Friday, April 30, 2010

Tally, Tally, Tally, Get Your Word Counts Here...

When I started my WIP for a YA historical, my word count was 76,000. It was no Stephanie Meyer pound cake at 120,000 or so, but it wasn't too small either.

(And for all you Twi-hards or Twi-haters out there, read that as you like. 120,000 nibbles of sublime sweetness or 120,000 chunks of junk food, whichever you prefer. Maybe both.)

And then I revised and cut the first 80 pages and my count plummeted to 49K. I had no idea how to develop my plot and make it fit a higher count. Then I obsessed about word count, staring at the bottom of my Word Doc waiting for the numbers to fly upwards.

Now I'm back at 71,000. Apparently I'm in the sweet spot for YA. And yes, the number does make me feel better, but I'm more psyched about what got me to that number—a story with more flesh and bones throughout.

Here's what agent Colleen Linsday has to say about about word counts of different genres.

And Bookends LLC blogged about it too.

I'd love to see what word counts you guys have in your manuscripts. So, in the tune of "Lolly Lolly Lolly get your adverbs here" (am I dating myself with School House Rock? Heck yeah.) let's hear what your word counts are, whether they're at 7 words so far, or complete at 159,286.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Saggy Truth

First, don't forget to check out the Sisterhood of the Traveling Blog post for the week by Zoe Courtman on "What keeps you writing?" Last week Danyelle Leafty posted and check out earlier posts by myself, and Laura Diamond!

So on to today's post. The saggy, wiggly, under-toned issue that writers know is there but don't like to look at: The Middle Plot Sag.

Do you know what I mean? Say you've been writing like fiend. You think you've got that hooky first chapter. You know the novel ends well. And then, well, there's the middle part. Somewhere between your first big reveal, and the exciting build up to the end, it's there.

Sure, there are plot points that must be hit to make them connect. But maybe it's lacking that certain something? Perhaps the dialogue isn't as crisp, or the scenes are limp like day-old basil you forgot to put in a glass of water. You know. Smushy.

This is one of the harder things I've had to deal with. And the truth? Sucking it in only hides the problem. The actual anatomy has to change sometimes. More muscle, less fat, more tone. When you read it, it has to hit you back. Not just jiggle helplessly.

Have you dealt with the Saggy Truth?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


Got some great awards recently and I love to give back, so heeeeere we go...

Suzette and Bethany gave me the BFF blogger award! So super sweet. Their blog never fails to be a fun read.

I happily bestow it upon:
Justine Dell
Christine Fonseca
Talli Roland
Emily Ann Benedict
Arlee Bird

I also received the Creative Liar award from Laura Diamond. She's got great posts on up-and-coming-bloggers and Mental Health Mondays, and is also a fellow Sister of the Traveling Pants blogger!

So here's your award! And let's hear one truth buried within many lies from:
Angela Greenlief
Miss V
Abby Stevens

And I also got the Awesomesauce award from Roxy at a Woman's Write. She has such a cool blog that she hardly had the space to fit all the awards she got onto her blog post!

I now have the delightful job of pouring the sauce onto some other awesome bloggers:
Samuel Park
Jennifer Daiker

I'm a rich girl this week. I also won a personalized blog design by CipherQueen--so keep your eyes open for some new changes here coming soon!

And a thanks to Kat Harris, because I finally won a real object! A book! I won Kathi Lipp's "The Marriage Project: 21 Days to More Love and Laughter" because let's be honest. What marriage doesn't need a little TLC here and there?

Thanks everyone! Happy Tuesday!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Medical Mondays: Head-banging and Amnesia

Our question today comes from Lisa and Laura who ask:
We have a question about short term memory loss. Is it possible that someone in a traumatic car accident with a concussion but no other injuries would end up short term memory loss where they can't remember the week leading up to the accident?

"Concussion" and "Mild traumatic brain injury" is what's thrown around in the medical world. From here on out, I'm using different terms, because these aren't nearly as interesting.

After the trauma, many can have problems with dizziness, headaches, irritability, anxiety and attention problems. As for amnesia? It can happen in both directions.

Retrograde amnesia is when you cannot remember what happened before the trauma. Sometimes these memories can eventually be remembered.

Anterograde amnesia is when you cannot remember events that occur after the event, like the hospital visit or conversations just after the event. These memories usually can't be recalled later because the injured brain can't "encode" the new events into the memory.

The worse the head injury and the longer the time the person spends unconconcious, the longer the amount of memory lost. So for someone to forget an entire week prior to the event, that person must have hurt their head so badly they were unconscious for about 24 hours.

Please keep in mind this post is for writing purposes only and is not to be construed as medical advice!

If you've got a medical question, let me know! Post below or email me at

I will usually answer your question by email within a day or two, but post later so you don't have to wait a long time to get back to your WIP. All I ask in return is that you become a follower of my blog and post a link on your blog when I post. Easy peasy.

Also, don't forget to check out Mental Health Mondays at Laura's Blog!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Mind-controlling fungus and Zombie Ants

Last week I blogged about the Luna Moth and I couldn't help but get all Discovery Channel on you again. So here's another nature-as-fiction-inspiration post.

This week, it's about Zombie Ants. So there's this fungus which invades the body of certain insects (in this case, an ant) and rewires the brain so the ant possesses this insatiable need to climb as high as possible. And then when it can't go any higher,the ant grasps a branch in it's mandibles (that's teeth to you and me) and dies.

And the victorious fungus? It kindly sprouts out of the body of the dead ant, spreading its spores (that's babies, to you and me) to infect more ants.

The photos on the internet are gross, and I didn't want anyone spewing coffee at their computer screens, so I drew this to be kind to your stomachs.

I SWEAR this is real, I'm not making it up. So see? Nature did body snatchers and zombies well before Night of the Living Dead or The Forest of Hands and Teeth.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Oyster goes Carbon Neutral

I compost and recycle like crazy. So when I saw this on a Nicole Ducleroir's blog, I had to do it.

carbon neutral coupons and shopping with

Click here to see how your blog can become green and get a tree planted for your effort!

Recycle! Reuse! Be Green!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Warning: Writing may cause severe Brain Fog

First, don't forget to check out the Sisterhood of the Traveling Blog post for the week by Danyelle Leafty on "What keeps you writing?" Last week I posted, and the week before was Laura Diamond and next week will be Zoe Courtman!

So. On to Brain Fog.
This is me with Brain Fog. (I got tired of searching for free stock photos of fog, so here ya go, courtesy of Lydia Da Vinci and Paintbrush.)

Maybe you're revising (for the umpteenth time, like me) or creating your first draft. But have you ever looked up after you've been clacking away at the ol' laptop and thought, "What day is it? What time is it? What season is it? I have children to feed? Oh dear."

The Fog happens when I've been in another time and place, and inside someone else's head (my MC). And it feels distinctly different than from, say, watching way too many YouTube videos of scared cats or eating too many donuts. That's just brain atrophy and hyperglycemia.

The Fog tells me I've been working hard, but boy it's hard to pull myself out and reenter the real world.

Do you experience the Fog?

Monday, April 19, 2010

Medical Mondays: Phantom Pain

This week's post is about what a character would experience if they had a disorder called Phantom Pain. I'm not talking about a rock band or about ghosts sticking needles in your arms. Sorry to disappoint.

Phantom pain occurs when you feel sensations arising from a part of your body you don't have anymore. A classic case is a person with an amputation of a leg. Interestingly, it's not just pain that is felt. Other sensations like tingling, movement, tickles, and temperature changes occur too. Almost all phantom pain syndromes occur from a lost limb. But it's been seen with the loss of an internal organ (spleen), breast, or other body part.

Why does it occur? There are several theories, such as "memories" in the nerves of the stump, or abnormal nerve impulses arising within the brain or spinal cord.

So even though a piece of you may be missing, you might feel like it never really left. Haunting, isn't it?

I find this phenomenon fascinating because of the ideas it prods with respect to emotional character struggles and fantasy-realm set-ups. Imagine looking for a magical power you've lost, but can still feel. And I guess a broken heart is a kind of phantom pain, too, isn't it?

Please keep in mind this post is for writing purposes only and is not to be construed as medical advice!

If you've got a medical question, let me know! Post below or email me at

I will usually answer your question by email within a day or two, but post later so you don't have to wait a long time to get back to your WIP. All I ask in return is that you become a follower of my blog and post a link on your blog when I post. Easy peasy.

Also, don't forget to check out Mental Health Mondays at Laura's Blog!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Beauty at the ultimate gave me chest pain.

Once in a while I read something that just makes me clutch my chest and hold my breath. No, I'm not having a panic attack or killing off bits of my myocardium. Not yet at least. I'm getting all tangent-y, darn. Weekend is coming, thank goodness.

Anyway, my son has a crazy encyclopedic knowledge of the natural world, and being a total geek-girl, I listen with interest to what he has to say.

The other day, we were reading together about the Luna Moth. Some of you may know it as the brand logo for a certain sleep medicine. It's a pretty recognizable looking creature.

Anyway, after it goes through a startling metamorphosis, it lives a brief life. Just one week. And the thing that made me stop breathing?

It emerges from the cocoon with no mouth. It cannot eat, and so a death clock starts ticking as soon as it begins this second life. After a week of trying to pass on its genes (the price of immortality?), it dies, whether or not it was successful, and all that beauty is gone.

I'm not going to get all philosophical on you about how life is short, yada yada yada. I got very inwardly philosophical for at least two minutes. But what I didn't expect was how it made me think about urban fantasy and sci-fi plots galore, among other literary possibilities.

I thought I'd pass on whatever experience you may have from reading this, be it inspiration, or reflection. And apologies if I cause any panic attacks or episodes of angina.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Sisterhood of the Traveling Blog: What keeps me writing?

Welcome to our next installment of the Sisterhood of the Traveling Blog! Be sure to check out last week's post by Laura Diamond. Next week's post will be by Danyelle Leafty, the week after that, Zoe Courtman!

Today I'm to tackle "What Keeps Me Writing?"

My answer? In short, it's to make the invisible visible.

For the long answer, I'll quote Nabokov:

The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there, written in invisible ink and clamoring to become visible.

I write because in my wee brain there is this story, with thoughts and feelings and happenings and I can't wait to get it on paper. But it's not as simple as that. Oh no. It's not really visible until it's polished, the unnecessary words and clichés have been trimmed, and the Gunk-That-Is-Lydia's-Bad-Writing is purged.

Sometimes after I finish a phrase, or a paragraph, or a chapter, I get that warm fuzziness in my belly, telling me that I've truly made the invisible visible. It's like, "Aahhhhh. Get me a cup of tea and a Whole Foods chocolate truffle. Yes!"

Here's an example. I wanted to say "When a person has a prejudice, even hearing the truth sometimes won't change their perspective." But I needed to write it so it reflected the feel of my piece (set in the American frontier of 1834). And here's what I finally got:

"When a mind is full of fear and fat stories, truth is swatted away like a buzzing fly."

There it is, that miraculous feeling. Now. Where's that truffle?

Monday, April 12, 2010

Medical Mondays: Achondro-what?

Today's question comes from Elizabeth Arroyo (check out her blog Chandara Writes) who has a question about dwarfism: what are the causes, the physical attributes, and how does genetics play a role (for example, is it common in children whose parents might have close blood ties)?

So first we start with an art lesson.

The painting from 1656 by Diego Velasquez is entitled "Las Meninas" (The Maids of Honour). It is one of the most influential works in Western art history. The two figures to the far right have achondroplasia.

Achondroplasia (pronounced Ay-kondro-play-zha) is a genetic disorder that occurs in about 1/25,000 people. It's caused by a malfunctioning gene (FGFR3) that's needed in normal bone growth.

In order to have the condition, you need to have one gene. Having two genes is not compatible with life; babies that inherit two genes usually die in utero or after birth. Those that inherit one gene get the condition.

So if two parents both have achrondroplasia, then if they get pregnant, they have a 25% chance of having a child that will die; a 50% chance of having a child with the condition; and a 25% chance of having a totally normal child with no gene at all.
If only one parent has achrondroplasia, then the children have a 50% chance of being normal, and 50% chance of having achrondroplasia. None will die from inheriting two genes.

What if two parents were closely related, like brother and sister? In this case, their chances of having a child with the same disorder is the same if they were unrelated parents with achondroplasia.

Also, almost 80% of cases occur spontaneously because of a new genetic defect that happens for no reason. But those people can pass on the gene to their children.

So what kinds of traits do people with achondroplasia have? On average, men grow to about 4 ft 3 inches; the women 4 feet. The usually have bowed legs, large skulls for their size and facial features that are very similar. Just like in the painting above. Their arms and legs are short in proportion to their torso. Their fingers are usually short. Intelligence wise, they are completely normal. They have a life expectancy that's pretty long, although about 10 years less than an average adult.

Please keep in mind this post is for writing purposes only and is not to be construed as medical advice!

If you've got a medical question, let me know! Post below or email me at

I will usually answer your question by email within a day or two, but post later so you don't have to wait a long time to get back to your WIP. All I ask in return is that you become a follower of my blog and post a link on your blog when I post. Easy peasy.

Also, don't forget to check out Mental Health Mondays at Laura's Blog!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Lay it on me! Or is it lie?

I'm going to tackle, with no padding or helmet, the fearsome "Lay versus Lie". I murder this nugget of grammardom often. So here I teach myself, and if others learn, so be it!

1. The verb "to lie" is when a person reclines in the horizontalish position.
2. The verb "to lay" always involves an object that is put down. Physically, that is. We are not insulting the object!

First off, Present tense.
1. George lies on the bed.
2. George lays the book on the table. Or, I lay the book down. Here, there is always an object being put down. An easy way to remember? "The chicken lays an egg." Though the meaning is different, luckily it still works as a handy reference. It never sounds right to say, "The chicken lies an egg." There's always an object.

Past tense.
1. George lay on the bed. Oh crap. Here's where it gets confusing. Because past tense of "to lie" is the same word for present tense of the verb "to lay", see above. Also, it's triple confusing when you say "George lay down on the bed" Because we often follow "lay" with "down" and the slurring of the words makes it sound like "laid down". In conversation, who cares. On paper, "laid down" is wrong. Also, there is no such thing as "lied down," either, so chuck them both far, far away.
2. George laid the book on the table.

Past participle. Stay with me! Drink a cappucino if you need to!
1. George had lain on the bed for hours, unable to understand his grammar lesson.
2. George had laid the book on the table before he collapsed from a grammar stroke.

Here's a handy-dandy reference from the FreeTeach website.

I have a headache! Good luck!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

More blog awards! Mmm-wha.

So much love!

First, thanks to CipherQueen for her personalized award. Nice! And she is also having a blog makeover contest, so check it out!

And another big thank you to Amanda Johnson for her Prolific Blogger award!

The rules for this one are:
1) pass on to seven other bloggers
2) link the to the giver
3) link to the original blog post at the original blog where it came from
4) and add your blog to the Mr. Linky on the post.

So I happily bequeth this award to:
Kirsten Lesko
Jaydee Morgan
Amparo Ortiz
VR Barkowski

You guys are awesome and I've really enjoyed reading your stuff!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Where's my $1M advance? The pitfall of Optimism Bias

First off, an announcement of a new blog chain, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Blog! We'll be posting each Wednesday, and today Laura Diamond gets to smash the champagne bottle on the subject of "What keeps you writing?"

Okay, on to today's topic.
I just heard of the term "Optimism Bias" recently for the first time, but I KNEW exactly what it was. Every writer has, maybe.

Optimism Bias: The tendency to be overly optimistic and underestimating the likelihood of negative events. (From Wikipedia)

Did anyone write their first novel and think, "Easy. Then I'll write a query letter. Agents will beg me for the manuscript because my idea is so fantabulous. It will go to auction, end up on the NY Times Bestseller list for 500 weeks..." et cetera.

And then you started to write the novel. Hmm. Not as easy, but you get it done. Then your betas read it. Hmmm. It's not as perfect as you thought. Then the first 30 agent rejections come in. Revisions. More rejections. Hmmmmmm.

The pitfall of optimism bias? The reality of failure can feel ten times more painful.

And it doesn't just have to be about the whole package--being a successful, published author. It could just be finishing the manuscript. Or the outline. Or getting an agent.

Now that I'm writing a lot more and have learned a lot about the publishing business, my current level of optimism is much more level with my pessimism.

I no longer see the glass half full or empty. I'm just glad there's water in that silly glass.

How about you? Been a victim of optimism bias?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Guide to Literary Agents Contest!

Wanna win a free 10 page crit by agent Regina Brooks from Serendipity Literary Agency, as well as a 1-year subscription to WritersMarkeplace?

Here's the link to the Guide to Literary Agents blog where the Dear Lucky Agent contest is being held.

You need a logline and the first 150-200 words of your YA or MG novel.

Good luck!

Tagged! Tell the Truth Tuesday

So I've been tagged by Rebecca Knight.

As per the rules, I must confess copiously, and tag three more people. Fun!

1. I like salty food. I'd shrivel up into a meatball if someone didn't take the Honey Mustard pretzels away from me.

2. I'm convinced that diet soda makes people fat. (That's pop for us Midwesterners)

3. I still want an Easy-Bake oven. I never got over being jealous of my sister's.

4. I eat while reading, and my books are always stained with food. Which is why I'll never get a Kindle. I short-circuit the thing with spaghetti sauce.

5. My house is infested with ladybugs. If they're lucky, I'm set for life.

6. I hate regular ball point pens. I get hangina (hand angina). Must use gel pens.

7. Chartreuse is my favorite color. It is NOT called Kelly Green.

8. I can cuss in sign language.

9. I can tell anyone how to take their pills in Spanish, or what a colonoscopy is, but I can't order from a Spanish restaurant menu, or talk about the weather.

10. At one point in my life I was allergic to tropical sun. Yeah, like poison ivy. Sad but true.

And now I'm happy to tag some other lovely blogger followers.

Laura Diamond Just awesome.

Deb Salisbury Sweet blog links!

Kat Harris Lovely blog.

Friday, April 2, 2010

The Prologue: Let the arguments begin!

Before I start, Weronika Janczuk posted my query on her blog "Queries that Worked." Thanks Weronika! Okay, on to today's topic.

Sitting comfortably in my chamber of torture (that is, Revision Hell. And I'm in the fourth circle where I'm revising my revisions. Again.) I recently thought long and hard about using a prologue.

It would save me a lot of trouble, putting valuable backstory in. And then I read several articles about how to write one well:

Where to Begin? When, Where, and How to Write a Prologue

The Prologue — When to Use One, How to Write One

Tips for Novel Writing: Prologues

And then, I decided not to. I am going to dissect my would-be prologue and sprinkle it into my story instead. Having come close to doing a prologue, I have sympathy for those who wish to write them. I've also read some prologues that I really disliked (like an almost word-for-word excerpt from a later part of the book--see the first link above. It's a no-no, according to the author.)

So, just wondering. Love 'em or hate 'em?

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Awards! Sweet.

I never got a chance to thank Deb Salisbury for her award. Thanks Deb!

I believe I'm supposed to tell ten things about myself, but I'd rather lie. See below.
I'm happy to bestow it upon five more bloggers:
Stephanie McGee
Jana Hutchinson
Hilary Wagner
Amanda J
Shannon O'Donnell

Also, thanks to Zoe Courtman for her award too!

I'm going to bend the rules an write five lies about myself (Usually you're supposed to write 6 lies, one truth, but heck. It's MY blog. I'm Goddess on this page, I'll do whatev.)

1. I never have bad hair days.
2. I have perfect vision.
3. I'm taller than 5'2". Much taller.
4. I get paid to write limericks.
5. I require one hour of sleep daily.

And again, happy to pass it on to more fabulous bloggers:
Sandy Shin
Lisa Amowitz
Isabella Morgan
Danyelle Leafty

And there's another award from Rebecca Knight., but I don't reveal till Tuesday. Thanks all! Spread the love!