Thursday, December 4, 2014

Priority Shift: A Tale of Two Communities

Hey guys. It's been a while. And not just here, on the blog that I've been gradually neglecting, but also on twitter, which we all know I used to be obsessed with. But here's the thing. In July, I got back into fitness. For those who don't know, I swam from age 6 through college. I was good. And then I finished college swimming and gained like 20# (the number is deceptively low, since I had had a ton of muscle that was slipping away) and lost a ton of strength.

I was in denial about it, partially for the normal reasons and partially because the writing community has so little focus on physical health. Which is fine--we all have our own priorities.

But the problem was in those priorities. For me, it is important to bang out pull-ups, to deadlift twice my bodyweight, to not feel like I'm dying in a 5K. It's also important to read stories, to understand plot arcs, to create compelling characters. Twitter, this blog, the writing community--they were helping me with the latter goals. But they were actively sabotaging the former.

So when I joined my gym in the end of August, I threw myself into that culture, buoyed up by the community who supported the goals that the writing community didn't.

(Side note: I swam before I ever got into writing, so in college, I was able to juggle the swimming & writing community well because I was firmly entrenched in the swimming one. And because it was in person. Having the community that I was familiarizing myself with be the virtual one is a lot easier than the other way around. When the one you're getting to know is the IRL one, it's easy to let it take you over.)

I'm now balanced too far on the gym side; I can tell. It showed during NaNo when I struggled so hard to write 50K (a really, really awful 50K I don't even want to show to my sister). It shows during my freelance editing--not in the actual editing, but in my recruiting new clients. It shows in how many books I've read in the past three months (maybe 15? And half of those were for school.).

I still have a passion for children's publishing. It ignites when I read client manuscripts (just finished an awesome YA thriller!).

But I also have a passion for fitness.

And I'm struggling because I haven't figured out how the two communities fit.

My gymbros are all about workouts and athletes and protein and strip clubs and fantasy football. We celebrate new PRs and sexual conquests and things that are primal, physical, animalistic.

My writers are all about characters and relationships and rewarding oneself with chocolate. We celebrate new word counts and figuring out the plot and things that are intangible.

My gym friends are almost entirely guys. My writing friends are almost entirely women. My gym friends generally don't read. My writing friends generally don't lift. But the divide goes deeper than that, and sometimes it makes me uncomfortable because . . .

There are those in each community who can't live and let live. Those in the writing community who call strong females bulky and gross, who act disgusted by men with muscle ("but not too big" is pretty much how every love interest is described), who skinny- and fit-shame without understanding that it can be hurtful too, who call gymbros (my closest real life friends) meatheaded and assume them stupid and chauvinistic. And of course, in my fitness community, there are those who fat-shame, who make fun of the "tumblrinas" and "SJW" who populate my twitter feed, who feel superior because their physiques match the physiques that society tells them are superior.

I've felt hurt by both sides. I've agreed with both sides. I've felt trapped by both sides.

I think attitudes toward one another are unhealthy. Writers look at fitness as something that can only be done by size 2 girls in skimpy spandex. Gymbros look at books as something academic and exhausting. Just as not every book is right for you, not every method of fitness is right for you. But both are worthwhile. Both will build you as a person.

Reading and writing saved me in college. I was stuck in a miserable, small town without a car. I fell in love with words and the people who created them. I escaped.

But fitness has grounded me in a good way, showed me that I don't always need escape. That within the confines of my own skin is a great power too.

No, I haven't figured out how to balance these yet. And for a while (especially the next week--my first fitness competition is 12/13!), I'll still be predominantly gymTaryn. But I still care deeply about the writing community, and I want you guys to want me back.


For those who care:

Weight loss: 25# and a ton of inches. It was about 2#/week from 8/15-10/31, and I stopped caring about weight loss at that point and am still losing about 1#/week. It should stop dropping in 5-10#. I fit into my entire wardrobe now, am more than comfortable in a bikini, and sometimes am late to work because I'm 'miring myself in the mirror. (JK. sorta.) I have NSFW progress pictures that make me smile but I'm not sharing them here, but I will say that I (5'5") went from 180#, a size 8/10 (M/L), to 155#, a size 4/6 (S/M). I'm one of those has-a-lot-of-muscle-and-messes-up-the-BMI-chart people. My weight loss is less about the number on the scale and more about what I fit into (yay super sexy sophomore year cocktail dress!) and how I look in the mirror.

Diet: Not crazy restrictive or focused. I counted calories for about a month just so I could get a feel for what was in what. Now I pretty much eat whatever (In-N-Out, Chipotle, gelato, pizza rolls, and lots of cookies have been on this week's menu, but so have giant, hearty salads, a yummy pepper, onion, and pork dish, and spinach omelets), but I try to keep a good amount of protein in my diet and not to go too calorie crazy. Most importantly in this category, though, is not to hate yourself when you do binge. Keep a healthy relationship with food.

Routine: I try not to yell "I CrossFit" from the rooftops because people have a kneejerk cult reaction. I don't want to make this about converting you. Quick myths debunked: It's expensive because it's super personalized training; yes, some gyms suck, so do your research; the injury rate is greatly exaggerated and easily matched in similarly active activities. Anyway, I go 6ish days a week, plus one day of either skill work or a recovery swim. Those 6 days typically consist of independent strength work (a squat, deadlift, or bench cycle or pull-up & dip programming), independent skill work (handstand practice, muscle-up practice, double-under practice, etc.), and the group workout, which generally involves warm up, a strength element, and a metcon (8-20 minutes long, usually) done in a group of 2-8. I do the independent work because I compete in CrossFit and want more of an edge than just the typical hour long CF class.

Some numbers, for those familiar (My numbers were not beginner numbers. I had a national-level swimming background, plus some CF experience in the past.):

Squat: 175-->215
Deadlift: 200-->250
Bench: 145-->160
Clean & jerk: 115-->150
Strict pull-ups: 0-->10
Ring dips: 0-->15

My first powerlifting comp :)


Have you felt torn between two communities before? How did you find balance? What do you think will help me come back to the writing community?

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

THE AFTERMATH by Jen Alexander: September Promo!

This is possibly the most exciting day so far in my life as an editor. I'm pretty sure I'm gonna cry while writing this post.

My job is the best, not only because I get to sit around reading all day, but also because my clients work super hard and often get rewarded with agents and book deals, and it's simply exhilarating to share in their excitement.

Quite a few books have come out over the past 10 months (CRACKED by Eliza Crewe was the first, back in October), but THE AFTERMATH by Jen Alexander was the first book that went through the whole entire process with me.

And when Jen sent me an ARC this past spring, and I opened it, and I saw that she had dedicated the book to me--well, I definitely cried. And today, that book is out in the big, scary world.

Naturally, I want everyone to buy a copy so she can write a bazillion more so I can have the pleasure of reading her books forever.

Because August's Pitch Wars query promo went so well, I'm gonna do a similar thing for September (*in this case, September starts 8/25):

Buy THE AFTERMATH, send me a screenshot of proof, and receive 10% off a full manuscript critique OR a free one-pass query critique.

Here are two blog posts I've written before about Jen's fantastic writing: agent signing and book deal announcement.

Still on the fence about THE AFTERMATH? Here's the Goodreads description:

Sometimes, I dream that I'm someone else.

A girl with dark hair who doesn't worry about hunger

or thirst or running from flesh-eaters.

In her world, those sorts of things don't exist.

Since the spring of 2036, when the world changed forever, Claudia and a small clan of survivors have roamed the streets of a very altered Nashville: polluted and desolate, except for the ever-present threat of cannibal Hoarders. Together they must undergo punishing tests of endurance and psychological challenge sometimes with devastating consequences all just to live another day.

With food and water in dwindling supply, and with danger lurking around every corner, no one can be trusted. And as her world starts to make less and less sense, Claudia begins to realize something terrifying: she is just a pawn in some sort of game, and all of her actions are being controlled from afar by a mysterious gamer. So when she meets a maddening and fascinating outsider named Declan, who claims to be a game moderator, she must decide whether to join him in exchange for protection and access to the border.

If they play the game right, they are each other's best hope for survival and a life beyond the only world Claudia's ever known: the terrifying live-action game known as The Aftermath.


Go forth, buy, read, enjoy, and send me your queries/manuscripts!

Happy book birthday, Jen!!!

(P.S. In a strange twist of fate, it's also my critique partner Jen Malone's book birthday for AT YOUR SERVICE! All Jens are awesome. Buy her book, too!)

Monday, June 23, 2014

Post-Disney-Internship: On Character

My Disney internship ended a few weeks ago. This didn't really rock the boat, as I was hired on immediately as a consultant, carrying a few projects with me. However, I still want to do a summation post. Here's at least a part of that.

The biggest thing drilled into our heads in Disney entertainment is preserving character. At all costs, we are to preserve character. Why? Because people don't love Disney for the stunning animation or fun worlds or timeless stories. People love Disney for the characters. Even if you don't love the protagonist--even when Olaf steals the show--it's the characters that keep us going back to those movies.

We wear the characters on our t-shirts, put them on our notebooks, outfit the small children in our lives in their clothing. We pretend we are Ariel, under the sea, or Aladdin, with a "Friend Like Me."

I recently gave a super secret presentation that involved social media (it went awesomely, thanks for asking), and one of my major points was that consumers connect to characters. If you're reading this blog, I assume you feel like you know certain things about me (that I am rambly, have a casual voice, tend toward parentheticals). Even more so if you follow me on twitter. It's called "brand," but I think it's more than that. It's the PERSON (not the thing) that your followers expect you to be.

We hear this a lot in publishing. You could have the greatest story in the world, but without those compelling characters, everything falls flat.

In the Disney Parks, it's my job to take the characters that are already beloved and give them a new life in a show or a parade or an event that stays true to who they are and why everyone loves them. Because of this, I've learned a lot about what is essential to a character's, um, character.

One of the things that stuck with me the most from a very early assignment was this: I was writing a script where a princess did a quick appearance, greeted the audience, then left. The next week, a different princess did the same thing.

The princess's opening line the first wee was something very general like "Why, hello there!" so I left it for the second week. Our Character Expert (yes, that's someone's job) wrote back that princess #2 wouldn't say it like that, and I ended up changing the line to something like "Hi everyone!" (Ten points to whoever can guess those two princesses based on their greetings!)

Character is the #1 most vital thing to creating an experience. Mickey and the Magical Map, one of our big productions, is this really immersive, magical (ha) show full of song and dance and backflips and physics-defying bubbles--yet the cheers are never as loud as when Mickey and Stitch come on stage. (King Louie, Mulan, Pocahontas, Rapunzel, Flynn, Tiana, and Sebastian are also in it, but for some reason, they don't get the overwhelming roar from the audience like Mickey and Stitch. I understand Mickey, but Stitch? Sure.)

I've learned so much about character while interning here. I'll leave you with this. I'm very close to these characters, for some reason . . .

any guesses?

Thursday, June 19, 2014

How to Plan Your Story Like a Vacation

Here's another writing metaphor for you! While they may be a dime a dozen (dollhouse, phlebotomist), they're prevalent because they're useful. Metaphors make us look at things from a different angle, an angle that just might make sense. I was recently working with a wonderful client, and the metaphor of the map came to me.

We hear "map your story" or "have a story map" a lot. But my interpretation was a little different. A map is PART of the process, but here's my metaphor:

Your story is a vacation.

Premise: choosing that vacation destination.

When you choose this, you're looking at elements of this world. If you love the heat, a ski trip is probably the wrong decision. Similarly, if you gobble light hearted romances, you might want to stay away from horror.

Plot: deciding the landmarks to hit.

If you decide to go to Florida, there's still a lot to do. Theme parks, ocean adventures, you need to narrow down the journey. Same thing with your plot. What's important to hit? Why is it important to hit? How are you going to get between points?

Pacing: figuring out how relaxed or packed your adventure will be.

Girl with the Dragon Tattoo? Or Eat Pray Love? My mom is the type to plan a minute-to-minute itinerary, for example, so my vacations were always fast-paced.

Scenes: choosing the best way to present each building block of your vacation.

You don't want to waste time! Pack as much into each stop as possible. Enter when the fun starts; leave before it's over.

Characters: deciding who to take with you.

Is this a romantic weekend? A girls' vacation? A family affair? Who goes on the journey determines a lot of things about it, so make sure you have the right cast of characters coming along.

Bonus: how does a freelance editor fit in? Why, I'm your travel agent! You know generally where you want to go and what you want to do, but it's my job to help set you up to get the most out of this adventure.

So where are you going this summer? Both literally and metaphorically.

small Taryn & family, ready to fly away

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

10 Things Every Writer Should Do before Being Really Truly Ready to Pursue Publication

10. Let go of the first book you wrote. Maybe you’ll come back to it in the future, but don’t dwell on it forever. You’ll be surprised how much better your next first draft is than that old book’s.
9. Do something fun with your rejections. Play Query Bingo. Have a drinking game. Make a collage.
8. Go to a writing conference. Show other writers your query. Be the one to ask the agent the stupid question. Follow the editor to the bathroom and think a little too long about slipping your manuscript under the stall (but don’t actually do that).
7. Find critique partners who become your BFFs. You’re totally discussing your character’s love life with them. Wink, wink.
6. Be there for a CP who gets an agent and/or a book deal. Though you will likely feel a bit of jealousy, be overall happy for them—and brag that you knew them when.
5. Contemplate quitting, if only to remember why you love writing.
4. Realize you totally ripped off your idea from that bestseller. No, that author ripped you off. No, wait, your book is TOTALLY different. Actually, it’s the exact same. Oh, well, there are no new ideas, right?
3. Cry over feedback, whether from a CP or an agent.
2. Re-read some of your manuscript and realize hey this actually is pretty good. Did I really write that line?
1. Realize this book does not determine your worth. You're not a worthless person or a bad writer because the book goes nowhere. Internalize that, because this journey? It's not easy. But it is rewarding.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Query Bingo!

“a response within 3 months”
“a response within 6 weeks”
“a response within 3 weeks”
Full request!
“current market”
“personal taste”
“Dear Author”
“we have received your submission” auto-response
“would like to see future work”
“this impersonal note”
Form Rejection (Free Space)
“not the right fit”
“too much telling”
“didn’t connect with your MC”
“thank you for sharing/querying”
“did not connect with the writing”
“other agents feel differently”
Partial Request!
“shows potential”
“query widely”
“will contact you if interested”
Partial upgraded to full!


Seriously, though, I pulled this together by going through some old rejections, and wow. There are a lot. (The stats below include both query and partial/full rejections)

10ish for a horribly misguided attempt on MS A.
75ish for MS B.
20ish for MS C--for which I signed with my first agent.
And like 2 for MS D, but nobody wants to hear about that.

Have fun querying--I miss it!