Thursday, March 31, 2011

Building a Fantasy World

I don't read a lot of high-fantasy (read, none), so I can't say much about that, but I do read a lot of paranormal and lately dystopian. In a great paranormal or dystopian novel, the author has emerged the reader in her world and she's done it organically. Without dropping a load of backstory bricks on us.

The first book that comes to mind is The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, and I think it's a perfect example because we've all read it. At least I think we have. If you haven't, go do that.

Katniss doesn't go over all the details of her world, how things used to be, what caused the shift, and how things work now, but she does give us a bit of information about things like the tracker jackers, so that we can see what they are and very briefly what they were created to do. She lets us in on the history of a revolution against the Capital that ultimately spawned the annual Hunger Games--important information that is interesting to the reader. She doesn't dwell on it. She tells us exactly what we need to know and only when we need to know it.

Think about the mutts. Imagine how much that scene would have been slowed down if Katniss would've pushed pause and explained in detail how and why they were originally created. We figured out very quickly what they are, or as much as Katniss knew about them, and we moved on with the action.

I think the most important thing to remember when creating a fantasy world is what is natural for the characters. If your MC doesn't know how the monster was created, then she shouldn't be telling the reader. The reader should be discovering this information with her, but only if and when it's necessary. If she's never seen an ipod, then she shouldn't be telling the reader how her music player compares to one. As writers it is up to us to find a balance between information and action, and it is never not always easy.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Getting Defensive: A Cautionary Tale

If you have not yet seen This Astonishing Post you MUST go read it now. No time? Okay, I'll paraphrase it for you. The link takes you to BigAl's blog where he gave 2 stars to a self-published book he'd been asked to review, and then the author comments several times with angry diatribes, and comments that make it clear she has not understood what the reviewer was saying, before finally signing off with a pair of F*** Off!s. I encourage you to read BigAl's review when you have a chance because I think it's a fair and honest review of the book.

He called the story "compelling and interesting."

He also said "the spelling and grammar errors, which come so quickly that, especially in the first several chapters, it’s difficult to get into the book without being jarred back to reality as you attempt unraveling what the author meant."

Ouch, right? But a fair warning. He makes it clear that if you can get past these, you will find a compelling story, and he did in fact read the whole book, however, the difficulty he had reading it was one of the factors that lead to his low rating.

The author (who I will not name, nor will I post any of her writing samples for ridicule) took offense to the review and apparently misunderstood, or refused to believe that the reviewer was not talking about mere formatting problems within the ebook.

She made repeated negative references to the reviewers character and integrity, as well as his and many other commenters' intelligence.

In response, many commenters apparently went to amazon and rated her book, which previously had 4 and 5 star ratings, with one star.

It was quite simply, mortifying.

And it made me think. My first reaction was one of how can she be so angry? He said her story was good, just the writing wasn't up to par. But then I tried to put myself in her shoes. This was a book she'd put up for sale, as an example of her talent. And I remembered how the first few times I got a critique from one of my crit partners, I could only see the negatives -- the things that didn't work, the should've-been-obvious mistakes, the seemingly insurmountable amount of revision I was going to have to do even though I'd already worked so hard on it.

And then I felt kind of bad for the author.

She had a fairly natural reaction to a negative review, but rather than taking the time to process it, find the good, find the things she didn't agree with and let them go, she took it straight to the internet and sabotaged her reputation, and potentially her book sales and career by lashing out.

So today, I just want to remind us all (including myself!) to STOP, and BREATHE, and THINK before lashing out at those we have asked to help us. Remember that any crit or review is just one person's opinion, but also that there is almost always something worthwhile in a negative critique or review. You can't please everyone at once, but you can always improve.

And those of you going the self-publishing route, I think this author's experience is proof that you must be extra vigilent since you won't automatically have the eyes of a professional editor or copyeditor before your book goes out into the world.

Don't let defensiveness, pride, or hurt feelings keep you from making your book the best it can be!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Contest Monday not on Monday, plus WriteOnCon awesomeness

I thought I'd shake things up a bit and have Contest Monday on Tuesday--which is my way of saying that I totally forgot it was my turn to post this week (*hangs head in shame*) Anyway, we Sisters are so excited that we're about to hit 500 followers. How excited? Well, we're going to do a cool contest once we hit that magic number as a huge thank you to all our wonderful friends and readers, so spread the word!

Also, in case you missed this event from the amazingly awesome peeps at WriteOnCon (yes, so awesome that I used an adverb--sorry Mr. King), here is a link to the "Live Event with uber-agents Michael Bourret and Jim McCarthy" from Dystel & Goderich. This is one of my fave agencies--I've seriously (there I go again) loved every book I've read by their clients (NOTE: they rep Carrie Ryan, Richelle Mead, Lisa McMann and James Dashner to name just a few). Michael and Jim provided a ton of information about their take on the market, queries, MG fiction, and everything else from contemporary YA to zombies. I encourage you to read the entire transcript, as it's also entertaining. My favorite line came from Jim McCarthy when asked about what to include in a query:

"I love a good introduction if you're sending to me for a specific reason. Otherwise, jump right into the plot description. Just don't get all gimmicky: "What would you do if you woke up on Mars and your mother was dead?" I don't know, but I do know I'm about to reject you..." 
If you're planning to query this agency (and I hope you are), this is a must-read!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Getting Published & When An Agent Gives Up

Browsing some of the industry blogs I enjoy yesterday turned up some gems. One is this fabulous post by agent/author Mandy Hubbard of D4EO Lit. Mandy covers a list of myths about getting published when you're a "nobody". According to her twitter poll, 90% of authors who answered found their agent with a cold query, no publishing creds and no connections.

Another was from agent Rachelle Gardner, on when and why an agent might call it quits on a project. From being out of options, to market concern, to just being plain wrong about the saleability of the project. It's definitely a post worth reading, whether you're agented or still looking.

Also, if you missed it yesterday, I was interviewed by Simon Hay--soul healer, medium, writer--at his blog! Come by and say hi, or just to giggle at my glamour shot from the mid 90's.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Chapters Vs Scenes

First off, Lacey was interviewed! Read her interview at Simon Hay's blog!

So I was reading this awesome post at QueryTracker about writing a synopsis and the section on chapters got me thinking.

I don't write in chapters. My brain doesn't understand them. Like, literally - I find it confusing how sometimes a chapter can take place over a period of three days, and another time a chapter ends in the middle of a scene and the next chapter picks up at the exact same place. I can't find the pattern.

I think in scenes and scene sequences - thanks to all my film and screenwriting education, I guess. My first ms is a dual narrative and for the most part each "chapter" is one complete scene or sequence.

H.L. Dyer says at QueryTracker, "Each chapter, like a novel, should have a beginning, middle, and an ending."

This makes sense to me, and I think this is true of my scenes and scene sequences, they are just generally too short to be considered a "typical" chapter. I'm also a fan of the short chapter in fiction, so maybe that says something about me and my writing.

As I'm in the planning stages of my next book, I'm finding the chapter issue interesting. This book will have one narrator and so switching chapters at the end of each scene doesn't quite work with how I want this book to be.

I don't outline, but I do make note of all the major scenes I know need to happen, as well as my beginning through to the inciting incident, and my ending. I'm fascinated by people who use chapter outlines, and know exactly what will be in each chapter when they sit down to write.

I don't know how they do this. But then I also tend to be more fluid with my scenes. I will switch them around and re-order them in order to best build tension, make motivations clear, and keep the story moving forward.

At this point, I feel certain that I will have to write first and separate into chapters later. I will probably but in chapter breaks in places where it feels right, but other than that I won't know where a chapter ends and the next one starts until I finish the story.

What about you? Do you know exactly what your chapters will entail? Do you think in chapters or scenes? Does anyone else split and number chapters after they've written the book? Am I crazy?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Top 5 Things an Agent Looks for in a Query Letter

I attended Writer's Fest this past weekend, which happened to be held at my all-time favorite bookstore, The Tattered Cover in LoDo (lower downtown for you non-Denverites). It was jam-packed with writerly folks (as in standing room only) when intern Anita Mumm from Nelson Literary Agency took the stage. NOTE: For anyone not following Kristin Nelson's blog, Pub Rants, stop now and go follow it...but come back. Anita discussed the "Top 5 things They are Looking for in a Query Letter," as well as what they're hoping to see more of at their agency:

1) Is the book the right genre? This seems obvious, but Anita said the audience would be surprised how many queries she receives for genres they don't represent. This agency reps commercial fiction, literary fiction, women's fiction, young adult, middle, grade, SF/F and memoir. Bottom Line: Do your homework before submitting.

2) Strong Voice. Ah, that elusive voice. It's hard to define but every agent knows it when they see it. Basically, the voice of the query should reflect the voice of the book (e.g. a humorous book should have humor in the query).

3) Is it a hot topic? They're looking for the "next big thing," and Anita joked that this does not mean vampires. Specifically, the Nelson Agency is seeking dystopian, post-apocalyptic, steam punk, sci-fi/fantasy, contemporary YA romance, Southern fiction, MG and YA with a strong boy MC, MG horror (seriously), and the more broad "strong literary fiction with a commercial bent."

4) Is the query concise but thorough? They want to see your plot summarized in a clear and understandable way. If the query is sloppy, they'll know the book is likely to be as well. Make sure to include relevant publishing history and note why you are querying the agency. However, Anita cautioned not to overdo the flattery. Stating that you met one of them at a conference or follow Kristin's blog is more professional than "You're the best agent that ever existed, and I'm naming my first born after you."

5) Is the author confident? There's a fine line between arrogance and being too humble, but they want to see that you have confidence in yourself and your work. On one hand, you don't want to say "I'm the next Stephen King and you'd be an idiot not to take me." (NOTE: this was a literal sentence Anita received in a query) I don't even consider that arrogance--I consider it being a jackass, but Anita is more polite than me. On the other hand, what she sees WAY more of is the opposite end of the spectrum. Things like "I've never published anything, but hope you'll consider me anyway" or "This is my first query letter, so please forgive my mistakes." Again, even if you're not published (like *cough* me *cough*), you want to project confidence in your work. 

Anita also conducted a sample pitch session of what not to do, which was highly entertaining. Note: when asked how long your ms is, your answer should never sound anything like "Well, I have 30,000 words written so far." For more on how to pitch, see our earlier post here.

Hope this is helpful and happy querying!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Contest Monday

Author Brenda Drake is hosting a Show Me The Voice contest with agent Natalie Fischer who is now an agent with Bradford Literary Agency. Today is the last day to post your first 250 words. Contest ends today. Winners will be announced tomorrow!

YA Fantasy Guide is giving away a personal Query Letter Critique from Tamar Rydzinski of the Laura Dail Literary Agency. Get all the details here. Contest ends March 31st.

As always, if you have a contest you'd like to share, add it to our Mr. Linky!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Friday Book Recommendation--Slice of Cherry by Dia Reeves

Product Details
Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 512 pages
Publisher: Simon Pulse (January 4, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1416986200

Kit and Fancy Cordelle are sisters of the best kind: best friends, best confidantes, and best accomplices. The daughters of the infamous Bonesaw Killer, Kit and Fancy are used to feeling like outsiders, and that’s just the way they like it. But in Portero, where the weird and wild run rampant, the Cordelle sisters are hardly the oddest or most dangerous creatures around.

It’s no surprise when Kit and Fancy start to give in to their deepest desire—the desire to kill. What starts as a fascination with slicing open and stitching up quickly spirals into a gratifying murder spree. Of course, the sisters aren’t killing just anyone, only the people who truly deserve it. But the girls have learned from the mistakes of their father, and know that a shred of evidence could get them caught. So when Fancy stumbles upon a mysterious and invisible doorway to another world, she opens a door to endless possibilities…


I am a big fan of Dia Reeves. Valerie and I had the pleasure of meeting her last May and she's a wonderful person and an incredibly talented storyteller. BLEEDING VIOLET is one of my favorite books, so when I found out she was writing another story set in the same town (Portero--it's a character all it's own) with two murderous teen girls, I was ecstatic. I had extremely high expectations for this book, and it met every one of them.

This one wasn't about Portero quite as much as BV, because in BV the main character was new to the town. The Cordelle sisters are natives. They're totally used to seeing headless corpses in the middle of the street, or benches soaked in blood. The characters (Fancy is my fave) are unique and interesting. The plot is twisted and fun, assuming you don't mind murder. The cover is gorgeous. I really can't say enough about this book.

I realize it may not be for everyone because it is twisted and macabre, but if you're into that stuff (I won't tell) you will love it! I recommend reading BLEEDING VIOLET first, just because you'll understand the town better if you do and it won't be so weird when there's gore and monsters running a muck.


Thursday, March 17, 2011

Writers For The Red Cross

Be sure to check out Dear Teen Me today for a letter from my scribe sister Valerie to her teen self. There's a picture. With Kermit. You don't want to miss it.

This week (like the last two or three) has been pretty frazzling for me, and like Kristi had mentioned on Tuesday, my mind keeps going back to Japan. Knowing what those people are going through puts things in perspective.

Times are hard for a lot of people, but this week before you go out and purchase a new book, check out Writers for the Red Cross. If you donate $25 to the Red Cross via WFTRC, you'll be sent a book of your choosing from what they have on their donated shelves.

Debbie from inkyelbows, is also donating a hand-illustrated custom poem to the highest bidder. Her package will be up for auction until March 20th. Details on that here.

They have a lot of great books on hand, but only a limited supply available, so if you can, donate today, and please spread the word!

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Clichés - They Sneak Up On You

So this week I'm pointing you to an awesome post on Avoiding Melodrama by Writing Deeper from Adventures in Children's Publishing.

This post is one of the best I've seen on explaining melodrama and cliché, and how you might be using them without even realizing it. Need proof? Here's the opening quote for the post. It literally stopped me dead in my tracks and lightbulbs went on when I re-read and absorbed it.

"Beware of clichés. Not just the ­clichés that Martin Amis is at war with. There are clichés of response as well as expression. There are clichés of observation and of thought – even of conception. Many novels, even quite a few adequately written ones, are ­clichés of form which conform to clichés of expectation." ~ Geoff Dyer

What are you waiting for? Go. Read. Learn.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Sadness and Celebration

As much as I've tried to focus on writing-related things this week, my mind keeps turning toward Japan. Like you, I've seen the horrific videos, and reports of millions who've had no food...or water...or heat...for FIVE days, yet I still cannot even imagine what they're going through. Because I'm seeing it all from the comfort of my heated and fully stocked house, with my loved ones safely at my side. Take a minute to send some healing thoughts their way, and is you can spare even a few dollars, consider sending a donation too (if you've had food or water in the last five days, you can probably find five dollars somewhere.) I sent mine through Shelter Box, but there is also Doctors Without Borders (where I've also donated and is a fabulous organization), and the American Red Cross.

Yet, as is the way of life, there is also happy news to report. The lovely and gracious Carolina Valdez Miller is officially represented by Vickie Motter. To help her celebrate, a host of peeps are contributing some awesome giveaways (and Carolina and Vickie are giving away a first page critique!). Get all the details here, but at least stop by to congratulate Carolina on her success!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Contest Monday Ending Today!

You have today to enter to win a YA or MG query critique from Jill Corcoran of The Herman Agency over at WriteOnCon!

Also ending today, our scribe Sister Valerie is giving to two winners (one guaranteed to be international) your choice of book from the Branson Retreat authors! Go here to enter by 11:59pm EST!

Books up for grabs are:

Beyond The Sea And Sky by Jaclyn Dolamore
Blood Magic by Tessa Gratton
Confessions of the Sullivan Sisters by Natalie Standiford
The Dark and Hollow Places by Carrie Ryan
Forever by Maggie Stiefvater
Hourglass by Myra McEntire
The Iron Queen by Julie Kagawa
Luminous by Dawn Metcalf
The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab
The Revenant by Sonia Gensler
Shift by Jeri Smith-Ready
Supernaturally by Kiersten White
Sweetly by Jackson Pearce
Taking Off by Jenny Moss
The Vespertine by Saundra Mitchell
Wanna Go Private by Sarah Darer Littman
XVI by Julia Karr

 Good luck! And if you have any contests to add, please use our Mr. Linky below.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Friday Book Recommendation-THE DUFF

My pick this week is THE DUFF (Designated Ugly Fat Friend) by Kody Keplinger. I read the ARC last year and loved this book:

Seventeen-year-old Bianca Piper is cynical and loyal, and she doesn’t think she’s the prettiest of her friends by a long shot. She’s also way too smart to fall for the charms of man-slut and slimy school hottie Wesley Rush. In fact, Bianca hates him. And when he nicknames her “the Duff,” she throws her Coke in his face.
But things aren’t so great at home right now, and Bianca is desperate for a distraction. She ends up kissing Wesley. Worse, she likes it. Eager for escape, Bianca throws herself into a closeted enemies-with-benefits relationship with him.

Until it all goes horribly awry. It turns out Wesley isn’t such a bad listener, and his life is pretty screwed up, too. Suddenly Bianca realizes with absolute horror that she’s falling for the guy she thought she hated more than anyone.

Kristi's take: I think everyone can relate to The DUFF, because it taps into those teenage feelings of not fitting in (regardless of whether you were "fat" or not). I also liked that it addressed the issue of teen sex in a realistic, but not glorified, way. There are teens out there having sex, and I know that some people think if teens don't read about sex, they won't do it. I'm not going to touch that one, so I'll just say that in my experience working with truckloads of teenagers, the most educated ones make the best decisions. Also, I should mention that this is a contemporary book with nary a paranormal creature in sight. For those of you who know how much I love me some zombie fae serial killers, you know what a high recommendation this is.

Anyone else read The DUFF? What did you think?   

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Deadlines Don't Have to be Damning

Writing for Tangled Fiction has taught me a lot in terms of character and plot structure, but also self-discipline. The only time I'd ever written under a deadline was when I'd gotten my editor's notes for Parallel, my short story that was published in the Rebel Moon anthology, and that was a piece of cake compared to TF deadlines.

Twenty-four to forty-eight hours is not a lot of time to come up with something out of the blue, especially when it has to match what's already written. And if you aren't in a writing mood, it's that much worse. I'm all for stepping away from the manuscript, distancing yourself until you're in a more relaxed state of mind and you can let the creativity flow, but sometimes that isn't an option. Sometimes you're faced with a deadline. And if you aren't burdened by deadlines now, someday you will be!

I've written things that have come off as harried, and I've written things I've been much more proud of. I wish that I had some magical piece of advice that would give you exactly what you need to prevail in the face of evil thought-crushing deadlines, but I don't. All I can say is that deadlines don't have to be damning. Do not fear the deadline! I think it's a great idea to condition yourself now so that when that five or however-many-page editorial letter comes, you're ready for it. You can do this. You can write something great even when your brain says you can't.

And if YOU have that magical piece of advice, I am so ready to hear it.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Getting Back On The New Book Horse

When I first decided to give writing a book a try, I was terrified. Not that my book would be bad - strangely, I never worried about that, don't know what that says about my ego. No, I was scared at the idea over a hundred pages full of words. As someone who had at most written a 100 page screenplay which has considerably less words on each page, and many short stories, the task seemed impossible. Where would all those words come from? What would they be? How could I possibly find a way to use so many of them to tell just one story??

I decided to make my goal simple. Just write a complete story, and make it to page 100. I thought if I could tell a whole story and reach three digit numbers I would know that I was capable of writing a book, which would be all the reassurance I would need. And so I did it, and it wasn't as hard as I thought it would be.

Ah, whoever coined the phrase "ignorance is bliss" was SO right. I look back now and I can't believe that I thought just finishing a book would be enough to turn me from under-confident writer wannabe to seasoned writer extraordinaire. You know, the one that churns out fabulous books and never has trouble with plots or dialogue or motivation. Ha!

Just like I knew that winning the lottery, or becoming mega-famous, or getting plastic surgery won't actually change who you are, I should've known that neither does writing a book.

Sitting down to write the next book is still hard. It still feels daunting to know I have to come up with 200+ pages of words. In some ways it's more daunting because I know how to spot the bad stuff as it's happening. In other ways, it's exciting, because I know this one will be SO MUCH better. I just also know that it won't be any easier.

Maybe one day I will sit down at the keyboard and gorgeous prose will shoot out of my fingertips like a sprinkler, but for now it's just me, a little bit wiser, trying to make the magic happen on my own.

I have a feeling that each book I write will get a little bit easier and a little bit harder at the same time. But I think that's good, because if it doesn't seem hard, I'm not trying to make it the best it can be. And as long as I learn from each book and make the next one better, I can live with that.

What about you? Do you find each book you write is harder? Easier? The same? How do you deal with it?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Skiing and Writing Part II

Around this time last year, I described my weekend skiing experience, which could best be summed up as:
I've spent a year waiting to redeem myself and trying to live down the jokes about calling ski patrol from a GREEN RUN. For those who don't know skiing, green runs are easy. Really easy. For example, this weekend my 6-yo described the green runs as "boring, baby runs," and went off on the non-baby blue runs. Whatever. I'm not going to say I made it past a green run this year...BUT there were no calls to ski patrol, and there was not a single time when I resembled the above picture. It's all about the baby steps, and I'm a better skier than I was last year, which brings me to writing. I'm also a better writer when I was last year. No, the magical writing fairy did not visit me. But here are three similarities I've found between skiing and writing.

1) Learning from the experts makes a difference. I shelled out money for several writing conferences last year in order to learn more about my craft. They were worth every single penny. When I went skiing this weekend, I spent money on a private lesson. I learned more in an hour and a half than in the past ten times I've been on skies. If money is tight, there are a ton of writing-related blogs and agent blogs that have a wealth of information at your fingertips.

2) You have to fall to get better. This may be just me, but sometimes you have to let yourself make mistakes in order to grow. One of my biggest struggles with skiing (besides staying upright) was making parallel turns, instead of the pizza wedge turns I normally use to snowplow my way down the mountain. This is the first year I've been able to do them, thanks to my wonderful ski instructor. But in order to do them, I had to play with the edges of my skis, and the first time I tried it, I fell. That fall taught me a ton as I finally understood the technique, and made real parallel turns after it. In writing, you have to give yourself permission to write that terrible first draft, include enough adverbs to make Stephen King cringe, and have so many "just"'s in your manuscript that your FIND function explodes. It's okay. "Just" use your mistakes as learning experiences, rather than seeing them as failures.

3) Comparing yourself to others is not helpful. Sure, I could dwell on the fact that my 6-yo has been skiing twice and can already ski circles around me. Or the fact that my hubby (who also skies better than me), decided to try snowboarding this year only to have his instructor tell him that he was the fastest learner she's seen in all the years she's given lessons. Whatever. I could also obsess over writers who only had to send out five query letters and got five offers of representation. Or published their first book and made a gazillion dollars on sparkly vampires. The only comparison you need to worry about is with yourself. Are you better than you were last year? Are you making progress? I'm continuing to grow in both skiing and writing. Would I love to be able to hang with my son on the blue runs next year? Absolutely. Would I love to be able to say I have a book coming out in the next year. Yep. But I know I'll get there. One step at a time.

What baby steps have you taken this year, either in writing or any challenging recreational activities? 

Monday, March 7, 2011

Contest Monday featuring The Knight Agency

The Knight Agency is searching for their next client in this contest made of awesome! NOTE: There is a narrow entry window for this one. You must leave a comment on their blog between 12ET and 1ET TODAY (March 7th) to even be considered for the contest. They will choose 125 entries at random, who will then start the "speed-dating" type process. As I will be skiing (or more likely falling) at that time, I can't enter myself but wish you all good luck! Be sure to read all the details on the link--it looks like a cool opportunity.

My uber-amazing blog Sister, Valerie, is hosting a giveaway. There will be 2 winners (one guaranteed to be international) who get to choose from seventeen incredible books. Contest ends: March 17th.

For all you paranormal lovers out there: Win an ARC of BLESSED by Cynthia Leitich Smith. Hurry--this one ends March 8th.

Happy Monday! Don't forget to add your own contest in Mr. Linky below.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Friday Book Recommendation

The Secret Year by Jennifer R. Hubbard.

Take Romeo and Juliet. Add The Outsiders. Mix thoroughly.

Colt and Julia were secretly together for an entire year, and no one—not even Julia’s boyfriend— knew. They had nothing in common, with Julia in her country club world on Black Mountain and Colt from down on the flats, but it never mattered. Until Julia dies in a car accident, and Colt learns the price of secrecy. He can’t mourn Julia openly, and he’s tormented that he might have played a part in her death. When Julia’s journal ends up in his hands, Colt relives their year together at the same time that he’s desperately trying to forget her. But how do you get over someone who was never yours in the first place?

Why I Love This Book: SO many reasons. You might remember this title as one of my recs this week in my post about boy books. (It's just come out in paperback, which is the cover I posted here.) The voice in this one is so real, the details so sensory I felt like I was there on the mountain and at the river, and the story is so emotional that even weeks later I was still thinking about it. Even if you don't normally like male narrators, you will like this book. I promise. It's moving, and involving, and there's so much more to it than just a sad love story. If you haven't read this book yet, go get it, now!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

WriteonCon Chat Recap

Monday, February 28th, the fabulous ladies that run the writeoncon website hosted another awesome chat, this time with literary agent Suzie Townsend of Fine Print Literary, and Harper Collins editor, Maria Gomez. The full recap of the chat is available at but I wanted to talk about a few of the topics that interested me.

At one point, the guest panel was asked if there were any manuscripts they were tired of seeing, and/or what they had seen a lot of.

*Cringe waiting for the dreaded V word*

Suzie said: I'm actually really tired of the "teen girl is happily going along in life and then meets a smart, funny, charming, cute boy who shows her that life isn't fair and then she rebels against society." I'm sort of sick of girl influence by the smart boy routine. I want smart girls too.

Not what I was expecting, but an excellent answer.

Maria added: Paranormal and Dystopian are the ones that are landing in my inbox on a daily basis...but the market is still hungry for it. However, I'm definitely more cautious with manuscripts in those genres now that the lists are so glutted with them.

This was the answer I had expected. But do not fear, paranormal and dystopian writers! As long as you have a compelling story with fantastic characters, someone will fall in love with it. Someone will. Someone. Right?

Suzie: I'm also really over plain Jane girl meets mysterious boy who might be trying to kill her but is also in love with her and he's a vampire/werewolf/angel/harpie/gryphon/unicorn/zombie/something else.

Zombie love interest? Ew.

Suzie also pointed out that mermaid love interests kind of creep her out. Dan Krokos (author of FALSE MEMORY, Disney Hyperion 2012) went on to defend his love of Ariel the little mermaid and her hawt seashells.

Both panelists said they'd love to see a great contemporary but that they are a bit harder to sell in today's current market.

Someone asked what sort of high concept contemporary would grab their attention.

Suzie had this to say: A supernatural twist is an easier sell right now (in both genres) but obviously it still has to be a good story. Don't just add a supernatural element for the sake of it being there.

Great advice.

She added: for a high concept contemporary...I want a thriller or something really suspenseful.

Maria: Supernatural twist is easier now, but contemporary should be making a comeback soon--I hope!

Yay! For contemporary! :D

Maria: Ooh...a mystery would be great. Or a really amazing love story--there are so many unexplored aspects of this. I'm tired of the lonely outcast girl falls in love with popular boy story. 

Okay, so I'd love to recap the whole thing for you, but that's kinda why they put the transcript on the write on con site. So, I will just skip down to my own question.

I asked if shorter manuscripts were harder to sell than longer, and what they felt was considered too short for YA. There was much love for well-paced shorter fiction from the attendees, including the hosts. :)

Suzie's answer: Anything under 50-60k for contemporary is a really tough sell.  
Anything under 75-80k for something with worldbuilding is a really tough sell

Maria said: It's harder to sell novellas (really short books) because people are paying $$ and want to get their money's worth, for sure. Especially after all of these 400+ page novels have been so successful. 

And then I apparently broke the chat box because it started acting wonky for a few minutes. Oops! 

So there you have it, my quick recap of the last writeoncon chat. If you haven't been to one of the chats you really should try to attend. They're entertaining, with Shannon Messenger and her jazz hands, and always very informative. If you can't make a chat, the transcripts are available. 

If you did attend, what were some of the topics that stood out most to you? Anything to add to the few I recapped on here? 

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

For The Love Of Boy... Books

I love boy books. For some reason I'm always drawn to books with male narrators. Many of my story ideas come to me with boy as the main character. And even though my current project is a dual narrative, in which one of the narrators is a boy, I never considered it a "boy book" and I've always been a bit hesitant about writing something strictly from a boy's point of view.

Then I read this post by Hannah Moskowitz who has so far written exclusively male 1st person POVs (and they are AWESOME) and I changed my mind. Since then I've written several shorts over at Tangled Fiction that feature boy narrators, and fleshed out some ideas for novels. And I really love it. I have no idea why, but there are several teenage boys living in my head and I think it's only fair they get their shot to appear on paper too.

So today I want to celebrate women writing boys, because there have been some great books lately about boys who are REAL BOYS, not the sweet, fantasized versions girls are supposed to like written by women, and I don't think they get the kind of attention they should.

Here is a list of some of my recent favorite boy books by women who I think totally nailed the voice. If you haven't read them yet, I suggest you get started now.

Break and Invincible Summer by Hannah Moskowitz
The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff
Candor by Pam Bachorz
The Secret Year by Jennifer R. Hubbard
The Rise of Renegade X by Chelsea Campbell
Freefall by Mindi Scott

What about you? Do you have a boy book in your head you've been afraid to write? Do you love boy books? What are some of your favorites written by women?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

3 Common Mistakes I Found While Judging a Writing Contest

I was honored when asked to return as a judge to a regional writing contest this year. After judging for several years, I've noticed a trend in things that I've found with contest entries. And let me start off by saying that it's WAY easier to judge than to write. Just because I observed these things in the writing of others doesn't mean that I'm not guilty of doing them myself. As anyone in a critique group knows, it's easy to be objective about a book...when it's someone else's book!

Here are the 3 most common mistakes I found:

1) Starting the story in the wrong place. In the contest entries I reviewed, the writer often started out by showing the MC (main character) in their ordinary world before getting to what made the story unique. The result was, well, ordinary. This isn't the place for the character to sit and reflect on their life, or to start a normal day. Cut this part out and get to the unusual part. If you don't hook the reader in the first paragraph, you probably won't, and you definitely won't hook them by describing how the MC brushes their teeth. (NOTE: None of the contest entries began with a character brushing their teeth--or any other body parts. Any examples are fabricated entirely by moi.)

2) Telling instead of showing. This is something that every single writer out there has struggled with at one time or another. If you haven't, please leave a comment below and let us know your secret.
Telling: Jack was so angry that he threw his glass of orange juice at me, then emphatically stormed out the door which slammed loudly behind him.
Showing: Jack's hand tightened around his glass of orange juice. I ducked as the glass shattered against the wall. "There's your daily dose of Vitamin C," he said as he walked out the door. (Not perfect but you get the idea)

3) Over-writing. Adding multiple modifiers to your sentence does not make it stronger. In fact, excess adjectives and adverbs take away from the impact of what you're trying to convey. Remember Stephen King's quote, "The road to hell is paved with adverbs." It's a case where less is more. (TIP: use the FIND function in Word to search for -ly words. This catches a ton of adverbs)
Over-writing: The scorching, sizzling sun blazed brilliantly overhead, causing a cascade of sweat to drip down my already overheated body.
Simplified version: It's flippin' hot out.

Do any of these ring a bell with you? Any other common errors you've noticed in your own first drafts?
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...