Brandi M Ziegler

Walking the path to publication one step at a time.

Confessions of a Writer: Word Goals Give Me Hives

“When asked, ‘How do you write?’ I invariably answer, ‘One word at a time’.”

~ Stephen King

I don’t know the word count of my WIP until the first draft is completed.

There. I said it.

I am so impressed by writers who set daily word count goals.

That shiz would drive me crazy. Too much pressure. Too much disappointment/self-loathing if I don’t reach it. Too much expectation for next time if I overachieve.

So what do I do then? I have daily scene goals.

I know how long my MS should end up to be an acceptable YA length (around 300 pages). I turn my word counter off and just write. My goal is a scene a day. Lately, I’ve been outlining my WIPs chapter by chapter, scene by scene. My last two MSS were about sixty scenes each. My scenes average five to ten pages.

I peruse my outline and pick a scene (Bam! Forget word counts or writing in order). I do this the night before after completing a previous scene. That way I daydream about it all day the next day and have an idea of what I want to write that night. Then I sit down and write. One scene at a time. Sometimes my scenes are four pages. Sometimes they’re eleven. Some days I write two or three because they flow into each other. As long as I write one a day, my draft is complete in about two months. Usually November is my jam and I write like mad, vibing off the NaNoWriMo folks, but I had a newborn in November.

February is my new November this time around. I’m eager to see where I’m at in April.

I know this might not work when I have deadlines and editors and all that amazingness, but it works for now and I can create in peace without any word count pressure. Not that I’m always at peace with my work, but that’s another Confession post.

How about you? Are you a word goal oriented writer? What keeps you motivated?

Happy writing!

November Feels

The scariest moment is always just before you start.

~ Stephen King

Hello, all!

Hope your summers were well and you remembered to set your clocks backwards on Sunday.

The leaves are turning and I can finally wear socks and scarves. My favorite time of the year!

I love November! It’s such a creative month for me. I’ve tried NaNoWriMo for years. Never won. But my yearly attempts have made this time of year my plotting/new story drafting season. So although I won’t be participating in NaNoWriMo (good luck and happy/timely writing to all who do!), I’m plotting and drafting scenes for my newest WIP. It’s been glorious.

I haven’t posted in a while. A few updates:

  1. I am officially a mother of two: a boy and a girl! A toddler and a newborn. Yes, I’m crazy.
  2. I’ve been reading up a storm! Apologies for lack of rec posts. A quick list of recent reads:

Currently reading Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy because I don’t have enough YA contemporary in my life.

  1. I’m featured over on DiversifYA.com today! Thanks to my amazing 2014 #PitchWars mentor, Marieke Nijkamp, whose fantastic debut THIS IS WHERE IT ENDS is out in January 2016. I’m absolutely thrilled for her!

I forgot how nice it is to type. I’ve been brainstorming longhand whenever I have a free moment. As I draft this blog, I’m balancing my cooing newborn on my lap. Do whatcha gotta do, man.

May the rest of the year be months of many words, new and polished. Via writing and all the books.

Happy writing!

May Epic Reads

You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.
~ C.S. Lewis

The fantasy debuts this year have been absolutely fantastic. I binged on four particular debuts last month.

First: AN EMBER IN THE ASHES by Sabaa Tahir.

Goodreads Description: Laia is a slave.

Elias is a soldier.

Neither is free.

Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.

It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.

But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.

There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

Likes: Um, everything. The world-building. The POC characters. The pacing was steady and some of the most high-stakes/impact reading I’ve enjoyed in years.

Dislikes: Can’t really think of much. I noticed, as a fellow writer, that one main character had a major, almost cliche (coward to hero saving the day) arc, while the other character had a much more subtle, almost nonexistent arc. But other than that, I have no complaints. MUST READ!

I squealed for Sabaa Tahir when I heard she finally got a book deal for Book II. CANNOT WAIT!

Next I read A COURT OF THORNS AND ROSES by Sarah J. Maas.

Goodreads Description: When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin—one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.

As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she’s been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow grows over the faerie lands, and Feyre must find a way to stop it . . . or doom Tamlin—and his world—forever.

Likes: The cover – gorgeous! I’ve been a hard-core Maas fan since she had her fiction up on FictionPress.com before THRONE OF GLASS was published. So any of her work is an automatic read for me. She’s a master at creating secondary characters. Lucien is probably my favorite character of all time. I’m dying to read more about him and Rhysand in Book II.

Dislikes: This book was written after TOG but wasn’t published until after many of the TOG books in the series. And… it kinda shows. ACOTAR wasn’t as polished or refined as CROWN OF MIDNIGHT or HEIR OF FIRE. I’ve never felt like the pace was dragging while reading the TOG series (cannot wait for Book IV this fall). I savored every page, every word.But I was tempted to flip through pages as things slowed in the middle of ACOTAR. Although once you’re Under the Freaking Mountain… OMG! I think I got whiplash. Best third act of all time. OF ALL TIME!

I went headfirst into THE WRATH & THE DAWN by Renee Ahdieh after ACOTAR.

Goodreads Description: Every dawn brings horror to a different family in a land ruled by a killer. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, takes a new bride each night only to have her executed at sunrise. So it is a suspicious surprise when sixteen-year-old Shahrzad volunteers to marry Khalid. But she does so with a clever plan to stay alive and exact revenge on the Caliph for the murder of her best friend and countless other girls. Shazi’s wit and will, indeed, get her through to the dawn that no others have seen, but with a catch . . . she’s falling in love with the very boy who killed her dearest friend.

She discovers that the murderous boy-king is not all that he seems and neither are the deaths of so many girls. Shazi is determined to uncover the reason for the murders and to break the cycle once and for all.

Likes: Stunning prose and flawless world-building. A fantastic story inspired by A Thousand and One Nights. The details Renee places into this book are just… impeccable.

Dislikes: I think her world outshone her characters. I was more intrigued by the setting than the characters. Mostly because they were so standard. Badass bitch as the MC, misunderstood villain, vengeful father, childhood sweetheart, etc. None of the characters surprised me. Even though they were standard, they were lovely, and I grew to care about each of them. Book II is going to be epic!

Finished off with RED QUEEN by Victoria Aveyard.

Goodreads Description: The poverty stricken Reds are commoners, living under the rule of the Silvers, elite warriors with god-like powers.

To Mare Barrow, a 17-year-old Red girl from The Stilts, it looks like nothing will ever change.

Mare finds herself working in the Silver Palace, at the centre of

those she hates the most. She quickly discovers that, despite her red blood, she possesses a deadly power of her own. One that threatens to destroy Silver control.

But power is a dangerous game. And in this world divided by blood, who will win?

Likes: Another great cover. Another oppressed individual rising up and getting used by both the superior forces and the rebels story, but it’s unique enough to bring a freshness to such a tired storyline. Lots of twists that keep you guessing. I saw a few coming, but some truly surprised me.

Dislikes: Never really learning about the red blood vs silver blood and how that all works. It’s a series, so I’m sure she’ll get into that detail, but not knowing why some people suddenly had silver blood and developed powers was a little weak in the world-building department.

All 2015 debuts. All absolutely amazing and recommended.

June seems more like a series clean-up month for me. More book recommendations/reviews to come.

Happy reading!

Thankfulness

Gratitude is the best attitude.

~Author Unknown

 

Quick thankful post. There’s no way I could compile a complete list of all the things I’m thankful for, but these blessings stick out.

I’m thankful for my family. I’m thankful that I live in a time where, as a black woman, I can be married to a white man and have a beautiful child. At least without too much fuss. We’re working on it.

I’m thankful to be an American. Perhaps it’s the hardcore military brat in me but I’m super proud to be an American. Trust me, I’ve seen the news lately, we’re pretty messed up, but all I can say is U.S.A! U.S.A!

I’m thankful for my writing. It’s a creative outlet that I desperately need and I can’t see myself ever stopping. I’m finally getting a good flow with my WIP and I’m reminding myself that I love doing this. I’m thankful for amazing authors who give back and help little aspiring writers like me. I’m talking about you, Brenda Drake and Marieke Nijkamp. Yay, #PitchWars! Also, the YA writing community in general is amazeballz. I’m so thankful to be part of such a supportive group!

I’m thankful for books, autumn weather, my health, my working vehicles, the roof over my head, and the food in my kitchen.

I’m thankful for Christmas music. Is it Christmas yet?

I’m thankful for every breath God gives me to bring glory back to Him.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Be blessed.

Confessions of a Writer: I Hate Starting from the Beginning, Vizzini

Vizzini: He didn’t fall?! Inconceivable!

Inigo Montoya: You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

~ The Princess Bride

When you get your book to that point where it’s ready for submission, whether to CP’s, agents, editors, whatever, your MS is spotless to you, right? The dialogue, the world-building, the character idiosyncrasies. Everything.

Polished. No highlights or underlines or comments saying, What is this? Fix this mess.

I think this is part of the reason why it’s so hard for me to start over. Everything is hideous. The voice isn’t quite there. The world I’ve created is still a little blurry around the edges. And I’m highlighting every other word cause the one I used is not even close to what I’m trying to say.

My familiarity with “polished work” is ruining the gooey, young love I’m experiencing with my WIP. I’m so in love with this shiny idea that I ignore all the flaws and its superficial exterior. Then the typing ebbs and I wonder what I’ve gotten myself into.

At times I have to bribe myself just to get the words down. With things such as:

  • A chapter of the book I’m reading for every page I write. That sounds a little indulgent, but it’s motivating and it gets me on a roll. I end up writing two or three plus pages before I realize I can have a chapter break. I’m still only allowed one chapter per break regardless of how many pages I write. See? I’m disciplined sometimes. This is what I do for myself during the day when I don’t have hours to write.
  • After two hours of writing (this much free time only happens at night after the Toddler’s asleep), I get a half hour of zoning out. Twitter, Netflix, or more reading. Then right back to writing.

Loud music works when I’m absolutely stuck. I turn up the music I had on low (not a must, but a comfort when I’m writing) until it’s consuming, and I think scenes though. Things I don’t think about: how far away I am from my word count, am I the only one who’ll ever love this book, am I going to get reported for my recent search engine activity?

I know none of this is new. I also know with book contracts and deadlines that no amount of whining/procrastinating/indulging is going to get the writing done. So I’ll pout while I can.

Please let me know what you do to get through the beginning of a WIP. I’m nowhere near the light at the end of the tunnel. And it’s hard. If I hadn’t already written four books, I’d think it was impossible.

Do the impossible with me. Happy writing!

#PitchWars Hangover

Anyone who says writing is easy isn’t doing it right.

~ Amy Joy

The last two months have been leading (agonizingly slow) up to #PitchWars, but then the two-day agent round seemed to fly by! My entry received a few requests. Plus my mentor received an email directly from an agent asking for a full. So, exciting times!

It was such a wonderful experience. My mentor, Marieke Nijkamp, has done so much for me and my manuscript. Just believing in me and picking me to represent her has been an honor. My alternate, Evie Bromiley, also received multiple requests! It was a good competition for all of us. And Brenda Drake, the lovely hostess of #PitchWars, worked tirelessly to provide this opportunity for us aspiring writers. I am forever grateful!

I must say, I’ve been a wreck off and on for the last two months because of this competition. Lots of nail-biting and waiting! I suppose it’s just prepping me for all the patience I’ll need as I continue down the path of publication. The publishing industry is all about waiting.

If any writer out there is hesitant about entering writing competitions or thinking about entering one – do it! This was my second year entering #PitchWars and it’s been an absolute blast! Brenda is hosting a few more events this year, and there’s always next year. Never give up, believe in yourself, in your writing, and you’ll go far.

Also, never stop writing. NaNoWriMo is in full swing. I’ve never won, but the energy and camaraderie from participants is contagious, and I can’t help but write like crazy.

I’m super excited to see what the future holds for me. While I wait (ugh) I’ll just keep writing, just keep writing. And of course READING. My TBR pile is climbable.

Happy writing!

#PitchWars Feels

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.

~ Maya Angelou

 

If you don’t know anything about #PitchWars, the most important part of this amazing online competition happens tomorrow.

THE AGENT ROUND!

These lovely agents will peruse the works of 75 hopefuls. If they like something, they’ll request pages.

The last two months have been leading up to this moment for me.

In September, I decided to try #PitchWars again. Yep. This is my second year entering (never give up!). I studied the list of mentors who pick the lucky mentees. I got my wanted list down to ten. But you can only choose four. So I did some thorough research and picked the four whose manuscript tastes fit what I had to offer.

I got a full request the same day I submitted my entry.

I was ecstatic, to say the least. A professional in the publishing industry wanted to read my book and possibly mentor me. This left me giddy for days.

And then my mentor, Marieke Nijkamp, requested a partial a few days later. Mind = blown. I had been daydreaming about my potential mentor experience with the other mentor who had my full, but as I went back through my research and realized how flippling awesome Marieke is, I was desperate to have her mentor me. That following week she started asking me questions like, How serious are you about revisions? Are you currently querying?

Then she said something along the lines of, Weeell, perhaps you should hold off querying for the moment 😉

I had to read this simple sentence over and over. What did this mean?! The mentor picks weren’t going to be announced for another four days! My poor husband. I was a wreck the rest of that week.

The night the mentees were posted, I was putting my toddler to sleep. And of course, he would Not. Go. The. F. To. Sleep. So I sat in the dark with him refreshing the page on my phone. Thousands of people were refreshing Brenda’s blog. I think we broke it. But a half hour after the posting, I was finally able to get through, and I scrolled down, down…

OMG my name is next to Marieke Nijkamp’s – this isn’t real! My book title is next to my name. I’m under the title “mentee”. I did a happy dance with the toddler and he conked right out afterwards.

Since mid-September I’ve been revising like a mad woman with Marieke and my tremendously talented alternate, Evie Bromiley*. I’m so pleased with the results. And beyond grateful for Marieke. For her decision to pick me and challenge me to do more with my work. THE SILENT SALT SHAKER is super shiny and ready for the agent round tomorrow.

I, on the other hand, am freaking out. I must keep myself busy, otherwise I’ll be glued to my phone. Thank goodness for busy, busy toddlers.

I cannot wait, ya’ll!

*Remember that name – Evie Bromiley – she’s going to be a #PitchWars alternate champ!

Out From Under My Rock I Come

I have been up against tough competition all my life. I wouldn’t know how to get along without it.

~ Walt Disney

Heeey. How’s it going? Long time no talk. What’s going on with me, you ask?

Well…

So my fourth manuscript – what? Oh, yeah. I wrote a fourth manuscript. It has kings and heists and acrobats. I think it’s really good. Though I’m a wee bit biased. I entered it into this year’s #PitchWars contest hosted by the amazing Brenda Drake. Over 1500 aspiring writers applied, and only 75 got in.

I got in! Cue happy dance.

I’ve been working with my lovely mentor, Marieke Nijkamp, since mid-September and my MS is even better. Revisions have always been my favorite part of the writing process, and these last few weeks have been amazing. The agent round is next week (eep!), so I’m keeping myself busy working on my shiny new WIP (with hunters and jungles and prophecies) to keep myself from freaking out. It’s kinda working. Okay, not really.

I’ll post in more detail about my #PitchWars experience thus far. Also, I’ve been reading like crazy. I have so many book recs!

Obviously, consistency is not my middle name. Can’t you tell by how often I post? And er, by my blog name. But! I’m making a real effort here. And I’ve been pretty active over on Twitter. Come say hello!

Happy writing!

Confessions of a Writer: I Trunked My MS

Manuscript: something submitted in haste and returned at leisure.

~ Oliver Herford

As I mentioned before, I trunked ELEMENTAL SACRIFICES: THE GATHERING. I didn’t expect that at all. But after the query letter count got over 100, and I only garnished two manuscript requests (that led nowhere) after multiple query letter and MS rewrites, I knew it was time.

So I wallowed for a while. I was pregnant and felt fat and ugly to begin with but now I also felt like a failed writer. I mean, I know plenty of amazing authors with trunked manuscripts, but I didn’t think that would happen to me. Poor, naïve me.

A new story idea had been brewing for months. Instead of writing it while I queried, I let it soak, jotting down a loose plotline and character profiles, but no chapters, no words. Last fall after my son was born, I finally started writing. It was tough going at first. Nothing was ever going to be as good as ESTG. But as I got to know my new characters, I looked forward to my coveted writing time after the baby went to sleep. I stayed up way past the time a new mama should and the words flowed effortlessly.

After a few months I had a ragged rough draft, but even at that stage I knew it was better than ESTG. Many writers have said your writing gets better the more books you produce. I didn’t want to believe I could do better because I wasn’t ready to move on from ESTG. After weeks of polishing my rough draft of THE DEAD ASSASSIN, I sent it to my CPs. And I got amazing feedback that made my story even better. Even better. I was in love. ESTG who?

This last year has taught me a thing or two:

  1. Not everything you write is sellable. It could be the market, agency/publisher tastes, or because it’s something you only wrote for you and you never planned to publish it in the first place.
  2. Keep writing. I should have been writing TDA long before I started. Always work on that next project. Get better at your craft.
  3. You can’t do it alone. The writing community will embrace you. There’s no need to avoid Twitter or Facebook, forums like AbsoluteWrite or AgentQuery, or the many blogs I can’t even begin to list created by writers for writers. I couldn’t have gotten through this last year, this last book, without my fellow writers.

     

Anywho, that’s my trunking confession. Do you have a trunking experience?


What the what…

“It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.”

~ Confucius

Nope, I didn’t die. But my blog kinda did for a while. Allow me to explain.

This little guy showed up last July. My son has been rocking my world ever since.

I trunked ESTG, the YA fantasy I was querying. And then I wrote a new YA fantasy called THE DEAD ASSASSIN. Read about it here. So not only did I make a person but I made a book too. So proud of my babies.

Trunking ESTG was SO HARD. I really thought that was going to be my debut novel. I’ll write a little more about that soon.

Speaking of July babies. Today’s my birthday. Yet another year without an agent but I’m super optimistic about the months ahead!

And the books. I’ve read so many books lately. Can’t wait to post my recommendations.

What have I missed? Thank God for twitter or this rock I’ve been living under would have surely kept out all the things.