Wednesday, June 26, 2013

A Secret Vacation from Social Media

I’m baaack…

If you’re wondering what I’m talking about, that’s a good thing. Because I worked hard to make it seem like I was here even though I wasn't.

I’ve taken time off the blog before—a week every now and again for vacation, the holidays, or whenever real life gets too crazy.

But when I found out I’d be joining my husband for a three-week trip to Germany and Spain, I was left with a tough choice. Either let the blog go dark for an obscenely long time or work harder than I’d like to keep the blog up-to-date.

I chose the later option while I spent the majority of this past month in Europe. And here’s how.

Get Organized

I was lucky in that I had advance notice of our travel dates. So I created a list of priorities that I wanted to accomplish before leaving town. Everything from reaching certain milestones on my various projects, ensuring all my critiquing obligations were met, and preparing blog posts in advance.

Knowing what I needed to run when was hugely beneficial. In my early blogging days, I always had a blog post or two ready to go in case I needed it. However, that fell off as my writing obligations increased. But it was good to remember just how smoothly things could go with the right preparations in place.

Get Tech

The post scheduling feature on Blogger (also available on Wordpress) also helped tremendously. Although we were told we’d have internet access at the hotels we were staying at over the course of our trip, who knew how that would work out in actuality (Spain had the worst internet b-t-dubs). That combined with the time difference and the fact that I would be more focused on having a fantastic time in Europe instead of micromanaging my social media, it made sense to have my posts ready to go in advance.

The other tool in my arsenal? Tweet Deck. Some of you are already familiar with it, I’m sure, but I just started using it this Spring, and it’s “schedule tweets” feature was hugely helpful in creating the illusion I was still around in the digital ether. Took the spontaneity out of my tweet stream, yes, but it was a big help keeping my Twitter profile active.

Get Help

But in the end, I didn’t do it alone. When I found out I’d be gone, I solicited help from a few of my writerly friends. I staggered their interviews between regular posts, which lessened the burden on me to create new content.

In case you missed them, be sure you check out the interviews with some great fellow writers I have the utmost respect for:

I was happy I could keep the social media machine rolling while I was away, even though it required a lot of work. What techniques or shortcuts do you rely on to stay on top of your social media obligations?

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Interview with Fran Wilde

Today, please welcome SF/F writer Fran Wilde to the blog!

I met Fran at Taos Toolbox and was impressed by her ability to fuse lyrical writing with genre fiction. She became a full SFWA member in July 2012 and scored an agent (!) in May 2013, and I’ve asked her here to share a bit more about herself and her writing journey.

Please tell us about your journey from when you first decided you wanted to be a writer through now.

Are there children in the room? Best ask them to leave, this gets messy…

I was a writer the moment I realized you could make words stick around by writing them down.

Mine is a storytelling family (some relatives use circular breathing so they can’t be interrupted; others tell fantastic yarns that end with ‘Whelp. So that happened.’). I grew up listening to their stories – some of which changed each time they were told. When I wrote my stories down, they stayed put. I liked that.

And more than anything, I was a reader. I got my own library card as soon as possible, and I was on a first-name basis with the local indie bookstore owners. I read everything I could, especially if it had spaceships, universe-sized intrigues, computers, fantastic creatures, strange people, or, better, all of the above.  Some of what I read wasn’t viewed as appropriate reading for me – I got told that a lot. I read it and loved it anyway.

Two years after I completed my MFA, I set aside the manuscript I was working on in order to focus on three things that paid the bills: teaching, copywriting (mostly for engineers and tech), and programming. While I wrote during that time, I didn’t send anything out, and I didn’t have a community of writers, save for a few dear friends who kept reminding me who I was. Finally, one day I snapped and wrote half a story – and the next day I wrote some more, and soon I was back on a regular writing schedule. And this time around, I gave myself full permission to write what I wanted to write.

No big shock, then, that my new stories had space in them. And programming, and engineering. And poetry. And strange creatures. I found a resource online – the SFF Online Writing Workshop – and critiqued there for a while before dropping a story in to see what would happen.  That led to finding my first crit buddies – several of whom I still exchange work with.  Five months later, I went to Viable Paradise and Jim MacDonald and the instructors at the Martha’s Vineyard workshop told me I wasn’t really a short story writer. They dared me to try to write a novel in 90 days. And I met more of my community. That was fantastic.

A similar thing happened at Taos – where I met you! And I’m a better writer for it all.

You have both a Masters in information architecture and interaction design and an MFA in poetry, which are very different fields. How does this background inform your writing?

Programming and poetry share more in common than you might think. I’d love to see a poem written in regular expressions that actually compiles into something.  I love the places where the two meet: interactive narratives, using hypertext and gorgeous graphics. I love graphic novels too.  And I’m very aware of sensory stuff – particularly the sounds words make – sometimes too much so. I get caught up in nets of sound.

What piece of writing advice has been key to bettering your craft? 

Easy is the enemy. Keep writing, every day. Put that amazing draft away for six weeks, then look at it again, with a critical eye.

I had the good fortune of reading the amazing novel that got you agented. Please share a bit about the book and what you're working on now.

Bone Arrow is a science-fantasy YA novel that demanded to be written. I love building worlds, and this one’s a lot of fun, and strange, too. Think Cirque du Soleil meets the Codex Seraphinianus. But what I love best is the characters – because once I gave them the space, they ran with it. I had all these things planned out for them and instead, they did their own things, a lot of which completely surprised me.

Right now, I’m working on a second generation story set in the same world, with different characters. There’s a related short story coming out in the Impossible Futures anthology in August, called “A Moment of Gravity, Circumscribed”.

And I’m working on a novella set in a different universe, and revisions to my first novel, Moonmaker, which is more tech-driven.  I usually keep a lot of projects going so that if one slows down or I need to stick it in a drawer, I can pick up another.

What is important for a beginning or intermediate writer to understand about writing for publication?

Ah. This is the hard part. Rejection isn’t personal. It feels personal. It can feel like you’ve been judged as not worthy – like you’re not really a writer when you get that “unfortunately”.  But writing for publication is all about ‘Right time, right editor, right story.” Pro writers get rejections too. The key is to send that story back out – and to keep sending it out. I need to do that with a few stories, actually. [Bad writer: no biscuit.]

Another good idea is to volunteer to read slush for a magazine in your genre. Keep an eye on your favorites via Twitter and Facebook. Editors sometimes post requests for new slush readers there.  Once you see the scope of a typical slush pile, you’ll realize it’s not personal. And hopefully that will help you start to feel more confident about your writing and your submissions as well.

Thanks so much, Fran!

Thank you Lauren! It’s always great to talk with you!

You can find Fran on Twitter [@fran_wilde] and stay up-to-date with her writing through her blog:


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Best Laid Plans

Writing is a slow process. From idea to draft, from early drafts to later drafts, from query to agent, from contract to publication. That doesn’t mean things can’t move faster, just that they so often don’t.

Patience is a quality you need to cultivate if you are going to survive this field. I understand all this—even if I don’t like it. One thing I like to do is make plans to distract myself from the futility of waiting (I’m type A all the way).

Regardless of whether you’re a plotter or a pantster, I think being able to plan is a crucial act of writing, even if it’s the just-in-time variety pantsters employ. We have to be able to hold large amounts of information in our heads and then turn that information into something that’s not only literate but adheres to a recognizable structure. This ability is explored in part by Maps of the Imagination: The Writer as Cartographerby Peter Turch—a book that’s geared more to thinking about writing than actual writing, if you know what I mean, though in this case that’s not a dig.

Planning, making mental maps, using words to formalize what has only been nebulous or intangible thought… these kinds of activities take a lot of time, and can be the very means to work through the periods of waiting that always seem to crop up.

These activities for me often include:
--Planning out my next project
--Determining what I need to do on the blog
--Prioritizing story drafts across projects, critiquing for my writing groups and CPs, and research time

I also create contingency plans in my head.

Sometimes I create contingencies when I’m plotting out a novel and need my research to corroborate the action. I want X to happen in my story, but if the research doesn’t support X, I’ll need to go with Y. Or Z. Or maybe X will work but another set of conditions need to be considered. By planning out what needs to happen, and what alternatives could also work, I’m able to work through tricky plot issues and stay on target with my story.

Or in the case of submitting, say I have a handful of short stories under consideration at markets. However, most markets have no simultaneous or multiple submissions policies in place. Because of this, I have to consider what is the best order to submit them. Usually factoring in some combination of

1. Impact (higher tier/exposure over lesser markets)
2. Response time (quicker over slower)
3. Fit (always hard to judge)
4. Deadlines

For example, let’s say the average response time at a market is a week. And there’s a deadline for stories with a theme similar to my story coming up in two weeks. I would probably submit my story to the market with the 1-week deadline, under the assumption that if it gets selected (great), but more realistically I might get some feedback that would help me to submit to the themed market in time.

I’ve also created contingency plans in my head for what happens if something big and exciting happens. What then? I don’t recommend this last one. For starters, I can make a gazillion plans and all that mental effort goes out the door with one rejection. Sure, a contingency plan will kick in then, and I’ll remain optimistic for another few weeks and then… Well, you can see how this cycle could last forever.

So planning can range from the highly useful (as in the case of story plotting and time management) to busy work (micromanaging story submission orders) to entirely unnecessary (winning the publishing lottery).

But writers write. And in the case of this writer, I plan as well.

Happy writing (and planning)!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Interview with Lori M. Lee

Today I’m happy to bring you an interview with my critique partner Lori M. Lee. 

In December of 2011, she signed with Suzie Townsend of New Leaf Literary, and her book deal (!) with Skyscape was recently announced. She blogs about the writing life at

Thanks for stopping by today, Lori! For the uninitiated, could you give us a brief overview of your writing journey up until now?

Thanks for having me, Lauren :) It's been almost four years since I began my first manuscript-with-intent-to-query/publish in 2009. It was a NaNoWriMo, and I spent a year editing and rewriting it based on feedback from my amazing CPs (like you! :D) before querying. While querying that project, I began working on Gates of Thread and Stone. This story so much fun to write, and I was extremely fortunate to receive an offer of representation in November of 2011 after only a few weeks of querying. But the work definitely didn't end there. A major revision and a year later, I finally got that yes from an editor!

What is something that surprised you about being an agented writer? Many aspiring writers put so much emphasis on getting an agent without necessarily thinking about what happens after reaching that milestone.

This is sort of dumb (and a good example of how my brain works... or doesn't, in this case), but when I began my next project, I had brief moments of panic when I thought about writing the query. Then, at some point, it struck me—I don't have to write a query. My agent doesn't require one. The query was always such a stress-filled requisite of writing a new manuscript-with-intent-to-find-an-agent that it didn't immediately occur to me I didn't need one b/c I already had an agent. And believe me, when that realization hit, it felt AWESOME.

I’ve gotten the impression from other writers in the blogosphere that being on submission is kind of like Fight Club. The first rule of Fight Club is: You do not talk about Fight Club. What can you say about your time on submission and how you coped for other writers going through the same process?

Being on submission had even greater ups and downs than querying. When an editor loved the book, but it got shot down in acquisitions, that hurt a million times more than an agent rejection because I was so, so close. Being on sub was exciting and terrifying, but also emotionally draining. I coped with everything first by working on something new and then inadvertently by getting pregnant lol. With my mind focused on a new world and new characters (and the impending baby), I had less time to worry about what was happening with the book on submission.

The Gates of Thread and Stone will be published by Skyscape (Amazon Children’s Publishing) in 2014, and it is the first book in a series. Tell us about the book.

Going with what was revealed in the deal announcement (since I don’t know how much more I can talk about yet), Gates is about a girl who stays carefully under the radar to keep her ability—to manipulate the threads of time—a secret. But when her brother disappears, she has to risk getting caught up in a revolution in order to save him.

What was your biggest challenge writing this book?

This particularly book came really easily to me, which is not typical. The world building was probably the biggest challenge because world building, in itself, is fairly intricate, but the plot and the characters were very clear in my mind.

What excites you most about this next stage of your career?

Reader feedback. Good or bad, I can't wait to hear what readers think. It's definitely scary, and I'll probably fumble through it all, but I'm looking forward to it.

Finally, what is the single best piece of writing advice you’ve received?

Work on your next book while you’re waiting for query responses. Write while you’re on submission. Write while you’re waiting for feedback from CPs or your agent or your editor. Having that shiny new idea to focus on really does make the waiting more bearable, and the bonus is if that ms doesn’t work out, you’ve got your next one ready to go.

Thanks so much Lori!

Be sure you check out her blog ( and follow her on twitter (@lorimlee).

Lori’s always been an incredibly supportive writer, and I’m so happy she’ll be able to share her stories with the world!
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