Archive | February, 2010

If You Like LTWF…

27 Feb

Hey guys!

We just wanted to thank everyone for all of the compliments we’ve received lately. Our purpose in creating and maintaining this blog is to provide a resource for writers in the early stages of the publishing process, and we try to be as interactive and helpful as possible.

Now that we have some new readers, we thought now would be a good time to point out some features of LTWF that you might not know about or be utilizing:

Header Links

Contributor’s Page: Pictures and Biographical information about our current Contributors, all in one place.

QOTW: Got a question for us? Ask it here! Every Friday we do a Question of the Week based on questions asked to us here. We mostly go in order unless something is really pressing.

Contact: Are you a FictionPress author now on the path to publication? Interested in becoming a LTWF Contributor? Email us!

Side Links

Blogs: A lot of us talk about writing and our personal publishing journeys outside of LTWF, in our writer blogs. If you just can’t get enough of LTWF, you might want to take a look at these awesome blogs:

Mandy Hubbard has recently become a literary agent, but she’s also a published author! Her blog (at livejournal) talks about her books, both past and upcoming, and gives you insight into the life of a literary agent. She’s got tips on querying, formatting, and writing as a whole. PLUS, her archives tell an honest and inspiring tale of her struggle to publication, despite repeated rejection. Mandy never gave up, and boy did she get the success she was so adamant on pursuing. Mandy’s blog is great for anyone who wants to learn more about the publishing industry, or who is querying or plans to be querying anytime soon.

Sarah J. Maas is signed with a literary agency, and we expect her to announce a publishing contract any day now! Her blog is upbeat and interactive as she talks about her current projects and her insane travel trips (she was recently in Cairo, Egypt, and even more recently at one of the most haunted hotels in America, where she swears she interacted with a ghost!)

Savannah J. Foley is also signed with a literary agency. She blogs about her personal writing projects and life from a writer’s perspective, mixing zen-like outlooks with personal stories about life, love, and writing. She also owns her own freelance writing company, and occasionally blogs about the interesting facets of those contract projects. Savannah updates every time she receives word from her agent, keeping readers abreast of what it’s like to receive complimentary rejection letters from publishers (friends-locked, of course).

Sometimes it seems like Rachel Simon knows every single young writer out there! Her blog is peppered with fascinating interviews by published and nearly-published writers. She’s recently featured Alexandra Bracken, Lindsay Leavitt, Tenner Rachel Hawkins, and Jennifer R. Hubbard. Rachel is hard at work on revising her first novel while simultaneously working on her second (and third! and fourth!), and she often discusses the pains of the editing process while life –and school– does its best to get in the way.

June Hur is hard at work finding a literary agent, and shares every step of the process! She also hosts polls, contests, reviews, reader appreciation day, and posts hilarious excerpts of her younger work, most recently a fan fiction for Pride and Prejudice.

Biljana Likic is LTWF’s second newest contributor, but she’s already made a name for herself internally as the group’s go-to for excellent critique advice! ‘Billy’ posts social commentary from the fresh and snarky perspective of a Canadian theatre major.

Fictionpress Accounts

We put them all in one easy place for you! Visit our old (and sometimes current) accounts and see if you used to know us back in the day!

Twitter Accounts

It’s not all ‘I just had a ham sandwich’ around here. We use our twitter accounts to share insights, get the word out about contests, and communicate with other writers. If you’ve been craving a sense of writerly community, add us for instant writer-fun. BONUS:

LTWF Twitter Account: If you don’t want to subscribe to our blog, but still want to know when we make an update, consider following the LTWF Twitter Account.

Resources for Writers

Our favorite how-to’s and other guides.

LTWF Youtube Channel

See all the videos we’ve ever uploaded that discuss writing. BONUS: Check out our friends for the personal youtube accounts of LTWF members. It’s all writing all the time on these channels.

Tag Field

Interested in a particular topic? You don’t have to scroll through every entry we’ve ever made; make use of the tag field and go to just those entries you have an interest in. BONUS: Got a favorite contributor? All our entries are tagged with our names.

~~~

Thanks again to all our new readers!

 

Advertisements

How Do You Bring Characters To Life?

26 Feb

by June Hur

~~~

I received an email from one of my readers who recently decided to dabble a bit in writing herself. She wrote to me of how lifeless her characters seemed, and thus, how discouraged she felt when hearing other writer friends talk about their characters being so alive to them, like real friends. What, she then asked, does it mean by characters being alive to you? How does it feel like? How can a character created by a bunch of words seem like a human to you? How can they take you on an adventure when they’re YOUR creation? I completely understood her. I was once in her situation myself. But after writing day in, day out, I came to a point where the two protagonists in my book became so real to me that I at times want to call them up for a cup of tea, just to chat. I’ve learned that to grow a relationship with your protagonist(s), a writer must make two investments:

TIME INVESTMENT – My current project, THE RUNAWAY COURTESAN, took me 3 years to write and revise. Before applying for university, I spent two years abroad, and ended up writing for 4+ hours a day. In total, I calculated that I had spent over 5,000 hours on this story—excluding the hours I spent thinking about the characters and plotline. Mandy Hubbard had to likewise spend hours after hours on PRADA & PREJUDICE before she could get it published. It took Sarah J. Maas 6.5 years to write all three books of QUEEN OF GLASS, where she’d spend three to four hours on the weekdays working on it. It took Savanah Foley 6 years to complete and revise WOMEN’S WORLD (Antebellum) and she would spend up to 4 hours working on it every day. It took Lynn Heitkamp 7 years to write and revise THORN OF THE KINGDOM. The other lovely contributors are still working on completing or polishing their manuscript, and also devote much of their time to writing as well. So when you end up spending thousands of hours in the mind and heart of a character, of course they come alive!  

EMOTIONAL INVESTMENT – In order to write as realistically as possible, novelists must dig deep into the chambers of their heart to renew the feeling of joy, anger, jealousy, grief, fear, despair, or whatever emotion they need to write about. Think about this example: How could you write about Jane having the most heart-wrenching breakup with John if you’ve never even gone through a breakup? Nothing can come from nothing, after all. A writer needs either to have gone through such an experience, and be willing to renew the haunting emotions correlated with it—or the writer needs to have a big imagination in order to put themselves through such an ordeal. That’s why many writers listen to music while writing. They need music to stimulate their imagination to plunge them into an emotion never experienced before, or to emphasize an emotion they had only felt a dose of in the past. So we, the novelists, end up feeling what the characters feel. We cry and laugh with them. And this intimacy breathes life into the characters.

Characters don’t come to life over night. Like any other relationships with human beings, a relationship with one’s character takes patience. When I first began writing TRC my heroine and hero were like stick-people to me. They were strangers. But gradually, my protagonists began to speak and act in ways I had never planned. The subconscious part of me was telling the story now. The conscious “June” was no longer in control. And it was only then that my characters took me on an adventure. It was only then that they became flesh and blood to me. Truly, when your characters take their first breath, it is the most wonderful, amazing feeling ever.

I’d like to end this article with two questions: How long do you write for every day? How alive are your characters to you? 

~~~~~~~ 

June Hur is the author of The Runaway Courtesan. She is currently awaiting the response of an agent who requested her full 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: How Do You Balance Your Day Job With Writing?

26 Feb

Hey guys!

Exciting news: We’re going to be posting 5 times a week from now on! We have a ton of great vlogs and interviews lined up, and we look forward to hearing from you more than ever! We also have a new banner!

This week’s QOTW comes from Landon, who asks, “How do you balance your day job with your writing, and how does one affect the other?”

~~~

After 18 months of not working post-college graduation, when I landed my job back in December, it was a bit of a rude awakening. My writing-into-the-night was ruined by the fact that I had to get up early, and the hours I once spent writing during the day had to be pushed back until 5 PM. With my blog, twitter, and other social media platforms to maintain, I found my 5 PM and onward time REALLY full.

I’m usually very disciplined in my writing, but I’ve been forced to become even more firm with myself. When I sit down to write, I know that I’ve got just a few hours before my fiance gets home, we eat dinner, relax, etc. I can maybe squeeze in an extra hour of writing/revising between dinner and bedtime. So this means I REALLY need to write, and not procrastinate. Despite the exhaustion, it’s been a wonderful exercise in discipline and dedication.

The Writer Waiting on Submissions

~~~

I don’t have a job, but I consider being a college student similar to an occupation. Although being a college student isn’t 9 to 5 every day, I do have some days where I wake up at 8 AM and have class until 3 PM. Then, there are other days where I have no classes at all, but I try to use those study. I try to do my homework anywhere from 6 to 10 PM, and usually that includes a few moments of writing.

I manage by having a fantabulous roommate, who thinks its AMAZING I write novels and tells me to stay up late if I’m working. What is also great about my roommate is that she makes sure I get out of the room and live. We’ll go to the movies, we’ll go out to dinner, we’ll walk around the city… She even asked me recently to edit her own novel that she wrote when she was fourteen.

I think that my “job” as a college student really helps my writing. I am more structured. I know that I have a looser schedule than others, but I still try to structure my day as if I really have a job in the real world. I am trying to prepare myself for this summer when I’ll (hopefully) have an internship and have to manage interning and writing or when I am out of college and trying to get a job. I know that in real life, most people do not have the time to write all day, so I am trying to recognize that and make sure I am ready.

The Writer Who Just Finished Her First Novel

~~~

The five novels I have written so far were all completed in high school, or just after. At that time I would go to school, come home and pretty much either nap, surf the internet, or write. Summers were great times for me because I could work for hours on end. I think most of my books were completed during or near summer. After I got out of high school though, everything changed. My entry level jobs had crazy schedules, and by the time I had advanced to a cushy 9-5 job which I love, I had met my now-fiance. All spare time was spent with him, and again I didn’t write. For 2 years I had nothing to show except a few good poems.

Finally after LTWF came into my life I felt like a real writer again, and after a few false starts I’ve finally settled onto a concept I can make a book out of. I’m still trying to figure out my day-to-day; I’m lucky that my day job doesn’t follow me home at night too much anymore, so after dinner I usually hole up in my room and write if I’m inspired, while my fiance works in the kitchen. I definitely don’t get as much writing done as I used to, and that’s something I’m working on. I hope to be perfectly balanced with a routine and everything later this year.

The Writer Also Waiting on Submissions

~~~

I wrote the most during high school – that was what I would consider my most “prolific” time. During my undergrad, I completely stopped writing, although I did write down any ideas or lines that would come to my head. Creatively, I was on hiatus; once I switched out of Visual Arts, my art was put on the backburner, along with my writing.  I had school and 2 part-time jobs; any spare time that I had was devoted to having some sort of social life. It wasn’t until my final year that I picked up writing again, but the little writing I did was very sporadic.

Now, with an internship, more school, and a part-time job, I still have very little time to write. I find that I write the most at night, right before bed. While I don’t write as much as I used to (I would normally write one chapter a week in high school, and now I’ll write only a scene or two per week), at least I write when I can. Balancing my writing and a day job is definitely complicated. But so long as you set aside some time, and find a nice quiet place to work, you’ll be able to move ahead with your manuscript (no matter how slow the crawl is). Writing hasn’t really affected my day job or school, but the “day job” (aka internship/school/PT job) certainly affects my writing. I’m sure once I stop having school and work, I’ll be able to find more time to write. The same could be said for my art, especially painting – once I have more free time on my hands, I’m sure I’ll get back to my art.

The Writer Writing Her First Book

~~~

Place my writing and day job on a balancing scale and my writing will always outweigh the other. At work I daydream, I plot in my head, I observe others so to incorporate their attribute into my story one day–and in my scatterbrain state I drop wine glasses, break them, mess up orders while working at the reception desk, infuriate my manager, piss off co-workers when I get caught for jotting down notes for WIP when I should be looking like a flower as customers enter the restaurant…. Yes. There is little to no balance. But fortunately the people I work with are good at heart. So for the three years that I’ve been working at the restaurant I have never felt the threat of being fired. I guess I’m just a lucky duck.

The Writer Who Got A Full Request

~~~

I don’t have a day job; I’m still in high school. And over school, writing will almost always take precedent. When I feel the inspiration to write but have homework, I’ll either push the work to the side or, if I’m feeling particularly guilty, procrastinate, the whole time imagining how I could be weaving crazy scenes as opposed to be “doing homework”. It’s a vicious cycle of getting nothing done. Of course, if I have some extremely important assignment to do, I’ll do that first, but generally you can find me in the library at lunch time catching up.

The Writer Revising Her First Novel

~~~

So, all you writers out there, how do YOU balance your day job with your writing, and how does one affect the other?

FictionPress and Jealousy

25 Feb

FictionPress and Jealousy

by Savannah J. Foley

~

Hey all! Real quick — we decided to start posting our pictures by our articles, and will be adding them to our prior posts throughout the week. We’re also doing a little bit of site renovation, so bear with us while we’re under construction! The site will be fully functioning–but we just wanted to give everyone a heads-up in case some things look a little wonky.

~~~

When the Let The Words Flow team first got together and started to get to know one another, one thing we were all startled by were our feelings of jealousy and inadequacy, sometimes even caused by each other!

Once upon a time we were all new writers, and especially new to FictionPress. We all posted our first stories, not really knowing how the process worked, both terrified and excited for our first reviews.

Some of us eventually grew a following. Some of us did not. All of us felt the sting of jealousy at one point or another.

Take me, for example. I published most of my Woman’s World series (since retitled to Antebellum) on Fictionpress. I have over 1,000 reviews on the first book, 900 on the second, and 300 on the third. Every time I posted anything I was sure to have my inbox flooded with comments. I had a small fan club. My stories were often chosen to be in Fictionpress contests. One of my friends mentioned Woman’s World to a friend of hers at school and it turns out the other girl had heard of it!

To a FictionPress writer who gets maybe 2 or fewer reviews with each update, I seemed wildly successful. But it wasn’t enough for me. You see, I had big competition, like my now-friend and fellow LTWF contributor, Sarah J. Maas. Her book, Queen of Glass, had over 6,000 reviews! She had an even bigger fanclub, and every time she and I went up against each other in those contests, she trounced me.

I didn’t hate her, because I was secure in my own sense of superiority, lol. ‘She doesn’t deserve all those reviews, or all those fans,’ I thought. ‘My story is better than some stupid Cinderella-remake’ (I have since been enlightened as to how awesome retellings can be). My reviewers would tell me about Queen of Glass. I even read a few chapters. Which made it so weird when Sarah emailed me out of the blue, just to say hi, and we began emailing back and forth, and eventually she asked me to be a founding member of LTWF.

This was a girl I had been jealous of because she was far more successful than me on FictionPress! I had never dreamed we could be anything close to friends, or that we were even so oddly similar (both relatively the same age, same hair color, same first two initials, and got our agents in consecutive months).

Which brings me back to this article’s beginning: There we all were, recently introduced to each other, and suddenly it was all coming out. I swear our conversation looked something like this:

“I used to be jealous of you!”

“Well I used to be jealous of you!”

“I used to be jealous of all of you!”

We marveled at how silly we had been, and how things can change so radically. We realized we had learned an important lesson that needed to be shared with FictionPress writers:

Someone will always have more reviews than you, more subscribers, more fans, etc. When you get published, someone will always get a better review, sell more copies, or get more highly rated.

Always.

But you know what? You’re not competing with them. You’re really not. You’re competing with yourself. Consider runners in Track. Sometimes it’s not about being the fastest runner, it’s about running the fastest race you’ve ever run before. It’s about your personal best. If someone is faster than you, but you beat your personal best and they didn’t, then who REALLY won in that case?

If you focus on the success of others, all you’re doing is taking away from your own success. Hating someone and being jealous of them won’t do anything to make your own writing better, or increase your number of fans.

And yes, I admit it’s not always as easy as that. I’m guilty of being a very jealous person, and not even just of my friends at LTWF. I’m jealous of J. K. Rowling (If I could only be as successful as her!). I’m jealous of Stephen King (If only I could write as many books as him!). I’m jealous of Chuck Palahniuk (If only I were as original as he is!). I’m jealous of Toni Morrisson (oh, if only I could write like her!).

I’m also jealous of writers I don’t like, like Stephenie Meyer and Christopher Paolini. I’m jealous of their success, particularly when I think it’s so undeserved.

But none of that jealousy is going to help me do any better. EXCEPT if I use my jealousy for a  positive purpose. I think Toni Morrisson is the most gifted writer I’ve ever heard of. My jealousy of her writing style inspires me to improve my own. I’m so jealous of Chuck Palahniuk for his mind-blowing story lines, and that inspires me to work hard on my own stories to create my own brand of originality and mind-blowingness.

I’m jealous of J. K. Rowling. Well, okay then, I better write something that can appeal to everyone if I want that much success. I’m jealous of Stephen King, so I better focus, focus, focus and write constantly if I want to have as many books out as him.

(Please keep in mind that you shouldn’t copy others, but instead strengthen your own style)

You can use your jealousy for a constructive purpose, or you can use it to hurt yourself. Please, don’t hurt yourself. 😉

Remember, if you want to have any measure of success, you must take the attributes that you admire in others and use them to inspire you to improve your own writing. Don’t let jealousy consume you, instead let it fuel your desire to be the best writer you can be. If your jealousy is targeted at someone really good, let them be an inspiration, not a source of hatred and self-doubt.

I think that we at LTWF still struggle with jealousy and self-doubt, especially when we’re at all stages of the publishing process, from just finished first novel to already published. But, when one of us has good news, we’re there to cheer, and when one of us has bad news, we’re there to sympathize and encourage.

I believe that we will all make it. And I believe that you will, too, if you don’t give up, and if you focus on your own writing, and not how much better someone else’s is.

Best of luck,

Savannah J. Foley

~~~

Savannah J. Foley is the author of the Antebellum (originally known as Woman’s World) series on Fictionpress. She has written five novels, owns her own freelance writing company, and is signed with the Bradford Literary Agency. Antebellum is currently out on submissions. Her website is www.savannahjfoley.com, but she updates more frequently on her livejournal.

All You Need Is Love! …Seriously

24 Feb

THIS IS NOT JUST FOR ROMANCE WRITERS

by Biljana Likic

~~~

If there’s anything I’ve learned from acting and studying drama, it’s that if you can’t find the love in the scene, it will be boring.

“But wait! What does acting have to do with writing?!”

More than you might think.

Actors, they say, are the ultimate explorers of the human condition. They study how people live and react, carefully reading over their scripts, sometimes coming up with whole histories to explain why a character might say something. They create lives out of a few words of text and put them on display for others to take in.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t that sort of like what writers do? Don’t writers also create characters, tell us what they’re like; what they do? The only real difference, it seems, is that writers write it, and actors act it.

Going to an art school, studying drama, the most constant, most helpful piece of advice I got was, “Find the love in the scene.” Why love? Nothing creates more conflict than that one, often stupid, never dull emotion. Everybody at some point in their lives has been loved, or experienced love. Whether it is motherly care, crazed infatuation, or even just patriotism, love is a universal human trait that is biologically ingrained in us from the get-go.

“But it can’t be that important in writing!”

It is. Think about it; the man loves the woman, the woman is indifferent. Oh great, that’ll take you to about…page two. But. The man loves the woman, and the woman is not indifferent, and, in fact, loves him back, but pretends not to love him because he is forbidden…well, now. That is a story. And on stage, that woman would make little actions, do small motions to show the man that even though she’s not looking at him, she’s thinking about him constantly; and even though they’ll never be together, they’ll always have their subtle passing touches.

It is up to the writer to mimic this. Actors, put simply, imitate life. Writers, then, need to do their best to put that imitation into words: to show us body language through incredible imagination. We need to hear the voice, we need to see the movement; you can’t just relay what was said, you have to describe the reactions. You have to show how much they love each other and we have to realize that their hearts are breaking through a flush of embarrassment, a turn of a wrist, a sudden fascination with the texture of the floor. Find the love in the scene.

At this point, I’m sure some of you are thinking, “But why not hate?”

Because hate is narrow. There are so many places that love can take you that an emotion like hate never will. The reason is because love can be thwarted; hate can’t. You can live your whole life hating somebody, and all you’d have to do would be to either stay away from them, or kill them (preferably the former.) But to love takes a certain brand of courage or recklessness because nobody can guarantee that it’ll be requited. You can end up miserable for life.

On stage, the direction “to hate” is never better than “to love”. The question shouldn’t be what don’t you like but what do you like. What you don’t like will then come naturally. If a character loves being neat, you can assume that they’d hate being sloppy. Then, you can build on that by creating a slob of a romantic interest. And thus is conflict born.

So now that I feel like I’ve drilled that point in sufficiently, I thought I’d share some other things that I’ve learned in drama class that have helped me a lot with writing stories. These are some questions that actors usually ask themselves when they’re on stage. They can be, with some modifications, applied effectively to creative writing.

Here we go:

  1. What do you want? A character always wants something. If they don’t, they have no purpose, and the story becomes stale. What does the character want to happen? How can they make it happen? Think about real-life experiences, or even movies and plays that you’ve seen. Seriously, they can help.
  2. Why did you move? One of the biggest things in acting is action. (Go figure.) But there has to be a reason for action. Why did the character walk to the left instead of the right? Something that my drama teacher loves to say is that you’re either moving away from somebody, or towards somebody, depending on what you want. Don’t make your character do things without a reason.
  3. Why did you say that? If an actor doesn’t know why they said a line, it’ll be confusing for the audience as well. There has to always be a reason for dialogue. Even if it’s something the character blurts out, you as the author need to know why they did it; they’re nervous because they’re talking to a person they like, or they weren’t listening to what someone was saying and wanted to appear as if they were. Don’t put in a line of dialogue without knowing why it’s there.
  4. Find the love in the scene! I know, I know. Not a question. But I can’t stress this enough!

And this is my final plea: don’t shirk away from love just because it can be mushy. Embrace it, and there is no end to the stories that can happen. In fact, I challenge you, reader of this article, to find me a story that had zero love in it, written before today. And it has to be fiction. Don’t start telling me about how there’s no love in a chemistry textbook. I don’t like chemistry either, but I’m afraid that won’t cut it.

I’ll even raise the stakes. There will be a prize. One postcard from Toronto, Canada, addressed to you from me, expressing how humbled I feel to have been proven wrong. Or, you know, a couple chapters’ critique of a WIP of yours. Whichever.

Take care, everyone. Thanks for reading. And the winner of that challenge, if there is one, will leave me feeling deeply impressed.

~~~

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.

Writerly Responsibility

23 Feb

Hey Everyone!

Yesterday Sarah and I were lucky to have a few spare hours, and we decided to go ahead a film a dual vlog!

Our topic is Writerly Responsibility: Do writers –especially YA writers– have a responsibility to appear a certain way to their fans? Also, should they present themselves in a certain light on the internet for professional purposes?

~

~

What do you guys think? Is it inappropriate for YA writers to talk about how drunk they get when they might have younger fans following them? Does there need to be a separation between personal life and professional life?

~~~

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.

~~~

Savannah J. Foley is the author of the Antebellum (originally known as Woman’s World) series on Fictionpress. She has written five novels, owns her own freelance writing company, and is signed with the Bradford Literary Agency. Antebellum is currently out on submissions. Her website is www.savannahjfoley.com, but she updates more frequently on her livejournal.

 

What Happens After The “!!!” Stage

22 Feb

WHAT HAPPENS AFTER THE “!!!” STAGE

By Rachel Simon

~~~

So somehow, I ended up being the first one to post after the AMAZING two weeks of Query articles. I have to live up to that–great. Just kidding!

Anyway, I’m here to talk about What Happens After The “!!!” Stage.

For starters, its usually known as “OMG! I just finished my rough draft of my novel! OMG! !!!!!!!!!” stage. The writer of said rough draft usually runs around and screams and eats lots of candy and tells all their friends/family.

That was not my case. I finished my rough draft at exactly 10:00 PM on January 19th (not that I was looking at the clock or anything) and I immediately sat there, dumbfounded at what to do next. I checked online to see if any of my buddies were online and there really wasn’t anyone on. It was a Tuesday night, and most of my online buddies are college students, who at the time had just returned to college.

So, I picked myself up and went to the television room, expecting my parents to be just as thrilled as me. Not the case, either. My mom was watching the news and my dad was snoring. In fact, I had to whisper to my mom that I had just finished my novel. Yes, you read correctly… WHISPER.

After taking the time to download Lady Gaga (I had made a promise to a friend that if I finished it before the end of that week I had to download the Lady), I went to bed. Okay, thats a lie. I stayed up until 1 AM in shock that I — Rachel, who never finished any writing piece she wrote and somehow still claimed to want to grow up to be the next J.K. Rowling (What?! I was 10!) — had finished an entire novel.

The next day, I sent the rough draft off to my first reader, Jackie, who immediately read it in two weeks. With the rough draft sent and my Let The Words Flow excitement e-mails sent, I did what anyone would do for the next step.

I began my next novel.

I can’t tell you much about it, except it is a historical YA about Zelda Fitzgerald and F. Scott. (Oh wait…I guess I just told you everything about it. Hmph. I need to get better at keeping secrets.) I threw myself into four hours of research on the internet and then promptly took myself to the library and sat for five to six hours and did book research.

I’m only six pages into my historical YA, but its worth it. I have an outline. I have notes. I am fully prepared to knock the socks off the world with her madness and brilliance. I am, I am!

And besides writing my historical YA, I am editing the first novel. I’m only 58 pages out of 254 into edits, but I blame school. College (to me) is important. So is getting good grades. And writing. And vlogging. And e-mail checking.

So, my advice is after the “!!!” stage is to keep on writing. Get back into the grind of tapping keyboards or scribbling down in your notebook. Don’t take time off. If you want to be published, you’re going to have to write even when you’re too excited to think. Also, read as your reward. For me, it was totally worth it to pick up a YA novel after I’d just finished mine. (And no, it wasn’t fantasy!)

🙂

Rachel Simon is hard at work at her sophomore year of college, applying for internships for summer 2010, editing her YA fantasy retelling of Beauty and the Beast, writing her novel about Zelda Fitzgerald, sketching a contemporary YA novel and avoiding having a life at all costs. Her http://seeyouupside.livejournal.com/ is updated frequently and she is often on Twitter.

Query Week: Ask Us Your Querying Questions!

19 Feb

Rather than do a Question of the Week, we figured we’d use today to open up conversation! All day today, we’ll be answering every and any questions you have about the querying process and landing an agent!

So, don’t be shy–feel free to ask ANYTHING! Simply post your question as a comment to this entry, and we’ll get back to you ASAP!

Ask away!

P.S. A HUGE thank-you to everyone who helped make Query Week such a success! You guys are amazing, and we wish you nothing but the best in your publication efforts!

Query Week Wrap-up

18 Feb

By Mandy Hubbard

~

Hi All! I hope this Query Week has been helpful! I know that querying can be thrilling, scary, tiring, gratifying, exciting…. and sometimes all of that all at once. As a writer, I’ve been there, and I know how you feel.

As an agent, it’s also many of those emotions, and more. To wrap things up, I thought I’d give you insight as to how I approach the inbox every day– what I think as I read queries, what will make you stand out, etc. I hope this builds nicely on what Vanessa posted yesterday!

First off, when it comes to queries, I always start with the oldest ones first. I approach them with nothing but hope— will this be the query that makes me sit up and take notice? Many writers see agents as mean ‘ol gate keepers that only want writers who have huge credentials or the most amazing high concept book known to man.

Not true! Some of the queries that just plain blow me away seem rather anassuming at first–but the writing is just plain good. That’s all I’m looking for. Really good writing! Everyone has a fair shake at it.

When I start reading, I’m pretty neutral– I do not go in expecting to be blown away, but I don’t expect to hate it. You’ve got a blank slate, so use it to your advantage– grab me from the get-go.  If your book is funny, showcase your humor from the first line. If it’s dark and emotional, make me care about the character so that I’ll want to follow her for the next 50,000 words.

For queries I just really don’t like, I don’t read the sample (My submission guidelines ask for the first 5 pages).  It might be something I don’t represent (I’ve seen some chapter book submissions and adult fiction subs) or it might be something that doesn’t suit my personal tastes (high-fantasy or deeply cultural).  Or it might just be a hot mess. I see those, too.

For Meh Queries, I move onto the sample. If I’m leaning toward a rejection, your first paragraph or two really has to reel me in. I’m not just checking to see if you’re a competent writer– I’m giving you a chance to change my mind. Most often, it doesn’t.

For queries I’m on the fence with, I read further. I’ll give it a full page or two– many times the whole 5 page sample, hoping to see that spark that tells me the book may be bigger and better than the query gives it credit for. These are the queries where the sample is most important, because it can tip me in the right direction.

If your book is a humorous book with a quiet concept, the sample is paramount. Humorous books are all about voice and making me laugh. If you don’t do that in 5 pages, I probably won’t want to see more.

Sample pages are your friend. As an intern I lost count of how many times I sent a query on to the agent saying, “yanno, the concept is kind of quiet, but those pages just  pulled me right in.”

For queries I love, I eagerly scroll down, crossing my fingers that the writing holds up. I often don’t need more than a page to confirm it, if I’m super excited by the query.

Because I ask for samples, I skip right from the query/sample to the full manuscript. If you were printing/mailing it, maybe I’d do partials, but I see no reason to have you create a new document just for me– I can stop reading at any time and it didn’t waste any paper.

Okay, so that’s my process for reading queries. When it comes to fulls, things go a little differently. For starts, I don’t read them in order. I know, that’s mean, right? But trust me, it’s a good thing. If your book is funny, do you want me in a grumpy mood when I’m reading? If your book is serious, and I want to laugh, I’ll open that humorous MG and save your dark/edgy YA for when I’m in that sort of mood. Just like different books appeal to you on different days. Further, sometimes I just get a manuscript with an exciting concept and I dive right in. On top of that, some books are Middle-Grades weighing in at 20K and some are urban fantasies at 100K. Depending on how much time I have, I may choose to read one over the other.

I read fulls a little differently– I go in with certain expectations. I know I like the concept and sample, so I am always hoping the rest holds up. You’ve got about 50 pages to really hook me.  If i’m at page 50 and I can put it down and go take my daughter to the park and I’m not thinking about what’s going to happen next, I’ll start leaning toward a rejection.

I do sometimes have 2 or 3 projects going at once, and if yours isn’t battling for attention in my mind, it’s not a good sign.

When I represent an author, I go in knowing I’m in it for the long haul. If we don’t sell it on the first round of submissions, I could be reading it and resubmitting it and working on revisions with you for months. That’s why I have to truly love it, not just like it.

So, I hope all this gives you a little insight into how an agent reads and what they are looking for.

Good luck to all those in the query trenches! And remember, if you write MG/YA and you have a project ready for submissions, feel free to send it my way. Send your query and the 5 page sample (both pasted into the  email) to mandy@d4eo.com

Thanks!

Mandy

Query Week 2: Greetings From the Slush Pile

17 Feb

QUERY WEEK PART 2

Greetings from the Slush Pile

Guest Blog by Vanessa Di Gregorio

~

Hey everyone! So I’m Vanessa, and today I’ll be guest-blogging about what happens after an agent has your partial or full manuscript. And yes, that means I’ll be talking about the dreaded slush pile (dun dun duunnn)! As an intern at a literary agency, hopefully I’ll be able to give you guys some insight into what goes on over on the other side of the fence.

So, what happens after your manuscript has been requested? Whether it be a partial or a full manuscript, you need to be patient. Agents get a ridiculous amount of queries at any given time, and will request for quite a number of partials. If you’ve reached this stage and are rejected, don’t take it to heart! This is a VERY subjective industry. Agents will only take on manuscripts that they are passionate about.  And what about agent interns, you ask? Well, while our own personal taste certainly comes into play, we also have to consider what kind of manuscripts would work for certain agents at the agency. For example: I help manage two different slush piles at the agency I am currently at. After reading material from the clients they have already signed on, I have a fairly good sense of what they would like in a manuscript, and what they don’t.  And interns will only get this responsibility if they prove that they are good at it.

Now, what about rejection? Why do so many manuscripts end up on the chopping block? The reasons vary. Sometimes people just aren’t starting their story in the right place. Other times, the protagonists aren’t engaging enough. Or the writing style is just not something that particularly appeals to the agent. If I feel that I can offer some sort of advice to the writer, I will. So don’t think that agents who reject you are heartless, or have terrible taste, or are the vaguest at offering you advice! Agents need to be vague in their advice when they are rejecting you because it isn’t their place to tell you want they want. The specific advice comes after you have been signed on. So they will give you broad advice that can help improve your story instead of specifics (which can be much more subjective).

Also, keep in mind that agents get drowned under a sea of slush, and have to do a hell of a lot of digging to find something that catches their eye. And with all that slush to plow through, sometimes we don’t have the time to read your entire partial (blasphemy, I know! But this shouldn’t be new to you). After around 2-3 pages, it’s easy to get a sense of whether or not we’ll take you on. And if we read more than that, it’s because SOMETHING has caught our interest in some way. It can be a well-written character, a great P.O.V., a plot that just hooks; it can be so many different things.

If we still reject you, it’s probably because it might need too much work at that particular moment. So if an agent says something positive, or mentions that your manuscript needs more work, keep that in mind – and listen to them. They aren’t your bff’s telling you that your story is totally awesome and will sell millions. They are strangers to you and your work, and will give you their honest opinion. Some agents will even mention that they would love the opportunity to read your manuscript if you rewrite it. In fact, I did just that recently. The query was absolutely AMAZING – her summary was just so intriguing! But then after receiving her partial, I was disappointed. The story begins and falls flat, but there is one short scene in the middle of the first chapter that I thought was absolutely BRILLIANT. And I thought, why couldn’t THAT be the beginning of the book? So while we ultimately said no to her manuscript as it currently stood, we did tell her that if she rewrote her manuscript, we would love for her to resubmit it.

Just to give you an idea, out of all the partials I read through, only around 10% of these will get a request for a full manuscript. Slim, I know. BUT DON’T DESPAIR! Chances are, if you have a crit partner for your work, you will be at a tremendous advantage. The reason for this very small percentage is because most people send their very rough first drafts… Which NO agent wants to see. So as long as you have given your work a thorough look-over and edit, you will be WAY ahead of a majority of people.

And here are some reasons WHY I have ended up rejecting some manuscripts from the slush pile… and since I love making lists, what better way than in a list of DON’Ts?

  • DON’T have a ridiculous amount of typos. No, seriously. This may sound like the most OBVIOUS thing in the world, but you would not believe how many people send in partials that are CLEARLY first drafts (and full of typos/simple grammatical mistakes). Likewise, don’t mention that you are sending your first draft (that is actually kind of insulting). Now, I’m not saying that all first drafts are horrible – but the majority of writers should go over their manuscript and polish it up after writing it. If an agent requests a partial, remember: make it as polished as you can. You are trying to show an agent what it is you are capable of.
  • BUT (and this is a biggie) – DON’T just polish your partial and leave the rest of the manuscript alone. It should ALL be equally polished. If there is one thing agents hate, it’s thinking that your work is BRILLIANT, only to see that the rest of your manuscript is a great big mess. Agents don’t like being fooled.
  • DON’T write a 3-page synopsis that sounds exactly like Twlight/New Moon. It isn’t appealing. It’s fine to compare your work and point out similarities in theme with other titles, but don’t show how good you are at taking an already published story and changing the setting and character names with your initials slapped on top.
  • DON’T mention how characters are of a certain background if it has absolutely NO relevance to the story – and especially don’t make it a selling point for your manuscript. Example: If you are writing a novel about faeries, don’t mention how they are Irish as opposed to British when the story takes place in California. Because then what you have are American faeries who have different hair colours. UNLESS their background is somehow relevant to the story, don’t mention it as a selling point.
  • DON’T look up body parts in an anatomy book when you’re trying to be sexual/erotic. Let me just say, IT DOES NOT WORK. Please, PLEASE use urban dictionary if you are trying to write something erotic. Don’t start naming various parts of the body using terms that only doctors would use. It just makes the reader (and the agent) laugh. And then cry a little on the inside.

And, just in case you still feel insecure, my fellow intern Rachel (gotta love her) showed me what I think is a great guide for writers who just can’t figure out what they’re doing wrong when querying called, Thanks, But This Isn’t For Us: A (Sort of) Compassionate Guide to Why Your Writing is Being Rejected by Jessica Page Morrell.

So, hopefully I haven’t scared any writers away from dreams of publication! Remember, agents aren’t personally slapping you in the face when they reject you. And the slush pile isn’t some black hole where all your manuscripts go to die. If you have received a partial request, pat yourself on the back – your query letter was good! If you have received a full manuscript request, do a few fist pumps. And if you get signed, remember – there is still a long way to go. BUT, you’ll have someone in the industry who LOVES what you’ve written and will do everything it takes to get that book published. And then that slush pile won’t seem so evil anymore, cause it’ll all be worth the wait. And I think THAT deserves a happy dance.

~~~

Vanessa is currently an intern at The Rights Factory, a literary agency located in Toronto. She is also taking courses in a publishing program, and is trying to figure out where in the world of publishing she wants to end up in. Currently, she is working on a YA novel.