Saturday, April 30, 2011

Saturday Calls In Sick

Or: I've had the plague since last week.

And I'm still playing catch-up with all the things I'm behind on. So please enjoy this video in my absence and I promise I will have a post next week.

Peace and cookies,

Thursday, April 28, 2011

My Query

It occured to me that although you know I'm on submission, none of you know what my book is actually about. So for the first time, I present the query I sent to Beth that eventually led to representation. I'm not actually sure my query is all that wonderful. The fact Beth requested to see more could be due to the fact that she'd already seen my writing. I might have to ask her one of these days. Anyway. Read on.

Dear Beth,

I am seeking representation for SOME QUIET PLACE, a young adult urban fantasy. The novel is complete at 77,000 words. You requested another manuscript of mine at one time, a young adult suspense entitled BECAUSE, and you were open to seeing more of my work.

The very definition of humanity is the quality to be humane. Ironic, since Elizabeth Caldwell appears every bit human, yet sorely lacks in the latter. As a small child she somehow lost the ability to feel any emotion. While her best friend slowly dies of cancer and her father comes home in drunken rages, Elizabeth searches for the truth.

Among her other abnormalities, Elizabeth has the ability to see the unseen. Faeries are emotions personified. They’ve all stopped seeking her out, save one: beautiful, stubborn, adoring Fear. Fear wants the truth just as much as she does. There’s a stranger in town that might know something.

It soon becomes evident, however, that there’s something more pressing out there besides the mysterious stranger and the haziness of Elizabeth’s history. Creatures are fleeing Edson in terror, and people have begun to discern that something is amiss with Elizabeth. Will she have enough time to put the pieces together? What’s coming for her? And is finding out the truth really the key to survival? Secrets are buried for a reason…

A piece of mine was selected as Best Personal Essay for the Anoka-Ramsey Annual Writing Contest, and I’ve been a part of a writing critique group for over three years. I can be reached at 000-000-0000, and my e-mail address is Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing from you.



Tuesday, April 26, 2011


I totally had another topic in mind, but it flew out of my mind in the last half hour when a Moment happened. I capitalize Moment because you can just tell, when real Moments occur, they need to be capitalized.

Characteristics of a Moment:
  • Generally an unexpected occurrence
  • Perhaps expected-but-not-really-expected-so-more-like-used-to-be-hypothetical
  • Cause you to blink, go still, or just stop (not necessarily stop, drop & roll though)
  • You NOTICE things. Or one thing in particular.
  • BONUS: Your mood changes, or you unexpectedly remain in the *same* mood, or a slow-mo version of it.
Moments are great for stories. Great to write, great to experience, great to reflect on, and make for great stories later. Here's my Moment:

Setting: Car, passenger seat. On way home from eye appointment. Pizza smell filling the car. Rain pounding on the windshield to the point of we-almost-can't-see.

Characters: Vise (my mother, gripping the steering wheel like a C-Clamp in Tech Ed), Cucumber (me, being calm), turtle (my sister, covering her ears).

Moment: lightning strikes. BAM. Almost right next to us. Clap of thunder immediately following.

Aware of: my still-cucumber mood. My sister and mother's characters. The fact that we may or may not hydroplane. STILL CUCUMBER. Wow.

Any cool Moments recently?

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Saturday Has a Secret

Or: It's not really much of a secret, but that's the best I'm going to get (sore throat, not feeling so great, hopefully will feel better tomorrow, blah blah, move on to the fun part of this post).

Okay, so. I have an announcement. (Not an agent. Or a book deal. I'll keep you posted.) But it's still quite cool.

I'm going to be in this:

Undead Is Not An Option

More specifically, my short story Zombie Girl is going to be in it. It's in my real name. I know, what you're thinking. Gasp! Laina's not your real name? What is? I'm not telling. ;) But if you check this post out, you might be able to guess my secret identity!

So, um, yeah, if you preorder it, it's a buck ninety-five cheaper, which is a good price. It's a physical book, not an ebook, so that's cool, right??? (If you're into ebooks, there'll be one too. Not sure when, though.) And I'm in it, so it would be awesome if you ordered it. #nopressureoranything #failsatpimpingwork #whyamIusinghashtagsinapost?

Official info stuff: There'll be short stories, artwork, survival pieces, and contributions from actors from The Walking Dead, including my short story Zombie Girl. You can order it here or check out the website first.

My short Zombie Girl is probably a YA short if anything, but most of the others probably aren't. It's a sweet little story about a girl and her animals... dead animals, that is. 

And. Um. I think that's it. If you want, buy it and learn my secret identity ;) Like Superman and Clark Kent. Only I'm not wearing Spandex.

Peace and cookies,

Zoe is an Odd One

Being a writer comes with some personal writing quirks. Here are some of mine!

1. When I write in my room, my closet door has to be closed and my bed, desk, and bookshelf have to be relatively clean. It's weird. If those things aren't at least half-way clean, I can't focus. There was this one time where reorganized my whole room so I could write.

2. I have to have some sort of music or television show playing while I write. One of the things I hate most is white noise. It creeps me out how there is no noise going on, but it like... buzzes.

3. If there is someone sitting across from me or next to me, I find it hard to write. I generally don't let people who don't write read what I've written. So if my brother or my parents are siting near me, I can't write because I have this fear of them reading over my shoulder or something.

4. I have to be drinking something while I write. Coffee, tea, or water are usually my drinks of choice. And I drink/write more at night.

5. If I have a book next to me, I can't focus on what I'm writing because I keep flipping through the book and procrastinating.

6. Unless I'm doing a word war with someone, I hardly ever write. It's a bad habit, I know.

These are just some of my writerly quirks. Do you have any?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A Little Sister, A Talent for Drawing

Every plot has those little details. Your main character has a gay best friend, likes to wear pink eyeshadow, works part-time at a coffee shop, and sucks at math. How do we come up with these aspects that makes a story real to the reader? Do you use truths from your own life? Do you make a list before you start writing? Do you come up with it as you go?

There are three methods I use to make a character three dimensional. (I know, writing is such a science.)

1. (Of course) I make a list.

Yes, I like my lists. I find safety in them. When I'm writing, I'm surrounded by papers and lists and timelines. Sometimes it's easy to forget certain things about our characters, and it's a good reference tool. So, for instance, if I'm creating a girl who lives in Alabama, she's going to need more to her. Okay, she's a redhead. It matches her fiery personality. She hates rap, and her little sister annoys the crap out of her. If I'm writing a scene where there's rap playing, I know she's going to make a comment or try to escape because, hey, that stuff is crap to her.

2. I wing it and let the story speak to me.

Sometimes I'm surprised when I run across something. "Oh, you're allergic to peas?" This is my favorite, really, because it makes me feel like I'm really connected to the story. Of course, there are times when those random details have no purpose to being there, but if it's part of this person you're creating, then I guess that's a purpose in itself. We all have our details.

3. I use whatever helps the plot to move along.

In my last story, it was relevant that my character had a talent for painting. It moved the plot along and it was a key point for the whole unravelling of the great mystery.

What are your methods for coming up with those little details?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Silver Lining

This past week, when I've said, "Yikes, I'm getting my wisdom teeth out Wednesday," the most common reaction has been, "That sucks! You're going to miss out on the four-day weekend." Which is true, I'll likely be living on the couch with the painkillers until Monday, but after an obligatory groan I've said back, "Yeah, but it's okay. I have plans."

That's right, the silver lining: mandatory bedrest = prime time to consume media. Meaning books. And movies. And TV shows. And STORIES.

I've already got a list to read/watch and have friends who own lots of DVs which they are willing to lend me. In addition, I'll garner some experience to use in a future story-- pre/post-surgery memories, which will hopefully be more clear than my last surgery when I was six (bye bye, tonsils!). All I remember about that is waking up and croaking, "Water!"

Hopefully a mass intake of multiple formats of stories will motivate me past the transition period of just-finished-Flawless-Ruins-edits-but-haven't-picked-my-current-story-back-up-yet-because-of-tiredness-plus-lots-of-homework. I may try to write, but I'm not sure how much pain/painkillers will mess with my concentration. (I'll let you know nest Tuesday.)

Any suggestions of stories for me to consume?


Monday, April 18, 2011

New Places, New Inspiration!

I'm back, finally! After spending 10 days in Guatemala and then another week sick in bed with pneumonia and the stomach bug, I have finally returned!

One thing I've struggled with occasionally is having the inspiration to write about places. None of my books take place in a town like mine - after all, it's rather inconvenient to tell a story when the characters have to drive twenty minutes to see anyone or get anywhere. I always set my books at least partially in cities or in made up places, which is just great...until I go to describe them.

Sure, I can google pictures of Boston or Miami or wherever I want to set my book and even ask people questions. It's easy to describe the area and incorporate it into the story that way.'s so hard to get a good feel of how the area really IS, without going there, at least for me.

In my mind, each city or town has it's own heartbeat, a pulse that exists only in that city. It's in the way people act, the pace, the's EVERYTHING. And that is something I've always had trouble writing because I've never been ANYWHERE.

Except for now I have been and I was right when I said this trip would be good for my writing.

I've been on an airplane. I've experienced the nervousness of getting on a place for the first time, of leaving your parents behind for the last time. I've found myself in the middle of a country that's so different from ours, where no one speaks my language. I've seen poverty like I could never imagine, I've rode a motorcycle through the Guatemalan streets at night. I've climbed to the top of Ancient Mayan Ruins. I've been to places so gorgeous that I can still barely believe they really exist.

I've lived, I've experienced. Now I want to write it all down. I have a journal full of memories and descriptions and photos and drawings and I am so inspired, that I can't wait to pull it all together and WRITE.

So my advice? When you're short on inspiration, go some place new. Experience life. A whole new world will open up!


Saturday, April 16, 2011

"Who Are You Again?"

Or: Saturday couldn't think up a funny title for this post.

So, last week, Lauren took up my desperate plea for ideas and asked:
Do you have any ideas on developing characters? There are character bios online that you can fill out, obviously, but I haven't found any that inspire me. And I've been told my MC needs more personality. So... possible post idea? 
There was actually a questionnaire I used when I was rewriting Berserk that I liked. Let me find it... holy cow, my bookmarks are a mess again... and man, I bookmark weird things...

I just found this one from Go Teen Writers a few days ago and it looks pretty good. I like that she has one filled out that shows how she uses it.

Haha, here's the one I used when I was rewriting Berserk. Now here's my tip for those: Answer them in your character's voice. Get into their head and ask them how they'd answer the question. First person narration is really helpful for that, I find. I did this with both my MC and another main character in Berserk. (I had trouble with a certain character not opening up to me enough in the first draft. I also wrote some short scenes from his POV.) (No, Kaitlin, you're not getting them. I love ya, but those scenes suck.) (Also, it's okay for them to suck, if you try it.)

Here's a couple other things I think about as I write if questionnaires aren't your thing.

What do they look like? How do they feel about it? Like, I'm short. It annoys me sometimes. Sometimes I don't mind. I think my eyes are kind of cool and I pretty much have no idea what colour my hair is.

Relationship with their parents. This is a pretty big one in YA, I think. At least in my books, family is always a big part of what shapes the character. Are they adopted, raised by a single parents, divorced parents, still married parents, never married parents, no parents? How do they feel about it? Do they want something different? Their relationships with siblings, aunts, uncles, family in general can tell you a lot about a character.

Same with friends. Who do they hang out with? Who do they spend their time with? Also, what do they do in their spare time? I have a character who, believe it or not, finds college level math excercise sheets online and does them in her spare time. (Weirdo.)

How do they move? Most of my characters have one physical habit that I associate with them. Obviously they do more things, but that's the one that when I see a character do it, I think, "Oh, that's..." One of my MCs rubs her cheek, one plays with her hair, one of my boy characters rubs the back of his neck. Knowing what a character does when they're nervous or stressed can really help flesh them out.

Um, what else... Well, there's that. Think about how they talk. I have one character who curses like a truck driver, sailor, and my mother, combined. I have another who mostly swears only at a certain other character, and she has a favourite curse she uses most of the time. No two people talk exactly the same, so, really, neither should any two characters, you know?

To be honest, I learn a lot about my characters as I'm writing them. I write a lot of longhand scenes for that reason. If something doesn't fit with the character, I can scrap it and it's not a big deal.

Sometimes, though, what I end up is just a skeleton of the scene. I write down the basics longhand and then when it goes onto the computer, that's what I devote more thought to what the characters are feeling, how they move, the blocking of the scene, that kind of thing.

So! I guess these are my ideas: If you do character questionaires, fill them out from the character's POV. Think about the things above I mentioned as you write. And try writing some scenes longhand. It might help to have a basic outline of the scene down so you can focus a bit more on the character development than on just getting the scene written, you know?

(Also. I've been editing too long. You have no idea how much I want to delete that just.)

Any more requests? That was fun!

Peace and cookies,

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Questions I Asked

As I was trying to think of a topic to blog about on this chilly Thursday, I thought back to before I signed with Beth. What did I not know then that I know now? The truth is, signing with an agent doesn't suddenly make you wise, or all-knowing.

Although during the whole process in finding Beth, I did inhale every article I could find about querying, what agents look for, what the step-by-step is like. I'm pretty sure I've already done posts on these, haven't I? To be sure, I looked back over my archives. I stumbled upon my post on The Call...

...and realized that I never actually gave you guys my list of questions. You know, the questions I bombarded Beth with during the conversation? Granted, you can find this list on a ton of other sites on the 'net, but this will be just another resource for someone to stumble upon when they're ready to query. These aren't all the questions I asked, because I can't find the exact list, but I think these are the top ten. Please not that these are in no particular order!

1. If this manuscript doesn't sell, what will be the next step?
2. What is your percentage?
3. Will you show me the list of submissions, and how often will you send me an update?
4. What rights do you handle?
5. Do you consider yourself an editorial agent?
6. Will I work with a publicist?
7. What would happen if you were to leave the agency or no longer able to represent me?
8. What would you consider a good agent-client relationship?
9. May I contact some of your clients for references?
10. Do you have any questions for me?

My list is kind of sad in comparison to these great resources. So if you're expecting that call someday soon, or even in the distant future, check these pros out.

Agent Rachelle Gardner on Rants & Ramblings: What to Ask an Agent
Casey McCormick on Literary Rambles: The Call
Writer's Relief: Nine Questions to Ask a Literary Agent

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Tone --> Mood

Mood is an important part of a story, obviously. Actually, mood and tone, as I have learned through analyzing poetry and speeches and such (yay English class!). When you as the author use a certain tone, you hope it invokes a certain mood: Tone --> Mood. For example, funny tone --> amused mood, somber tone--> sad mood, angry tone --> upset mood.

My question is, how well can different tones and moods mesh in a story? Generally when I finish reading a book I'm left with an overall mood, and I can think back and identify certain sections of the book that had different tones and therefore different moods. (For example, my overall mood after reading Mockingjay was WHATTHECRAPWASTHAT.) Often times the different moods really aren't so different; humorous tone --> amused mood can mesh with urgent tone --> suspenseful mood, like in Bad Kitty by Michele Jaffe.

Some stories combine tones such as somber and humor, creating a sort of heartbreaking amusement. Or an amusing heartbreak. (For this blend I suggest Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick.) When done well (like in the aforementioned book) I find overall mood surpasses a "normal" tone/mood combo. When done ineffectively, though, the story is jarring, which detracts from each individual tone/mood and the overall feeling after reading it. When I tackle potentially unsettling combos in writing I try to keep a third tone or theme constant throughout all sections, to tie them together. How do/would you deal with writing these combos?

What are some interesting tone combinations you've read?

(^Check out my new website!)

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Saturday is Quirky

Or: Like you didn’t know that.

But this post is about writer quirks, not just general quirkiness. Thanks to Erica for the inspiration!!! (Because, seriously, no ideas today.)

1. I cannot write kissing scenes around my mother. I like kissing scenes, but I have to be alone in the house to write them. I write better alone, anyways, though.

2. I get really picky with my music when I’m writing. My current “listening” playlist is two hundred and fifty songs long, but when I’m writing, certain scenes demand the “right” song. I call it mood music, and I’m working on a playlist so I don’t have to flip through 20 songs to find one for the scene I’m working on.

3. The “right” songs might not end up on the book playlist, though. To be on the playlist, I have to connect the song to the book in some way. Lyrically, emotionally, whatever. Also, I can’t listen to songs from one book’s playlist while I’m writing another.

4. I get a little weird switching from characters. I have one character that makes my sense of humour a little… erm… more PG-13, another that makes me a little depressed. Which makes me sound insane, but what can you do?

5. No one sees the first draft. Ever. I had a couple friends who read the second draft of Berserk as I rewrote it, but no one sees first drafts.

6. I always have twitter open, unless I’m in my room where I don’t usually have internet. If I don’t have twitter open, I’ll play solitaire. I get bored really easily and it helps me think, I guess, to have something else to do between words.

7. I rarely edit as I write, or I get stuck in an infinite loop of things not being good enough to move on and I never finish anything.

8. Most of my stories start out as vampire stories in my head. Then I usually realize that the characters aren’t vampires. I don’t even understand this one, really.

9. If I’m not really careful, I end up with a lot of character whose names start with the same letters. M, N, C, and A are my worst ones.

10. I write longhand a lot. Like every day. But I can’t draft that way.

11. I work best if I focus on one project at a time. Otherwise I get a little twitchy.

12. Doing dishes or cleaning can help me figure things out that are bothering me, and even if they don’t, it usually helps relax me.

13. I like my chapters to be 2500 words long, or around that. Currently in Spyder, the chapters are all over the place, from 2100 to over 5000 (OVER NINE THOUSAND!), so that’s bugging me a little. There’s nothing wrong with long or short chapters, of course, but I like mine to be around 2500 words. (I actually did once have a 9000 word chapter in one of my first drafts, but that’s just because I forgot to, you know, start a new chapter.)

14. I have double-spacing issues. I’ve posted about that before.

15. I am bad at titles. Usually it’s really, really obvious why I named my WIPs what I did. My newest one (the one I’m not allowed to work on yet, haha) is the first that doesn’t have a one word title and I’m not so sure I wanna share it on here yet.

I think that’s a good number, right? What are some of your quirks?

Also, seriously, do you guys have any requests for posts? Because… I’m blanking lately on things to post. So if you do, let me know!!

Peace and cookies,

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Slump

It happens around 20,000 words or 30,000 words. Sometimes earlier, sometimes later. But I think there comes a point for every writer where they take their hands off the keyboard, sit back, and say, "Now what?" We have ideas where the story is going. We might even have timelines or plans. But there is a moment when there seems to be no way to get from point A to point B. So we slow down and maybe stop completely. Maybe we lose our excitement or our drive.

That's when you know you've hit the slump.

How to get past this seemingly impossible obstacle? There is the obvious answer, of course: just keep going. I've said this and I've heard this and I'm beginning to get annoyed. Because even though there really is nothing else to do, it's just so hard. There are other ways to get past this, albeit this comes before the just keep going part. Make a list of all possible ways the story could go. (You know how much I love my lists.) Think on it. Dwell so deeply. Toss prospects back and forth with your friends.

One thing I'm still learning about the slump: it doesn't mean you've lost your talent, or your "touch". You're still a writer and you're still capable of banging out a great story. Everyone runs into the slump. We are not alone in our deflation. (That's kind of a fun word.) Try not to start anything new - that's when the trouble starts. The endless cycle. So, point of today's post. You can get past the slump. And once you do, it'll be worth the struggle.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Guess Who?

Guess who stopped by today? (Or more like wrote an insightful post about one of her identities as I curled her hair for the heck of it.) I'll give you a hint, it's not me.

If you guessed my little sister, you're right!

Here she is:
So a lot of people ask me what it's like to have a teen-author-person living in the next room over. And my usual response goes something like this: Well, it's really nice to have these fantastic stories coming chapter by chapter, and whenever I have an epiphany about where the story's going, I can run into her room in the middle of her homework-montage and go all "Oh! That--plot--character--STUFF!" (Teen authors don't always appreciate this).
Also, it's really fun to be the author's little sister. Because I get to say something about Kieryn in school, and I get a lot of fish-faces (you know, wide eyes, gaping jaw) going: "Oh! You're related to the one that wrote the BOOK? What's it about?"
Yep. I'm cool like that.
Not to mention, if the chapter finishes and I can't wait to hear what comes next, I have a new activity: Badgering Kieryn to tell me the plot. Or, better yet, badgering her to write FASTER, sister, FASTER.
Just a day (week, month, year...) in the life of the little sister of a teenage author.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Revise Me, Baby, One More Time

Or: Saturday is revising again

I have a confession. I have plot issues. They tend to be *cough* slightly weak. On occasion, they're even almost a little bit non-existant. Or at least that's how it feels right now revising my WIP#1 to make the plot stronger.

Yesterday, I spent most of the day rewriting one chapter. I ended up adding about 2500 new words to that one (deleted about a thousand, too) and 150 to another scene. Today, I'm doing more plot-strengthening edits, mostly, but sooner or later, I will do the line-edit type revising. Line edits (for me) include making sure everything's consistent, tightening the voice as much as possible, all that little, time consuming stuff.

It sort of feels like I've been revising forever, but I'm hoping that this will be my last MAJOR round of revision. This round, then a couple betas/crits, then I hope... well, I just hope.

So I want to know what your best revision tips are. My friends Kait and Ashy and I are doing revision parties/wars on twitter. It's kinda like word wars, because competition always makes you more productive (at least with us!) and that's really awesome, but hit me with your best tips, too. :)

(Also, go follow Kait's blog. When she reaches 100 follows, she's going to post a video of her dancing. I suspect it will be humourous.)

So, yeah, this is short, sorry about that, but I really want to get back to my revisions. Leave your tips in the comments!

Peace and cookies,