Sunday, March 30, 2014

Searching for the Elusive 'The End'

Have you ever reached the point where it feels like you've been working on a book forever and The End is no where in sight?

That's where I found myself yesterday morning. I'd hoped to have this manuscript finished--at least the first draft--two weeks ago. I planned to let it sit a week, then review/revise before sending it to my editor, April 7th. I have been writing like a madwoman, literally, until yesterday.

When I first started writing, I was a total pantser. I imagine most beginners are. As a newbie, I didn't know anything about plot points, or story arcs, or character growth. I just had a story I wanted to tell. But since that time, oh so  many years ago, I've attended classes, read tons of craft books and learned the art of writing.

Thus I became a plotter. Sort of. I map out my characters, their GMC, the plot points and any tidbits or quirks that feel relevant to the story. This change improved my efficiency, a big help since I work full time at The Job That Pays My Bills.

But this book refused to be plotted. For two, hair-pulling weeks I tried to fit what I knew of this story and these characters into my standard outline with no success. Looking back, I can see I was trying to hammer my round story into a square hole.

I finally gave up and started writing, and writing, and writing, until I wanted to lift my face to the heavens and cry "Will I ever reach The End?"

Which brings me to yesterday morning. I sat, hair still mussed from sleep, eyes gritty, computer in my lap. Page wise and word count told me I had to be close to The End. All my books tend to come in around 350 pages, 65,000 words. I was sitting at 265 pages, 57,000 words. I couldn't write another word without a clear sense of where I'd find The End.

So I reviewed what I'd written and found it wasn't Total Cr*#. I'm not the World's Worst Writer. I could finally see the full scope of the story and realized I only had five more chapters (two and a half now) to the glorious The End.

And I've learned yet another lesson. Nothing is set in stone. Pantser or plotter you think you may be, but some stories demand their own path.


Sunday, March 23, 2014

For The Love (and Hate) of Words...

Like all authors, words are kind of my life. Big ones, little ones, tongue twisters and giggle inducers. But, like everything else in life, there are good and there are bad. Not all words are created equal. At least, not in my world. There are the ones I love and there are ones I hate. I thought I'd share a few of each.


1.      Cheesecake. I can’t eat cheesecake. Eggs are toxic to me, and since cheesecake is stuffed full of em, that pretty much lands it on a list of epic ways to kill myself. But I love the word. It might be the fact that the first part starts with cheese (because, who here does NOT like cheese!?!), or it might just be the random weirdness that is me. Even money that its a little of both.

2.      Turtle. Nope. Not my favorite animal—they don’t even make it into the top twenty (Sorry, turtles. Much love, just not THAT much love...). But it’s such a fun word. I know you agree. Just say it with me a few times. Turtle-turtle-turtle-turtle. Admit it. You said it, too. (I won't tell)

3.      Awesome. This word is so amazing, that even when you hate it, you find yourself saying it. Over and over and over and over... *cringes*

4.      Psychosomatic. I love the sound of it, the meaning—everything. This is a word that needs more love. Find an excuse. I challenge you to work it into a sentence today.

5.      Cadaver. I’ll admit that this one’s on the creepy side. But definition aside, it kinda rolls off the tongue. Am I right? Say it. Ca-da-ver.


1.      Auntie. I don’t know why, but every time I hear it, I want to rip my ears off.

2.      Panties. Why? Again, I don’t know. It irritates me to the point that I want to punch a sheep. Okay, not really. I love sheep. They're adorable. They waddle around, all fluffy and stuff. Seriously though, there’s a good possibility I have a deep seeded prejudice against words that end in IE…

3.      Awesome. Yes. It was also on the love list. But there’s something about it… I die a little each time it comes out of my mouth - which is sadly often.

4.      Yawn. Everyone hates this word. It’s okay to come clean. I mean, come on…what other word in the English language makes you *yawn* do something by simply speaking or writing it? Evil. Pure evil.

5.      Pimpin. I have a friend that used to say this. It was like styrofoam getting rubbed in my ear. You exactly know what I’m talking about. That grating, spine chilling sound that makes your hair stand on end and your muscles twitch.

You’re up. Tell me your favorite (and not so favorite) word!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Having a Bit of a Moan

It happened again.  I picked up a new book by one of my favorite authors, and found mistakes.  This one was especially bad, with everything from plot holes to typos to massive continuity problems—even a repeated scene.  Admittedly this wasn’t YA, but I’ve run across more than my share of mistakes in recent YA books, too.  Used to be, finding a mistake in a book was a big deal, and at most it was a typo.  Not anymore.  And that reminds me of a story.  Ready?  On the count of three, everybody do that wavy, moany thing they used to do on TV to signal a flashback.  One, two, three.  Woooooo-wooo-wooo.

My author friends are tired of hearing me say this, but loooooooooooong ago, I was tight with some good-sized book publishers.  I helped develop, write, and edit a wide range of third-party computer manuals, journals, and online articles.  At the start of my involvement, these were major productions, both large in size and heavy with content.  I’m proud to say that I was a small part of some of the best books in the industry.  Unfortunately, that quality didn’t last.  Print publishing was just starting the musical chairs of consolidation in those days, and that was especially true where a computer-literate customer base was more than ready for change.  Parent publishers, who were busy being bought and sold to one another, flailed.  Product lines ballooned and then popped before they could generate anything but expenses.  Inevitably, books got shorter, content got lighter, and editing fell by the wayside.  In-house management felt enormous pressure to move releases forward while pushing expenses backward.  Books went out before they were ready.  I read the reviews; trust me when I say people noticed.

Okay, the flashback is over.  I’m not sure what sound effect I should use for an analogy, but looking at this book also reminds me of parallel story.  It goes like this: I’m a bit of a construction junkie and like to read Builder Magazine, which is a trade magazine for the residential construction industry.  After the housing bubble burst, I noticed a common thread in many of the articles.  The industry, which had been focused on speed during the boom years, discovered that quality was far more important to their bottom line.  To survive in a brutal market, builders couldn’t keep cranking out badly-build houses—there were plenty of those already.  What builders needed were happy customers.  Enter quality.  And it turns out that when builders focused on quality, they lowered their long-term expenses, while increasing their referrals and repeat customers.  Ching!

So maybe I’m reaching here, but I think there’s a lesson.  Maybe publishers, even my beloved YA publishers who are feeling so much pressure from above, should put more focus on quality.  I know our teen audience grows up fast, but give them credit for wanting books without mistakes.  After all, their word of mouth is our biggest asset.

Sunday, March 9, 2014


Huntley Fitzpatrick's new book, WHAT I THOUGH WAS TRUE, will hit your local bookstore in April. Meanwhile, we have an interview with Huntley and an ARC GIVEAWAY of WHAT I THOUGHT WAS TRUE!! HOW COOL IS THAT? Read on for all the details!

HERE'S THE SCOOP ON THE BOOK: Gwen Castle's Biggest Mistake Ever, Cassidy Somers, is slumming it as a yard boy on her Nantucket-esque island this summer. He's a rich kid from across the bridge in Stony Bay, and she hails from a family of fishermen and housecleaners who keep the island's summer people happy. Gwen worries a life of cleaning houses will be her fate too, but just when it looks like she'll never escape her past—or the island—Gwen's dad gives her some shocking advice. Sparks fly and secret histories unspool as Gwen spends a gorgeous, restless summer struggling to resolve what she thought was true—about the place she lives, the people she loves, and even herself—with what really is.
Please tell us a little about your everyday life.

Like most writers I know, I lead a double life. I have this wild and crazy family, with a lot of characters and personalities in it—and then I write about other families with lots of characters and personalities. My children tend to get up at the crack of dawn, despite years of bribery to talk them out of this habit. So by the time the youngest ones climb onto the school bus, I feel as though I’ve already lived half the day. I race home with the dog (literally run) and to my computer, with a brief pause for coffee. Then I do my best to stay right there until the first school bus pulls back up in front of the house. Except for when I need to block out a scene, or talk one out aloud. When I get stuck, I drive to the beach and walk, pausing to scribble down ideas. Switching gears from whatever is happening in the story to the real world is always hard. I need to come up with some ritual for this—ruby slippers or the like. When everyone is home it’s wall to wall dinner and homework and listening and talking until about nine p.m. when the house gets still once again. I try to get in another hour or so of work then, unless I’d rather just take a bubble bath, hang out with my husband or read.

What I Thought Was True is the follow up to the very popular My Life Next Door. Please tell us a bit about how the two books are connected.
They aren’t actually very connected. WITWT does take place in the same area, and there are a few very small sightings of characters from MLND, but the cast of characters is different but, I hope, compelling in their own way. My third book to be published, The Boy Most Likely To IS going to be a companion book to My Life Next Door, although with a different hero and heroine.

Besides your main character, who is your favorite character in this book and why?
The hero, definitely. Much of the book is about who you are as opposed to who people think you are. Cass looks like the classic cool calm and collected, blond beautiful rich boy. Like someone who had everything fall into his lap. But he’s nothing like that at all. And from the start, he sees the heroine for who she is and cares about THAT girl, not her ‘reputation’ or even what she believes about her self. He knows her. I found that really romantic.

Do you have a favorite scene in this book?
Oh yes. There’s a scene where Gwen and Cass, the heroine and hero, find themselves caught in a sudden thunderstorm and take refuge in a boathouse on the beach. It’s pouring, there are no lights, they are both soaking wet…and there’s an awful lot of unspoken words and unfinished business between them, a lot of conflicting emotion. Hardest scene in the book to write…and now my favorite.

Did you always know how this book would end, or did it change as you wrote it?
I knew the big brushstrokes of the ending, but the central drama of the story changed, so I rewrote the final scenes about fifteen times.

Can you tell us a little about your path to publication?
It really does feel as though I followed the yellow brick road. I’d wanted to be a writer since I was five, but wound up becoming (and loving being) an editor for years. When we started having kids, I left my job and we moved from NYC to coastal Massachusetts. Then, a few years ago, I suddenly woke up and HAD to write a book. So I did—carrying the manuscript everywhere, writing on the beach and at playgrounds and school parking lots. I found an agent willing to look at what I turned out, and wrote two manuscripts that didn’t work. Then My Life Next Door, which was totally different than those two but somehow clicked with the agent, then with my publisher, Penguin-Dial for Young Readers. I am honestly still pinching myself that that happened…let alone that I’ve been able to keep writing since then. I don’t think I’ll get over the shock of having a lifelong dream come true, ever.

What’s next for you?
I’m working on the third book, THE BOY MOST LIKELY TO, right now (currently pre-dawn at a hotel in Boston where the kids and I went for vacation). This book means a lot to me—a departure in a lot of ways (dual point of view, returning to a previous world) and I worry a lot about “getting it right”…but luckily, that’s what the main characters struggle with, too. So we’re all in this together. I have a fourth book to do after that, which currently exists mostly in my imagination and in notes in four of those black and white composition notebooks you use in school. Every once in a while, I take a break from Tim and scribble down notes about Wilder (the hero of book four).

Do you have any marketing advice for other writers?
Marketing is like math for me…I know it’s incredibly important, but my brain struggles to process how to DO it. The only advice I have is to be grateful to anyone who offers to talk about your book, to blog about it or review it. Readers and bloggers and fellow writers are what it’s all about in the end.
YOU KNOW YOU'RE DYING TO GET YOUR HANDS ON A COPY OF THIS ARC! TO ENTER OUR GIVEAWAY, PLEASE USE THE RAFFLECOPTER BELOW! (if you have problems with the Rafflecopter please tell us in the comments or send me a message through my contact page ).AND GOOD LUCK!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, March 2, 2014

#Overwhelmed #Bysocialmedia

After I sold my novel, I had a great conversation with my editor. We talked about future edits for the story. We talked about a possible sequel. And we talked about the importance of social media. #dontforgettotweet

My editor told me I “need to have an online presence.” She said I “need a Facebook page, a website, and a twitter account.” So I went ahead and set them all up, promising myself that I would maintain and update these three different platforms regularly. But this task hasn’t been easy. #suckattwitter

To be candid, I’m a bit baffled about how to integrate ongoing social media updates into my life. I understand that these updates, in particular stream of consciousness tweeting, is what keeps authors present in the their readers’ minds, so that when we DO have a big announcement, our readers will receive it. I get it. What I can’t quite figure out is what to blog / update / tweet about and when! Most days I’m grateful if I get in a few hours of writing and actually remember to brush my teeth. #notenoughtime

I follow many authors who tweet all day. Their tweets are frequently pithy and entertaining. If I tweeted all day, my feed would look something like this: 

Got dressed
Dropped kids off at school
Went to dog park
Ate lunch
Walked dog
Picked up kids from school
Drove kids to activities
Walked dog
Made dinner
Helped kids with homework
Put kids to bed
Walked dog
Tried to write
Went to sleep instead

Do most readers really want to read tweets about an author’s sick dog? Do they care if a successful author’s kid has a fever? #Boring. Right? I mean, seriously, who wants to read THAT in my twitter feed? If I actually tweeted my daily existence, I’d lose followers not gain them. When my dog or kid is sick … I’m usually #strugglingtosurvive the day … not tweeting about it.

And there’s something else that people don’t really talk much about. Sometimes Twitter makes me feel blue. Cliques form on Twitter – groups of authors band together and form alliances. They participate in “private” discussions that I’m not invited to join, but I can read verbatim. They share their success and promote the success of others. I know I should be happy for every single author whose book wins an award or reaches some huge publishing milestone, but as a struggling, poor, author who’s put in years and years and still needs a day job, I admit that sometimes being reminded of other people’s success is hard. Something about being that kind of voyeur frequently just makes me #feelinadequate.

I won’t even get into how baffled I am about how these online contests and giveaways work. I’m sure if I had the time, I could do more research and figure it out, but clearly, all these other authors have figured out something I haven’t. #timemanagement perhaps.

Still, regardless of my own virtual insecurities, having an online presence is critical in marketing books to YA readers. #igetit I guess what I really want to know is: How do authors find the time to write AND maintain such a strong online presence? How do they find the time to post clever Facebook updates and write regular, consistent blogs about the writing process?

I don’t want this blog entry to sound like a mad rant about social media, and I hope it doesn’t. Really, I’m venting about the disconnect between current social media expectations and the reality of my own life. Is it possible to find the balance? Is it possible to master social media and write my next book? #whatdoyouthink

Share your comments here or with me @sharirbecker. Then you can follow my bi-weekly tweets about #mydog, #mykids, and oh yeah! #mybooks.