Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Perfect Enemy

My husband likes to say “perfect is the enemy of good.” 

In the writing world, perfect is the enemy of publication.

(Before you choke on your chai latte, I’m not advocating shipping out your fresh NaNoWriMo manuscript on December first. Not even close! Bear with me here . . . :D)

You spend months (or years or weeks) writing your novel. You spend days grinding out words, getting your story on paper. You spend afternoons frantically scribbling your latest epiphany on random receipts from your purse while waiting in the carpool line, and nights typing the scene that blasted fully formed into your brain as you cobbled together dinner. You give up tv, sleep, and the hope that the laundry pile will ever shrink to acceptable levels, and anything else that has room to give so you can write--because you have to.

And when you’ve worked and struggled and dug your characters out of the deepest, darkest holes borne of your sleep-deprived writerly state, you type THE END. You feel absolutely giddy (which may or may not be related to the fact that you haven’t slept in weeks.) But you’re DONE! See, you tell your spouse, your best friends, your mother or anyone else who will listen, or maybe you just tell yourself: there it is! In Times New Roman font!


And yet, it’s just the beginning. 

If you’re lucky, your first draft is good. As in, a good start. It’s readable, full of promise, peppered with potholes and speed bumps and missing bridges and all the other things that clutter the writing road on the way to a polished draft. 

So you step back, and let your manuscript marinate for a few weeks. AND DON'T PEEK. (And for goodness sake, DON'T QUERY. Fight the urge any way possible. I recommend chocolate. :D) Two weeks pass, maybe three. Then you open up your Word document, and there on the very first page sits the title and your name. And you think, Oohhhh… so pretty.

And you start reading. You waffle between Oh my gracious, this is amazing! I wrote this? to the much more frequent Holy crap, this IS crap.  I wrote this? Some people (like me) edit as they go, others read through all the way then dig in.* Either way, you edit. You revise. And you send your edited first draft to your beta readers, your all-important crit partners.

And then you wait--again. You pass the time drafting your query, stalking following agents on Twitter or Querytracker or their blog, and compiling your all-important query list.

You get your feedback, and naturally, it’s all over the place. But some is consistent, and that reveals where work is needed. Sometimes it's an inconsistency you missed, maybe it’s a spot you already suspected had a problem. Maybe no one will notice, maybe it’s not that BIG a problem. But it is, and you fix it. You listen to the remaining (and conflicting) critiques with an open mind and then you revise. You dig back in, fix any lingering potholes or build a bridge you didn’t even realize was necessary--all while keeping your vision of the story intact (after all, it’s your novel :D).

Maybe you need another round of crits, maybe not. You’ll know whether fresh eyes are needed; trust your writer’s compass--both in handling the crits and knowing when your novel is done.

Here’s where perfection can become your enemy.

Let’s recap: at this point you’ve (1) finished your manuscript, (2) let it marinate, (3) revised and polished it, (4) sent it to crit partners and listened to their feedback, (5) revised and polished again based on your critiques, and (6) possibly repeated numbers 4 and 5.

Meanwhile, you also have a carefully-researched list of agents who might be interested in your YA vampire-werewolf-love-triangle-set-in-a-dystopian-future-where-the-vamps-and-wolves-must-fight-zombies-in-an-arena-and-only-one-suitor-can-survive. (Ahem. Or whatever.) And you have a concise, hook-y, query letter ready to roll--personalized, natch.

Anyway, if you’re not careful, as you hit Step 6 and polish your novel until it sparkles like Edward in sunlight, you might slip from revision, which is meaty, into tinkering, which reeks of stale Diet Coke. Flat, with a bad aftertaste. You might tinker so much that you either (1) suck the life and voice right out of your novel, or (2) never submit your manuscript, because it’s not “perfect,” or both.

How do you know if you’re tinkering? You change paragraphs back to their original form, and back again. You obsess over word choice beyond what is healthy, or helpful. You hear that little voice in the back of your brain, but it’s not perfect, and you can’t bring yourself to hit Send. The black hole of tinkering can kill your novel, and even worse, it halts your growth as a writer. Because at this point, you're actually at Step 7. 

You're ready to hit Send or move on.

I know it's tough, because you frequently hear: "Don't query until it's ready." And I agree with that statement 100%. Premature querying is a sure-fire way to shoot yourself in the foot. But then again, so is not querying at all. There comes a point when your manuscript IS ready, when you have done everything humanly possibly to make it the very best it can be. Hello Step 7! :D This is when you, the writer, should make a call. Send those queries, go the indie or self-publishing route, or move on to the next book, because maybe *cringe* just maybe, it’s your next book that will be “the one.” But you won’t get there if you’re still tinkering with this one.

So stop.

Stop tinkering, stop obsessing.

Stop trying to make your manuscript perfect.

Because it will never be perfect. Nothing is perfect. (Even J.K. Rowling’s amazing Harry Potter books contain a typo or two.) But your manuscript can--and should be--great, rising to the level of awesome. And awesome is what (I believe) agents hope lands in their inbox. :)

Have you ever battled with the quest for perfection? And how do you keep it from sabotaging your novel?

*YOU ARE UNIQUE, and so is your writing style. :) Do what works for you. Same for your journey toward publication: it's YOURS.  Own it. :)  Any thoughts/advice/tips on writing and publishing you find on my blog are my own, and what worked for me. The internet is flooded with writing and publishing thoughts/tips/advice. Use what helps you, and ditch the rest. :) Including this thought. hehe

Clarification: Just to be clear, I'm not advocating shipping out manuscripts full of typos. Far from it. If you've done everything to make your MS the best it can be, you've already run Spellcheck countless times. :) I'm just cheering for you to take the query plunge WHEN YOUR MS IS READY. Don't keep obsessing over word choice forever, letting fear that your MS isn't "perfect" hold you back. :)

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

And the winner is . . .

Thanks to everyone who entered the End-of-Summer Book Giveaway! :)

As y'all know, the contest closed last night at midnight. (I loved waking up to find a flurry of new comments. :) Yay!) This morning I plugged the number of entrants into

And the winner is . . .

Lucky No. 8! Kassandra Fuentes!

Kassandra--shoot me an email with your address, and I'll ship you the two books and the DESTINED prize pack. :) I hope you love them as much as I did!

Happy Wednesday, y'all!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Friday Five


It's Friday sweet friends!  How was your week? Mine was the official end-of-summer-as-I-know-it. Yup--you guessed it, my boys went back-to-school.

To wrap up the week, here's a quick Friday Five!

1. Word of the week: bittersweet.

Like Big Head Todd sang back in the day (*dates self*), it was more sweet than bitter, but as much as I reveled in the quiet house, I missed my boys. The house felt so . . . empty. After a summer full of Nerf wars, and all kinds of boy noise, the stillness was almost eerie. :) (Note: I said almost. hehe)

(For those wondering who the heck Big Head Todd is, check out the Big Head Todd and the Monsters video here.) :)

2. Giveaway of the week: books!

On my blog! :) Two books up for grabs: DESTINED by Jessie Harrell and ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS by Stephanie Perkins. Check out Tuesday's blog post for the deets. :)

3. Creeptastic Picture of the Week:

It's an oak tree, a few miles from our house. I swear it's a wood nymph trapped for eternity. See how she's raising her arms to the sky? *shudders* And like Tweetheart Jess Keating noted on Twitter, it's like she (or he!) is chained to the ground. Cool and creepy. (Repeats to self..."it's just a's just a tree...") THERE'S A STORY HERE, I feel it. :)

4. Link of the week: Editor Cheryl Klein's awesome post on A Few Things Writers Can Learn From Harry Potter. It's been around a while, but was a recent find for me. LOVE IT. :)

5. Recent YA release added to my towering TBR pile: THE KILL ORDER by James Dashner (a prequel to THE MAZE RUNNER)
So that's it!

How was your week? Did you see anything creepy, or creepy-cool? And have you ever heard of Big Head Todd?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

End-of-Summer Book Giveaway!

As summer winds down *sniff* I thought I'd celebrate by spreading the YA book love. :) I've got two awesome summer reads up for grabs!

First up?

DESTINED by Jessie Harrell

Isn't the cover gorgeous?!

Here's the description (from Goodreads):

When Psyche receives a prophecy gone horribly wrong, she learns that even the most beautiful girl in Greece can have a hideous future. Her fate? Fall in love with the one creature even the gods fear.

As she feels herself slipping closer into the arms of the prophecy, Psyche must choose between the terrifyingly tender touch she feels almost powerless to resist and the one constant she's come to expect out of life: you cannot escape what is destined.

Cool, right? :) Want more scoop on DESTINED? Go here.

I was fortunate enough to be one of Jessie's CP's. :) Her book's amazing, and since I love it so much, I wanted to share! Here's your chance to win a signed (Yes! Signed! :D) copy of DESTINED, along with a swag prize pack: a button and bookmark.

And because one cool summer read is not enough, I'm parting with another book I loved: ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS by Stephanie Perkins.

Here's the summary (also from Goodreads):

Anna is looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. Which is why she is less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris - until she meets Etienne St. Clair: perfect, Parisian (and English and American, which makes for a swoon-worthy accent), and utterly irresistible. The only problem is that he's taken, and Anna might be, too, if anything comes of her almost-relationship back home. As winter melts into spring, will a year of romantic near - misses end with the French kiss Anna - and readers - have long awaited?

I absolutely ADORE this book . . . from word one. This book achingly captures the feeling of falling in love. Plus, it really made me want to go to Paris. :)  Romance with a back-to-school setting--the perfect read to end the summer (or start the school year, depending on where you are)!

And now you can win a free copy! :) Woot!

One winner, two books.

To enter? Just tweet this contest and leave a comment below. That's it!

Once you tweet and comment, you're in.

The contest stays open for one week, closing next Tuesday at midnight.* The winner will be picked by The contest is only open to people in the US, Canada & Mexico--sorry for not going international, but for my first contest, I'm keeping my postage low. Also, since I'm new at this giveaway thingy, I'm just dipping my pinky toe in--starting out small. :) Thanks for understanding!

So that's it! One winner, two books. :)

Yay! I can't wait for you to read them!  Happy Tuesday!

*Note: This contest is now closed! Thanks to all who entered, and the winner will be announced shortly! :)

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Sunday Sketches

This week was Shark Week on the Discovery Channel, which is huge in our house. Absolutely HUGE.

My husband surfs, so do my boys, and we all paddleboard. Even my 5yo likes to sit on the paddleboard as we tool around. :) It's super cute. And since our house is old, there's no garage. Surfboards hang over the mantel, hug the corners of our den, and hide behind the couch, all keeping space with golf clubs, tennis racquets and a gazillion other types of sports paraphernalia. It's crazy and fun and and a lived-in house. (Did I mention our living room has a ping-pong table? Yup. It does.) :)

Whew! Sorry for the tangent! *lurches back on track* Anyway, since surfing's such a big part of our family life, we spend heaps of time at the beach. And we've got a freaky fascination with sharks. Each year when Shark Week comes on, we're glued to the tv. It's a sharky family tradition. :)

In honor of Shark Week (and great whites everywhere . . . hehe) my 12 year-old drew a picture of a great white. I loved it so much I thought I'd share...

Da-num . . . . Da-num . . .
Cool, right?

And then my 7 year-old drew this:

Mr. Whale and his friend, Mr. Octopus

I love it it too! The angle of my picture makes me feel a little dizzy (me=lousy photographer) but the drawing rocks.

I'm sad to see Shark Week end, because for me, it's another sign summer is over.  And I'm not ready! :)

What's on ya'lls agenda this week? School? Last vacation of the summer? And does Shark Week ever suck you in?

p.s. Coming up tomorrow: a contest! A book giveaway! Yay!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

After the Rain

Lately we've had afternoon thunderstorms EVERY DAY. Hello Florida in August. :) I've always loved the sound of rain. It makes me want to curl up with a book, in a comfy chair.

But with 4 boys, being cooped up inside has its challenges. (Thank goodness for Legos--and Lego Ninjago! LOL) Being stuck inside at the beach is especially cruel. You can see the waves and the sand just outside the window...but you're stuck inside. It's a total wave tease.:)

And then there's this:

See the empty beach?! That's because it was just storming like crazy...

I took this picture last weekend when we were staying at the beach. Isn't is AMAZING? I think the perfect swell sits at the end of this rainbow. :)

Sometimes rain leads to something breathtaking. Something inspiring. Since yesterday we experienced some *slight* plumbing problems at our house, I'm hoping there's a rainbow coming (metaphorically speaking) soon around here. Because usually something good follows a big rain--even if it's inside the house.:)

So what's new with you? Seen any rainbows lately? :)

Friday, August 10, 2012

Friday Five

It's Friday! *cue happy dance*

Tonight my sweet hubs and I are going to see the new Bourne movie. I'm stoked. I LOVED Matt Damon in the other Bourne movies, and can't wait to see Jeremy Renner in this one. Yay for date nights! :)

But I can't believe it's FRIDAY. Already. Wasn't it just Monday?! I don't know about for you, but for me, this week has been CRAZY. I'm talking all caps kinda-shouty CRAZY. :) I'm still not sure where the days went...

But here's a clue: it's a quick FRIDAY FIVE!

5. Word of the Week: multi-tasking. This week I've juggled dentist appointments, doctor appointments, back-to-school clothes shopping, middle school orientation, school supply hunting, swimming, golf practice, football practice, gymnastics practice . . . and more. And this was just for my boys! Not to mention the grocery shopping, house cleaning, and then some. (Oh, who am I kidding...the house is a wreck. But my fam is happy. :D) I've managed to squeeze in a *little*writing/revising time, but some weeks other life/family/home priorities take precedence, and that's okay. I'm still working on the writing/family/life balance...but aren't we all? :)

4. Book of the Week: THIRST by Christopher Pike. I've read it before, but when life turns crazy, I'm not afraid to re-read a book I loved. Especially when the voice is so different from mine--it cuts out any possibility of a voice leak, and lets me just enjoy a great read. And this read is KILLER! :) hehe

3. Cookie of the Week: chocolate chip. Wild weeks call for the basics. :) *nom nom* I did mix it up and throw in milk chocolate chips instead of semi-sweet. Total yum.

2. Blog Shout-Out of the Week: Mother. Write. (Repeat.) Hosted by the lovely Krista Van Dolzer, this blog is great for aspiring writers. Lots of good info on agents, and next week, Krista is hosting An Agent's Inbox contest starting Monday! So get thee to Krista's blog if your MS is shiny! :) (Way to spread writer love, Krista! :D)

1. Song of the Week: It's Time by Imagine Dragons. Perfect for writing, perfect for everything. An all-around sweet tune. Here's a acoustic version that blew me away:

Has your week been as crazy as mine? And what's the weirdest/craziest/awesomest thing that happened this week?

Friday, August 3, 2012

Summer Reads

August is here. Just--wow.

How did it get here so fast?! After July 4th, summer seems to kick into another (faster!) gear. The thing is, I love summer and everything it represents . . .  beach time, lazy days, late nights and *hopefully* equally late mornings. :) And fun stuff like this:

Lemonade with a firework straw FTW! LOL

For me, summer = beach + books. :)

This summer I've read some GREAT books. THE FOX INHERITANCE by Mary Pearson, RUBY RED by Kerstin Gier, SHADOW AND BONE by Leigh Bardugo, LOLA AND THE BOY NEXT DOOR by Stephanie Perkins, PARTIALS by Dan Wells, the PARANORMALCY trilogy by Kiersten White . . . just to name a few.

Today's Friday Read? FRACTURE by Megan Miranda. Yay! I've been looking forward to reading this book for a while and can't wait to dig in!

What are you reading? :) And what's been your favorite summer read? :)

(Note: Monday's Blog Post will be about What Boys Read. It appeared here *briefly* today before I accidentally deleted it as I closed tabs, and now I can't find it. Grr. After several deep breaths and fruitless Google cache searches, I'll either (a) find it or (b) recreate it on Sunday. Sigh. Some days the technology gods are unhappy with me. It happens. :) I think I'll have another lemonade. Want one? :) *shares*)