Showing posts from January, 2010

Writing Journey: Why Does It Take So Long?

I'm not talking about the eight years of writing, submissions, and rejections I went through before landing my first novel contract, although that did take forever.
(Granted, I was publishing articles during those eight years, so I wasn't a complete failure . . . I just felt like one.)
Today's topic is a reader question I got from Chas Hathaway some time ago:
Why is it exactly that it takes so long (2 yrs I've heard is average) for a book to get from submission to publication? Is it editing? Do they just have a lot of books to work with at the same time?
The really short answer is this: There are a lot of steps in the publishing pipeline, and each just takes time.
Now for the long answer . . . and this is assuming that a writer either already has a literary agent (getting one takes its own good time and has its own challenges) or doesn't need one, such as with the LDS market, which is so small that they don't use agents. (A literary agent would starve if trying to m…

WNW: New World, New Language

I'm willing to bet that English has changed more in the last 50 years—at least in terms of vocabulary—than during any other time, and that's thanks to technology.
We have brand new words and acronyms that never existed before (Internet, RAM, Meg, LCD, blog, vlog, PC, DVD, e-mail, snail mail, high-definition, and many, many more).
I'd bet my great-grandparents wouldn't understand half of my conversations because of the new words I'm using. ("I'm going to a bloggy lunch tomorrow . . ." Huh?)
On top of that, we have oodles of old words that have taken on completely different meanings than they used to have (monitor, text, mouse, scroll, web, tablet, code, display, spam, cell, and backup, to name just a few).
All these new words and meanings have had an interesting impact on our language. We even use technological terms when we aren't in technological settings.
One example:
When I was a kid playing with friends and needed to get a drink or use the bathro…

WNW: Much vs Many

This week's WNW is a reader question asking me to help her children understand the difference between much and many.
If you know the difference between less and fewer, you already know the answer: it all boils down to non-count nouns and count nouns.
In other words: Are you referring to stuff of a general quantity or to something you can actually count, such as on your fingers?
A NON-COUNT NOUN: TIME You can't count time. It's a general noun. You can say you spent a lot of time or a little time on something, but you can't count time.
COUNT NOUNS RELATING TO TIME: You can, however, break time into countable pieces like hours, minutes, and seconds.
So I spent three hours on a homework assignment. I watched television for thirty minutes. I ran that lap in sixty seconds. Those are all count nouns.
In the same way, you can't countflour (it's a general thing, a non-count noun), but you can count things you break the flour into: bags of flour, cups of flour, sp…

Today: A List

1) Five Whitney nominees to go. Three are THICK. I'm hoping to finish one of the thinner ones today. We shall see if I succeed . . .
2) I'm being loud and opinionated again over on the AML Blog.
3) Tonight my parents are coming over for FHE. Yay!
4) I'll be leaving in a few for lunch with Luisa, my favorite New Yorker and my first close bloggy friend. There will be much enjoyment of food and plenty of great conversation, I'm sure.
5) My chocolate cookbook has a title, but I can't reveal it yet. I've already mentioned this elsewhere (Twitter, FB), but for those who haven't heard, it'll be officially out in October. Frankly, I was a bit relieved they decided against May. Having TWO books released within two months of each other would have had me in a panic.
6) In theory, I should get a bunch done on a PEG edit today. Not sure if that's going to happen. Maybe if I stay up late.
7) I bought a new garbage can for the kitchen. This may not seem notable unless …

Writing Journey: Idea Seedlings

One of the most common questions writers get is how they come up with their ideas, so I thought I'd mention a few of mine. I've chronicled many of them throughout my WJ series, but here's a couple that are a bit different:
Band of Sisters, which will be out in March (as if I haven't blathered about that one enough lately!), came about in a very different way than my typical book ideas do. (Then again, do I have a typical way?)
I've talked a bit about it before, how I first wrote an article about women whose husbands were deployed. That article was inspired by a close friend going through that very experience, and I interviewed her and several of her friends for the piece.
I was able to use only a tiny percentage of what they gave me for the article, and that killed me. Their stories and feelings kept nagging at me, as if I had to do more with them to do them justice. And then I realized that there could be an entire book there. So I wrote a novel about five women w…

So Subjective

What makes a good book? What makes for good writing?
You'd think those questions would have pretty straight-forward answers.
Mmmm . . . not so much.
This is my second year serving as a Whitney Awards judge, and we're rounding the bend on finishing up the reading of the nominees so we can cast our ballots for who we think should be the finalists in our category or categories. I'm judging two of the six categories, and there are five judges per category.
I know every judge has their own way of looking at quality. Every judge is qualified to serve as one. Yet we all rank different elements as higher importance or lower importance. (Is the plot arc more important than character? Is the writing on a sentence and paragraph level more important than plot? And so on. The list is endless.) Whatever we use as our personal guidelines, we are to apply the same ones to every book we judge.
I'm not going to discuss specific categories or titles (although since my own book is eligible in…

Writing Journey: TwHistory Side Project

One of the cool benefits of being a writer is the people you get to know and the opportunities you run into as a result.
Those opportunities could be things that advance your career and bring in money (such as a new freelance gig), but more often than not, they simply enhance your life in some way. Many times they're ways of offering service with the skills you have.
An example there is with my doctor. He's known our family for over fifteen years, and he's literally followed my entire career. Whenever I went in for prenatal appointments or a child's shots, and he'd ask about my latest submission, and I'd tell him about my latest rejection or current work in progress. He knows the entire story and what I'm working on next.
He's also the head of the Friends of the Library, so when we moved closer to him, he asked if I'd be willing to judge the adult category of the library's annual Scary Story Contest they hold each Halloween. I've now judged i…

WNW: Structural Ambiguity

One of my favorite assignments in college, no surprise, was in Dr. Oaks's class (if you've been here long enough, you know that he was my favorite professor). He was fascinated with the idea of structural ambiguity: that sometimes the way a sentence is put together can make the meaning unclear, giving it two or more possible meanings. He's even written a book on his years of researching the topic that will be going to press soon.
Our assignment took the entire semester, because we were to pay attention to speech (or television shows, movies, books, whatever) and find examples of structural ambiguity, then turn in our best examples (I want to say it was 50, but it might have been fewer). You can't come up with 50 good examples off the top of your head in the last three days of a semester. This really was something you had to be thinking about all the time and jotting down as you went.
A couple of examples I remember from class:
Using the word "little" in front o…

Behold: My Cover!

I had Blogger open all morning, waiting for inspiration to strike for a new post. I had nothing.
And then my editor sent THIS, and I knew it would suffice: the cover for Band of Sisters.
Isn't it cool? I had even suggested something with five women's hands together somehow.
This is a record for me: I got to keep the title I submitted (one my husband came up with, because I'm terrible at titles, but this one just fits) and the cover is essentially what I suggested. Wowzers!
This book will be on shelves in a mere TWO MONTHS! I've been waiting a long time for this one, so I'm very excited.
I'm also proofing the final galleys right now (about halfway through as I type this), so the timing of getting to see it this morning is perfect.
In summary: Squeeee!

Writing Journey: Writer Weirdness

Being that it's New Year's Day (and I'm out of town), I'm cheating by re-posting from my archives from when I literally had what, two readers? Below is literally my very first post, and since it happens to be writing-related, I thought it'd be a good fit for my Writing Journey series.
(As a side note, the scene I refer to the beginning was for Hannah's injury in Spires of Stone.)
Not long ago, I pulled one of my many reference books from my office bookshelf so I could get a few details for an upcoming scene I’m writing.

Holding the book in my hands, I immediately felt transported back to the time I first read it, and I had to smile. Suddenly I felt sentimental.

It was the Christmas holidays, visiting my in-laws, during the time I was still a hopeful writer who hadn’t yet been published. I remembered the manuscript I was working on and why I needed this particular book to help me with certain details—and I still remember what those details were. Snow fel…