Monday, November 30, 2009

Humiliating Story #1: The Great Game Show Debacle

Apparently you guys love reading about my humiliation, because a bunch of you asked to hear all three of the embarrassing stories I gave you to choose from on Friday's post. And, because I am somehow at 115 followers now and feeling incredibly grateful for that, I'm going to oblige and tell one a week for the next three weeks.

I decided to tell them on Mondays because, well, everyone needs a good pick-me-up to shake off a bad case of the Mondays, so if any of you are having a horrible day I hope laughing at me and the insanity/stupidity that's been my life will cheer you up.

So without further ado I present:

Humiliating Story #1: The Great Game Show Debacle.

Okay, first of all, I'm NOT telling you the name of the game show because one of the other contestants has taken the liberty of posting a clip on YouTube, and I'd really rather not have you guys tracking that down. I still have my bangs in it, and they cut to me WAY more than they did the other guy and well, it's embarrassing enough just telling you guys about this--I don't need you having visual aids to go along with it!

(And for those of you who are planning on googling it I'm WAY ahead of you. I checked, and it's not searchable under my name. It's not even searchable under my maiden name--though I doubt any of you even know what that is, or how to spell it. Sorry, without the name of the game show it cannot be found....I hope.)

So anyway, thanks to It's a Small World After All I ended up as a contestant on a really obscure game show when I was 18. (For details of how it happened, you can read an older post I wrote here). And it was the kind of game show where contestants are on for a whole week--which is fabulous when the episodes rerun, because I get a week of humiliation, not just a day (this has happened at least twice--that I'm aware of--and yes my friends ALWAYS find it and call me up giggling)--but, they filmed the whole thing over only two days.

Day One I wasn't an actual playing contestant (the game show had ALL these crazy, confusing rules I can't even begin to explain) so I was placed in the "audience," which basically meant I got to be an extra, without getting paid. Awesome!

And because I was 18 and blonde (and despite the unfortunate bangs, not completely terrible looking) and the kind of people who work as extras on week days during working hours are pretty lame, well, of course I was placed next to the creepiest middle aged guy on the planet who spent the entire day hitting on me.  I'm going to call him Mullet Man because in my head he has a mullet. I can't say whether or not he actually did have a mullet (this was almost 10 years ago people) but I always picture him with one so for all intents and purposes let's just say he had one.

Anyway, so Mullet Man had a lot of fun grabbing my arm and bumping my leg and leaning over to whisper to me and pretty much doing anything and everything to thoroughly creep me out and make me feel the need to go home and take a very long shower afterward. Yes, he asked for my phone number. No, he didn't get it. Yes, he asked me if I needed a ride home. No, I did not accept. Yes, he offered to help me get into acting in a way that held all kinds of creepy innuendos about "casting couches." Yes, I kicked him in the crotch. Okay, no, but I should have. Sadly, I was too intimidated by the fact that I was in Hollywood, surrounded by Hollywood people on a Hollywood Sound Stage to risk causing a scene. Instead I endured 8 hours of creepiness and got out there hoping he wouldn't be there the next day.

He was.

But, by then I was in the Contestant Area (looking super important and official with my cardboard nametag and fancy schmancy microphone battery pack) so he couldn't get to me--something I was feeling pretty smug about. Until the camera guy took over the role of creepy guy.

The camera guy was more subtle--I'll grant him that--but it was mainly because he couldn't talk to me (it could get me disqualified for cheating, because he might have had access to the questions). Instead he did a lot of staring. And watching. And more staring. And filming me--a lot! (Which brings me back to the YouTube video wherein there is a disproportionately high number of Shannon shots--I swear the guy filmed me more so he'd have an excuse to crouch down in front of me. Grrrr!)

And, if I had ANY doubt about his interest it was confirmed three years later when--in a very bizarre twist of fate that could only happen to me--I ran into the OTHER camera guy (the one who wasn't creepy). We were talking and he kept saying I looked familiar and somehow it came out that I'd been on the game show and suddenly he knew exactly who I was (No really, he even remembered what color sweater I wore). I told him I was surprised he remembered me and he told me he only did because the other camera guy went on and on about wanting to ask me out and it annoyed him so much that he would probably never forget me. Which was weird and awkward and the kind of thing that is a theme in my life.

Oh, and before any of you go thinking that this is some sort of proof of my hotness (or worse, some pathetic attempt at bragging on my part) let me be clear. The guys in question were Middle Aged Mullet Man (*shudders*) and a camera guy, who looked kinda like he hadn't showered in well... a long time.

Now, enduring all of this would've been worth it if I'd actually won something. But sadly I lost. I lost bad. I don't think I won a single round. (You have no idea how hard it is to think with a creepy camera guy crouched two feet away filming you--totally threw off my groove.) It was so bad at one point the host teased me about it, and I made a joke about my buzzer not being on and OH MAN--IF YOU ARE EVER ON A GAME SHOW DO NOT DO THAT!!!!

Both producers cornered me at the next commercial break and gave me a VERY long lecture on how questioning the integrity of the game show is a BIG "no no" and made me feel like they were going to lock me up in the Game Show Jail for five years for my crime. Which only made me even more nervous and do an even worse job answering the questions when they started filming again. Le sigh.

But that's not even the worst part. The worst part is that they coach you about how they want you to act. They want you to clap for the other contestants AND yourself when the questions are answered. They want you to say your answer like you mean it--even if you're totally pulling it out of your butt (which I was doing most of the time.) But then, when you do these things, the host teases you for it. So I not only look like an idiot clapping for myself the whole time and saying my incorrect answers with tons of conviction, I GET MADE FUN OF FOR IT. Also, on this particular game show they had this whole: stand-and-open-the-envelope-while-talking-thing and yeah, I kept botching it. So it's awesome. It's really really awesome that it's out there and occasionally gets reran (the last time was at least a year ago, so I'm totally overdue) and on YouTube. Yep. It's AWESOME to be me!

Okay then. I think that's enough Shannon humiliation for one day. I hope you guys enjoyed. I promise to tell the other two on the next two Mondays, but don't get too used to this! Sooner or later I'm going to run out of humiliating stories to tell. I hope...

Oh and make sure you come back tomorrow. I'm holding A CONTEST OF EPIC PROPORTIONS, but I'm not telling you what it is. You'll have to check back and see...

Friday, November 27, 2009

You Guys Are Making Me Blush...

Don't ask me how--but amazingly enough I have won two--yes, TWO more blog awards this week. I don't know how it happened--I'm not even bribing you guys!

And I've been struggling to figure out how to explain how happy it makes me, and the best I can come up with is the "Dance of Joy" from Perfect Strangers.

(For those of you who have NO idea what I'm talking about, here's the clip--and yes, this is one of those shows that doesn't really hold up, but trust me, when I was 10 it had me ROFLing--before ROFL was even a term!)

Well, that was...interesting.

Anyway, thank you Sara for the Best Blog Award:

and thank you Heather for the One Lovely Blog Award:
You guys have really made my week. And this time all I have to do is nominate some other bloggers to pass the awards along. I don't even have to tell any more embarrassing things about myself (now that really does deserve the dance of joy!) :)

Though, it's REALLY hard to choose who to give blog awards to, because frankly I want to give them to everyone, but I'm going to limit it to three each just in the interests of time (it does take quite a while to make these links and then notify everyone and well, I'm SUPPOSED to be revising right now).

So I'm going to give the Best Blog Award to:

1. Frankie Writes- I think you all know how much I love her blog at this point but I just can't stop rewarding her.
2. Lisa and Laura Write- Because their posts are hilarious and their Vlog was legendary and they don't even mind when I harass them with occasional emails.
3. See Sara Write- Because she manages to be funny and eloquent and include pictures of hot actors--a winning combination in my opinion.

And I'm going to give the One Lovely Blog Award to:

1. Rhiannon Hart- Because her posts and her comments are SUCH a joy to read
2. Southern Princess- Because she's my own personal cheerleader AND she writes amazing posts
3. RK Charron- Because she will track down every amazing contest on the internet, organize it and post a link on her blog and save me TONS of time.

Congratulations to everyone. I really could list 30 blogs for each award, if only I had the time.

And, you know, I have to say, it feels a little weird not having to list all kinds of personal, embarrassing things. So I tell you what. I will tell one more embarrassing story (if you want--I certainly don't HAVE to) and I'll even let you guys pick from one of the following:

1. How I was on a really bad game show when I was 18. And lost. And got yelled at by the producers for making a joke about my buzzer not working.  And got hit on by a creepy audience guy and one of the camera guys.

2. How I went to the Academy Bake-off (as in the Academy of Motion Pictures--and no, it has nothing to do with baking) and ended up accidentally sitting in the area where all the VIPs and voting was going on and spent the whole time afraid they were going to kick me and my friend out, but we couldn't move because we would disturb the presentation. Not to mention that we had NO idea how important our Professor was until that day.

3. How the totally incompetent student film crew I was a part of almost burned down an Indian Casino and injured a pedestrian and got the Casino (and I believe USC) sued for a truckload of money.

Sadly, I'm not making any of this up.

If you want to hear one of those stories, vote for your favorite in the comments. And if not, no worries. I'll gladly save my humiliation for another day. :)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

And the Panic Begins...

I only have two modes of operation: "stressed" and "panicking." I don't do chill. I don't do relaxed. And I certainly don't chillax.

I've been plugging through NaNoRevisMo in "stressed" mode, watching the time race by, facing critiques and criticism, hiding from terrifying armadillos--all the while not letting it push me over the edge to panicking. But yesterday I had one of those PANIC moments:

It happened at the hair salon (I know, not the kind of place that generally brings on panic attacks). But I always schedule my next appointment before I leave, and I get my hair colored every seven weeks.  Do you have any idea what the date is seven weeks from today?!?!?!?!?

January 13, 2010.

The Writer's Conference I'm attending--a.k.a. the deadline I absolutely MUST have my book done by--is January 29th. Which means I have just 9 weeks left to turn my draft--which is still very rough around the edges--into something shiny and ready to be queried.

O. M. G.

Yep. I'm officially panicking now guys. Get ready for it. It's NOT going to be pretty.

(By the way, if you're wondering why there's no USC lesson today, it's because I did it a day early. If you missed it you can find it here)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Honest Scrap Award

I won another blog award! Thank you so much Steph!

*Throws Confetti*
*Happy Dances*
You guys, however, may not feel so happy because now you have to learn 10--yes TEN--more things about me--and I can't even make stuff up because this is the honest scrap award. And, since I had to do 7 when I won the Kreativ Blogger and 26 when I got tagged...well...I'm running out of interesting stuff to share. But I'll do the best I can. Here goes...

#1. I absolutely cannot sleep without the bright blue stuffed elephant I've had since I was four.

Her name is Ella (I know, how DID I come up with such an original name?) and she wears a Hawaiian shirt and she's a Puffalump and I think she's supposed to be a boy but I don't care and I love her. My husband has learned to accept it.

#2. I am TERRIBLE at video games. Well...I can play the old school Nintendo style, where it's like up-down-left-right and "A" and "B". But give me one of those fancy dual joystick things they have nowadays and I will wander in circles. I can't figure out how to control where I look AND where I move. It's beyond me. And I don't even want to talk about those crazy Wiimotes.

#3. I was Valedictorian of my High School. And before you go congratulating me you should know--I didn't know a SINGLE person at the school, the other kids were NOT happy because of that, and I found out the day before graduation and thus had to scramble to put a speech together in one night. I actually wrote a post about it you can read here if you're interested.

#4. I've met/talked to some of the most random celebrities EVER, including Dennis Haskins (a.k.a. Mr. Belding) and Bob Saget (who has a very bad potty mouth--Danny Tanner he is not).

#5. I am told that I was really stubborn as a baby and would only sleep with my head facing one way which meant my head got really flat on one side. I guess my parents freaked out and took me to a doctor because they were worried it would be permanent and he told them not to worry. But they did--they even tried rigging things in my crib so I'd sleep on my other side but I just wouldn't. Sadly I have no scanned baby pics to prove it, but they do exist. My head looked really weird till I was about one year old.

#6 I got my first ticket when I was 16, and it was because I kinda sorta almost hit a cop. Okay, but the thing is, HE WAS IN MY BLIND SPOT! And I wasn't actually changing lanes, I was glancing over my shoulder to CHECK my blind spot BEFORE changing lanes--but, being such a new driver my car kinda swerved a little when I took my eyes off the road and the cop saw and didn't like it so he pulled me over and wrote me up for unsafe lane change--even though I didn't even change lanes. I still think I should have fought it.

#7 I had bangs WAY longer than anyone should have. I know bangs are back now and everyone does the whole "sideswept" thing--but when I had them they weren't cool. It wasn't the 80's. It was the 90's. But I'd been a kid in the 80's and grew up dreaming of having my own giant bangs when I became a teenager, so up until I was like 15 I had big, hair sprayed bangs. I toned them down a bit after that, but I didn't fully grow them out until I was 19. What can I say? I was lame.

#8. At my wedding I had not one but two--yes TWO bridesmaids pass out. It was a little hot, and the ceremony went about 10 minutes longer than I thought it would, and one of them didn't eat breakfast and didn't tell me, but was interesting. I could hear a commotion going on behind me but I refused to turn around and find out what was going on.

#9. At USC I used to sit next to the kid who played Timmy in Jurassic Park (his name is Joseph Mazzello in case you are wondering.)

#10. One of my favorite cartoons growing up was BEVERLY HILLS TEEN. No joke. I make no excuses. I had terrible taste. (If you don't believe me you can find horrible clips on youtube)

Okay, and now I have to pass it on to ten blogs (anyone else notice how much work these awards are? I mean...I LOVE getting them...but WOWZA they take a long time.) So I choose:

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

More Fun Courtesy of Wordle

Since I'm trying to spend my time NaNoRevisMo-ing (don't you love how that word gets weirder and weirder the more letters I add to it?) I thought I'd use this post to share some of the other wordles I created when I was playing around them. (Did I mention I had WAY too much fun with them over the weekend?)

In addition to making a billion wordles for my drafts, I went to my favorite writer's websites and stole--er--USED the text they posted of their first chapters to create word clouds and see how they turned out. Then I compared them to the clouds I made for my draft to see how they stacked up (see, it wasn't just fun--there was revising going on, sort of). Oh, and I'll end your suspense now--theirs were better. *Grumbles about talented professionals*

To the writers, I promise, you get ALL the credit for creating these beautiful clouds--they're your words, I'm just playing with them--and I really hope I'm not violating any copyright laws. (Don't you love how I pretend these writers actually read my blog?)

Anyway, the first one is really easy to guess, but I'll still let you take a look before I tell you:
Yep, it's New Moon. (Okay, but how many of you guessed Twilight first? Silly rabbits, Edward has a MUCH smaller role in the first chapter of Twilight, as you can see in the Twilight Wordle below.)
What I love about the New Moon cloud is that Bella's obsession with Edward is SO obvious (as it should be) and it even hints at the bigger role Alice plays in the story. The Twilight cloud has a lot more details about Bella--which is good--that's what we need. (It is funny to see how tiny "Edward" is though, isn't it?) But, Bella's the main character, we need to get to know her, and her new surroundings, so it makes sense that the first chapter is more about her--less about hunky vampires, right? So well done Stephenie Meyer. Maybe that's why you've sold a bajillion books. :)

Okay, the next two are really easy too, but I'll still let you guess:
Yep, the top one is the first chapter of The Hunger Games and the bottom one is the first chapter of Catching Fire, both of which are by Suzanne Collins (who Frankie is meeting today--I swear I'm so jealous I may not be speaking to--er, cyberstalking--her anymore). Anyway, I'm sure they both make those of you on "Team Gale" very happy since Peeta's not even in the top one and Gale is still bigger in the bottom one--but I refuse to read anything into that. Team Peeta rules! It's also cool to see how consistent her writing is when you compare the two--the clouds have a lot of similarities.

The next one is a little harder, but I'm sure at least one of you will get it (*cough* Heather *cough*):
This cloud comes from the wonderful, incredibly eloquent first chapter of the Newberry Honor winning Princess Academy by Shannon Hale. I love that all her big words are names of characters or locations (as opposed to words like "but" and "like" and "just"--like my clouds were riddled with). Maybe after a few more rounds of revisions my clouds will look more like this. 

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed them (I know I did) and if you are a writer and you haven't tried turning your draft into wordles I highly recommend giving it a try. You can really learn a lot--I know I did, at least.

Hope everyone has a good day!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Cloudy with a Chance of Progress

Sorry I didn't post over the weekend, I was in full fledged NaNoRevisMo mode, which meant not a whole lot of time for much else (well...except the hour I wasted on Twitter on Saturday night, but that wasn't my fault--that site is more addictive than Crack! Well...I've never tried Crack, but everyone talks about it like it's a hard habit to break so...).

Anyway, for those of you wondering how it's's hard to say. I've now revised the first 142 pages of my draft (yay!) and removed 5914 icky words (double yay!). The only problem is, by some weird glitch in the Universe, my draft is UP in word count, by about 200 words. Don't ask me how that happened--I have no idea. But it's really a drag because my word count is WAY too high already, so I'm either going to have to cut A LOT in the pages to come or I'm definitely going to have to go back through those first 142 pages again. Or, maybe--gulp--both. *Sighs* I guess I'll cross that bridge when I get there.

But that's enough boring revision updates. On to what I really want to talk about.

I discovered a really cool revision tool: Word Clouds. (Thus the cheesy title for this post--see the dorky way my brain works?)

If you don't know what they are, you can find out all about them and/or make your own at wordle--though I warn you--it's completely addictive. I had WAY too much fun with them this weekend.

 No, I did NOT scour my files for things I could turn into word clouds.

Okay, actually I did. But, I promise, there was a method to my madness!

One of the writers I follow tweeted that she uses word clouds for her revisions. (See! I learn stuff from Twitter, so it's okay that I obsessively check my tweets, right?) She said she likes to turn her drafts into word clouds because it'll show her if she's using the same words too often and it also helps her to see how the characters are ranking--if any side characters are getting more face time than more important characters, that kind of thing. And let me tell you, she's a Genius!

I made a bunch of word clouds with my draft, and it was amazing! I did one for the whole draft which I learned A LOT from, but I'm not quite ready to share that one yet. (It kinda gives a few of my secrets away--something I'm realizing means they're not as secret as they need to be. See--genius!) But, I did make one for the first chapter which you can see below.
Isn't it pretty?

And, what did I learn?

First of all, I was SO relieved when my main character popped up as the major word--maybe I'm doing something right!

(BTW, that's a fact I've never shared: my main character's name is Sophie. When she originally appeared in the short story I was writing--which then turned into a book, which then turned into a series--proof that I am incapable of being concise--I'd named her Agnes. I know--cringe! I had my reasons, I swear. Anyway, when she took over the story and my brain and my life--yes, my characters are WAY too real to me--the first thing she INSISTED on was a new name. Three baby name books later I finally settled on Sophie. Since then I've had second thoughts--especially when I realized that its the name of my in-law's dog--but the stubborn girl is already sold on Sophie and won't let me change it. So, Sophie it is.)

I was also glad to see the word "Eyes" playing such a prominent role, since they're pretty important in the chapter, and I was glad the word "sighed" was nice and tiny because I've been trying to tone that down. (One of my CP's pointed out that my characters sigh a lot and by golly were they right--it was OUT OF CONTROL.) Hopefully I've remedied that problem. I was also happy to see that there weren't too many adverbs in there, so maybe I have that under control. All in all, I was happy with the word cloud, and have decided to take it as a sign that I'm getting close--maybe! (On that chapter at least)

And now that I've shared it with you, I wonder if any of you can guess what's going on in this chapter based on the word cloud.  I don't think it's very clear--in fact, it even confuses me a little when I look at it--but maybe I'm wrong.  Feel free to take a guess in your comments, I'd love to read them.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Yeah, Baby. Yeah!

It's kind of funny that the week where so many of my blog posts were about thick skin and perseverance turned out to be the week I end up having my teeny tiny melt down. Well, I guess it's not so much funny as it is ironic, but I try not to use that word--not since Alanis Morissette killed it back in the nineties with that overplayed song where she didn't even use it right most of the time and drat, now it's stuck in my head and--wait, where was I going with this sentence?

Hmmm...can't remember.

Well, I think the point that I'm trying to make--very inarticulately--is that I've pulled through. (Hence the Yeah Baby-Austen Powers thing in the title. I know, it's a bit of a stretch but it's all my tired brain could come up with, okay?)

First of all, thank you all for the wonderful, encouraging comments yesterday--you guys are the best!

I also realized that a big part of the problem was that I haven't let myself have a whole lot of "me" time the last couple months--between work, and writing, and blogging, and housework, and cats, and some family stuff--and I'm getting too burned out. (I haven't even let myself read or watch more than 20 minutes of TV a day--it's been kinda hard core).

So my husband took me out for dinner (where I consumed ten million calories--but that's okay, diet can start again tomorrow) and then I came home and took a bath and read for a few minutes and *poof* the idea of writing stopped seeming so horrible. I guess that's what happens when you push yourself too hard. You kill the joy.

Now that the joy is back I spent the rest of the night in full on NaNoRevisMo mode and managed to edit three scenes. I know that doesn't sound like a whole lot, but they needed some pretty major changes so it was actually more work than it seems. And, most importantly, I was really happy with the changes I made.

Last week I had one of those *AHa!* moments in regards to my draft, wherein I FINALLY found an answer to a problem that's been plaguing my plot since the beginning. But, while I wrote down copious notes of the changes and was really excited about it, I've shied away from actually implementing those changes because, well, they're big and weave through tons of scenes and I know as soon as I start it'll be like, "Can open. Worms EVERYWHERE!" (Heh. Friends reference. I love that Chandler Bing.)

So I've been letting those scenes sit on my shoulders like this big load of weight and pressure, kind of like: YOU STILL HAVE TO MAKE THESE CHANGES SHANNON *EVIL LAUGH.* (By the way, that voice sounds like Gollum in my head--not Smeagol--Gollum, when he's all creepy and hissing My Precious!)

Anyway, last night I decided to silence that voice and just dive in and get started.

Funny thing? Not only was it not quite as big of a nightmare as I thought it would be, (though I'm far from done) it was FUN!

I could finally see the pieces falling into place and I really like where things are going. Piece by piece, bit by bit, I'm getting somewhere. *Happy Dance*

So I'm back on track, coming into a weekend where I have no plans except to Revise, Revise, Revise. Bring it on NaNoRevisMo--I'm ready for you.*

*Well, I think I am. See, today I'm supposed to get another batch of pages from C.J. and, well, she makes me look like a big softie when it comes to critiques. She's spot on, but she notices all kinds of mistakes you made and leaves you wondering how you could be so incompetent--so I'm fully expecting to need lots of deep breaths. *Sighs*

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Shannon Fail

So, it's NaNoRevisMo day five, and I have some major catching up to do. Yesterday I was pretty much as unproductive as I could be. Progress on my draft?


I have the whole thing printed up and marked with what changes I want/need to make (including a number of scenes marked "Crap--remove and try again!" and a couple dozen post-it notes filled with plot /character suggestions I need to apply. I just can't seem to make myself do any of it.

To be fair, Wednesdays are my worst day of the week (I'm gone from 10 am to 10 pm and can only write from ten to midnight). But last night I just couldn't find the will to do it. I couldn't find the will to do anything. Honestly, I couldn't tell you what I did last night. I didn't write. I didn't read. It's a mystery.

But there's also a deeper problem I'm battling, one I'm not quite sure how to deal with. I researched this book for a year and a half before I started it, and then I've been writing it every day since January, which basically means I have ate/slept/breathed/dreamed/and lived this book for over two years. And I'm kinda sick of it.

Don't get me wrong, I still love the story, love the characters, and there are some scenes that I just absolutely adore. But...I'm ready to be done. I'm ready to move on to book two, explore the plot lines I have prepared for that, watch the characters grow up a bit. And I can't because book one isn't done. I know it will never get done unless I finish it (vicious circle) but I'm having a hard time finding the will to do it.

Can I just fast forward through the next two months of editing and revising and re-writng and skip to the part where it's done and perfect and ready to be queried? (or--even better--can I skip the whole querying process and go straight to the seven book deal?) Is that so much to ask?



Okay, enough whining.

It's NaNoRevisMo and I have critique partners on my side so I'm going to regroup today and (as soon as I get home from work) put in a full evening of revising. Cut, change, re-write, edit--I will do it all.

Look out book one.

You may have thwarted me yesterday--but tonight it's on!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Thick Skinned

Oh, armadillos. They certainly aren't the prettiest creatures, now are they?

But that's okay--they have something much more important going on. Those ugly little critters have some of the thickest skin of any animal out there. As a writer, I can appreciate that--because one thing we writers absolutely must develop is a thick skin if we want to survive out there in the brutal publishing world.

Sure, we all think we know what's waiting for us: criticism, disappointment, rejection--and we all think we're ready for it. But let's be honest. Most of us are also secretly hoping it won't happen to us.

We all have that little voice in the back of our heads whispering to us (what? you guys hear voices right? Right?) that maybe we'll be the one-in-a-million case where we land an agent on our first try, they'll sell our book to the top publisher for a gazillion dollars and our book goes on to outsell J.K. Rowling and Stephenie Meyer--combined. Hey, it can happen right?

Sure. And we might also get hit by a meteor the next time we walk outside.

The sad reality: we're going to get rejected. We're going to be criticized. We're going to hand our draft over to someone--pages we've poured our heart and soul into, spent hours and hours of our precious time on, pages that we love and think we finally have right--and they're going to mark the crud out of them and tell us to get back to work.

That's where the thick skin comes in. Rejection? Criticism? Disappointment? Ha!--doesn't even touch us through our thick armadillo armor. Or at least, that's the goal.

Personally, I've had a thick skin for a while. I always have to do things the hard way--claw my way up, so I'm kind of the queen of thick skin.  For example, I started College when I was sixteen, and there were more than a few people (including one of my professors) who thought I wouldn't be able to handle it. But I pushed myself and pulled off straight A's.

Then I decided I wanted to go to film school--and not just any film school: USC--the number one Film School in the country. When I told the Transfer Center at my Community College that I was going to apply, they laughed. (sadly, I'm not making this up.) And while that definitely made me cry and doubt myself for a little while, I eventually decided I wasn't going to let them scare me. So I worked my butt off to keep straight A's, poured my heart into my portfolio, and applied. And I got in. On my first try. Oh, and they gave me a scholarship--one I didn't even apply for.

And then I got there and it was...brutal. It was basically two years of struggling to keep my head above water in a world where everyone knew way more about everything than I did and I didn't quite fit in (I told you guys my main project was about a lonely tumbleweed falling in love while everyone else was channeling their inner Tarantino, right?). And yet, I didn't quit or fail out. In fact, I graduated Magna Cum-Laude and had an internship all lined up to send me right down the Hollywood career path.

But, being me, I went the hard way. I walked away from Hollywood--from everything I'd worked so hard to achieve, moved to suburbia, and started writing young adult books. Most of my friends from film school thought I was crazy--and told me so. Good thing I had my armadillo thick skin.

So what am I trying to say? I'm honestly not sure anymore (hmmm, it was something about armadillos and revisions and--um...)

Oh, that's right!

See, I figured out what the secret to building a thick skin is. It's not tenacity--though that helps. It's not masochism--though I do think anyone trying to break into writing must be a tiny bit masochistic.

It's confidence.

You have to believe in yourself, believe in your idea, believe that you can do it. That's what keeps you going when someone tells you that you can't, or that you aren't there yet, or that you have a lot more work ahead of you.

Know that you're good enough. Know that you can do the impossible. Oh, and be ready to listen to their counsel and work your butt off. And anytime you face a setback,  dust yourself off and keep going. Sooner or later you'll get where you want to be.

That's the hope I'm clinging to, anyway. It won't be easy...but nothing good ever is, right?

So go ahead, call me an armadillo. I'll take it as a compliment--just as long as you don't say I look like one.  :)

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Let NaNoRevisMo Begin!

For those of you scratching your heads and thinking, "um...isn't it NaNoWriMo?" you're wrong! (well, sort of). Yes, NaNoWriMo has officially begun, and that is what's getting all the big blogger hype. But some of us can't NaNo this year. Some of us are stuck in the middle of revisions on stories we love and need to finish them by a deadline and just can't take on the challenge of starting a fresh new novel. Thus, we have NaNoRevisMo.

I discovered the concept through Frankie of Frankie Writes, you guys know her right? (If you don't, you must check out her awesome blog immediately. Go! I said Go! Seriously, what are you still doing here?) I think the real concept is to take an old, untouched draft and dedicate the whole month to revising it, but her and I are tweaking it a little and just making this month all about revising our drafts, trying to get them nice and shiny and ready. (She's shooting for a December deadline. Me, January. Eesh!) And, as a way of supporting each other, we are also swapping WIP's and giving each other critiques.

Poor Frankie, I don't think she realized what she was getting herself into when she agreed to this. See, back when I was in college, I did a lot of critique groups, and found that the people in those groups always responded to me in one of two ways. They loved me, or they hated me--there were no inbetweens. The ones who loved me would beg (no really) to be in my group because I could almost always get them an "A" on their projects. And the haters, well, they yelled a lot, which eventually scared me off the whole "critique group" thing.

So I warned Frankie before I sent the critique of her first two chapters. I give a lot of comments--but that's actually a good thing. I only do that when I really like something. If I don't give a lot of comments that usually means I was so bored I couldn't be bothered. And I don't expect you to agree with everything I say or every question I ask.

My method comes from years of major hardcore screenwriting classes where literally every word was questioned. I treat plot elements that way. Everything a character does or says, I'm questioning it, wondering why they're doing it. If I can find the answer, I move on. If I can't, I leave a comment. Not because it's bad or needs to be changed, but because I want to make sure you--the writer--know the answer.  Because if you don't have an answer, your character shouldn't be doing/saying it. It's a wee bit brutal at times but it helps. (Now if only I could apply it to my own draft, where I'm way too easy on myself. I guess I'll leave that up to Frankie).

But as you can see, you have to have a thick skin to put up with me. So everyone give Frankie a round of applause, she may just be the bravest girl in the blogosphere. (Oh, and if you want to hear her thoughts on my critique method--which are hilarious--you can find them here.)

And you know what? Her draft is really good. Sure, she's gotten a ton of notes so far--some of which are only because she is running long and as much as it sucks, good stuff must go to leave room for the great stuff--but it's good. Great characters. Interesting concept. Yep, I'm jealous. And you guys should be jealous that I get to read it. *Ha Ha!*

She has yet to get my pages (I'm still trying to make them a little but she'll get them sometime this week. And then we'll see what she has to say (I have a feeling there won't be enough room in the margins for all the notes I'll need).

So yes, it's going to be an interesting month. We'll see if cat fights erupt between me and Frankie (God, I hope not, I would totally lose to her in a battle of witty blog posts.) And maybe, just maybe we'll meet our deadlines together.

What about you guys? What are your writing goals this month? Anyone else trying NaNoRevisMo?