I’m still in that place where it’s all just so much noise and flailing of limbs.  So, sorry in advance.  This isn’t the post where I tell you about some epiphany I had that made everything better.  About a dream I dreamed or a vision I had or a song I heard, that somehow made these brittle, glass-like feelings coalesce and heal.

Instead, I’m going to remember a few moments from the last few days that have made me happy.  And maybe not quite repleted.  But close.

–reading Jane Eyre in my cold bedroom at night, a dim lamp in one corner and a quilt wrapped around my shoulders.

–sitting in a friend’s dining room, eating Amish peppernuts, our conversations zigging and zagging between theology, YA lit and work gossip.

–going to wake my daughter in the morning, and having her reach out a chunky arm and pull me down next to her.  Instead of trying to rouse her, I just laid there in the November morning sun, my lips pressed against her baby-shampoo-scented hair, and we dozed together.

–writing until 2 am at Denny’s with Ashley Fuller, desperately trying to make it to a thousand words so we can go out and have a cigarette.  (Ashley: I should have just taken up smoking in college.  I would have been a much happier person. [Don’t smoke, kids.])

–screaming in Josh’s car as a spider attacked me, and then him screaming, and then me screaming because he was screaming, and then him screaming because I dented his console kicking the sh*t out of the spider.

listening to this song in my car, doing the weird torso dance you do when you’re listening to an awesome song but a) are seated b) are buckled and c) are paranoid the other drivers around you are going to think you’ve overdosed on bath salts or something.

Anyway.  In other news, Book Two is coming along.  And I saw Skyfall.  Which, really, is enough to make anyone’s day better.

Nov 9 2012

The Steep, Uneven Steps of Editing

So, this spring, I sold my book.  Yay!  Yay!  Skip ahead to dreaming of covers and blurbs, right?

Well, apparently there is this little in between step from selling your book to seeing your book in print.  Editing.  I had heard of it, yes.  I had edited on my own and with my agent.  But this was something newer and harder and ultimately better…and with considerably more wine involved.

Step one: Editorial Letter.  These seem to vary depending on your editor, but my Editor Lady writes hers almost like a lit analysis paper.  She starts off with encouragement (which I refer back to frequently over the next eight pages), and then lays out possible issues and concerns with possible solutions.

Step two: Wine.

Step three: Wine with Critique Partners.  This is where they pat you on the back and remind of all the places in the letter where Editor Lady says good things.  You don’t believe them and tearfully make plans to return your advance.  They give you more wine.

Step four: Look at Letter Again (still with wine.)  This time, with a clearer head, you can actually see that it isn’t the end of the world.  Actually, it may even be doable.

Step five: Make List of Things to Do (and rank in order from: infinitesimal to I-might-shoot-my-laptop-with-a-rifle.)  So, Editor Lady is like, the best editor ever, and creates the most organized editorial letter known to man, so most of my list work is done for me.  But I still like to rank them in order of their scope.  So:

1. Madeline’s Character Arc

2. Her relationship with David

3. Her relationship with Cara

all the way down to

12. Change her necklace

13. Add the cat into more scenes

This is also best done with wine.

Step six: Work through the list in whatever way works best.  For example, when I did my revise and resubmit with Agent Lady, I worked my way through the list from bottom to top.  With these edits, I followed one line of revision–say Madeline and Cara’s relationship–and fixed it all the way through the manuscript, and then went back and followed another thread all the way through.  By the way, get used to track changes in MS Word.

Step seven: Review and turn back in.

Step eight: MOAR EDITS.  This round, I got a much shorter letter, only a page or two.  Editorial Letter Lite.  There’s less need for wine this time, as these tended to be much smaller scale.  These edits, I just went through manuscript and tackled all of them chronologically as they came up in the story.

Step nine: Review and turn back in.  EVEN MOAR EDITS.  These are called line edits, and they are very small scale.  Rather than an editorial letter, I just got a comment or two in the email with the document, and then comments within the manuscript.  This is where smaller things pop up, like, “Would this character really say this like that?” “You’ve used the word ‘concupiscence’ five times in the last page.  Consider changing?”  This needs even less wine.

Step 10: STILL EVEN MOAR EDITS OH THE HUMANITY.  Contractions.  Diction.  Unnecessarily verbose passages or redundancy.  Wine levels go back up as you cannot look at your manuscript without swearing and threatening to stab it in the eye.

Step 11: Turn it back in, right in time for a hurricane to shutter Penguin’s office for a week.

So that’s the editing process with Editor Lady.  There will be copy edits and first pass pages later, but for now, Landry Park is in her incomparable and insightful hands and I am drafting book 2.  Which, once again, means I need wine.