Tuesday, November 30, 2010
The list demonstrates (a little too well) that writing the book is only the first of many steps in becoming a published author. But the remaining 24 steps can't happen without that first big one. I'm on Step #3--my new manuscript is in the hands of my awesome critique partners, and I can't wait to revise it. My question for the day: Which step are you on right now?
Monday, November 29, 2010
Agent Diedre Knight of The Knight Agency is having a speed dating contest to find her next new client! Beginning Tuesday, November 30th, (that's tomorrow!) Deidre will whittle down the first 125 entries to one lucky winner.* The contest opens at 8:00am ET. Get all the details on how to enter HERE.
Agent Sara Megibow of the Nelson Literary Agency is doing a NaNoWriMo contest on her client Ashley March's blog! Sara has agreed to read the first 30 pages of one lucky writer's NaNoWriMo project! Deadline is November 30th. Check out the details and enter HERE
And for readers:
Jess at The Cozy Reader is celebrating her 3rd blogoversary with a HUGE giveaway! She's giving away 15 YA books to 5 lucky winners in a fun contest! Hurry! This contest ends at noon ET, TODAY, November 29th! Check out her awesome blog and get the details HERE
If you have a contest you'd like to let us know about, please post the link in our new Mr. Linky! (Which hopefully I've coded correctly and it will work!)
Friday, November 26, 2010
Three years ago, Sophie Mercer discovered that she was a witch. It's gotten her into a few scrapes. Her non-gifted mother has been as supportive as possible, consulting Sophie's estranged father--an elusive European warlock--only when necessary. But when Sophie attracts too much human attention for a prom-night spell gone horribly wrong, it's her dad who decides her punishment: exile to Hex Hall, an isolated reform school for wayward Prodigium, a.k.a. witches, faeries, and shapeshifters.
By the end of her first day among fellow freak-teens, Sophie has quite a scorecard: three powerful enemies who look like supermodels, a futile crush on a gorgeous warlock, a creepy tagalong ghost, and a new roommate who happens to be the most hated person and only vampire on campus. Worse, Sophie soon learns that a mysterious predator has been attacking students, and her only friend is the number-one suspect.
As a series of blood-curdling mysteries starts to converge, Sophie prepares for the biggest threat of all: an ancient secret society determined to destroy all Prodigium, especially her.
Kristi's take: This was a fun, fast, and furious read by Rachel Hawkins. It reminded me of when I have a rare night alone and have Fritos and Diet Coke for dinner. Fritos + Diet Coke + Hex Hall = pure enjoyment.
Hope everyone had a fantastic Thanksgiving. I'm already looking forward to leftovers, and the rest of my hubby's amazing pumpkin pie, tonight! See you on Monday.
Thursday, November 25, 2010
First, HAPPY THANKSGIVING!! I hope everyone is enjoying family/friends/loved ones and good food right now, instead of reading this. But in case everyone you love is in a food coma and you're all by your lonesome, here are the top 5 writing related things I am thankful for.
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Like Kristi, I'm grateful that I have the time to write and the support of my family who help and encourage me to find and make the time to meet my writing goals.
I'm grateful for the awesome crit partners I've met in the last year and who I'm also fortunate to call my friends. (Lacey, Kristi, Natalie, LOVE you guys!)
And most of all, I'm grateful for the amazing, generous, supportive, open-minded, open-hearted, talented, giving members of the YA writing community. I am constantly overwhelmed and awed by the effort this community puts into helping others whether it's in becoming a better writer, or living a better life. I am so proud to be a part of this group of people and to do my tiny part in helping others and sharing the love of great books to anyone I can.
Since this is a time of being grateful, and the season of giving is just around the corner I wanted to share a link to the Season of Love and Hope Auction benefitting children's writer Bridget Zinn who is battling colon cancer.
TONS of amazing authors and publishing people have donated some seriously awesome things like critiques and ARCs and vacations so check it out if you have the time.
I hope you all have a happy Thanksgiving! Thanks for reading this blog. I'm so grateful for all of you!
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Here are a few things I'm grateful for and how they relate to writing (don't worry, I'll explain the helmet)::
1) Where I live. Any time I'm outside and spot the snow-capped mountains in the distance, I feel gratitude for living here in Colorado. (I swear there is creativity in the air here, or maybe it's the drinking water.) Either way, my writing and my hubby's music have grown in leaps and bounds since moving here.
2) My kidlets. Whenever I hear my children laugh, I feel so lucky to be the mom of these two amazing little humans. Also, my 6-yo son tells people that I'm a writer. Never mind that I earn my income as a clinical psychologist. Never mind that I'm not published and don't have an agent. My 3-yo thinks I'm a writer solely because that's what my 6-yo tells her. I love that kid!
3) My ability to write. As I mentioned in this post, I'm extremely grateful for my ability to spend my evenings writing, rather than say working triple shifts in a factory somewhere just to keep food on my table. My hubby is the most supportive person on the planet and allows me to be the best person/mother/wife/writer I can be. He's also my first beta reader and gives amazing advice.
4) My critique groups (The Critiquers and my lovely Sisters) are made of total awesome. They're wise, talented, strong women who are a constant source of strength and support. And they give me a kick in the ass when I need it. What more could you ask for?
5) The Kansas City Chiefs. (hence the helmet picture) If any of you out there have ever loved a team that has surprised you with its ability to disappoint you year after year, then you feel my pain.This year, my team has actually won more games than they've lost. Are they a Super Bowl team? No. Would Mike Vick kick their asses all over the field? Absolutely. But they're better than they were last year--and the year before. It's all about baby steps, just like in writing. I'm a better writer this year than I was a year ago, and I finished my second book last month. I'm taking baby steps toward that Super Bowl.
What about you? What are you grateful for this week?
Monday, November 22, 2010
Win one of 5 ARC's of DEMONGLASS (Hex Hall #2) by Rachel Hawkins at Goodreads. Contest ends: Nov. 30th.
Young Adult Books Central is giving away 15 copies of THE MOCKINGBIRDS by Daisy Whitney. Fill out the form to enter by Nov. 30th.
Somehow I missed the incredible Kidlit Critterpalooza giveaway and its mission to increase awareness for Saint Jude's Research Hospital for children. Go check it out--the deadline is Nov. 28th.
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
When you're writing something that someone else has to continue without knowing what's supposed to come next your first instinct is to put in enough details to explain what it is you're doing. But you soon realize that if you do that, the next writer either has nowhere to go because you already gave up all the cool plot twists and info, or is locked into your idea, which is the opposite of collaboration (unless you use James Frey's definition of the word) and what you've written is mostly telling and infodump with perhaps a side of interesting character.
You learn that in order to give the next writer a chance to shine, and to give the story a shot at being all it can be, you have to leave threads dangling and hint at things without explaining them. You have to trust your partners, and your readers to pick up on the subtle cues, and to want to keep reading to find out what they mean.
In a word, you're doing exactly what you're supposed to be doing when you write a book all by yourself!
You know that feeling you get when you're starting a book, (or short story, or introducing a new character) where you feel like you have to get ALL the necessary info out so readers will get what you're doing and LOVE it? Well, that feeling is wrong. Those writing books - the ones that say don't reveal anything until it's absolutely necessary are right.
It took until I had to take an idea, set it up, and then let it go for me to really understand how that works. When I write an opening to one of our shorts, like my most recent one, KISS OF DEATH, I start with an idea:
What if there was a girl so beautiful that every boy who saw her was compelled to kiss her? What if her lips were poisonous?
Then I have to do some world-building, some plotting, and I have to make sure I leave something for the next writer. In the case of KISS OF DEATH I had A LOT of ideas. There was so much I wanted to (and did in the first draft) explain. I knew how Rosemina came to be cursed. I knew what she did all day while she was home alone. I knew what the Queen really thought about her. I knew what happened after my section ended. But I cut all of those things because they would work better if they were revealed later on or in an active way. I trusted that I had an interesting predicament (Everyone wants to kiss her. Everyone that kisses her dies. And because of that, people want her dead.) and that people would want to keep reading to find out what happens next.
This is the key when plotting your story and maintaining your pace. Drop hints. Dangle potential plot twists, make your reader excited and curious to see what happens next. Let them form opinions about why a character says or does something, and then reveal the info when it will be the most active, the most important, the most mindblowing thing that could happen at that moment. Save something for later. (And, as I always say trust your reader It's scary, but you'll be glad you did.
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Those quiet hours of Christmas morning were a magical time for me. I'd curl up under a blanket on the couch and read Little Women, Anne of Green Gables, or Little House on the Prairie. When I was older, the stocking books morphed into Stephen King and Dean Koontz (try reading Four Past Midnight at that literal time--creepy). Books have always been entwined with holiday memories for me. I'm sure it's part of why I love giving books as gifts--to pass along the magic to others. It's also a fabulous way to support bookstores and authors. So along with all the sparkly things on display at the mall or online, please consider giving a book to someone you love.
Okay, this concludes my public service announcement. I want to know about your gift-giving. Any books that you've given or received that stand out in your holiday memories? What books are on your wish list for this year?
Monday, November 15, 2010
The lovely Lisa Desrochers is giving away a signed copy of her book Personal Demons AND a signed copy of Matched by Ally Condie. Contest ends: Nov. 26th.
The Story Siren is giving away the entire Immortals Series by Alyson Noel. All 5 books go to one lucky winner so fill out the form today. Contest ends: Nov. 19th.
Friday, November 12, 2010
Before I Fall
Samantha Kingston has it all—looks, popularity, the perfect boyfriend. Friday, February 12th should be just another day in her charmed life. Instead, it’s her last. The catch: Samantha still wakes up the next morning. In fact, she re-lives the last day of her life seven times, until she realizes that by making even the slightest changes, she may hold more power than she had ever imagined. (less)
Thursday, November 11, 2010
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Recently I read a really good book. Really good! It was full of action, adventure, drama, suspense, and emotion, and it was also full of one of my pet peeves. The dreaded uncertainty that is seemed like, appeared as if, almost.
You know what I'm talking about. One character says to the MC, "I hate you!" and the MC's inner monologue says "He punched the wall, as if he was angry." Really? It was like he was angry, but you're not sure if that was it? Maybe he just likes punching walls? Maybe wall-punching means happiness?
This occasionally drives me insane.
I notice this happens most often in books written in close third person. I think it's because when writing in first person it's easier to slip into the character's distinct point of view and feel what they're feeling.
Think about it. In your own life, if someone shouts at you "I hate you!" and then punches a wall, you have a strong instant reaction. You don't think to yourself, "I wonder if he's angry?" You think, "Whoa, this dude is pissed!" Even if you're wrong, and he does just like to punch walls for no reason, you have interpreted his words and actions and made a decision on what they mean.
Characters are like this too. They jump to conclusions. They reason out why things are happening. I know that, especially in third person, there's a fine line between staying in one character's close POV and crossing into another's. This is where the trouble starts. Writers worry that if they say too much about what is happening, or how someone is feeling that they are switching POVs or crossing over into omniscience. I say, HOGWASH!
While it's true that unless your main character is a mind reader, he can't know what others are thinking. He can definitely take an educated guess or decide for himself how to interpret what he sees. When I see a lot of this in a manuscript I'm critiquing, I always write "Be authoritative!" and "Either it happened or it didn't. Which is it?"
Don't tell me "It seemed like the door opened all by itself." When I see this type of sentence structure, I expect a "but". As in "It seemed like the door opened all by itself, but it was just the cat leaning against it." When you leave the sentence as "It seemed like the door opened all by itself." and the character doesn't do any exploring to find out how it actually did open, I'm left wondering, did the door open by itself or not? You know whether it did or not, why not share? Your character, having witnessed this event, should have come to a decision about whether or not the door opened on it's own - even if it's the wrong answer. And if your character really can't tell if it opened by itself or not, then he needs to try and find out why (or run away in terror, whichever he's more prone to do).
I may be in the minority here, but I think it's best for your character to see things through his own world view and save the uncertainty for when he really doesn't know what's going on. If you stay focused and true to your character's personality and voice, it should be clear, even in third person, that what he sees happening is what he thinks is happening, and not absolute fact. To me this is one of the best things about telling a story through one person's eyes. Each character has a unique way of seeing things. What one character thinks is evil spirits haunting his house, another thinks is just the wind. Find out what it really is is what storytelling is all about!
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
2) Was this the first book you wrote? Tell us aspiring writers a little about your path to finding an agent.
Hahahahahaha! Hah! That’s funny. No, my first book was a NaNoWriMo novel that started off as a fantasy satire and somehow turned into a political satire halfway through. And then I wrote a series of really depressing books and hung out in coffee shops and wore a beret. (You think I’m kidding, but sadly? Not. [The worst part is that the beret was PLAID.]) Eventually I ditched the beret and quit trying to be a “serious” writer and wrote something just for fun. That was my first YA novel, which got the attention of my superawesome agent, Kate Schafer Testerman, and went to editorial acquisitions more times than I could count. But ultimately, it wasn’t the right first book for me. BAD TASTE IN BOYS, however, sold in about a month, because zombies are irresistible.
3) I'm trying to picture you in a plaid beret, but I keep laughing. I agree that zombies are irresistible...when you first found out your book sold, what was your initial reaction?
When The Email finally came, I ran around the house screaming and then left a voice mail for my husband that said: “OhmygodcallmecallmeCALLMERIGHTNOW!” And then I put Thriller on and did the dance, because that’s obviously the best way to celebrate selling a zombie book.
4) I know authors don't typically have much, if any, control over things like the title and cover of the book. You have one of the coolest covers I've seen. Did you have any input on it?
I know; isn’t it frawesome? I feel so lucky cover-wise. The people at Random House awe me.
5) This may be a super-secret question you can't answer, but I'll try anyway. What's next for you? Will there be a sequel to BAD TASTE IN BOYS or are you doing something totally different?
Well, I’ve got a sequel that’s currently under review, with new and interesting monsters for Kate to hunt. Please keep your fingers crossed for me! Unless you’re a zombie, because I wouldn’t want to be responsible for the loss of your fingers due to torsion. I’m nice that way.
7) Thank you for validating my house's messiness. You knew I was going to save the best question for last. Who would win in a zombie ninja dance-off: Richard Simmons or The Hoff?
Monday, November 8, 2010
Steph Su at Steph Su Reads is having a cool November giveaway on her blog (I can't believe it's already November!) Enter to win the ARC's of FIXING DELILAH by Sarah Ockler, VIRALS by Kathy Reichs, and FALL FOR ANYTHING by Courtney Summers. Deadline: Nov. 24.
Don't forget to visit us here tomorrow for an amazing interview with Carrie Harris, the amazing author of this:
Friday, November 5, 2010
Please welcome our special guest on the blog, author, mentor, editor, K.M. Weiland!
K.M. Weiland writes historical and speculative fiction from her home in the sandhills of western Nebraska. She enjoys mentoring other authors through her writing tips, editing services, workshops, and her recently released instructional CD Conquering Writer’s Block and Summoning Inspiration.
We live in a world that is saturated with artistic creativity (some more artistic and creative than others, admittedly). If you’re a writer, this is a very good thing. It means that inspiration is all over the place. All we have to do is open a magazine, read a book, turn on the television, or switch to a new radio station. In my recently released CD Conquering Writer’s Block and Summoning Inspiration (http://www.kmweiland.com/books_CWBASI.php), I specifically touch upon how to use music to up our creative output. But we can tap into all kinds of media for an extra-inspiration boost. Following are some ideas:
Create story-specific playlists. Every time you hear a song that fits your story or inspires some new aspect, save it on a playlist on your computer. You’re creating your own personalized story soundtrack! Whenever you need a dab of inspiration, give it a listen. Plus, it’s great fun for sharing with your readers, when the book is published. (You can listen to the soundtrack for my medieval novel Behold the Dawn here (http://www.kmweiland.com/free.php#playlist).)
· As an addendum to the above, don’t forget to give each character a theme song. Not only is it fun, but it can help distill the character’s personality and inner goals.
· Cast your characters. We all dream of getting our NYT bestselling book made into a blockbuster movie. So why wait on the all-important decision of choosing which actors should play your characters? Putting a face, voice, and gestures to your characters (particularly minor characters) can work wonders for bringing them to vivid three-dimensional life.
· Visualize your story as a movie. Whenever I’m approaching a tricky scene, I stop, close my eyes, and try to visualize what the scene would look like in a movie. I visualize everything: angles, lighting, stage directions. I even try to conjure up a soundtrack sometimes. And the results are pretty interesting.
· Keep a photo album. Thanks to the Internet, tracking down specific photos and bookmarking them or saving them to your computer is the easiest thing in the world. For every novel I write, I keep folders within folders of inspiring pix, everything from the characters themselves to settings to costumes to vehicles to pets. Not only are the pictures an endless well of inspiration, but they also come in handy for maintaining consistency in details.
· Create props. Sometimes a handful of props can come in very handy for inspiring or choreographing a scene. For my upcoming fantasy Dreamers (http://www.kmweiland.com/WIPs.php#dreamers), I used a sword-shaped letter opener in planning battle scenes. If your character receives an important letter, write the letter out for yourself and play around with the crinkle of the envelope. If a stolen necklace features prominently, buy a cheap replica and wear it while writing.
Who says writing has to be confined to words on paper? If we branch out from our notebooks and pens or our keyboards and word processors, we may find that a whole interactive world of inspiration is waiting for us to discover and play with.
Thank you, K.m.! *applauds* It's nice to know my fantasy casting can be seen as inspiration, rather than procrastination!
Thursday, November 4, 2010
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
We've all heard that saying "Kill your darlings." (Or murder them, whichever.) Essentially it's saying any time you have something you find especially clever or that's close to your heart DELETE IT because it probably doesn't fit with the rest of what you've written or even belong in your book. This is killing your darlings to the extreme, but you get the idea. I think it's easy when your book is about A, and all your scenes are focused on A, to slip off into tangent B and then think it's brilliant just because it's so different from the rest of the book.
It's at that point that you must stop and really look at the scene about B. Does it have anything to do with the plot of your book? Is it there just to be awesome? Will it stop readers in their tracks as they wonder when this dark thriller turned into a slapstick comedy?
How does this relate to my love for random spontaneous musical scenes in movies? I'll show you!
Take the 80s classic TEEN WITCH. (Shut up. It IS TOO a classic!)
This is the blurb for TEEN WITCH:
Louise is a shy misfit with a huge crush on and no chance of dating Brad, the hunky star of the high school football team. When Louise discovers on her 16th birthday that she's descended from Salem witches, she uses her newfound powers to become the most popular girl on campus! But when sparks fly between her and Brad, how can she be sure it's true love and that he's not simply spellbound?
You'll note that nowhere in the description is the movie called a musical. Yet, fairly early on, we're given this:
(Take a moment to recover from the 80s explosion. I'll wait.) I remember even as a kid, the first time I saw this I thought, WTF is this a musical? BUT IT WASN'T. It was just a movie with a scene where everyone broke out into a choreographed dance routine for NO REASON OTHER THAN THAT IT WOULD BE SHEER AWESOME. And as you can see, it was, but that's not the point.
The point is, as a first time viewer, I was confused. I kept waiting for more dance routines, but there really weren't any. And in the end I was sort of disappointed about that. And I wondered why that scene was in there anyway. Just to tease me with a glimpse at how awesome Teen Witch would've been as a real musical?
So as you can see, if Teen Witch was a book, as much as I love the random dance scene, because I love random dance scenes, that particular darling would have to go. It sticks out and it's distracting because it doesn't really belong.
Do you have a scene like this? So full of awesome it could be it's own book? So unrelated to what's actually happening in your plot? You might have to save it for a different project. Put it in a drawer and when you're sad, take it out and read it and know that it's proof of your magnificent talent.
And now, just in case I have thoroughly depressed you by telling you to take out your favorite scene, here's my all time favorite spontaneous musical scene. I SO wish this would happen while out at a restaurant in real life!
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
Now, unless you live under a rock, in a cave, or in space, you've heard of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). I'm not participating because I finished writing my new novel late last night (woo hoo) and will use November for revisions. I'm a little exhausted and will make this short and sweet. If you are NaNo'ing this month, good for you! It's very empowering to pound out a story day after day until you finish. In fact, it's why I've done my own personal NaNo in Oct. the last two years. If you write some every day and make progress in your story by the end of NaNoWriMo, you're way ahead of the game. But if you should happen to beat the odds and complete your story by Nov. 30th, here are a few NaNo NoNo's:
1) Dec. 1st is NOT the day to query. Not even if you think you just wrote the best novel of all time. Yes, it may have the potential to be the best novel of all time, but on Nov. 30th. it's just not there. Really.
2) Jan. 1st is NOT the day to query. First of all, agents might be hungover or in the process of drinking heavily (because of the holiday, not because I think agents are drunks). Also, as much as you think it's ready, your manuscript probably still sucks. And if it doesn't totally suck, it's likely to be in a phase of 'mild suckage.' Have you run the entire thing by trusted readers or a critique group? Have you made changes accordingly? If not, do that instead of querying.
If you can avoid those two major pitfalls, you're doing great. Fact: The publishing business is slow.
It's easy to grow impatient and want your work out there as soon as possible. I completely understand that as patience is not one of my own virtues. But you want the work that's out there to be the best it can possibly be. You want it to shine so bright that it looks like a diamond amidst a sea of cubic zirconia. Bottom line: If it's not polished to the point that you can see your reflection in it, don't send it.
What about you? Are you NaNo'ing? If you NaNo'ed before, how did it go?
Monday, November 1, 2010
Authoress over at Miss Snark's First Victim is hosting an AH-MA-ZING contest for aspiring writers. If you write either adult or YA and have a completed (and polished) manuscript , you should give this one a shot. 13 agents will bid on your novel based on your logline and the first 250 words of your ms. 13! Agents! Bidding! Hence why it's called the Baker's Dozen Agent Auction. NOTE: You shouldn't enter if you already have an agent because that would just be awkward. Details can be found here, so get ready! Good luck!
Okay, I've had about another half a bajillion kids come to the door during the writing of this post. At least there shouldn't be much Halloween candy left, because I've learned the hard way that I have no will power whatsoever when it comes to Milky Ways. Oh yes, and HAPPY MONDAY!