January 24, 2014

New website and blog!

When I've poked my head out of the writing cave, I've been working on my new website, and it's finally here! Yay!

» http://www.lorimlee.com/

This will be my last "official" post on this blog, which is kind of unfortunate because I am literally 800 views away from hitting 100k pageviews. And now I've gone and switched blogs. *shakes head*

If you'd like, please follow me over on the new blog! *hugs*

May 9, 2013

As Effie might say: big, big, big news!

Ever since I was a little kid scribbling down horror stories about exploding heads (R.L. Stine's influence) and then fantasy stories about magical portals and flying demons (Tolkien's influence) and then bad romance novels with throbbing members SHHH WE DON'T TALK ABOUT THIS (my sisters' influence), I've only ever truly wanted one thing. Okay, wait, two things. The first was to ride a unicorn and fall into a faerie ring and live in a castle and dine with singing furniture (that totally counts as one).

But the second, more relevant thing was to be an author and someday share my writing with the world.

This is the part where I abandon all pretense at dignity b/c OHMIGOD GUYS I'M GOING TO BE PUBLISHED *runs in circles*

I've been waiting since October of last year (!!!) to share this, and now I feel like the Queen of Secret Keeping and don't think I didn't have a stare down with the Apocalypse because that sh*t needed to get in the back of the line (you're welcome).

So, right, this announcement just appeared in Publisher's Weekly:


"Tim Ditlow at Amazon Children's Publishing's Skyscape imprint has acquired a debut fantasy novel by Lori M. Lee called Gates of Thread and Stone. In the story, a teenage girl must keep her ability to manipulate the threads of time a secret, but when her brother goes missing, she risks getting caught up in a revolution in order to save him. Robin Benjamin will edit, for publication in spring 2014. Suzie Townsend of New Leaf Literary and Media did the two-book deal for world English rights."


LIFE HAS BEEN MADE. My agent is the bestest agent in all the world, and I'm so crazy-excited to be working with Robin and Skyscape.

Even though I've had what feels like ages to come to terms with it, it still feels unreal. I'm terrified and humbled and ecstatic that I'm going to have a REAL BOOK (OMG!) with, like, A COVER and PAGES and they'll even have to put MY NAME on it! (they have to, right?)

I hope you guys will like it half as much as I enjoyed writing it. It's got magic and mind control and family dynamics (no one is surprised) and gargoyles and fighting and romance and lots of other stuff you'll just have to wait and read to find out about :D :D :D

P.S. More details about the road to 'Yes' coming soon.

P.P.S. If you have any questions--about me, publishing, querying, whatever--please ask in the comments, and if I'm able to answer it, I will do so in a following post.


January 28, 2013

Personality by Blood Type

Sometimes, it's fun to play around with ways to build your character's personality even before you begin writing her/him. What's their sign? Western astrology or Chinese zodiac or both? What's their MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator)?

I'm sort of a manga nerd, and something you always see on manga character profiles is blood type. Here's how they classify according to The Huffington Post:

Blood Type: A
Personality traits: Conservative, introverted, reserved, patient, a perfectionist.
Worst traits: Obsessive, self-conscious, sometimes uptight and stubborn

People with blood type A are to referred to as 'farmers' and are considerate to others and extremely loyal. They can be quite secretive and reluctant to share their feelings.

Blood Type: B
Personality traits: Creative, flexible, individualistic, optimistic, passionate.
Worst traits: Forgetful and sometimes, irresponsible

Type B personalities are empathetic, easily understanding others' points of view, yet often hesitating to challenge or confront. Chameleon-like and flexible, they make good friends.

However, type B men have a different reputation and aren't considered as 'marriage material' in Korea, where they are perceived as 'players' and are often selfish and mercurial.

Blood Type: AB
Personality traits: Cool, controlled, introverted, rational
Worst traits: Critical, indecisive, unforgiving and aloof

Type AB personalities tend to be very charming and popular. They don't sweat the small stuff and can be seen as spiritual and even at times, a bit "flaky".

They are believed to be controlled by their heads rather than their hearts. Sometimes it is difficult to be an AB. AB's don't like to fit in anyone else's "boxes". If they feel too confined, they'll break out of that box and do things their own way.

Blood Type: O
Personality traits: Ambitious, self-confident, robust
Worst traits: Arrogant, insensitive, vain

People with blood type O are viewed as natural leaders and are often keen athletes. They are outgoing, expressive and passionate. They have an insatiable appetite for success and aren't afraid to take risks or a gamble.

Generally speaking, AB types are considered the worst, which is interesting because those are the characters I'm usually drawn to (in manga). RARELY is the main protagonist blood type AB (with the notable exception of Kenshin from Rurouni Kenshin).

If you're curious about reading more about blood type personality summaries, here and here are some good places to start :)

Happy character building! ♥

November 5, 2012

Taking Time on Things That Matter (To You)

A few months ago, my sister and I were in the bathroom putting on make-up as sisters sometimes do. I was about to shade in my eyebrows, and a semblance of the following conversation happened:

Sister: Oh! I've finally found the perfect way to do eyebrows. I'll show you.
Me: Okay...
Sister: Take your brush and shade the wing then fade out the front and fill in with liner and smooth out with comb and fill in again and--
Me: OMG WTH IT'S JUST MY EYEBROW WHY ARE THERE SO MANY STEPS?
Sister: *while laughing* Yes, but then your eyebrows look like this. *gestures to her own which, admittedly, are fab*
Me: But I don't CARE. I'm going back to my one-step eyebrow shading.

So I did. But my sister has always liked what she could do with make-up so she didn't mind spending the extra time to perfect her eyebrows.

And it got me thinking about how we all spend a little more time on the things that matter to us, even though others might think it strange or a waste of time.

My sister is also a photographer (and a dang good one), and she spends hours upon hours reading up on the latest techniques, lenses,and equipment. She's always practicing her skills or imagining her frames, and she stays up late scrutinizing every shot to make sure her clients are happy. And she does all this because that's what she's passionate about.

What I'm passionate about is my writing. I spend ages trying to find the right words for a single sentence, or hours rewriting a paragraph because it just doesn't sound right. For people who don't care so much about writing, this would be crazy to them. And, yeah, I guess it kind of is. But this is what matters to me, so I'm willing to take my time.

So no matter what your passions, if it's something that really, truly matters to you, take the time to learn it and perfect it and ENJOY it.

Happy Monday! ♥

October 29, 2012

What Scares You?

This post is basically all about what a giant wuss I am.

But that's no secret. I love Halloween because of the crazy costumes and the decorations and THE CANDY. But even though I was and am a HUGE R.L. Stine fan, and I began writing stories about ghosts and exploding heads when I was in Elementary School, I've never liked SEEING scary things (reading is A-OK though).

Maybe it's something to do with the culture I grew up in--illnesses are attributed to bad spirits which need to be either placated or sent away with complicated ceremonies, ghosts and demons have to be warded off with talismans, funerals are long and drawn-out ceremonies in which a shaman must guide the spirit back to their place of birth so that it's not left to wander. It's a highly superstitious culture, and the ghost stories my mother used to tell me (stories from back in Laos, where apparently bad spirits were really plentiful) sometimes made it difficult to fall asleep at night.

It didn't help that I grew up in a house that was haunted. My mother would see things, and my siblings and I all experienced the usual stuff like moving shadows, footsteps when no one was there, weird noises, etc. I'm still not sure if the house was actually haunted or if it was just really dang creepy. The basement was a place of nightmares--dank, dark, and filled with spiders and centipedes. The stairs were ridiculously steep, and I lost count of how many times someone fell down them. I was terrified of going ANYWHERE in the house once the lights were turned off at night.

We lived there for seven years, but after we moved out, a succession of families moved in and out within the next couple years. One of them was a family my mother knew, and they told her a rather alarming story about locking themselves in one of the bedrooms while someone/thing rattled the doorknob as if trying to get in.

So, possibly as a result of the culture I grew up with and my childhood in a house that STILL provides the setting for all my nightmares TO THIS DAY, I'm never quite sure whether I trust some of the things I've seen because I'm just not sure what's real and what isn't.

Here are a few things that never fail to creep me out:

Child ghosts.

~ My daughter used to get up at night to sleep with me and my husband. When my sister spent the night once, she was awoken by a sound, and when she opened her eyes (she was sleeping on the sofa), she saw my daughter's little figure walking through the living room in the dark. Creepiest thing ever? Possibly :P

~ This one time, I was in my bathroom cleaning up for bed and I heard, quite clearly, a voice whisper, "Mama." Thinking it was my daughter coming over to sleep with us early, I said, "Yes?" When there was no response, I glanced into my bedroom to find it empty. I went to check on her, but she was still asleep in her own bed.

~ My husband was doing something in the front yard around 11 PM for a reason I can't even remember. He had the front door open and through it, he saw what he thought was our daughter standing in front of the dog kennel, talking to the dog. He waved at her. When he came back inside only a minute later and found she wasn't in our bed with me, he went to check on her to find she was still fast asleep curled underneath her blankets.

Dolls, especially old ones.

~ When I was a kid, someone thought it'd be a brilliant idea to manufacture dolls with eyes that followed you. And my mom thought it'd be a brilliant idea to get this doll for me and my sisters. We threw the doll in the porch, and I was forever scared of going into the porch after that.

Reflections in mirrors that aren't really there.

~ Can't even count how many times my eyes have played tricks on me, and I've caught something in the mirror that wasn't there when I turned around. Creepy as heck. Also, driving at night on a dark road (or passing a cemetery), don't tell me you've never been just a tiny bit scared of looking into your rearviw mirror and seeing someone in your backseat.

Okay, now your turn. What scares you? Any creepy stories to share?

Happy Halloween! ♥

October 22, 2012

On the Value of NaNoWriMo

Last week, I read this post from Farrah Penn, and it got me thinking about what I've taken away from NaNoWriMo about myself and my writing, even though I haven't officially participated since that first time three years ago.

For the first half of 2009, I'd been playing with an idea for a book, but it had been years since I'd written anything other than fanfiction (which I talked about here). Fanfiction was a necessary detour on my writing path, but it was emphatically just a detour, and I needed to get back on the main road, the road I started on when I was a kid using my saved-up dollars to enroll myself in writing programs instead of blowing it at the mall. But my progress was stalled because of the irrational fear that I wouldn't be able to make the transition back into writing my own stories with my own characters.

I thought about it and dithered a lot and then I heard about NaNoWriMo. It sounded insane. 50k words in one month? IMPOSSIBLE. And yet, people did it every year, and it sounded like just the thing I needed to kick my butt into gear and jumpstart the book. So, trepidation high and half-expecting to burn out after the first week, I joined.

Turns out NaNoWriMo is an AMAZING idea and not nearly as crazy as I once thought. I reached the 50k mark around November 20. I did burn out around 57k words, and the book was a phenomenal mess that would need mounds of editing and rewriting, but the fact was I did it. I DID IT. And that small (HUGE) accomplishment forever changed what I thought I was capable of.

What NaNoWriMo taught me about myself:

♥ I am capable of writing 50k or more within a month, regardless of other obligations like funerals, parties, holidays, and weekend trips (all of which happened that particular November).

♥ I can do it again if I put my mind to it. Every first draft I've written since has been completed within a month or less. Editing is something else entirely, but spitting out that first draft isn't something that scares me (much) anymore.

♥ I'm a plotter. My outlines do change, and I keep it flexible, but I have to have an outline.

♥ Writer's block can be overcome. Sure, there are times when the writing feels bland and nothing comes out right, but I write through it anyway. And when I go back to edit, I find they were either not as awful as I remembered or easily reworded for better flow. Editing words already written down is easier than staring at a blank page.

♥ I am horribly competitive. Seeing my fellow NaNo-ers' word counts jump up every day was exactly the motivation I needed to keep writing, to push for a few more hundred words, to keep going even though I'd already reached the day's word count goal.

♥ Even though fanfiction was my greatest teacher, the joy of writing my own story again eclipsed everything else, and I have never looked back.

Are you participating, or have participated, in NaNoWriMo? And did it teach you anything about yourself?

Have an awesome Monday, guys! ♥



October 15, 2012

On Queries and Putting Your Best Foot Forward

One of the most common reasons I hear (or rather, read) for why agents pass on a "weak" query is: "If it's weak in the query, it's weak in the manuscript."

Writers groan when they hear this, but I can understand both sides. The quality of a query can oftentimes be a good indicator of a writer's grammar, spelling, and sentence structure. It's also an example of the writer's style and their ability to summarize information--too much back story, not enough conflict or voice. All of this can be true of the manuscript as well.

But not always! When I read the entries for the GUTGAA agent pitch contest, there were a lot of queries that were either too long, too short, repetitive, or didn't present enough information (character, conflict, stakes, what makes it unique). If I was an agent with nothing but the query to go on, I would have passed on them. But then I jumped down to the first 150 words, and they were solidly written with a great voice that drew me in, and I would have definitely kept reading.

Sometimes, no matter how skilled a writer you are, writing a good query is just REALLY FRACKING HARD. And because agents judge whether or not they want to read your book nearly entirely on your query, this can really suck.

Unfortunately, you can't just say 'oh well' and cross your fingers that the agent will request based on the sample pages alone. Well, actually, yes, you can, but do you really want to? It's true that some agents have said they skip right to the pages to see if it draws them in, but even more agents never make it to the sample pages because the query didn't do its job.

When an agent says they pass because they fear weaknesses in the query will reflect weaknesses in the manuscript, it's because they've read a LOT of queries and pages and generally know this to be true. But the thing is, sometimes--a LOT of the times--it's not, and the agent won't know that because they just don't have the time to check every single query.

So while, as a writer, I think query-writing can arguably be a form of torture, the unfortunate fact remains that it doesn't matter whether or not the quality of your query reflects the quality of your manuscript. No matter what, you have to put your best foot forward and prove that your manuscript is worth the read by proving it first in your query.

And yes, again, that's REALLY FRACKING HARD, and no, there's no single right way to do it, but I know you can! You wrote a whole book, after all. That already means you rock.

Good luck! ♥

October 1, 2012

Point of View: Take Two

So I've said that 1st person vs 3rd person is a matter of preference, and not something you should spend too much time stressing over. But have you ever started a WIP and then, at some point between the beginning and end (ideally closer to the beginning), you have the mind-breaking realization that maybe... your story isn't being told from the right point-of-view character?

Usually, when we first visualize a story, it seems perfectly obvious whose story needs to be told. 99.9% of the time, that's your main protagonist. (There are exceptions, notably among the classics, but for simplicity's sake, we'll focus on the narrator as the MC)

But sometimes, as you're writing, the story begins to take shape in an unexpected way. The conflict pulls you in a different direction. Who you thought was your main character suddenly fades in importance while the details seem to shine and fall into place around a different character.

At this point, you have to make a decision. Restructure the story and refocus the conflict on your main character, or rewrite the story from the other character's point of view. Either way, it requires some major manuscript reconstruction.

Something similar (sort of) happened to me while outlining my WIP. Two thirds into the outline, it dawned on me that half of the story action--events that would better serve the book if written out instead of mentioned later on--wasn't happening to my female protagonist. I still needed her point of view because she is the main character and her scenes are all still important, but I realized that she's only half of the narrative.

Fortunately, I didn't have to reconstruct the entire story around a different character, but I'd never written in dual pov before (at least not original fiction). The idea of having to do so was daunting, so it took a while for me to accept that this story needed the point of view of my male protagonist. But once I acknowledged that it needed to be just as much HIS story as HERS, everything came together.

I'm a big fan of stories with multiple points of view, but they really do need to be essential to the story you want to tell. Unless you're G.R.R. Martin.

So have you ever experienced the frustration of writing in the wrong character's point of view? Or experienced something similar? And what are your thoughts on dual/multiple points of view?


September 24, 2012

When POV Characters Withhold Information

Characters withholding information is a common and oftentimes important part of stories. Unless they're a fan of the villainous monologue, most antagonists like to keep their plans to themselves, which means the protags have to work to solve the problem and defeat the antag. This is good. Or sometimes a supporting character has to keep a secret because it'll hurt or shock the MC/incriminate themselves/reveal a motivation or facet about themselves they simply don't want anyone to know yet.

But what about when it's the point-of-view character keeping a secret from the reader? What if the MC discovers important information, but never actually says what the information is, forcing the reader to look at the context and hunt for clues in his/her reaction in order to figure it out? What if the MC is forced to do something shocking, but reacts only with 'OMG HOW AM I GOING TO DO THIS?' but, again, doesn't explicitly state what they need to do (presumably to amp up reader anxiety and anticipation)?

What do you guys think about this story-telling technique? When, if ever, does it work for you? Is it ever believable for a point-of-view character (especially if it's in first person) to NOT reveal what they're thinking/reading/angsting about in order to serve the plot?

Here's an example that immediately comes to mind. For those who have NOT read Across the Universe by Beth Revis, I would advise you not to highlight the paragraph below b/c it contains a MAJOR PLOT SPOILER.

(Highlight to read)
In Across the Universe, Elder reveals at the end of the book that he's the one who unplugged Amy. However, the story is told alternately from his first person point of view and, despite that Amy makes no secret her intense emotional reaction to the fact she was awoken fifty years too soon and will be an old lady by the time her parents wake up, Elder never thinks about the fact that HE is responsible. He never has an "on screen" moment where he displays emotional and moral conflict about what he's done to her. Instead, he reveals it at the end, delivering what's meant to be a huge blow both to Amy and to the reader.

So, the question is, does this work for you? Does the fact the character never had an 'on screen' moment thinking about it result in him/her losing all credibility and even respect from the reader? Or is the shock value, the twist, that OMG moment, enough to validate its use?

(Note: it looks like I'm picking on AtU, but AtU is one of my favorite YA SF books ever, so I'm doing it with love :P Promise!)

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Happy Monday! ♥

September 17, 2012

A Matter of Point of View

Last Thursday, the wonderfully and impressively organized Deanna Barnhart, your GUTGAA mastermind, held a Twitter Q+A for querying writers. It went smashingly. I think we even trended!

However, something I noticed was that some writers seemed a little fixated on the question of point of view. It's true that many young adult books are told in 1st person point of view. I've heard that it's because it helps put the reader more firmly in the narrator's shoes, and that teens relate better to it.

But I like to think it's a matter of personal preference. Like everything else in publishing, it's subjective. (And there are tons of fantastic YA books written in 3rd person out there.)

I have two seventeen-year-old nieces, both of whom are avid readers. When questioned about which pov they prefer, they both said they don't care and, frankly, barely even notice it. What matters is whether the story and the characters grab them, and that can be done regardless of which pov the author chooses.

Now, sometimes, it's true that a book or a character's voice just isn't working in a certain point of view. And when that realization hits, it can be a major motivational and creative vortex.

The manuscript I was working on last year began in 3rd person. A couple chapters in, I realized something just wasn't right. I considered changing the point of view, but I had never actually written in 1st person before, and it seemed a daunting challenge. However, going with my gut turned out to be the right decision because that was the book with which I signed my agent. Even so, I still prefer writing in 3rd and that's the pov my WIP is in. Agents won't care either way so long as it works for the book.

If you need further proof, my fabulous CP Mindee has sold two book series, one written in 1st person and the other in 3rd. Both are equally amazing.

There are so many things to think about when writing a book--deadlines (professional or otherwise), plot twists, character arcs, pacing and conflict. Point of view is just a tiny part of the process and not something that should be giving you unnecessary stress.

So what do you guys think? What's your preference?



 

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