Archive | January, 2010

Question of the Week: Theme Songs

29 Jan

Music has been a hot topic for the LTWF team this week, so we figured we should have a relevant QotW! So, today, our question is:

If you had to pick one “theme song” for your novel, what would it be?

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My current WIP was inspired by the song “Supergirl” by Saving Jane. But the novel I just completed (my first one yet!) was inspired by the ENTIRE movie soundtrack of ELIZABETH: THE GOLDEN AGE. It’s really hard for me to choose a song from that album that perfectly fits the novel, but this song and this song heavily helped me write the novel.

The Writer Who Just Finished Her First Novel

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It’s impossible for me to pinpoint “theme song” for QUEEN OF GLASS, though the entire series sprang up from listening to the first 60 seconds of this piece of music from Disney’s CINDERELLLA soundtrack. A COURT OF THORNS AND ROSES bloomed before my eyes after listening to “The Demon God” track from the PRINCESS MONONOKE score–I heard it, and instantly knew how the book would begin, and what the tone would be.

HADES is the only book of mine with a theme song. I think “Viva La Vida” by Coldplay fits it perfectly–especially the lyrics.

The Writer Waiting On Submissions

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I would pick Vivaldi’s ‘Winter’ (movement 1 Allegro non molto) for my historical romance, THE RUNAWAY COURTESAN. When I began writing TRC two years ago, this piece was in my playlist, and though I’ve removed and added new songs to my list, ‘Winter’ has always remained. And it was actually this piece I was listening to while writing an outline for my book. Each note in ‘Winter’ struck a chord in my heart, flashed scenes before my eyes, of a fallen woman lost in the glamorous, yet decadent Regency society. Ahhh! It’s heartbreakingly lovely. There’s something about Vivaldi’s ‘Winter’ that sends a shiver down my spine each time I listen to it.

The Writer Who Got Two Partial Requests

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I haven’t found it yet! The work showcases three points of view, and they’re all quite different, so instead of one song, here are three songs; one for each protagonist. Only Mary’s character “voice” was inspired by music, by the song I chose for her. Ingrid’s and Annie’s songs are ones that remind me of them, but neither character was inspired by any kind of music.

For Ingrid: “Lord Don’t Slow Me Down (Liam on Vocals),” by Oasis.

For Annie: “Hope For The Hopeless,” by A Fine Frenzy

For Mary: (funnily enough) “Ingrid’s Lament,” from Peer Gynt Suite No.2, by Edvard Grieg.

The Brand-New LTWF Contributor!

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My WIP was inspired by “Believe Me Natalie” by The Killers. My most famous work, ANTEBELLUM, would probably be best described by “Be Your Love” by Rachael Yamagata.

The Writer Also Waiting on Submissions

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As you can tell, we have someone NEW on our LTWF team!!! Even though it’s not too hard to figure out, she’ll have her LTWF debut next Wednesday!

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Guest Post: Biljana Likic on The Importance of Reading WIPs

27 Jan

Today, we have the pleasure of Biljana Likic guest-blogging for us! Biljana is a fellow FictionPress.com author, and is in the middle of revising her first novel. She’s an amazingly talented writer, and a bit of a prodigy, too–she just turned eighteen! Keep your eyes peeled for her name, because we just KNOW she’s going places!

Take it away, Biljana!

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Hi, everyone!

So, as we all know, reading books is an integral part of learning how to write. When you read only good ones though, it’s easy to forget that even they’ve had coarse and sketchy drafts. And while a great deal can be learned from reading good books, they often won’t tell you how to write well. Sometimes it’s the novice that will teach you the most valuable lesson, and reading a work in progress can act like a workshop. It can teach you the process of building an original universe.

A Work in Progress, or WIP, has a vulnerability exclusive to its kind. It’s a writer’s brainchild, and it can have an enormous amount to grow. In the past year, as I began to take writing more seriously, this growth and process has become fascinating to me.

Expressing my honest opinion to an author has led me to revelations that I’ve later been able to take back to my own writing. These revelations were always something that I knew in the back of my head, but was never able to consciously pinpoint. So, I thought I’d explain to you guys some of the key things I’ve learned and explored this past year through reading various WIPs.

1. Word Choice. Seems obvious, doesn’t it? But there have been many times that word choice made the flow stumble. Find your voice and keep it consistent. Always use words that you think best describe what the protagonist is going through, and use variety. Nothing is more boring that a page full of  “hot’s”. But if you substitute them with “blistering” and “torrid” and “sweltering”, the reader suddenly feels like they’re in an oven. A pickier point would be also not to use distinct words more than a few times. If you use a word like “piquant”, the reader will notice if it appears again a short time later. The thesaurus is your friend.

2. Awkward Phrasing and Over-Describing. Another obvious one. Personally, awkward phrasing is a nightmare to me. The key, I found, was to make it simpler. A lot of the time (and I’m very guilty of this, too), an author will try to make something sound more inspiring by giving it a different sentence structure or packing it down with too much description. Scrap it all. You don’t need it. If it needs to stand out, simplicity might even help it. If a big secret is being exposed, too many words will make us care less. And that is the last thing you want.

3. Repeated idioms/analogies. Unless it’s part of the character, or unless it’s frequent appearance is used in some ironic, funny, or deeply meaningful way, there is nothing more annoying than repeating an idiom or analogy. Some people even find idioms lazy, and think it’s just the use of common imagery to avoid the work of coming up with something new. I personally have nothing wrong with it, as long as I never have to see it again in the rest of the book. Think about it: how annoying was Sarah Palin with her stupid “pit bull with lipstick” spiel she’d throw every time somebody questioned her? The same can happen in writing. Once again, if it’s there for characterization, it’s fine.

For example, in Casablanca, Rick’s frequent “I stick my neck out for nobody,” turned into something heartbreaking by the end of the movie. That’s fine. What you don’t want is to repeat, “She was the apple of his eye,” every time you reintroduce a couple. Instead of endearing, as it may have been the first time, it becomes cheesy to the point of being painful. If you want to use an idiom or analogy, find a good, strong place to put it, squeeze all the juice you can out of it once, and then never use it again.

4. Transitions and flow. You can have great, amazing, stupendously awesome paragraphs, but if you don’t connect them well, they’ll sound like crap. Alright…that’s a little bit of an exaggeration. But transitions are really important. They are what ultimately keep the reader reading. A bad transition to the next section can turn a paragraph that’s great and exciting into one that’s anti-climactic. Almost every time you finish a paragraph, you have to go out with a bang because that’s what the reader will subconsciously remember when they think about how great the book was. You need dozens upon dozens of satisfying “endings” so that when you get to that most important one, the lead-up makes it explode into greatness. That said, however, you don’t always have to use powerful wording and creative punctuation. Find a medium, and exploit it.

5. Understating to Avoid Predictability. Painful predictability is every author’s hidden fear. Here’s a way I found to avoid it: understatement. A story’s ending has to make sense. Sometimes you’ll want the ending to be shocking. But you don’t want it so shocking that it’s completely unbelievable. You want to give the reader just as many hints as it takes to put the thought in their heads, but not enough to make them too suspicious. It’s just a matter of playing down the issue and making it subtle, manipulating the phrasing to focus on everything but the suspicious stuff. If the reader ever reads the story again, they’ll pick out these hints and simply marvel at how masterly your plot-weaving skills are.

And that’s all, folks! All that made clearer, just from reading Works in Progress. Makes me want to weep. Of course, there’s more. There always is. There’s continuity, pacing, dialogue… It never ends. But hopefully you now have a greater understanding as to why it’s important to read and critique other people’s works, and you have a few hints of how to better your own writing. Good luck!

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Biljana Likic is an aspiring author, currently revising her first novel, TIME IS A FUNNY THING. She’s in her final year of high school, waiting and waiting to graduate, finish university, and finally have all the time in the world to write. You can visit her blog here, and check out her work on her FictionPress account.

Book Trailer Contest Winners!

25 Jan

First of all, a HUGE thank-you to everyone who sent us in your book trailers! They were amazing, and we had SUCH a hard time picking our winners. Seriously–we were all blown away by their quality. For everyone interested in seeing the submissions, check out our YouTube channel–we’ve favorited all of the contest entries.

Again, this was such a hard decision–but without further ado…

Our third-place winner, and recipient of a $5.00 Amazon.com gift card is…

Amber Hackstadt, for DAUGHTER OF THE OCEAN!

This was a beautiful trailer–everything from the clips to the music to the text really fit the mood/feel of the story.

Our runner-up, and recipient of a $10.00 Amazon.com gift card is…

Aurora Blackguard, for BERSERKER!

We absolutely adored this trailer, but couldn’t award it the grand prize due to its length going over the 1-minute requirement. However, we also couldn’t ignore its seamless use of movie clips and killer music. Really fantastic job.

…And last, but not least…

Our Book Trailer Contest Winner, and recipient of an ARC of SING ME TO SLEEP by Angela Morrison, a bag of confectionary goodies (i.e. candy), and a query letter or first 3 chapters critique of your work by the LTWF contributors (if you don’t want the critique you can opt to receive a signed copy of PRADA AND PREJUDICE from LTWF’s own Mandy Hubbard!) is…

Rowenna Miller, for LINDEN HALL!

We adored the use of original photography, and the music fit the trailer perfectly. The trailer gave us a great sense of what the book is about, and even though some of us usually gravitate towards other genres, ALL of us were itching to read this book after we saw the trailer! Congratulations, Rowenna!

For our winners, someone from our team will be contacting you shortly with details about receiving your prizes!

Again, thank you SO much to everyone who entered. We were astounded and humbled by how much effort you put into your trailers, and this was SUCH a close call. We’re going to be hosting a Book Cover Contest soon, where you can submit your original/fanmade book covers, so keep your eyes peeled for contest details!

You guys are amazing–thank you for making this first contest so successful!

Question of the Week: Murdering Your Darlings

22 Jan

REMINDER: OUR BOOK TRAILER CONTEST ENDS TONIGHT (1/22) AT MIDNIGHT PST.

PLEASE SUBMIT YOUR ENTRIES TO letthewordsflowblog@gmail.com.

CLICK HERE FOR THE COMPLETE GUIDELINES AND PRIZES.

WINNERS WILL BE ANNOUNCED ON MONDAY, JANUARY 25th.

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This week, we’re answering a question from Caitlin, who asked us: When editing, what was the most painful decision you’ve had to make regarding cutting things out (like, what was your favorite scene or character or sub-plot that you subsequently found yourself removing?) and how did you deal with it?

Great question, Caitlin!

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I think that the most painful things I ever had to cut were ‘traditional’ things; scenes or character names I’d had in there from the beginning. The hardest thing for me to learn was that you HAVE to delete something if it’s not good, even if you can’t imagine your story without that particular scene. If it’s bad, it must go.

Something I found helpful is to have multiple drafts of my story. Work in Progress 1, Work in Progress 2, etc. Then I can always go back to an earlier version if I don’t like the cuts I make. But you know what? I’ve never gone back to an earlier version. Ever. The cuts are made for a reason, even if it’s painful to lose the flack.

The Other Writer Waiting On Submissions

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What I had most difficulty cutting out was the scene where my hero, Lord Candover, got mortally wounded in a brawl. That didn’t work out, so I tried to shoot him down in a duel instead. This didn’t work either. I thought to have his ex-mistress stab him…but that ended up being too melodramatic. So I reverted back to the duel scene, trying to manipulate my story so it would allow this scene to remain. But it JUST wouldn’t fit in with the story. I tried a few other ways to mortally wound Candover… Until I finally gave into the arrogant man’s angry demand: DAMN IT WOMAN! I AM NOT SUPPOSED TO GET SHOT, STABBED, OR BEATEN!!!! I sighed in defeat. Sometimes your characters know your story best.

The Writer Who Got Two Partial Requests

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For me, the pain of taking beloved material out of QUEEN OF GLASS was like ripping off a bandaid. At one point, my manuscript was 240k words long, and I was told I needed to cut out 100k words before ANYONE–agent, editor, etc.–would even look at it. It was pretty much do-or-die, so I took a deep breath and just started cutting. It was terrifying at first, but even as I threw beloved (but pointless) scenes and characters out the window, I began seeing how–with each tossed word–my book was becoming stronger.

Cutting material will always be bittersweet for me. I still groan when I have to remove a scene that I LOVE, but I also get a total thrill knowing my book just became THAT much better by cutting it. So, if I had to pinpoint the “most painful” cut, it’d definitely be that first one, when I sliced 100k words from my manuscript in one fell swoop. There were some scenes that were harder to let go of than others, but I know it was for the best. Learning to see my writing objectively and not be afraid to make big revisions is a skill I’ve truly come to value.

The Writer Waiting on Submissions

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Remember, get your Book Trailer Contest submissions in by MIDNIGHT (Pacific Time) tonight!

Vlog: Savannah J. Foley on Writers Not Writing

20 Jan

Forge On, Brave Writers

18 Jan

by June Hur

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You browse through FictionPress and find a story written in the same genre as you, with the same number of chapters as you, but…this author has more reviews than your story does.

 In this case:
a. You think you are a bad writer
b. For at least a moment you doubt your writing talent
c. Being beaten by 2000+ reviews ruins your day completely
d. You read over the story you were once proud of, which now fills you with shame
e. You grind your teeth
f. You feel discontent with yourself
g. You are indifferent and still think you’re the best writer

If you chose “g” then . . . you’re a lucky duck. But, generally speaking, Writerly Jealousy or Writerly Low Self-Esteem is a common cold that many writers suffer once, or several times, throughout their writing career.

However, even though there will always be writers better than you, you cannot allow jealousy, or the feeling of inferiority, eat away at your love of writing. You need to turn this negative emotion into a fuel that will drive you to want to write better.

Many of the biographies I’ve read were about writers who did not receive instant recognition. Many were about writers who died and then became famous. If these writers, who are now deemed to be literary geniuses, had listened to the voice that said “Why write when there are so many others better than you?” we would have a very small collection of classics in our library. And that would suck for us.

Likewise, I’ll wager that there are some of you, right now, who are reading this article and shaking your head, saying that you love writing, but are a not-good-enough of a writer. Yet I can just see your life being made into one of those Hollywood movies: Writer loves to write, writes a story, is crushed by the reviews (or the lack thereof), goes through a period of depression, is sent to a therapist, then is locked up in a psychiatric hospital for years, and finally decides to give writing another try, and ends up in a crowd of flashing cameras and news reporters and fans. Movie ends; the credits will roll. The audiences in the theatre will sniffle and wipe their teary eyes on their way out. They’ll slip out their phones while lining up in the washroom, tweeting: If you love to write, persevere, and your passion will shine through.

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June Hur is the author of The Runaway Courtesan. She is currently awaiting the responses of two agents that requested a partial of her manuscript. When she is not working on her next book, she can usually be found at a book shop, searching for a Great Love Story to read and analyze. You can follow her on Twitter or through her blog.

Question of the Week: Is It Harder For Young Writers To Get Published?

15 Jan

A quick note before we answer our Question of the Week! When submitting your Book Trailer Contest entries, be sure to e-mail LetTheWordsFlowBlog@gmail.com! There was some confusion regarding the e-mail address, so we just want to clarify. A HUGE thank-you to everyone who has submitted so far! We’re totally blown away by how awesome your entries are! Keem ’em coming, guys!

So, our Question of the Week comes from Gabby, who asked us:

Is it more difficult for a teenage writer to get published than it is for an older writer?

Hope this helps, Gabby!

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I don’t know about older writers, but I do know that it’s difficult to be published when young because–before we are a writer, we are a student first. Here is the to-do list of a writer/student (me): Finish manuscript rewrite requested by agent, begin history research paper on Romanticism, research paper on Jane Austen’s Persuasion, essay paper on O’Conner’s work, study for psychology and sociology midterms…

Things would get MUCH more busier if my work got contracted by a publishing house. If you read Mandy’s article on the process to publication, editors will send you revision letters along with a deadline. And somehow a student would have to cram their school life somewhere in between…But I’m totally up for it. I think.

-The Writer Who Got Two Partial Requests

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Disclaimer: I’m not an expert on this subject, but I did read Miss Snark’s blog back in the day.  From what I understand, agents and publishers are looking for people who can write.  Period.  If you’re not old enough to sign a legal contract, then a parent or legal guardian has to sign for you, but that’s about
the only thing I can think of that would be different for teenager authors compared to anyone else.  In fact, I can think of some teen authors (*cough* Christopher Paolini) that were especially promoted because they wrote their books at such a young age.

The Writer Who is Writing Queries

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I think it is not harder to get published when you are young or when you are older. Agents and publishing houses are just looking for people who can write and write well. There are tons of young authors who have been published at ages like seventeen or eighteen. And then there are people who are older when they publish like in their fifties or whatnot. I believe that in order to get an agent, you should write the best story you can write. Then, edit it. Then if you feel you are ready, query. Get an agent. The point is to write the best story you can write and to not worry about your age. As they say, age is just a number!

The Writer Writing Her First Novel

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It is absolutely *NOT* harder to get published as a minor than as an adult. It doesn’t matter if you are 16 or 56, becuase the process is the same: you query agents. And there is no reason to mention your age (no matter what it is) in your query letter. Thus, if they don’t know you’re a teen, they aren’t going to treat you any different than anyone else.

Now, is it harder to be a really good writer when you’re 16? Yes, probably. Someone who is 56 might have spent the last 20 years writing. But it’s not impossible. The writing is what matters, not your age. I got my first agent when I was 23.

-The Writer With A Book Deal

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I pretty much second everything “The Writer With A Book Deal” just said. Couldn’t have phrased it better myself.

-The Writer Waiting on Submissions

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I would say it’s not more difficult for a teenage writer to get published than it is for an older writer simply because of age. By that I mean that if you start building up writing credits from a young age, it will be easier for you to be published in a magazine or by a publishing house, as opposed to a 30-year-old who has no writing credits. The most difficult obstacle facing teenagers trying to get published is very simple: Time. People aged 13-19 simply don’t have and haven’t had enough time! It takes many years of reading and practicing to develop the writing and creativity skills necessary for publishing. There’s a reason why there are very few teenaged authors… writing is tough! And some people need more time than others to get to a point in their lives where they are capable of writing good work. Even if you’re to the point where you can write well, you still have to actually write that novel, and it can take years!

Another problem is that the publishing process is SLOW. I signed with my literary agent when I was a teenager (not quite the goal I was hoping for, but close enough), and let’s just say that while waiting to be published I have exited my teens. Once I actually sign with a publishing house there will be an even longer wait while I go through edits, and then waiting for the book to come out.

In conclusion, I think the only real problem (though it is a definitely a huge problem, no doubt) facing teenagers is not having enough time to develop as a writer, actually write a book, get an agent, get a publisher, and have their book come out. You’re a teenager for only 7 years, and an adult for hopefully 60 or more, so the odds are on the side of adults to be published more.

There are teenaged exceptions of course, but you’ll find that these are extra-ordinary circumstances, or they cheated (*cough*Christopher Paolini*cough*).

-The Other Writer Waiting on Submissions

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Thanks for stopping by, everyone! And be sure to continue sending us your Book Trailer Contest entries! 🙂

Soul Searching at the Start of a New Year

11 Jan

by Lynn Heitkamp

I am my own worst critic.

I’m forever seeing the flaws in my work and wondering how it will ever measure up to really great writing. Have you ever had the experience where you’re reading a passage that really speaks to you, but while part of your soul is singing, the other part gets depressed because you’re convinced nothing in your latest manuscript even comes close to being that good? Well, I certainly have.

It seems like every time I think I’m almost done with Thorn of the Kingdom, and print off a “final” copy to review for grammar errors and other minor edits before sending it off to an agent, I find something else that “needs” to be changed. I never realized how ridiculous I was being about this until I noticed I was changing things back on my next go-round of edits. I’d be flipping two words in a sentence one time, then changing them back to the original order on the next. In essence, I was writing myself in circles.

I guess I’d taken all that advice about not sending off queries on half-baked material to heart. I wanted to Revise! Rewrite! I wanted my manuscript to be perfect before I sent it off.

However, I’m beginning to realize that another thing they always say about writing is also true. There is no such thing as a perfect novel. Charles Dickens didn’t have one. James Joyce and F. Scott Fitzgerald didn’t either. Jane Austen might have come close, but even she left us with novels that could have been improved.

As human beings, we’re all miserably flawed, and so is our writing. And so much of what is considered “great” is chalked up to personal taste and opinion. Trying to come up with a manuscript that is without fault seems not only impossible, but a tad egotistical.

So, I’m setting a new goal for myself in 2010. I am going to try and silence my inner critic when her voice becomes self-defeating. I’m going to query my manuscript because I know it has merit, even though I also know it also has flaws.

And, if all else fails, the next time this whole publishing dream seems hopeless, I’m going to pull out my trusted copy of Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird and realize I’m not the only writer who’s ever gone through this insecurity. She calls perfectionism “a mean, frozen form of idealism, while messes are the artist’s true friend.” That’s a lesson I mean to take to heart this year.

Lynn Heitkamp is the author of Thorn of the Kingdom, and several other novels on FictionPress.  She lives in Michigan, where she is a librarian and former journalist.

Currently Reading: Traveling with Pomegranates by Sue Monk Kidd and Ann Kidd Taylor

Question of the Week: What’s Your New Year’s Resolution?

8 Jan

So first of all, a huuuge thank-you to everyone who subscribed to our YouTube channel! We’re so excited to start vlogging on a regular basis, so definitely keep your eyes peeled for new vlog entries!

Secondly, in honor of the New Year, we’re keeping our QotW pretty simple this week: “What’s Your New Year’s Resolution?”

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I posted my New Year’s resolutions here on my livejournal.

-The Other Writer Waiting on Submissions

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Become an agent. 🙂 That means continue interning and absorb everything I can, and pursue any opportunities with established agencies.

-The Writer With A Book On Shelves

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My New Year’s Resolution would be to discipline myself as a writer. This means to write at least an hour a day rather than staring at the screen, complaining that I cannot write because I lack inspiration to do so.

-The Writer Who Got Two Partial Requests

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I posted the complete list of my New Year’s Resolutions here, but if I were to pick one above all others (even though it’s a bit out of my control), it would be to sell one of my books. Maybe it’s bad luck to announce to the world that it’s my No. 1 goal. *wince*

-The Writer Who’s Waiting on Submissions

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Now, we want to know: what are your resolutions?

Thanks for stopping by–be sure to check back on Monday for Lynn Heitkamp’s post! Have a great weekend, everyone!

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If you want to submit a question, please click on the Ask A Question of the Week link above. We mostly go in order, and after we answer your question, we reply to you with a link to our responses. 🙂

Our Very First Vlog Post: Should You Mention FP in Your Query Letter?

6 Jan

By Sarah J. Maas

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Hey everyone!

So, thanks to our dear friend Anthony’s wonderful suggestion, we’re changing it up a bit today. Instead of writing an article, I decided to vlog about my topic: “Should You Mention FictionPress in Your Query Letter?”

Check it out!

I hope you all enjoyed it! Feel free to subscribe to our YouTube channel: we’ll hopefully be posting vlog entries on a frequent basis. Make sure to return on Friday for our Question of the Week: “What’s Your New Year’s Resolution?” And don’t forget to enter our Book Trailer Contest!

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Sarah J. Maas is the author of several novels, including QUEEN OF GLASS, a YA fantasy retelling of Cinderella. Her agent currently has her novel on submissions to editors. Sarah resides with her fiancé in Los Angeles. You can visit her blog here.