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It Ain’t Easy Bein’ Green

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Green sour melon Powerade (Photo credit: MattL)

If you were around the Twitterverse last night, you might have noticed my tweet about writing today’s post about my green melon Powerade.

Fear not, gentle viewers. I won’t subject you to 800 words about that.

But the title popped into my head anyway, and any of you writery types out there know that when something pops into your head, you go with it. Today’s prompt on WordPress was to write your own eulogy, and so you get to see me combine green Powerade, musings on life, and self-eulogizing all in one splendiferous post. You’re welcome.

Kermit

Kermit (Photo credit: Eva Rinaldi Celebrity and Live Music Photographer)

It Ain’t Easy Bein’ Green

I’m not really talking about color here. Or Kermit, though he’s lovely, and I’d go all fangirl in a hot second if I got to meet him.

No, the green I’m talking about is the kind when you’re just plain new at something. It’s that just-starting-out sort of green that I mean. The problem with that sort of green is that you never really get over it. Sure, you can gain experience at fixing toilet drains or whatever endeavor it is that you undertake, but there’s always going to be something new to learn.

Especially in the publishing industry. I remember four years ago when I was just coming off the high of finishing my first novel. I took the first couple chapters to a writing group, and they got shredded.

And I mean…shredded.

English: Piles of shredded tires

This was my soul. English: Piles of shredded tires (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was green. I was new. This was the first thing I’d ever finished, and I’d written that first chapter about two or three years earlier, when I was even greener.

They did the right thing in shredding it.

Fast forward a few years to last January. I went to the Writer’s Digest Conference and pitched my novel in person to agents. And again, I was green. But I had spent four years learning about the industry and How This Thing Worked. On the top of a long list of things to expect is one word in all caps:

REJECTION.

I got my first rejections that day, face to face with agents. Very nice agents who probably don’t remember me now, but someday I’ll tell them they were my first and grin and laugh about it. I was green. I thought my manuscript was pretty good. (It wasn’t great.)

Fast forward nine months when I started querying SHRIKE in earnest. I wrote a query letter that I thought was pretty good. (It wasn’t.) I sent it to some agents. I started getting form rejections. So I asked someone for help (the lovely Julie Kenner, who I mentioned yesterday), and she helped me (along with Amanda Gardner and Kristin McFarland and many others). With them, we shined it up and I threw it back out there, and BAM. The next morning I had a request.

Four-ish months later, I’m still green. I’m still new at this. I can’t tell you how to write the perfect query because though mine works okay, it kind of works like a speedboat with a broken rudder. Sometimes it went straight where it was supposed to go, and other times it went round and round in circles.

The best part? Once I do move on to that next step, the agent-having step, I’ll be back to a very bright shade of green again.

And again when I get my first editor. And again when I try and do revisions for her. And again when I have to market my book. And again and again forever ad infinitum.

But that’s the beauty of life. There’s always something to learn.

plant sap /goutte de sève

plant sap /goutte de sève (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Sappy Bit

No matter where this post was headed, it was bound to have a sappy bit to it, and here it is.

If I had to write my own eulogy, it might go something like this (but please, universe, don’t smite me yet, because I’ve been a very good girl):

Emmie spent her life being green. 

From the time she was four years old and debating the merits of becoming an astronaut or a professional hang glider, she wanted to learn. Her mother taught her how to read at that young age, and in doing so gave her the power to learn just about anything that could be found on this planet. Emmie wanted to explore new worlds, both on our planet and beyond. She spent her life starting fresh and learning things from scratch. Like how to read. How to write. How to love. How to speak Polish and make tiramisu from scratch.

Emmie never minded being green, because being green led to new places where there was new life and magic. Being green meant she had to step out of her comfort zone and move beyond what she knew, what was safe, and what would remain. Being green meant that sometimes she tried new things and got hurt. But it also meant sometimes she tried new things and got life’s most beautiful gems in return.

And passing on from one stage of being green to another might not be easy, but it’s an adventure. Passing on from this life is easier to take when it’s just another new experience and a return to the green of the earth.

It ain’t easy bein’ green, but it sure makes life more interesting.

So, gentle viewers. What do you think about being green? In what ways are you still green? In what ways are you becoming green all over again?

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Ready, Set, Go!

The ultimate best-seller list. Which of these ...

The ultimate best-seller list. Which of these is your all time favorite? (Photo credit: AndrewDallos)

I saw today’s prompt on WordPress.com and thought, “What the hell?” I’ll set a timer for ten minutes and see what comes out.

If you’re wondering, erm, that was the prompt. With me so far?

I liked the prompt because it is its own little double entendre. There’s the very literal ten minute writing sprint I’m doing for you to read, and then there’s this week, which has given me all sorts of things to ponder.

That first thing to ponder is possibility.

Today I learned that the fabulous Julie Kenner (who I met through a blogging class a year ago and who not only read the first few chapters of my first completed novel, but who helped me with my query letter this fall) has just had one of her books hit the New York Times Bestseller List for the first time ever.

(Go check it out — Release Me is ready to land in your hot little hands!)

Those of you who are writers know what that means. It’s huge. It’s massive. And it couldn’t have happened to a kinder person. I can’t express how happy I am for her.

Before this, though, she’s written many other books — many of which have done awesome and been on the USA Today bestseller list for multiple weeks. The point is that when these success moments come, these landmarks, crossroads, whatever you want to call them, they come after a lot of other things. Mostly, they come after years of preparation.

The theme of today’s post works well for that.

Ready

Whenever there’s a huge goal you’re shooting for, whether it’s adding that NYTBA in front of your name (New York Times Bestselling Author) or getting into Harvard or into the White House or out of debt, it requires preparation.

People don’t see that time. They don’t see the hours you spend at home instead of guzzling beers down at the pub with your friends. They don’t see the studying, the hair-pulling, the tooth-gnashing. They see the output, which doesn’t really show up in the Ready Stage.

Set

You’ve done your homework. You’ve put in the groundwork and the toil, and it just comes down to waiting.

Waiting is hard. It’s lonely. It can be maddening. It can be painful, your muscles burning for the release that comes with the gunshot.

But at this point, it’s all you can do. Until…

GO

When this moment comes, all the long hours are the fuel.

All the waiting becomes worth it.

The time you’ve put in paying your dues ignites, and you propel yourself forward.

Onward.

To the next leg of your journey.

This week, I’m seeing Ready and Set become GO for so many people, and I couldn’t be more excited for them.

So let’s go, gentle viewers. Let’s go. Where are you going? Sound off about your preparation, your waiting, and your moving forward in the comments!

Murder, Tea, and Piggles

This week I began another rewrite for my first book. For the first time, I feel like my protagonist has something going for her. I’ve probably rewritten the same first chapter twelve times over the past six years, trying to reinvent the wheel over and over and over again. What I needed was for someone to come along, look at it, shake their head and say, “Nope. You’re facing the wrong way. Look over there.”

Last week, the lovely Julie Kenner did just that for me. The result has been oddly liberating. Not only do I feel able to better express a more fully-realized protagonist, but the new goals I wrote for her can be woven seamlessly into the rest of the book. Instead of feeling like I’m reinventing her, I actually feel like I was able to peel back her exterior to figure out exactly what it is that she needed to be. It works — she is much better this way. There are so many little Easter eggs to sprinkle through the book now, and I think that will ultimately make it a more satisfying read for people. I’d love to tell you about them, but as a whole one or two of you have actually read the thing, it wouldn’t make any sense. So you’ll just have to wait. Until I find an agent, sell the book, and it someday gets published.

Yesterday, Karen McFarland hosted New York Times Bestselling Author Bob Mayer on her blog for a great guest post about creating unforgettable characters. I would highly recommend that you check it out. There were some nuggets in there that I definitely intend to keep in mind when I continue this rewrite.

What struck me most about the advice and feedback I’ve gotten lately is that people need motivations for things. They may not be positive things — in fact, I think that often people are more motivated by the threat of something negative than the possibility of something positive — but they have to be present. Whether it’s trying to get your reader to accept why your protagonist is trusting that stranger or why she is so determined to keep something secret, the reader has to be able to say she understands even if she wouldn’t make the same choice.

So as I strike out on this new path (hopefully not in the baseball sense of the phrase), my protagonist has a few new things in her backpack, including a cat named Piggles. My friend has a cat called Miggles, and when I was thinking about her cat, I was thinking of him going hungry and being mad about it, and voila — Piggles was born. He should be an interesting kitty to play with.

A dog kitty

This is about how I picture Piggles. A dog kitty (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The past few weeks, I’ve been acting as a beta reader for three friends. It’s been a really fascinating experience, both because it has shown me some amazing writing from three people who will certainly be big names in fantasy/paranormal fiction before long AND because it’s helping me to look more critically at my own work. All four of us are unpublished writers, and I think we’ve all felt the frustration of running into walls with our work. Sometimes you just get too close to something to be able to see what needs to be fixed. None of us are professionals, but we all have completed novels and all have the goal of being traditionally published. I think we’re all happy to have the chance to get feedback on our work from writers in the same genre.

I think we’re all guilty of getting too close to things, whether you’re a writer or not. Sometimes we get so focused on whatever goal is floating in front our faces that we get lost in that metaphor about seeing the forest through the trees. It’s hard to see the forest when your nose is stuck between a couple creases of bark.

Bark of a Pine tree showing normal sloughing o...

Forest? What forest? Bark of a Pine tree showing normal sloughing of plates of bark. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sometimes we can get perspective on our own, but other times we need that gentle readjustment in our thinking to come from the outside — or sometimes we just need a bap on the head with a yardstick. I’m setting out on a new journey with some new goals this month. Instead of completing book three by April 15th, my goal is to have a submission-ready book one by June 1.

What have you needed perspective on in your life lately? Yardstick or gentle turn? Have you had to reevaluate your goals?

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