Writing the Blues Away

Seriously, sometimes I wish I were the type of person who got bored or tired or grumpy and went to the craft cupboard to make something like this.

Because I totally think those glitter shoes would cheer me up like presto.

But I’m not that girl.

What does it for me? Well, really great music. And baking, of course. But on my worst days, the only thing that can really pull me out of a funk  — and keep me out — is writing a wicked* awesome new manuscript.

Which, Writer Friends, I am SO TOTALLY DOING RIGHT NOW!!! SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!

Ahem. And now back to your regularly scheduled Internet programming.

I hope your manuscripts are giving you this much joy! Or that something or someone in your life is. If not, maybe it’s time for some ballet flats, a metric %$#@ton of glitter, and ModPodge. Or Chocovine. You pick.

* Um, actually, this one is wicked. As in, EVIL and TERRIFYING and also FUNNY.

Resolve

Today I’d like to talk about resolve. The noun, that is, not the verb – all these people around me “resolving” to lose ten pounds or write every day make me tired.

Also, not Resolve the cleaning solution that gets dog pee out of my carpet, although that is a very, very important kind of resolve to have around here, what with the new puppy and all.

No, I want to discuss the necessity of resolve — defined as “ a firmness of purpose or intent; determination” — in the Writing Life.

I know many, many writers. (Mostly because of the Internetz, but also because writers cluster at book signings, book launches, bookstores, and anywhere that has free food and people willing to hear all about your New Novel Idea.) Some of these writers are published, some are New York Times Bestselling Poobahs, some are brand spankin’ new, and some are like me – somewhere in between.

Some of them actually do write every day, without any need for a New Year’s resolution. I’m getting there.

Although my published Writer Friends have oodles of talent, I have to say that some of my Unpublished WFs have just as much.  Talent aside, the published writers have one thing that not all of the other ones do: resolve. They are determined – probably always have been — to see their words in print, to write enough, to practice enough, to research and sweat and cry and think enough to let their stories, like water behind the dam the publishing world presents, find an outlet.

Craft? Sure. Technique’s important. Practice, practice, practice. But at some point, every Writer has to dig deep and find the resolve – the persistence, perseverance, call it what you will — to keep on going, even when you fall down.

Even when the novel you sign with your agent on goes on life support, like mine did last summer.

Even when the final rejection comes in on it, like mine did a few weeks back.

Even when your agent doesn’t think novel #2 is commercial enough. *cough, cough* Been there, done that.

Even when the revisions of novel #3 threaten to drive you mad.*whimper*

Even when you have three more novels in a drawer that aren’t anywhere near ready to see the light of publishing day. *sigh*

Even then, Writer Friends, you have to have something more than the desire to see your name in print, to be able to tell your doubting circle of non-writer friends that you’re An Author, to sneak into Barnes and Noble and turn all your copies face-out on the shelf.  More than the desire to be legit.

I want you all to be legit. Too legit… to quit, Writer Friends. That’s the resolve I’m talking about. Not this kind, although I kinda like it.

So, sure, make your resolution to write every day. I think that’s awesome. But think about this — maybe you should resolve to foster some resolve, so that when the Writing Life gives you a major smackdown (oh, hello, 2010!) you’ll have the one ingredient you really can’t do without.

I know for darn sure I couldn’t have made it this far without resolve. And you, Dear Writer Friends, let’s never forget You.

Happy New Year! Let’s kick 2011’s booty down the block.

Going Dark

Oh, Writer Friends. I am having So Much Fun today. The kids are burning their little retinas out with unlimited screen time, Dave’s at work, and I am writing a New Novel.

A very creepy, dark, funny, horribly inappropriate novel for small, impressionable, unsuspecting children to read. It’s got a possessed doll, a hypochondriacal main character with a yen to live dangerously, and a sweet little homeschooled neighbor girl who happens to be the daughter of one of Satan’s most trusted minions.

I’d be ashamed if it weren’t so fun to write.

Why a new dark and creepy one? Well, La Agent Extraordinaire tells me that’s what she thinks is going fastest these days… and I just so happen to be in the mood to supply that demand.

So, anyone else out there finding yourself “going dark?” Is it the zeitgeist? Is it the Muse? Or is it middle grade kid lit being infected by the YA darkness? (Why do I see the Nothing when I write that?)

I’ll be back in a few days with my New Year’s Resolutions. Until then, check out this amazing blog post by my Writer Friend Lynne Kelly. Read it all! It’s smashing, baby.

A New Blog in Town

Hi, Writer Friends! I’ll write something longer and far more scintillating in a few days, but for now I’d just like to direct your attention to my dear Writer Friend Lindsey Scheibe’s Bouncing Baby Blog! Lindsey signed with the excellent Mandy Hubbard a few weeks back, and I expect to hear Great Things from them very, very soon.

Me? Nothing too amazing going on here. I’ve been working on revisions to the latest MG manuscript, waiting for word on quite a few short subs that are in the last rounds of editorial consideration, and beaming at my contributor’s copies of Puppet Plays for Libraries, edited by Deanna Baran. I have three plays in this one, and they’re all very cutely illustrated and extremely professionally bound and presented. I’m pleased as punch at how this book turned out!

So, any of you have good news to share — large or small?

The Christmas Newsletter

Merry Christmas! Or, almost. This is that time of year when I trim the tree, bake the cookies, and – being a writer who does actually get paid to do that writerly thing from time to time – ask my husband why in the world he hasn’t written our family Christmas newsletter yet?

Okay, not really. I mean, sure, he has to write the darn thing if he wants one to get written. But me? I don’t really ask him to do it. I don’t care at all. I’m a bit Grinchy about the whole “here’s what we did this year” thing. I love Christmas more than any other holiday, I’m just not a newsletter kind of a gal. Call me lazy, I’m okay with that. 😉

So Dave rallies every year. Yay, Dave! Ho ho ho to you, and an extra candy cane in your stocking. This year’s installment can be found here.

I hope your family’s year has been as fun and joyful as ours. Merry Christmas to you all!

Dear Teen Nikki

Hiya, Peeps! This week was the big, bold launch of a completely cool venture called Dear Teen Me. I’m still laughing that I will be one of the authors posting a letter to her teen self. (I mean, the other authors are Legitimate! And Famous! And Lots, Lots Younger than me! Except Charles Benoit.* But he writes in Second Person, so Coolness Times Ten, right?) Still, I’ll rally, and I’m sure I’ll come up with something not as X-rated as my actual teen life was. (Don’t ask. Just don’t. Because the letters are for YA readers, and I don’t know if I want the teenage world to know what I was REALLY  up to at fourteen. Let’s just say I was not a role model. LOL)

Back to writing, though. Speaking of role models, one of my good friends just went out on sub (yay! Real editors reading her manuscript!) but instead of being all Hormonally Joyful about the whole thing, she called me calmly, told me her news, and sent me to two blog posts to help me understand her unnatural calmness: This one by Natalie Whipple and this one by agent Mary Kole.

I kind of hate that my dear, sweet Writer Friend has this much perspective so early in the process, but I’m happy for her, too. Because this whole writing thing? It isn’t for wimps.

Oh, yeah! News: I sold two more children’s short stories this week! To a small, online venture. I’ll post more when they come out, early next year.

*Wait. Charles Benoit IS totally legit and famous. Just not younger than me. Wanted to clear that up… *grin*

Breaking and Breaking Through

Boy, Writer Friends, it’s been a week! My 7 y.o., Hinky Punky, broke his wrist on Monday. We just had the cast put on today, and he’s back to swinging from the chandeliers, or close to it. (Scottish Grandpa arrived Monday as well, for his three week visit.*) Then my husband bought me diamond earrings. WHOA! I KNOW!! The first diamonds – well, pretty much ANY jewelry I’ve seen from the man — in a very long time. A marital breakthrough, if you will.

In writing, I was invited to join a blogging group of writers HERE. (I am so outclassed. Still, I’ll try to rally, and come up with something amazing, and witty, and hopefully not-too-X-rated by February.) Dear Teen Me is a great concept, spearheaded by the amazingly talented and creative E. Kristen Anderson, where authors of books for young readers write a letter to their teen self. What would I tell Teen Nikki? Break up with that guy? Find a better best friend? Eat less ice cream? Read more worthwhile books than this kind of stuff?

Or maybe, just take a break? I was a little too driven back then. I almost had a breakdown my Junior year, would have if Mrs. McGonigal hadn’t floated my academic boat with fake As for a whole semester. Teen Nikki mostly needed a nap, if I recall.

Back to my week.

Yesterday, there was the exciting announcement that I’ll be leading a talk/session at the Houston Writer’s Guild May conference for MG and/or YA writers. (Anyone have any scintillating ideas for me to steal, um, I mean, study?)

Also, I received a tiny little email from an editor wanting a few more thingymajiggys, so I wrote and wrote and wrote. We’ll see. *Nikki skips away to plant a money tree*

A chatty blog post, I know, lots of news, but no big news. But maybe that’s how it works for most writers, most of the time. Maybe it’s all about the small chances, the little breaks that lead to the bigger ones…I read this tonight, and wondered. Do successful writers engineer their own breakthroughs, through persistence, perseverance, and buckets of tears and sweat? Or is there something else – something divine, or sinister, something like luck or fate – in the mix?

How has it worked for you, Writer Friends? Any pointers?

*Don’t judge: tonight’s dinner was pork casssoulet au vin blanc, or something like that. Divine. The man can cook. 😉 Also, FREE babysitting.

Partytime for Writer Friends!

This weekend is Big Fun in Austin! Three amazing writers are celebrating their book launches simultaneously, at the local indie bookseller (where I met my husband for the first time, by the way). Bethany Hegedus, Cynthia Leitich-Smith, and Brian Yansky will all be speaking, signing, and providing yummy nibbles and tidbits of writerly wisdom for the rest of us. So, if you’re NOT at Bookpeople on Sunday at 2 p.m., you’ll wish you were!

I know you’ve all been wondering, what’s Nikki reading these days (besides Writer Friends’ Manuscripts)? New books in the house this week so far include: Wimpy Kid (The Latest), The Water Seeker, Cyn Balog’s Sleepless, Kathryn Lasky’s The Capture (OWLS!), Gregor the Overlander, and Donut Days. People? I need a snow day or two, so I can catch up on my reading. 🙂

What are you reading? What’s the best book you’ve read lately? (That would be Jandy Nelson’s The Sky is Everywhere for me, natch.) I need a few more Xmas gifts, and I am the Aunt Who Gives Books, so chime in!

NikkiWriMo

It’s been one of those weeks. After scoffing at NaNoWriMo, I embarked on NikkiWriMo. So far this month (um, week), I’ve written about 14,000 words on two separate WIPs, and I’m not stopping yet. All this with a very sick kid at home, a touch of the bug myself (ick), and – you know – life and stuff. I’m thinking NikkiWriMo is a qualified success. We’ll see what my betas say about all these new words. *grin*

Of course, not all weeks/months are so chock-full of writing-y goodness. Some are more contemplative, those sorts of months when writers like me surf the Net for funny pictures of baby animals go for long walks in the countryside, praying for inspiration. If you’re having one of those months, read this blog post by Veronica Roth, which I found by way of The Shark.Or check out pretty much any post on YA Highway.

Now, no more blogging for me. I have a personal goal of 6,000 more words by Saturday morning.

What are you waiting for, Writer Friends? Go on, go write something. Or think about writing. Or eat chocolate and go back to sleep. Whatever feeds your Muse today. 😉

Shiny, New, and Oh-So-Real

Have you ever had anyone ask where your ideas come from? If you’re a writer (who admits to it publicly) the answer is “of course.” (At the Texas Book Festival, Brian Yansky answered this question by referring seekers to a small store in Marfa, Texas, where inspiration is always in stock. Be warned, Marfa-ites: Uninspired Writers are coming. Go read his post about his answer – very wise.)

Me? I have plenty of ideas, probably too many – I could open my own store right by my house and sell the extra ones, the ones I’ll never have time to address, to writers who have skillz but no ideaz. (Do such people exist? I suppose I was one of them, once upon a time. Back in grad school, maybe, when I had the chops but no passion. Oh, for a time machine! I could use all those childless years to churn out manuscript after manuscript, saving up for the seven years of famine that I swear to Gosh I did NOT know came out with the first kid.)

My most recent idea is, to use a phrase from a book/movie I adore, preciousssss to me. It’s so real, I can taste it on my tongue when I think about it, which is often. This book tastes like buttermint, the soft yellow ones you used to only get at weddings and memorial services. Every time I think of it, this story makes a small, soft, lemon-yellow melty place in my heart.

I have fallen in love again. Does it happen like this for you? True love, complete with the hope that you will be worthy of your beloved, the fear that you might not tell it right, that you might not understand it enough, be gentle enough, to pin its butterfly wings to the paper just so…

Of course, you only ever get one of these ideas when you’re in the thick of another manuscript, one who was beautiful when you started, but now has thick ankles and bad skin, smacks its teeth when it watches TV and forgets to hang up its coat. But you’ve spent so long with it, you can’t let it go, can’t date around, until the final papers are signed. There’s only one way to get out of it with your self-esteem intact, and that’s through. And woe be unto you who jump ship early – the Muse will know, and will send you to Writer’s Hell, the ninth level where no story gets finished, and you flail around in a churning sea of unrealized ideas for eternity. (If you’ve ever done this, you know what I mean. This is the Muse’s way of making us finish the book you’re on, so you can get to the new, vital, heart-meltingly gorgeous story that’s waiting.)

Sigh. I don’t know why you all come here, to read about my (more than slightly narcissistic) love affairs. But I’m grateful you do, in the same way a mother with hundreds of photos of her newborn baby  – from the ultrasound on up – is grateful for the friend who expresses interest in seeing every last one.

Oh, Friends! I can’t wait to show you the new one, even though it’s not even started. January, I think. It’s a contemporary fable, a fairy tale re-imagined, a picture book grown into something altogether… more.

Are you in love with an idea? And if you are, do you make it wait its turn? I won’t ask where you get your inspiration; I already know it comes from a store in Marfa.

Note: I am reading a manuscript for a friend right now that is one of the best YA Urban Fantasies I’ve seen, published or unpublished. I am stunned, continually amazed at her writing, pacing, plotting, everything. I love YA UF, read it a lot – but this one, if I can convince my friend to polish it up and send it out, will make some agent and editor very, very happy. I will refer to this post in the future so I can be known as the Mommy Fortuna of this book.