Sunday, July 31, 2011

How to Be a Better Writer: Today

My previous Sunday Specials (which can be found at the bottom of this post) all focused on the writing process. I understand how I work best, and I wanted to help you understand how you work best. Since it was me, the advice was also spooned out with humor and slight satire.

That is why when I was plotting my new Special blog series I wanted to do something serious. Seriously. I want to help you (and me) become better writers. Not tomorrow, not in six weeks, not in fifteen years from now, but WRITE now.

My How to Be a Better Writer series will consist of three Sunday blogs, all focusing on how you can be more gooder! (Snort) If you do it right, you will never stop improving as a writer. Every book I pen, every short story I force myself to type out, makes me better. That doesn’t mean you can’t get better today, because you can. Here is how:


1. Tell yourself you are going to write today—then do it. It can be anything. A blog on writing, your current wip, or even just the jotting down of a dream or what you did last night. Something, anything.

2. Learn a new word that means the same thing as another word you already use too much.

I hate reading manuscripts with the same word appearing over and over. As soon as I catch on it’s like witch nails on the chalkboard of my back.

Let me help, my new word is crux. Yes like from Harry Potter. It means essence, or soul, or the “most important part”.

3.Don’t let distractions distract you—for good. Stuff comes up. Some things in life can absolutely not be avoided. So take care of those things and sit back down and write. Sometimes it is easier to say once you have been distracted that you have already been interrupted, and it’s not worth it. It’s always worth. In the days where we all have kids, and jobs, and twitter, you should know that even if you only have five minutes, that will be five minutes you are wishing you had later.

4. Read something you didn’t write. That is longer than a Twitter of Facebook post. Again, it can be anything. A blog post (hopefully it’s one of mine), a magazine article. If you know me, you know that I am never with out a book to read for very long. Writers are readers, no exceptions.

5. Whatever you do, don’t quit early. I am a firm believer that teaching yourself habits, both good and bad, impact your writing in a major way. If you get stuck, and then stop, you are teaching yourself to quit when things get hard. That might not mean a lot of things to you now, but in the future when you might have deadlines, well what happens when you get stuck then?

If you think about writing as often as I do, you realize things. I think the number one way I can always improve me as a writer is to be more efficient at everything about it.

Need more Angela WRITE Now on writing? Check out all my post from the writing process demystified below.

#1 REM for your writing
#2 Oral Fixation
#3 To Tweet or To Not Tweet (That is the question)
#4 An inspirational post on inspiration

See you tomorrow, I am blogging about writing personalities.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Taking it to the NEXT LEVEL

Advance, retreat, advance, retreat. It seems like all I ever do these days is advance retreat.

Do you believe everything happens for a reason?

It seems like my attempt at self publishing was doomed from the beginning. I thought it was a lesson is perseverance. I lost an editor, I lost a friend who doubled as an editor. My husband who is in the military went TDY. Then I got a vacation, I came back and my resolve had tripled. I was ready for my book to  be out there!

I sat down. I took a breath. I read what I had written—and it was good. Better than I had remembered, better than I hoped.

Then I started talking to a friend, and I had a panic attack.

I never tried to shop around Pigments of My Imagination. I never sent it to an agent, I was so warn down from that I couldn’t make myself do it. I just couldn’t. My splintered shards of ego couldn’t take any more close calls. I have had so many, if you have read my previous posts you know I am a walking statistical impossibility. I have never met anyone with my kind of positive response that does not have an agent.

And that is not a good thing. I am not bragging, I am telling you it nearly made me quit for good. When I send out query letters, I don’t get a high. I mostly feel like I am going to throw up. The high comes from the full and partial requests—and then it’s like an emotional roulette. I am out of control, spinning wildly praying my number will come up. I am on the clouds until I hurdle to the ground. Do that enough times and you have writers whiplash. I was warn down, I was miserable.

I still think I will likely end up on my own. But if I don’t try to do this, I will have to live the rest of my life knowing that I didn’t. Wondering every day if it was the right choice. So I going to take my book, and I am going to spend some time trying to find an agent. Not forever. Just a little while, because I think sometimes we should listen to that voice inside our head. What is a few more weeks in the scheme of things?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Many First Pages of BARNEBY KNOTTS

I did a guest blog over at Harry Potter for Writers a couple of weeks and and I mentioned I had been a book snob for quite a while.

Sadly, some of that spilled over into my own writing, and I stopped writing books for ‘kids’ by high school because I thought I was above such silly nonsense.

YIKES would you believe it took me more than a dozen years to get over that? And in 2010 my young adult turned middle grade turned young adult book Barneby Knotts was born and I was totally stoked.

Last Year, Barneby Knotts ate my soul. So of course I had to share it with all of you.


This is my first ever first page of Barneby Knotts. It’s different from the rest because I wrote this after deciding I was sick with so many book series ending after the ‘final battle’ I wanted to start a book that began with the final battle. I still plan on it, but that just didn’t work for this story. Now this first page resides in the third book. I can’t even tell you the title yet, it will give too much away.

I Barneby Knotts, not being in sound mind or body hereby declare this my last will and testament. Though it shall never be found, as I am worse than lost and wandering through the middle of the desert. Also included are my notes on everything that has gone wrong up till this point. Just in case. Some of you in next generation of suckers― I mean heroes, might like to know how not to survive the final battle. This is really for you. The first thing that you need to know is I really don’t care that much about you. The second thing is it’s not always best to be the last one standing.

If they make a movie of my life, the waves of heat coming off the sweltering desert floor will make a great segue to this next part.

You might not know this about me, but I don’t really like following orders. It tends to get me in a lot of trouble, but never more than I can handle, never more than I can get me, my friends, and my clients out of. So of course the one time I do actually choose to listen this happens.

The desert at night feels a bit like you’ve crash landed on another planet. All day it feels as though you are battling an eternal fire than threatens to engulf you if you forget to drink water for ten minutes. Then the fire dies the sun sets and things are different. In cities there are things to hold on to that heat, in the desert nothing can and the outside temperature falls faster than your internal temperature does. That alone makes me feel uneasy. Of course the pack of domestic coyotes didn’t help.

This is my second ever first page of Barneby Knotts. It’s the first version of the new timeline and plot. The rest of the versions after this stick to the same main plot points, even if they seem completely different from this page.

This deal took place as they often do some place no one would really be looking. Sitting on a bench outside of an all night diner, somewhere in a suburb of Texas was an ordinary man. An ordinary man, in an ordinary suit, reading an ordinary news paper. If not for the ostentatious limousine, that had already been made to circle the block twice, there would be nothing note worthy about this man at all. Other than, the person he seemed to be waiting for was late.

Out of the corner of his eye the man must have seen him coming. Quickly folding his news paper the man got up. Hastily he folded his newspaper and tucked it securely under his arm. He glanced at his watch, but he did not frown at the time as he normally would.

If it was possible there was a less likely companion for his man than the one approaching him my imagination fails me. From his dark spiky hair and purple high-tops to his obvious school delinquency there was nothing ordinary about this boy at all.

"I thought you would be a little older, just based off your seemingly infinite list of adventures."
"And I thought you would be, I don't know awesome-er by yours but your just an old man in a boring ugly suit."

What might have been offensive to some, went unnoticed. The man, still clutching his paper sat back down and motioned for the boy next to him join him on the bench, but the boy did not sit.

"I suppose you being you is why I selected you isn't it kid?"
"Is that some kind of riddle Mr.Walker?"

"No, nothing like that. I am only saying that your youthful voyeurism is exactly what I know this quest needs to succeed."
"You know sir, if I didn't know better I'd swear you just accused me of being young and stupid."

From his folded newspaper the man took out an unmarked white envelope and placed it in his companion’s outstretched hand. "Not stupid Barneby Knotts. Recklessbut in my opinion, why change what works?"

After that I joined a critique group (that I have now separated myself from) they hated that beginning so under them I wrote this:

It was early, even for a school day. The sun had not yet fought away the early morning fog and would not for hours still. A boy, seemingly out of place, stood under a moss covered tree. Grass came up past his alarmingly purple high tops, except in the patches he had stomped flat in his frustration.

This boy’s name was Barneby Knotts.

It was wet. The air was as moist as the dew that had settled on everything, and even in the dim light green stood out everywhere. The newly paved road, however, blended into the darkness that the early hour refused to shed.

The trees here stood so close, and so thick, that if not for the humming noise from the freeway in the distance, the trees might have been a forest. And Barneby might have been standing in the middle of nowhere.

But this teenager didn't look like he was from the backwoods of anywhere. He had dark, tousled hair and circles under his eyes. He wore a t-shirt from a band you have probably never heard of.

Why wake up early, when you can just never go to bed? That was his motto, and he lived by it twice a week.

“Come on!” The boy huffed at the foliage, as another clump of grass was lost in his impatience.

The man this boy was waiting for was late. Releasing his third sigh in under a minute he fingered the map folded in his pocket. The map he had printed specifically, to find his way to this spot.

If you have read my blog, then you know I actually got a lot of positive response on Barneby Knotts, that was based off the above version, BUT after some agent feedback—the agent I REALLY wanted to be exact I wrote this version, with a younger, more first person Barneby Knotts:

I held my breath willing the window not to squeal. If anyone heard me now, I'd never make it out. I'd be a prisoner here for months, the whole summer trapped in this box. I'd go mad. At least, that was what happened last time mom caught me sneaking out the house.

Slowly, painfully slowly, I lifted the dusty frame up a millimeter at a time. My fingers damp with sweat, black grime sticking to them like fingerprinting ink leaving evidence of my crime. My window always jams halfway up, but it had to be enough. I couldn't risk sneaking out the back door again. My sister was on to me.

When I was sure that was as far as my window was moving, I turned back in facing my bedroom. On my bed lay my empty black Jansport. I shoved my school books deep under my bed, where I hoped my mother wouldn't dare look for anything. If everything went according to plan, I'd be off seeking treasure, and she'd think I'd gone to school early because I put off my math homework again.

Really the plan was almost flawless.

Propped against my desk chair was the sword my father had given me for my last birthday. It had belonged to his grandfather, and now it belonged to me. You rarely need such weaponry in these urban gigs, but it felt wrong to leave it behind.

I was still wearing the same sweat pants and over sized t shirt I always wore to bed, but under that were my favorite pair of jeans, and holiest band tee. I peeled off the top layer, and used it to wipe the black smudges from my window away before tossing them it the corner of my room. Just like I would do any other school morning when I as half awake. If I used the hamper my parents would know something was up.

Deciding that I hated myself for taking the agent feedback and getting that I wrote the version I have now. I was going to share it with you, but since Barneby Knotts doesn’t come out until ::checks newly updated schedule January 3rd I thought I’d keep it for later. But I will say. It starts like this.

He had exactly five minutes, and then I was leaving.”

Anyway, I shared that to tell you this. I hate revision, and this is the only book in the history of Angela Write Now, or Angela at any other time that required this type of revision. When I write books they are carefully planned out in my head, I hit play on the movie and easily capture what should be there. But until recently, Barneby Knotts wasn’t nearly as awesome on paper as he was in my imagination. I shared this with you because I wanted to share with you some rough evolution of writing. And to prove to Karen that I am capable of thinking crap is good. Even great, when it comes to my own writing sometimes.

I’d love to hear your feedback! What did you love, what did you hate? I should also mention, that I hated myself for following the feedback not because it wasn’t sound advice, but because it was so completely off base from who Barneby Knotts was-- he was supposed to destroy bad guys and virgins, and he ended up a little kid. I am glad he is back to who he was supposed to be, and one day I will do a story with the young Barneby Knotts. Just not today.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A Goatastic Meme

Mel over at tagged me for this, and thus; she is officially on MY LIST, yeah… that list.

1. Are you a HOT rutabaga?

Sure baby, you can call me whatever you want *wink wink*

2. When was the last time you ate lion meat?

Last week, Thursday.

3. Upload a heartwarming picture that makes you smile.


And if you know me at all, this makes perfect sense.

4. What song would be playing when you go back in time to beat the crap out of someone, and who, may I ask, would be this someone unfortunate enough to be in your time traveling dimensional line?

Tell That Mick He Just Made My List of Things To Do Today by FALL OUT BOY because it’s perfect ass kicking music if I ever heard it. And this one chick, in my old critique group. Yeah, she has it coming Winking smile

5. Name one habit you want to change in yourself because it makes people plot your demise.

I have no bad habits, I am perfect… oh wait.

6. How many goats, stacked atop one another like Yertle's Turtles, would it take to reach the moon?

I am not taking goats to the moon you idiot, that’s totally not FAA approved.

7. Describe the person who tagged you in obscure Latin words.

credo quia absurdum est it means “I believe it because it’s absurd” and I chose that because she believes me, and I’m absurd.

8. Where da muffin top at?

I refuse to confirm or deny the existence of a muffin top. Here or anywhere else.

9. Do you have nicknames?

None people use to my face.

10. What the fudge were you thinking as you were doing this?

I was thinking of telling That Mick that he was on my list of things to to do today. Darn catchy songs about ass kicking.

Now, tag as many people as you want.

Write a rhyme for #1

Karen has OCD.
Just like me. <3

#2 dreams about...

Where would #3 hide in the event of an apocalypse?

Monday, July 25, 2011

If it smells like crap, it’s probably crap.

I have touched on this before, but previously skirted the issue because of friends of mine that had fallen into this trap. I always felt very guilty about not telling you the complete truth, I after all, prefer to always be honest even if it’s not easy.

Well I am not friends with those people anymore so now it’s entirely too easy.


How To: Spot a Dead Beat *Indie* Publisher

I use the term indie loosely because loosely is all it’s ever used these days. This of course does not mean all indie publishers are bad, but I am going to tell you how to spot the really smelly ones, and show you how people wind up falling into these traps.

Indie publishers are any publishers independent of the big time publishers and their imprints. Sometimes you don’t even realize you are reading a book by the main guys because they have so many names, so many aliases that oddly often do the same things and the same genres.

But I digress…

If you really wanted too, and trust me, you don’t. BUT IF YOU DID you could find a crappy little e-book only (or mostly) publisher to ‘publish’ your book no matter how bad it is. WHY? Because it’s almost impossible to lose money on an e-book if they aren’t going to invest any money to begin with. This to me, is more of a vanity publishing than going your own on Amazon ever could be. You want to be able to say you have a publisher (even if they suck) you want to have that validation.

Oh trust me, I do too, but not at this kind of cost!

Red Flag #1: Publisher Website. Does their website look like something I could have designed in 1994 with remedial html skills in under five minutes? Are their broken links? Could your mother do a better job? Professional publishers need to have a professional website. End. Of. Story. NO EXCEPTIONS!! If they don’t care enough to put their best cyber foot forward, how are they going to treat your book?

Red Flag #2: Fill in the blank contracts, or contracts with unspecified terms. I will preface this by saying, everything I learned about publishing contracts I learned from people on Twitter, but a little common sense in this industry can go a long long way. A professional contract is NOT fill in the blank. All terms and lengths of time should be clearly defined, nothing should be left hanging. The contract should clearly state how long it is good for, I have actually seen fill in the blank contracts that state they are good until basically the ‘publisher’ decides otherwise. I have seen contracts that state they basically own your next book(s). Sure, that would be great (maybe) if you are with random house, but your crappy little e-book publisher could go under tomorrow and then you are in a mess of trouble.

Red Flag #3: You do all the work they still get half the money. If they are taking 30-50% (or God more) of your book sales ask yourself WHY. Most bad indie publishers will require you provide your own cover art, all of your own marketing. (Yes I know even the big six publishers don’t do much marketing these days BUT ask yourself why a small press can’t even have a Twitter account to tweet about new releases) You will have to pay for any review copies. They do not offer any editing services, or worse make you pay them for the services, or they will even claim that your book is good enough with out being professionally edited. YES! I have had friends who believed their publishers when they said they did not need to be edited! AHHHH!!! If all a publisher offers you is to put your book on their crappy little website (see red flag #1) and format your e-book run away! These things are not worth their price tag of never ending profit splits.

Any questions? Really, I could go on all day.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Writing Process Demystified #4 Can’t get away to an island paradise for inspiration? You aren’t trying hard enough.

I’m on vacation, and since most of you follow me on Twitter you probably already know that because I haven’t stopped tweeting about it. Today I am going to share with you how to get away with out getting away, because I often can’t get away and most of the time when I do there is extended family involved.

Some people need a change of scenery to really get their creative juices flowing. I have a good imagination, and can usually just pretend I am somewhere else, but there is nothing better than this when you really need an island get away:


I dig the sound of water splashing into pools blow my feet, but this isn’t a real island; this is the Butterfly Exhibit at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

I’m a big fan of museums in general, and have come up with some amazing ides at the including Pigments of My Imagination.

Say you wanted to write about a dinosaur, or even better yet—a dragon.Need something so you can adequately capture the sheer size of it?


Thoughts are fleeting, sometimes trying to describe something you saw in a mirage. There for a second, then gone. Solid things like this can help you gain a foothold on a tone or image you need to capture.

No matter where you live, there are things around you, ordinary things or dinosaurs, that can inspire you. Do try and keep your eyes open.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Defining inspiration in 140 characters or less. Where mine comes from, and how to get inside my head.


If you are a writer who hangs out with other writers chances are someone has DARED ask you about your process. (Since you are here that is a big affirmative.)

I always ask other writers about their process on my blog because it helps to understand it. Make them think about it, make them think period. Trust me, it can only help.

I’d understand my writing as effortless. I just write and there is very little fuss. I have spent more than half my life learning to manipulate my own process and I like to share that with my friends. The more awesome writers there are the more fabulous stories I have to read, and that is really what it is about for me; awesome stories.

The thing I get asked the most (Other than when my book comes out.) Is:
How do I come up with my ideas?

It’s a loaded question. Some people want to to know how I come up with my plots, others how I come up with characters, settings, and  million specific other things but the truth is I never really have an answer. Until today.

I tend to tweet about ideas I have. Not specific ideas because I am not running a free idea bank, but when I have ideas, or sometimes even teasers about them. I know every book I am going to write for the next three years, and I am as disturbed by that as I am proud. Tweeting about them—and they often show themselves in large clumps—leads to people asking how a lot more often than I am ever going to be confortable with. I often find myself trying to explain, only to end up apologizing for not being to find the words to explain in properly, and ending with a promise that I am actually a writer.

To make it easy on both of us, I am going to start by listing the top places ideas tend to come to me. On my Sunday special The Writing Process Demystified I will explore some of these ideas in details.

#1 The shower. I hear this answer from many other writers. A couple of weeks back just before one Ninja Chat or another and in that brief moment in time I came up with an entire book plot, and wrote word for words the first 3 paragraphs. I came up with main character names, and in less than minutes I felt I knew them all. Here is how I do it:

Forget everything. For me, writers block doesn’t exist. Writers block is something more appropriately named life or stress. If you removed that from your head creative you will have no inhabitation. If you don’t worry about failing, you never will. So don’t think about any of that. Close your eyes, and pretend you are someone else.

#2 Parks/Museums/art galleries. Turn off the world, and look at everything with fresh eyes. Don’t think about what you want have for dinner, or bills you have to pay. Go through these places like a child would, seeing everything for the first time. You know Rorschach tests? Do this with yourself, write down what your initial thoughts are on everything,and keep them for later.

#3 Traffic. I think I would have serious road rage if not for the people watching I do when in traffic jams. Need a character? Look around you.* Since it is likely you will never see these people again feel to draw up hasty first impressions to use in your fictitious works.

*Coming soon: a blog for characters of all sorts by me and the talented (and insane) Heather Jacobs at 

I probably shouldn’t call other people insane that is like the pot, and the… oh don’t make me say it. I’d love to hear about your top inspiration spots, and make sure you check back for Writing Demystified this Sunday I am going into spot #2