Friday, April 20, 2007

When Your Work Sucks

Thanks to EVERYONE who asked for a book! I ran out pretty quickly, so huge apologies to those who didn't get one. The good news is that the book will be in stores soon enough! :)

Question of the day: I had an oh-shit moment with book one today, 200-pages into the rough draft and I just thought, "this sucks. this totally sucks." i still believe in the idea of the novel, but starting to suck. I take it that's not a good sign. Has this ever happened to you before? Do you go back in, keep trucking, and take a deep breath and edit, or do you chuck the entire thing? Are people's first books just usually doomed? I know I'm getting rhetorical. Apologies.

It happens to me all the time. LOL. As I mentioned earlier in the week, it even happens once the book is published!

What I like to do when I'm feeling like the writing is really stinking up the joint is stop and go back and edit. By doing this, I can usually pinpoint the plot lines that aren't working and the passages that really blow. I also find that I usually can restore my confidence by rereading because I realize that the majority of what I've written really isn't that abysmal. You tend to forget that as you go along. Hell, I forget about entire passages I've written, and upon rereading, I'm like, "Wow, that's pretty damn good. I had no idea that I was capable of that!"

I think you know that a book is really doomed when you lose any and all will to keep working on it. When you're just so stymied that you can't muster the creative energy to go on. Barring that, I do think that most works are capable of being revised to the point of where they're so much improved. I know this because my first novel wasn't so fantastic, and yet, I've been able to pull small pieces out of it and create my current WIP, which both my agent and my editor really dig.

Are first novels always doomed? Not at all. But do they have a lower chance of getting published? Probably. Only because writing is a learning process, and on your first crack - just as with anything - you're probably not going to hit a home run. You might, but you also might have to go to batting practice before you do so. And for a lot of people, that first novel is like batting practice. But again, plenty of people can and do sell book #1.

So readers, how do you know when your book is sucking the big one? And what do you do about it?

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Free Books! Who Wants a Free Book?

Okay, I have ten free books to give away - here are the deets.

I'm going to give away signed copies of TDLF to the first ten people who email me either from here or from MySpace. The stipulations? You must have a blog, and all that I ask is that you blog about the book the week of May 8th, the official release date, despite Amazon listing it for May 1st.

Send me your blog address and your mailing address, and if you're one of the first 10, I'll pop a book in the mail!

Email me at to get yours!

To MFA or Not? That is The Question.

I'm a young writer, just starting out. I'm working on my first novel and I've just been accepted to a pretty good MFA program, but I'm still considering whether or not to go. I know there are a lot of writers, such as yourself who have made amazing, truly enviable careers for themselves out of smarts and talent, and I keep waffling on whether the MFA is necessary or even that beneficial to the career. Do you have any thoughts?

Ooh, what a good question that opens up a lot of debate, so readers, please do chime in on the comments section.

The truth is that I don't think there's a black and white answer to this, and I also think this might depend on your literary goals. Most writers I know have not gone through an MFA program, but most of the writers I know are more focused on magazines, so getting their MFA wouldn't necessarily help them. That said, I also do know plenty of novelists, and in my close circle, again, many don't have their MFAs.

That said, there's no doubt in my mind that if I were a more literary writer - my stuff is commercial fiction - that an MFA program could and would help me fine-tune my skills. I also believe that a degree would help you land an agent, but only if you graduate from some of the more prestigious programs, such as Iowa, in which agents scout for new talent.

So...the answer is that I really don't know. Again, I think it all depends on your anticipated course and where you are right now, in terms of writing and success.

Readers - what say you? Yay or nay to the MFA?

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Seeking Out Studies

I am researching a nutrition piece, and encountering some problems with finding/citing studies. I want to ask how do you go about finding studies/researches for health stories. My article has to do with best foods to take before and after exercise. Now, how do I find what studies have been conducted on pre and post exercise nutrition. And any general advice on how to approach research for a health piece would be appreciated, too.

My go-to sites for medical research are and I particularly like PubMed because not only does it contain nearly all of the latest medical research and published studies, it also has a really handy tool on the right-hand side of the page in which you can click on similar studies to the one you're currently reading.

I don't know that there are any magic ways to find studies other than to play around with key words, in your case, obviously food, exercise, recovery, muscle strength, caloric expenditure, etc. I plug in variations on these keywords and see what comes back to me.

Of course, google is another fantastic way (obviously!) to get some direction on what you might be looking for, and if you find a study referenced in, say, an article on CNN, then you can head to PubMed to find the exact study. Yahoo Health is also a very user-friendly way to find new studies, but their archives don't extend back that far. Oh, also, is another good source to check out too.

Writers, what health resources do you prefer? And how do you go about tracking down specific studies? Is there an easier way?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Waiting is The Hardest Part

I know you recently sold a novel, so I hope you'll have some insights for me. My agent is sending out my novel to a portion of his list today and the balance, next week. I wondered if you could tell me how long it took to hear back from publishers when your book went out. Did some get back to you in days? Weeks? What's the shortest, longest, average response?

Happy to. But keep in mind that how quickly you hear back really isn't an indication of whether or not you'll get an offer. I know plenty of folks who have sold after two months or three - or longer. It all depends on how busy the editors are, if someone else shows interest in the ms, and your agent's relationship with the editors. (I.e, trusted confidantes might get quicker reads.)

That said, here's my story:

I finished my tweaks for my agent in early December 2005. Obviously, we didn't want to send it out then, but my agent (smartly) called everyone to say that it would land on their desks first thing in January, and several editors requested a sneak peek. Which was a really good move for me. Because when folks got back into the office on Jan 3rd, we already had feedback - namely, that it was getting second reads at most of the places that had gotten sneak peeks. So from there, the remaining editors madly rushed to read, and we held an auction the following Friday - ten days later - in which we received four offers.

So for me, it was very quick. BUT, a lot of that was a result of the early reads over the holidays and the fact that we got initial interest right away. I'd wager that most sales don't happen this quickly, and you only hear about the ones that do happen overnight or so because they're so unusual.

The waiting period sucks. It just does. Try to distract yourself by working on your next project. And remember, you only need ONE editor to fall in love with your work. That person might read the first night or the might read three months later - it really doesn't matter. It just matters that eventually, he reads it.

So readers, how long did it take you to sell your ms? What's the fastest sale you've heard of, and what's the longest?

Monday, April 16, 2007

And This Is When the Neurosis Begins

I know that I have a backlog of questions to get to, and fear not, I'm getting to 'em, but I also promised that I'd talk a bit about the time leading up to my publication date (three weeks!!), so please indulge this post.

It's a funny thing: now that I have the book in my hands, I've become completely neurotic about other people reading it. I was flipping through it this weekend - I can't bring myself to read it from cover to cover because I've literally already read it like, 15 times - and was thinking, this sucks!! I can't believe that this is going out into the world!! Who agreed to publish this??

Cue: me heading to the gym and running five miles to deal with myself.

I'm not the type of person who has a lot of self-doubt. You're probably not going to get the figurative, "does this make me look fat," question from me. But let me tell you, publishing a novel is terrifying. Thrilling, yes. But terrifying all the same, and at this very moment, it's hard not to be plagued with all sorts anxiety.

I mean, not only do you put yourself out there for critics, who actually don't bother me so much, but you put yourself out there for all of your friends and acquaintances and friends of acquaintances to see...and inevitably, some of them are going to think you suck. That's just a fact. Fiction is so subjective that what floats my boat won't float someone else's, and while I completely and totally understand this, it still makes my stomach churn just a tad. Because at the end of the day, even if your book isn't someone's cup of tea, you really don't want them to think that you suck. But the truth of the matter is, is that someone will think I suck, and the truth of that matter is that I just have to deal with it.

But that doesn't mean that I won't be logging a lot more miles on the treadmill in the next few months. :)

So I'm curious - other pubbed writers - have you experienced similar moments or am I just a complete headcase?