Friday, December 24, 2010

Two sides of the same coin: Rejection & Adoration


"I don't like it," she said.
I just looked at her. My heart sank. 
"It does nothing for me," she continued.
"Ok," I uttered.
"I forced myself to read past the first page."
What was that sensation? Oh, yes. It was the knife that my wife was churning in my sensitive heart. She held chapter 1 of a new concept that I was playing with like she would be insulted to use to line our trashcan. 
"I don't even think you like it," she said. "You're writing it because you think it's time to write. This is NOT the idea that deserves to be the followup to Aces.

There it was. 

When I wrote those 2,500 words I was writing -- the mechanics were there: my fingers moved on the keyboard, and words were displayed in my Scrivener app. 

But my heart was not in it. Unlike Aces, this one did not have heat or passion. 

Aces is in the query process. I've started to contact agents to query their interest. Everyone told me the same thing: when you start to query, that's the time to start your next novel. So I followed instructions. 

But, that's what I was doing -- following instructions. The magic of writing is only magic when you, the writer, is also transported to that world.

So I got a bit depressed. Got a cup of coffee (soy latte with illy coffee -- if you were wondering) and returned to my office. 

Noise canceling headphones? Check
Emotionally wrenching music? Check
Note book? Check
Idea? um, no check


I wrote random ideas, drew things, and my mind wondered to the Lunar Eclipse and Winter Solstice. 

In about one hour, if the clouds parted, the moon would look red, ominous, and awesome. Click! An idea came. Very fast and furious.

I wrote eight pages of notes in my journal. Before I knew it I was on the computer writing the opening scene. At 1 AM I was done. I missed the eclipse. Thankfully, according to my neighbor I didn't miss anything. The only eclipse I would have seen was provided by the clouds.

When she woke in the morning, I followed her around like a lost puppy. She knew what I wanted. 
She turned to me and smiled. "Make me a cup of coffee and I'll read it," she declared. 
Coffee in hand she read it. I watched her facial reactions wanting to see her laugh at the funny lines. Nothing! She instead had that serious face on. She's a high school teacher (a damned good one!) so she can't help looking serious. 
She was on the last page. She was done. She turned the last page and turned to me. A smile cracked her face.
"I like it. A lot. I want to read the rest of it."
I smiled. Probably looked goofy and silly. But I didn't care. I got her adoration.
"Get started. This is it!"

And of all things, I'm writing a YA novel. I've read so many lately that it was only a matter of time. 

My wife's done this to me in the past. I had written my Great American Novel some time ago. After I was done, I let her read chapter 1. She didn't care for it. She said "So what?"

Those words led me to work on the craft, learn, study, read, and do all I can to impress her -- my first reader. Fast forward one year and Aces went to her -- from rejection came adoration. I've already written her reaction in previous posts.

It is hard to get rejected. But it is necessary, absolutely critical, to take the rejection and improve from there. For anyone that has learned to play an instrument, the concept of rejection is built into the system. Your instrument of choice -- guitar, piano, etc. -- will immediately tell you when you strike the wrong note. Yes, that is rejection. It's a form of direct communication -- "not that note, try again." We don't take it personally. We make adjustments and move on. 

If you have trusted people around you, they should be that first filter. Later, it will be your agent. The agent will want changes, that's a good thing. It means that a professional reader is telling you when you've hit the wrong notes. Then the editor will do the same. It's all part of what it takes to create beautiful music with words.

Rejection has taken on a very negative connotation in our society. Do you have a good story where rejection led to something extraordinary. Share it! It's cathartic to share!

I am convinced that it is the blood line to creation. 

Monday, December 13, 2010

A Tool for Writers

Quick Update First:

The process is afoot! Yes, my first novel, Aces, is ready for agents to gobble up! Okay, so first they have to gobble up my query letter, but you miss the point! The way I see it, I've written a novel. That in and of itself is a major accomplishment. The process of creation is done, now we enter the business of publishing.

I'm putting my little 'un aside for now. I need to stop obsessing. Therefore, I am doing what all successful and accomplished authors will tell you -- start your next novel, now.

The New Novel:

An idea had etched itself into my brain a few weeks back and I started to brainstorm. I use a lot of James Scott Bell's frameworks for how I develop the idea, but mainly, I use mind-mapping techniques. I used to be a video game designer, so formulating the idea and developing it is all FUN-FUN-FUN!
Typical mini-mind-maps when I get stuck
I intoxicate my mind with the Hero and Heroine, the situation, and scenes. These things infiltrate my brain and I exist with a heightened sense of observation. It is during this time that I need all my tools to help me capture and forget nothing.

Enter Evernote:

I realize that all writers (published or otherwise) are busy and we can always use tools that improve efficiency. Evernote addresses taking random notes, ideas, sudden thoughts and the like. Common practice is to jot it down somewhere--carry a little note pad, or a diary, etc.

I'm a technologists, and always gravitate towards tools. My tool of choice is Evernote. This is a free tool. Yes, you heard me--FREE. As in, you get to use this phenomenal tool with no strings attached. You have 40 MB of free data transfer per month (trust me that's a lot). Don't exceed that and you'll be fine.

I use the Evernote client on my Mac, iPhone and iPad. Your one account assures that all your notes are synchronized across all your platforms. Take a voice note on your iPhone, and within seconds it's on your iPad.

The types of notes you can take are voice, text, picture, and websites (it takes a complete image of the site along with the links - if the site dies, the information you capture is forever in your possession--SWEET!). Another VERY cool thing -- images that have text in them are automatically processed for character recognition. So if you took a picture of a place that had the name Bistro, but you can't remember where you stored it, just search for Bistro... it's magic.

A Typical Day with Evernote:

- I'm driving and a funny one liner comes to mind (at least I think it's funny!). Take out my iPhone, click on voice, talk and my moment of inspiration is captured in a audio file waiting for me across all my platforms (synchronized in seconds!)

- As I walk, I see a restaurant that would be perfect for my hero and heroine to have their first dinner together. Evernote, snapshot, done!
- Night time comes and I'm ready to work on my novel. I launch the iPad Evernote app and look at all my notebooks. I'm inspired by all the BRILLIANT ideas I've amassed.

- I export my Evernote notes as html files, or images and drop them into Scrivener in the Research section

Christmas Wish: For the fine folk at Evernote and Scrivener to build a integration point between their tools. It would enhance my workflow. I know the hooks exist, what do you guys say?

Give a try, you won't regret it. Evernote and Scrivener are indispensable tools for me (in case you missed my love story re Scrivener, here it is). I hear you, but you haven't published a book yet. But one day I will, and then I'll be asked "How the heck did you do it?" and I'll send them a link to this post.

Do you use these or other tools? How do you use them? Let me know if you give these ideas a try and if it helps you.

Now go! Cause something extraordinary.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

One Guy's Take on Two YA Novels

I am not a professional critic. But I am authority on what moves me. These two novels moved me.

I recently picked up two YA novels: NYT Bestseller Kiersten White's Paranormalcy (her debut novel) and Stephanie Perkins's Anna and the French Kiss (also her debut).


I bought the Audible version of this book. My daily commute is un-fun, and listening to good books makes me a happy Ara. A bad book makes me an irritable Ara. I have limited time to partake in reading (or listening in this case) and writing. There is an additional dynamic when it comes to audiobooks... the narrator better rock or a good book will stink. This book and narrator nailed it!

The hook: a young woman who can see beneath the skin, and see people for their true paranormal selves (vampires, elfs, werewolves, etc). She is unique. And so is her perception of the world. Her innocence is captivating. The way she gets excited about the concept of a real high schools (not the ones she watches on TV shows) with 'real' lockers. I couldn't help but feel so much sadness and hope at the same time. When you are special--unique--you sometimes bypass life. The pleasures and joys that make you who you are are lost and maybe never recovered. And in the craziness of a fantastic plot is a story of love and hope. If we could look at the mundane elements of life with the exuberance that she has, then life will always be full and complete.

I found myself sitting in my idle car even after I had reached my destination. Or offering to go pick up something... but take the scenic route. Very few books make me do that... this one did.

My boys wanted to watch Peter Pan this past weekend. I popped the DVD and as I watched tinker bell, I couldn't help but realize that after reading this book, fairies will never be the same for me :) what do I mean, you ask? Get the book!

Anna and the French Kiss

What can I say. I am soooo mad at this book! As I've chronicled in the past, my passion for writing is limited by my "life". I don't have a lot of time--every minute counts.

I went to Borders to pick up the novel. They didn't have it--to add insult to injury, the twerp that I asked gave me a look like "Dude, you're not a young adult, nor a girl." well, I am a youthful adult, thank you very much, and 40 is the new 13, so bugger off, mate! I didn't say that (I should have). Instead, I gave him my "do you know who I am look." I've refined that glare over the years (age implies experience). He then offered to order it for me. I refused. Order it? That will take days or something. I need instant gratification. I was seeing all the tweets going back and forth about this novel. I needed it now.

I walked out and something was glowing in my car... my iPad. It spoke to me and when I looked, iBooks had it. Couple of clicks later, I was the proud owner of the book. I was stylin' now. After we had dinner and the kids were starting to doze off, I leaned back and started reading. 

Wow! I mean, come on!

This story totally and completely took me back to my youth in Barcelona. I remember those days with such fondness and this story nailed the feelings, confusion, and passion. I felt like the story was written for me. Even the reference to the snow in Paris!

[Ara's Tangents]: Last January when I was there on business, it was snowing, and I asked my staff, "Is it supposed to snow in Paris?" One of them was confused as he sipped his espresso. "Of course not. We get cold, rain, but snow... That's a sign of Apocalypse!"

View from my hotel room
The hero and heroine are fantastic. The cast is exceptional, and Anna--her voice--is still in my head. I used to scratch my head when I would read an agent say that they are looking for a fresh voice. Now I get it. This story has it all, and if you still remember those teenage years, there is no way that you will not find your story written in these pages. 

So why am I upset? Because I couldn't put the stinkin' book down! I was supposed to work on my new manuscript now that I'm about to send out my first novel to agents. 

But. I. Could. Not. Put. It. Down!

If not for the fact that I wake up each day at 5 AM, have a demanding career, and we have two boys (thunder and lightning) that drain all life energy we have, I would have finished it in one sitting. 


Like I said, I am not a professional critic, nor is this an attempt to give a complete pros and cons view of these two novels. It's really simple: I have become a fan of these two amazing writers and I can't wait for future books to hit the shelves (audio, eBook, or paper... it matters not!).

There is one constant in these two novels for me. I miss the characters. I want to hear them again, and see what happens next. 

Kirsten White's NY Time Best Seller Paranormalcy is book one of three. Book two, Supernaturally should be a blast. I can't wait. I hope the audio version is done by Emily Eiden again. The first time she called Lend a "Dork!" I nearly drove off the 405 freeway! 

In the case of Anna, it's probably best that we let our imagination, and our hopes play out the rest of her life. Stephanie Perkins will release her second novel in the Fall of 2011 -- Lola and the Boy Next Door. Lola, you say? Spain? Brazil? Argentina? 

Please do us all a favor. Buy these books right away. Read it. Share it. Let's support the one thing that can truly transport you to another place and time.

Selfish Question: Please let me know of other YA books that are as honest and touching. I'm looking forward to Across the Universe by Beth Revis in January. Leave a comment, send me an email, call me. 

Ara Wants Information. Now! I'm giving you my "do you know who I am?" look!

Now, I better get to my stuff! Gemma and Andre are feeling neglected :)

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