Friday, July 26, 2013

Fail Better

Dress: F21, necklace: H&M, glasses: Ray-Ban

Very quick "outfit" post. My mom bought this dress for me while we were out shopping over the weekend. She came to visit for five days, and it was so good to see her and hang out! We went shopping, drove to Antelope Island, and had the most amazing dinner at Eva downtown. I miss her already.

Nothing much else to say. I can't tell if I'm depressed, incredibly stressed out, or just sad. But either way things aren't normal. I'm trying to figure it out. I wish I could be more entertaining or funny or upbeat, for myself as much as other people, but I was never good at acting in any way other than what I felt. 

Anyway. I just want to say how much I appreciate those of you who have stuck around, even though my blog can never decide what sort of blog it is, and even though I'm so emotional and moody all the time. (I'm definitely going to look into getting therapy again once I can afford it. Everyone can benefit from an objective viewpoint once in a while.) So thanks, guys, I love you so much. x

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Things I've Learned About Publishing

Hey guys, Meg here! I'm blogging to tell you about a few things I've learned in the past year or so while writing, editing, and trying to publish a novel. I found them eye-opening, and maybe you will too! Or maybe not. In that case, I'm sorry this post is so boring for you.


1. Everything is SUBJECTIVE. 

Okay not literally everything; if you spell words in your manuscript wrong, then you've spelled them wrong no matter who reads it. But it is so important to remember that one person may read your manuscript and absolutely love it, while somebody else may read the very same manuscript and think it's drivel. That's how it goes. For my Masters dissertation, I got an A from one grader and a C from another. They agreed on a B (to Matt's chagrin; thank you Matt!). And then a third grader gave me an A. On the same manuscript.

When it comes to creative things like novel writing, there is no "right" way to do it. Whether or not somebody likes your book is based completely on their own taste. If an agent rejects you (I remind myself regularly), it doesn't necessarily mean that your manuscript is bad. It just means that a) it's not to their taste, b) they didn't fall in love with it enough, c) it doesn't fit anywhere in their list, d) they loved it but already represent a similar book, e) they were in a bad mood that day. Or something else entirely! I have to constantly tell myself that there will be an agent out there who loves my book, I just haven't found her yet. Keep on trucking.

2. Commercial fiction is not literary fiction.

This is important to remember! Especially if you've taken college courses in creative writing, or attended writing workshops. For the most part (well, based on my experience), these are geared towards literary writers. Which to me means boring writers, but in reality means "not genre." What is genre fiction, you ask? Basically all the fun books: Sci fi, fantasy, YA, crime, mystery, romance, etc. Literary writers tend to be more like poets, I find. They focus on the words themselves, crafting perfect sentences, creating beautiful imagery in unique and beautiful ways. Genre writers tend to worry more about plot, characterization, and plot. Plot is important. The writing itself is important, but it's not the same sort of writing that literary people write. You can say "she laughed," "she grimaced," or "he sighed" a whole bunch in your book if you want! You can sell that book, and people will like it! You don't need to hang on your creative writing professor's every word if she's a literary person, and you're a genre person. Realize that you must learn the rules, but you can discard the ones that don't apply to you.

Also, and I learned this the hard way, if you're a genre writer and you take a creative writing course or do a workshop... they might not take you seriously. Which is horrible, and old-fashioned and prejudiced and total bullshit, but it happens! I was told by one of my undergrad workshop profs that I straight-up should not try to get a Masters in creative writing, because people at the graduate level wouldn't take my fantasy writing seriously. Well guess who got a Masters in creative writing, asshole! Don't listen to the negative people, you guys. You just have to find the right environment and the right group of people, and you'll flourish. But beware, there are workshops and programs out there that will treat you as a second-class citizen if you come in brandishing your sci fi/fantasy short stories. As soon as people in one of my workshops found out I wrote fantasy, they started making bad jokes about dragons every day in class. Just a warning.

3. It's okay to write commercial fiction.

It is! I think a lot of people don't regard commercial writers as ~real writers~, but those people are douchenoggins. Also they don't sell as many books. Why? Because commercial writers... wait for it... are more commercial. People buy genre books, and chick lit, and commercial fiction. You can make a living writing commercially. Which is why it's called that! And that is totally okay. If you want to write a beautiful work of art, that's amazing and you should go for it. But if you want to write a fun, tightly-plotted book that will sell, go ahead and do that instead. It's okay!

4. You don't have the be a unique and beautiful snowflake.

I mean, obviously your book should stand on its own legs, and not be a complete rip-off of somebody else's work. However -- and here's something that still baffles me a bit -- it's okay to write something that's super similar to another thing that's out there. I mean, how many books are there about a young dude who goes on a quest to find or destroy some magical item? LIKE A BILLION. And how many books are there about a teenage girl who falls in love with a supernatural hottie? LIKE A BILLION. And they all sell! People like reading books that remind them of books they've already read. I know I do! More babely steampunk werewolves, please!

Agents even like this. I see agents tweeting all the time asking for submissions that remind them of a movie they just watched, or a book they just read and loved. Obviously you don't want to write that very same book or movie with only the names changed, but it's okay to be slightly derivative. Look at the steampunk craze that's happening. They all have automatons and airships and girls in corsets firing pistols at mad scientists, but it's okay! Because steampunk is selling, and agents want to represent books that will sell, so a lot of these books resemble each other closely.

Maybe some people think that's stupid and bad, but I think it's awesome, because it doesn't make me freak out and bash my head repeatedly against the wall trying to come up with a completely and utterly new concept that nobody has ever thought of before in the history of the world. I mean if you dissect the book I'm writing now, it's basically The Affair of the Necklace meets steampunk meets Star Wars meets a tiny bit o' Jane Austen. Which is kind of a weird combo. It's actually so weird I'm worried it won't sell. But who knows? Everything is subjective!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Kind of an Outfit I Guess

Dress and necklace: H&M, glasses: Ray-Ban

I felt like doing a very half-assed outfit post today. I've been wearing black tights and the same black flats every day for weeks, so it's really only the top half that's interesting anyway. I think this is the coolest dress. It's all smock-y and it's covered with skulls and there are buttons down the back -- what's not to love? I got the necklace for free at H&M, for their buy two get one free on sale items deal. I got two sweatshirts as well, for $7 each. Bargain! 

I'm already thinking about my fall wardrobe, and I already know what black ankle boots I'm going to buy when I can afford them. One can never have too many black ankle boots! I have a pair of flat Chelsea style boots, some fur-lined ones with a pretty high heel (for me anyway), and now I want a pair with a mid-heel. Is that a thing? Mid-heel? The more I look at the word, the less sense it makes. Oh well you know what I mean. Anyway I was going to link the boots I want but I can't find them online. That, or they're just ugly in pictures and cute in real life? I DON'T KNOW. Well whatever.

I wish I had more things to say, but I sadly don't. I'm going to shower (I'm covered in gross elliptical sweat), watch Teen Wolf, get some writing done, and then probably go on tumblr for hours looking for pics of Charlie Hunnam in Pacific Rim. Or find a new show to watch on Netflix. I need a new fandom! Any suggestions for shows with multiple seasons out already? And it should probably be speculative (scifi/fantasy), since real life is boring and I need to bump up the Escaping Reality value on my values map that I made yesterday.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Why Not Self-Publish?

This is something a lot of people have asked me about since I started talking about getting my novel published. "Why don't you try self-publishing?" And since I have some strong opinions about this, I figured I'd post about it!

Well, there are several reasons why I'm not going the self-pub route, at least not yet. The first one is simply that there's absolutely no reason to not pursue traditional publication first. No reason. Sure, the process might take a few years longer, and there's 100% more rejection involved, and it's a lot of work, but none of those facts are good reasons to self-publish. At least, not for me. It's been my dream since I was in middle school to write and publish a novel one day, and that dream was always about traditional publication. I want my books to be in Barnes & Noble, on the same shelf as Brandon Sanderson (they totally would be, I checked). And since people are still getting published in the traditional way, I'm putting my lot in with the rest of them. I'm not going to give up on my dream, or accomplish a half-assed version of my dream. I'm going to try as hard as I possibly can to get published the traditional way, whether it's with my currently finished novel, or with another one in the future.

I realize that it's about a billion times harder to get published now than it was in the past. The publishing industry is suffering, and I get that. Agents are only taking on projects that they absolutely adore. Publishers are only taking on books that they think will sell really well. I get it. It's a business. But just because it's hard, doesn't mean I'm going to give up. Since when do people give up on their dreams because the odds are against them? That's just lame, guys! So I'm not letting the shitty state of publishing discourage me. I know I can publish a book, I just have to write the right one, and put a shit-ton of work into editing, finding an agent, and everything else. I'm more than willing to put in that work.

Which brings me to another reason why I'd rather not self-publish. I think it smacks of laziness a lot of the time. I don't mean always. I realize that self-publishing isn't just for lazy people. But, let's be honest -- I think it can be sometimes. There's significantly less rejection involved (i.e. none), and you don't have to wait 6 months for an agent to finish reading your manuscript, and then you don't have to make a billion edits for your agent and then your editor. You can make all the decisions yourself, and then you start making money immediately. You don't have to wait forever for the book to be released, because you have that power. Easy! Right? Yeah, also lame. I feel like if I self-published right now, I'd be taking the lazy, easy way out. Which isn't what I want for my books, my career, or myself. I want to work hard at this, and receive an equal amount of reward.

Another reason I'm not so into the whole idea of self-publishing is because it can get in the way if you want to traditionally publish that book later. If an editor or agent sees that your self-published eBook isn't selling very well, they probably won't be super eager to offer you a book deal. So if I self-publish a book, and then decide later that I'd like to try publishing it the traditional way, the fact that I self-published could be a red flag to publishers. They might think it's a bad book. They might wonder why I self-published in the first place. Am I difficult to work with? Impatient as hell? Unwilling to do the work necessary to get published traditionally? I know not all publishing people are going to react this way, but I've read a lot of articles and interviews, and listened to podcasts that say these are all legitimate concerns. And I don't want to take that chance yet.

Also, I don't trust myself to edit my book. I don't believe I could get it to a place where I feel comfortable selling it, without an agent and an editor looking at it first. I know I could pay somebody to edit for me, but that's something I'd rather not spend money on.

I still think self-publishing is totally legitimate, and definitely a great option for some people, but it's not for me. At least not right now. I just straight-up don't see a reason not to go the traditional route. I may be getting rejection emails every day and I may not ever get this first novel published, but this is a huge learning experience, and I wouldn't change anything about the process. My soul may have been crushed a little, but that comes with the territory. And hey, I'm working on a new novel right now, which I will definitely try to publish when I'm finished with it. I'm not giving up any time soon. My books are going to be on the shelves of Barnes & Noble one day, and I won't stop working toward that dream, damn it!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Oh, hello

Here have this photo of my dog from when he was drugged after a vet visit and I put his sweater over his ears!

Anyway so I've been writing a lot I guess. Pretty much daily. Well, yeah, daily. For a week straight! Let's see how long this lasts! (Forever.) I'm about 14,000 words into this new novel I'm working on, which I'm enjoying a lot more than I thought I would. I was super excited about it at first, and then I got really unexcited, but now I'm excited again. Mostly because it's dialogue-y, and I love dialogue, and I'm having much more fun with the characters and space ship settings than I had predicted. Hurray! My goal is to finish the first draft by this fall, but I'm not sure that will actually happen. Fingers crossed.

In other news, there's not much other news. Greg and I bought an elliptical, which I've been using daily as well. My goals are: elliptical for at least 30 minutes every day, and write at least 250 words every day. I've been reading while I exercise, which makes the time go by pretty quickly, thank god. The worst thing about straight cardio is that it's boring as hell. At least when you do strength stuff you can grunt and be like, "Just... one... MORE!" while doing curls or something. I finished Austenland, which was very fun and cute, and am about halfway through The Shambling Guide to New York City. Loving it. I need something light and funny to read while I do the elliptical (ellipticalize? What's the verb form of elliptical?), otherwise I'd get too distracted by how sweaty I am. Ugh sweat.

Otherwise life is as it always is. I feel like I'm waiting for something to happen, something to catalyze a change -- either in the world around me, or in myself -- but I don't know what, specifically. I'm probably still getting used to Salt Lake. Will I ever become accustomed to this city? I think, even if it weren't for the overtly religious culture that reigns supreme, I wouldn't like it here. Is there even a culture in SLC, other than LDS? It seems so bland to me, but maybe I've been ruined by Portland and London (the best two cities around, obvs). Also just recently I learned that we're going to have to stay here for a lot longer than I'd expected. 

I don't know. I feel like I don't have an anchor and I'm just sort of drifting forward, letting life happen. And I don't like it. I realized that for basically my entire life, I've been working on something with a goal in mind. I was always in school, or saving up money to move to Portland, or applying to grad schools, or preparing to move to London, or studying and working on my masters degree. I was always waiting for life to happen. And now life is happening, and I'm just like... "Okay? Really? This is life. Well, okay. And when does it start again? Oh, it's... it's already started, you say? Ah. Wow. Okay that's cool I guess."

And it SUCKS, because life is awesome, objectively! In little isolated pockets, it's amazing. Like when I'm hanging out with Greg and we're laughing together. Or when I'm standing on the balcony watching the trees being pummeled by wind and rain. Or when I'm cuddling with my dog, listening to music. But overall it's like these things aren't connecting right, and the great tapestry of Meg's Life hasn't fallen into place yet. 

I'm trying to make it better. I'm being more social, which is always hard for me, even though I crave it. And I'm making an effort to exercise and write, which always makes me feel less like a failure and a useless lump. But... it's just not... there yet?

Shit, I don't know. Maybe I need something big to work towards. Like, hmmm, finishing my second novel?? Publishing my first one? But it doesn't feel like enough. And I don't know what "enough" is. Will I spend the rest of my life feeling like I'm not living it right? That there's something I could be doing to make everything more incredible? Someone tell me how to fix it. Someone tell me what to do.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Life of Late

Dress:, Necklace: F21, glasses: Ray-Ban

So... hi, I guess? Full disclosure: my mom missed my posts. That's basically the only reason I'm updating, because all the ingredients for a good outfit post are fucking not available, for example: Confidence, cute clothes that I want to wear, good lighting, weather that isn't 100F, outfits that are worth photographing. This was the only photo in all the photos I took that I felt vaguely comfortable with posting. You're welcome, Mom.

I think I've been having a hard time lately. I say "think" because it's sometimes hard to tell, with me. I'm often experiencing some sort of inner turmoil, so it's quite normal that I find myself feeling melancholy, or stressed, or anxious, or any combination of the three. But I still think it's worse lately. I seem to have withdrawn even further into myself ever since I was basically home sick for almost two months, due to hives, and then the flu. I didn't do anything social, really, that whole time, except go to Denver Comic Con right after I got over the flu. Returning to SLC was hard after that, because at DCC I was with Shaun and a couple of her friends who I immediately felt comfortable with, because we're all weirdo introvert (I think?) geeks. And then when I was back here in SLC, I hadn't seen any of my girl friends in weeks... and I don't know, I just didn't make an effort. It's so hard to make an effort to be social with people who aren't on the level of sibling, you know? That's nothing against them; they're awesome people, but I've been shitty at being a friend and if you don't maintain the friendship, you have to start all over again. And I'm so shitty at that. So anyway, I've been feeling isolated and weird and... just off.

Plus I gained a bunch of weight after I quit my elimination diet, which happened while I had the flu. There was nothing in the house I felt like eating after puking my guts out except whole wheat bread, so I ate it. The allergist doesn't think my hives are food related anyway. So yeah, I basically starved myself for 5 days while sick, first because there was almost nothing in the house I could eat, and then because I was just too sick to eat. So when I got better, finally, I just went crazy. I ate whatever the hell I wanted, whenever the hell I wanted, and as much as I wanted. Needless to say my body freaked out and I gained about 5 pounds in a couple weeks. I'm about 7 pounds over my comfortable weight right now, and it's hanging over me. Say what you will about accepting yourself for who you are, gaining weight fucking sucks. Most of my skirts and dresses just straight-up don't fit me, as all my weight goes to my stomach/thighs, and the last thing I want is to document how awful I look, and therefore how awful I feel. I may be wallowing in self-pity, but there it is. I'm trying to eat better but it's hard after a few weeks of basically binging on cookies and carbs, and I feel a bit hopeless and depressed a lot of the time.

I think a lot of my mood has to do with the weather. It's super hot and sunny in SLC, and while most people seem to enjoy such weather, as you know, I hate it. It makes me miss London and Portland even more. And one of my best friends just moved back into Portland (she used to live out in a suburb), and when she told me about walking to a bakery from her new place with her husband, and how she'd cried with joy, I cried too. But not from joy. I feel so awful because my life would be perfect... if we still lived in Portland. I love my boyfriend, my dog, my job, my apartment... and I hate this fucking city. I don't have it in me to move anytime soon (I'm so tired of moving on a yearly basis!), and Greg just got his job, so we'll be here for another couple years I'm sure. But I really don't like it here. It's an awful city, it's the most boring place I've ever been, and I want to get out. Thank god for Greg. He seriously does keep me sane. Although I probably won't be dragging the poor guy to Farmer's Market again any time soon. (And I keep reminding myself that he had to suffer through Portland for a year, so I guess it's my turn to suffer... which kind of makes me feel less bleak and more like a hero, but still.)

My writing is going okay. I've started another novel. Not the steampunk one; that one got put in the "maybe I'll write this later, but probably not" pile. Now I'm working on a space opera with a Louis XIV aesthetic. At least I think that's what's going on. All I know is that the nobles all live on "floating estates," which are basically space stations, because they've abandoned the over-populated and slummy planet that they settled on hundreds of years ago. There's a swordsman and space pirates and balls and murders, so that's exciting. I've written the outline and am trying to write about 1,000 words per day, minimum. It's easy for me if I put my mind to it.

I've also decided to start querying agents again for my first novel. I made some minor revisions, but realized in the long run that the protagonist is how I want her to be, and if it turns out that no agent in the entire world likes her and thinks she'll sell, then okay. I'll self-publish. But until I've queried every agent in the world, or at least in the country, I won't give up. I don't feel like truly giving up yet. So... yeah. Readying myself for more rejections!

Sorry for the very long ramble. My mom said she likes it when I'm genuine, so I thought I'd genuinely spill my guts here for everyone to read. After all, introverts are cool with talking about themselves online, or so I have heard.