From Imagination To Publication

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Publisher Feedback

So remember my obsession with the little green light on my phone? Well, it finally came through for me. This time it really was an email from my publisher!

The good news is they are satisfied with my rewrites and agree it is a much better book. We are officially done with plot changes and rewrites (super wide & happy grin). There are still a few things we need to fine-tune, which should actually be fun since they are dealing more with writing style than content. I feel really lucky to be working with Molly Lewis, Publisher at ZOVA Books. Aside from being a super genius, she is just plain talented. She knows what she’s doing, what she’s looking for, and how to get it out of you. All of her feedback is truly eye-opening, and these most recent comments were so dead-on, I just have to share.

1.   Don’t sum up dialogue or action into a generalized sentence at the end of a scene.

It seems like an obvious statement, but it happened a lot more often than I thought in my book. Maybe I was just looking for a way to wrap up the conversation or situation, but however my mind justified it at the time, the tactic didn’t make the final cut. Here is an example:

“Well I don’t agree.”
“You don’t have to. I’m still right.”
“You’re not right. You’re stubborn.”
We continued to argue until I’d had enough. I stormed out and left him alone in his room.

If the argument really did continue, what did they argue about? Write the rest of the dialogue or end it with the appropriate line and continue your story. The summary phrase, we continued to argue until I’d had enough, doesn’t provide the reader with any more detail, and it is a lazy way to transition.

2.   Cut sentences that are…superfluous (my mom loves that word so I had to use it).

Veronica Roth explains it further in her blog post on Redundant Sentences. In my case, I tend to feel the need to over-explain, but us writers have to give the reader a little credit. They get it the first time they read it. There’s no need to say the same thing twice (which I kind of just did).

I felt comfortable around him, like we’d known each other forever. Our conversations came easily, and we could talk for hours, as if he we’d been friends for years.

3.   Balance internal monologue with concrete details.

This issue is something specific to the way I write. I like to be inside a character’s head. Whether I’m reading it or writing it, I just love to know what characters are feeling and thinking (That may be a redundant sentence, but I can be a repeater in my own blog right?). The problem with internal monologue during dramatic scenes is that it takes away from the action and the pacing of the story. Most of the time I want to explore what the character is feeling in such intense moments, but I have to remember to write details about the action as well.

Molly The Magnificent came up with a brilliant idea. She made note of a few scenes that had this problem and suggested that as an exercise, I write only concrete details about the action that is happening, describing step-by-step what my main character does instead of thinks. After I’m done, we can use the new scene or combine the two.

These three observations were huge for me. I'm just too close to the book to get a fresh look at it. I’ve read The Descendants about a million times by now, so a new (and highly trained and professional) perspective is exactly what I needed. I am super excited to start fine-tuning. I have until August 31st to do one last read through to tweak the writing, then off to line editing. Here we go…

Monday, July 25, 2011


Today I woke up, got ready for work, and just as I was about to lock my front door I got a good feeling.

"This is going to be a good day," I said aloud to myself...and it was.

I had a lot of work to catch up on after getting sick on Thursday, so by the time lunch came around, I had completely spaced my 3rd breakfast. My tummy growled at me, but my workout buddy (and cubicle neighbor at work) coaxed me out of my cubbyhole of an office.
"Come on. We have to go workout."
"But I'm starving," I whined.
"Well let's just go right now, and then you'll forget about it."
Something had kicked her in gear.
"You're going to make me run aren't you," I groaned, as I popped a bite-sized Hershey bar down the hatch.

Just as we got down to our little gym (and yes we have a gym where I work...I'm completely spoiled) workout buddy says, "Oh, I have to show you something..."
She heads for the training room which has a sign on the door:
"No, you can't go in there, they're having a meeting," I objected.
To which my response was, "Wait, for what? For who? I don't get it. For what?"
They totally got me. I was convinced it wasn't for me, that I just hadn't been kept in the loop. Needless to say I was blown away, completely surprised, and so grateful.

 My Post-Wedding Bridal Shower


Aaaaahhh! For What? For Who? (Nice Gym Bag)

Yummy Food

Good Friends

And the best gag-gift ever!

As I pulled the ribbon, bigger and bigger undies appeared...Hilariousness!

 Thanks gals!!!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Things I've Learned About Writing

Maybe these tips will help you, maybe they won't. Every writer has their own experiences, their own process and techniques, their own beliefs, but here are just a few things I've come to understand through writing, editing, and getting The Descendants ready for publishing.

1. Get used to waiting:

If you plan to introduce your writing to the publishing industry, at some point you will find yourself waiting in suspense for something. Whether it is the response to a query letter or partial, news from your agent, or  (my current waiting game) feedback from your editor and/or publisher on your rewrites, you will catch yourself counting the hours, days, weeks, or months until you finally get word.

In all honesty, this is something I'm still working on. I'm an amateur when it comes to the waiting game. In fact, I've developed a bit of an addiction in my waiting. My poison? That little green light on my phone that tells me I have an email. If I think maybe it blinked, I stare at it like a dog who thinks he has seen something in the distance, eyes locked on target...In most cases no light blinks at all, and I realize it must have been the glare that caught my eye. Which means, I've been staring, waiting, not blinking for no reason. I wonder how many people must notice me do this at work. I swear, waiting makes me feel slightly insane sometimes.

2. Stop and write when lady muse comes to visit:

For some people, writing may come easily. If you are one of those people who can just sit down and write, whenever, wherever, no matter the circumstances, just write on demand like the flip of a switch...I envy you. For me, this is not how it works.

Most of what I consider to be good writing comes to me like an epiphany. Words just start flowing from somewhere in the universe, using me as the vessel needed to get them to paper. I've heard other writers speak of the same feeling, so I know I'm not the weirdo here, but when the universe starts writing through you, let it.

The other day I had one of these moments in my car. I repeated the narrative and phrases of dialogue over and over in my head as I drove, knowing that if I didn't get them out soon, they would be lost. The second I got home, I ran for my notepad and started furiously jotting down what I had been repeating. Just at that moment my husband of only two weeks walked in with a sweet greeting.
"Hey sweetie, how was your--"
"Sssh," I cut him off abruptly. "I have to write this down."
"Why what's wrong--"
"Sssssssssh," I snapped again. "Don't talk."
As I continued to scribble, he raised his eyebrows and walked over to the cat, who was more than happy to welcome him home with love.
"Hi Romeo, yeah, so cute..."
I sighed very heavily, clearly irritated, and walked out the backdoor with my notepad, looking for silence.

As soon as I finished, I thought, shoot, I was really crazy and mean just now. I ran up to the man cave to find my new husband and immediately apologized.
"I'm so sorry. I just had to get it out you know, or it would be gone."
"Yeah, whatever, don't talk!" he mimicked me with a smile.
I laughed. "I'm sorry."
He laughed too. "Don't worry about it. I get it. Writing emergency."
"Exactly," I said. "So what do you want for dinner?"

*Thank you husband for understanding and accepting my writing process, even when it makes me a crazy person.

3. Fall in love with your characters, not your first draft:

First drafts are special, because they come with a sense of accomplishment. After months or even years of writing your book, your baby, it is finally done, and in your mind, it is perfect. Wrong!
(Well, maybe a few perfect first drafts exist out there, but not very many)

For most of us, the first draft is our heart and soul on paper (or in Microsoft Word), but just because you are attached doesn't make it right, complete, or by any means perfect.  With The Descendants I was very much attached, and very much convinced it was the best it could be, and therefore was blind to its flaws, and even the possibility of making it better. It was a foolish point of view.

My best advice to overcoming this attachment to your story is to be open to change, don't be afraid of it. Get honest and brutal feedback from people that AREN'T YOUR FAMILY. Despite what your family will tell you, they are bias. Mom is too star-struck by you to believe anything you wrote isn't pure genius. Get another opinion. It might hurt, but it will open your eyes.

Above all else, as you go through the gut-wrenching process of CUTTING, editing, and re-writing, try and attach yourself to your characters. Attribute all of those "wasted" chapters that you'll end up taking out to character development. If you think of cuts/edits like this, nothing is ever a waste.

4. Learn to love editing:

For me, editing is the hard part. It is more work than the writing itself. I never liked the idea of editing. It was tedious, and I always found myself wanting to start writing that next chapter, something new, but editing is just as much a part of the writing process as the actually writing.

Instead of thinking of it as a chore, think of it as an opportunity to take your characters places they've never been, or getting to know them a little better. Editing and revising are worth every minute, so do yourself a favor and look forward to it.

Write on my friends!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

I’m back and I’m married!

This will probably be my last post on the wedding, but I’m sure I’ll have much more to report on being a newlywed. After nearly a year and a half of planning, the big day came and went faster than I ever imagined.

*Warning – this post is a long one, get comfortable.

As in every wedding, things went “wrong.”  We found ourselves without a fourth bridesmaid dress and had to make an emergency run to David’s Bridal the day of the wedding. My heel got stuck in a crack as I walked down the aisle. My mom’s puppy ran loose through the dining room during dinner. Oh, and half the bridal party got sunburned the day before the wedding (including me!) BUT…none of that got me down. In fact, those things were what made it such a unique event, and despite everything, I was untouchable that day. I can honestly say that it was the best day/night of my life.  In my eyes, it was perfect.  I wouldn’t have changed a thing, and as a result, I have some pretty entertaining stories.

If not for anything but to relive all of it myself, here is a summary of events, including all the fun and fancy details.

July 2nd – The Party Begins…Bridal Entourage Get-together at Mama’s
After making sure the dress was fixed (and yes you could see completely down the top of my wedding dress up until days before the 4th) family and friends came to wish me luck. They all brought smiles and cute lingerie, and my best friend (Best-y) figured out my wedding hair and makeup.

My Gals

Gift from Mom

July 3rd – Rehearsal
The bridal party met at La Venta at 11:00am. The excitement in the atmosphere was clearly visible on each and every face.  Little babies ran through the courtyard squealing with glee. I think this was about the time I took the stairs up to cloud 9.  The rehearsal lunch was a blast. Both families got to mingle before the final event. The food was buffet style and tables were set up on a private patio overlooking the ocean at the Terranea Resort. Little did we all know, the sun was lurking behind the clouds, secretly turning us into lobsters.

Rehearsal Time

Terranea Resort - Rehearsal Lunch Location (& The Casita)


July 3rd – Night in the Casita
My saint of a mother-in-law had the good sense (and generous heart) to book the bridesmaids a Casita at the Terranea Resort the night before the wedding.  My four girls and I gasped in unison when we saw the two bedroom/two bath mini house with a full kitchen, living room, entrance, and balcony overlooking the ocean. I continued to float on cloud 9 and my girls wafted up to join me.

Things were perfect, so when my best friend and sister sat me down with the words, “We have something to tell you…” I was actually unfazed.

Best-y spilled her guts.

“So I went to get my dress altered, and the tailor said to pick it up on Sunday.  She said even Monday would be fine. I went there yesterday and they are closed until after the holiday.”

“Here’s our plan,” my sister interrupted, hoping to catch me before the tears (only, to everyone’s surprise, there were none.  Cloud 9 made me invincible – I was super hero bride). “We already called David’s Bridal and had them pull all of the Pool colored dresses.”

Being 5 months pregnant and mother of a 2-year-old, my sister’s protective mommy instinct kicked in.

“We were thinking since I’m maid of honor, and pregnant, it wouldn’t be so weird for me to be wearing a different dress anyway. Best-y will wear my dress and I’ll wear the new one. It’s actually pretty common for the maid of honor to wear a special dress.”

“Sounds good to me,” I said with a shrug. 

Wedding Snafus – 0        Jessica – 1  

July 4th – Wedding Day
The day started with one major feat to accomplish—find a bridesmaid dress similar in color and style to the rest that would fit a pregnant belly.

God bless David’s Bridal for being open on 4th of July morning.

We literally walked into the store, and bought the second dress she tried on. The “special dress” was perfect. Different, yet similar.

David's Bridal to the Rescue!
The next few hours flew by in a matter of minutes. Best-y did my hair and makeup (redeeming herself in my mother-in-law's eyes).  Luckily my sunburn turned into the perfect light brown wedding glow, and for those who were still beat red (my sister) there was plenty of cover up to go around.

Wedding Snafus – 0   Jessica – 2

The photographer came by and snapped photos of the dress and shoes. My mom arrived, and friends came by to take part in the chaos. My mother-in-law showed up in a limo, and we all piled in.

The group of us set up camp in the bridal cottage, while the guys hid out in the groom’s den. We toasted with champagne, the girls opened their bridesmaid gifts, and we snapped some pictures.
When the wedding coordinator announced it was time to line up, I almost didn’t believe her. Time was flying!


Guestbook Station - Grab a Card!

Custom M&M's (Mr. & Mrs. Therrien)
I waited patiently around the corner as I heard the crowd cheer for my 2-year-old niece. She had been practicing chucking flower petals at people as if she were throwing a game winning pitch. I wanted to peek so badly.  One thing I never realized was when it’s your wedding, you don’t actually get to watch the procession happen. All I could do was listen, and when it was my turn, the only thought in my head was, already!

Here are some of the fun details:

The Wedding Party:
Cadence - The Flower Girl

My Handsome Groom

My Lovely Ladies

The Guys

My Mama

The ceremony started with one of those priceless moments you can’t fabricate. I gracefully made my way down the cobblestone path, fluttering eyes at my husband-to-be, only to find that as I was about to descend the stairs, I couldn’t move.

I scanned the crowd wearing a ridiculous smile and announced, “My heel is stuck!”

I became an instant comedian. We laughed together as I wrenched my Jimmy Choo from the crevice, threw my shoulders back and kept on with confidence.

Wedding Snafus – 0     Jessica – 3

Thankfully the Priest was a riot, and my moment of physical comedy was the perfect opening to his performance. The ceremony was full of audience participation, jokes, and a lot of laughter. Just our style.

Cocktail hour meant picture time for the bridal party. Our gang of friends is awesome, so we had our fun, and made sure to get in some silly faces. Jillian Bisinger isn’t your typical photographer though, and after 30 minutes, she had Brian and me trekking through brush to a secret tunnel of pine cones for some epic shots. My heels sunk into the dirt, I had my wedding dress hiked up around my hips, we trudged through weeds, and ducked under branches, but it was worth it. Get ready for the wedding shots of the century!

Dinner was amazing, and when I stepped into the dining room at 6:30, it was my first time seeing the room setup as I had envisioned. It was SPECTACULAR.

There were five courses:
1.      Tomato Soup
2.      Oakleaf Salad
3.      Thai Marinated Sea Bass
4.      Lemon Sorbet
5.      Filet Mignon

People said I wouldn’t eat. “Nobody eats at their own wedding.” That was the rumor. Well I did. I ate every single course, and it was DELICIOUS.

Sure, the puppy was running under the tables...

“Adin!” I called over to one of the young boys at his table. “Do me a favor and catch that puppy.”

Off he went. Problem solved.

Wedding Snafus – 0    Jessica – 5 (It’s a blowout!)

We used our hands. We smashed. It was awesome.

The Groom's Cake Was a Hit!

Brian hardly ever left the dance floor. As requested, Michael Jackson was played frequently, and I made sure to buggy down when I heard his voice. The DJ was great (DJ Jason Jass if anyone needs a reference) but he had quite the competition.

Fireworks started at 8:00pm and continued throughout the night. From where we were on the hill, overlooking the coast, hundreds of firework shows could be seen. From far far away to right up close, people were captivated and congregated on the back patio for the show.

If at any point in the night, someone asked, “Where’s the bride?” the answer was undoubtedly, the Zany Booth. Jillian Bisinger and her husband Tony are complete geniuses. Their photo booth was such a hit, I couldn’t be torn away.

Here’s the premise.

Grab a card. Step in front of the backdrop. Now give me pouty, give me sexy, give me silly, goofy, lovable, show me teeth, show me muscles, do whatever!

Indescribable fun was had…

So I got a little excited and threw the bouquet before the photographer even stepped in the room.  The DJ announces, “Re-do! We need to get pictures.”

Sandy, I know you’ve never caught a bouquet before. I know you are excited beyond belief that you caught it. I know you pretty much punched a girl to make sure it fell into your hands…but could you give it back?  We need to do it again…NOT!

No way would I let that happen.

“Make a new bouquet! Second chance people,” I yelled. Now two lucky ladies are bound to find love this year.

*Don’t worry Sandy. Emily captured your precious moment ;)

I’m not sure how normal garter tosses go, but Best-y convinced Brian he had to use his teeth. Hilarious.

The night ended way too quickly, and I was sad to see it end.  The limos drove groups of us to the Terranea, and the gang headed for the Casita (which ended up being our party pad until 5 in the morning).

Brian and I checked into our Bridal Suite, and I was eager to continue the fun… “Come check out our room!” I offered to a bunch of our friends.

“No way,” Brian countered. “We’re going alone.”

I couldn’t argue with that, so I followed him down the endless maze to our oceanfront suite. Our plan was to drop off our luggage and head back to the party. I wasn’t sure why he was so insistent on going alone, but it was our wedding night…

Then he made it clear.

“All right, ready?” he asked. “Jump into my arms. I’m going to carry you across the altar.”

I smiled wide, thinking to myself, I’m so glad I married him.