Archive | July, 2010

Saturday Grab Bag: Mashup & Poll

31 Jul

Mashup:

Here are some great articles we think you should definitely check out.

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  • How to Judge a YA Book by its Cover
  • – Another post about book covers – though this one looks at how some YA covers are embarrassing to be seen with in public

  • The Great Peeta vs Gale Debate: Peeta is a Pansy
  • – Same blog as above, but different post. Henri throws in his two cents over the whole Peeta/Gale debate; and it’s clear whose side he’s on. Definitely one hilarious argument. (Side note: MOCKINGJAY is coming out in 24 days! YESS!)

  • Literature Police
  • – Okay, so this isn’t an article, but the blog itself that we’re linking to. WARNING: There ARE swear words and very strong opinions on this blog. This is more of a rant-type blog that is hilarious.

  • Atlana’s Red Hot Author
  • – A great and encouraging article on YA author Jackson Pearce (author of SISTERS RED)!

  • Jane Austen’s Fight Club on Youtube
  • – Yes, that’s right. A youtube video that is Jane Austen AND Fight Club mashed together. Quite possibly more kick-ass than PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES!

  • Crit Partner Arsenal
  • – An absolutely GREAT post about the different roles some of your crit partners might play, and why these particular roles are helpful in their own right. Very, very good read.

  • The Boy Problem
  • – YA author Hannah Moskowitz gives her opinion on the boy problem in YA lit

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    Quotes to Live By:

    [ image from We Heart It ]

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Poll – Binding Preference:

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Have you come across any noteworthy links this week? Share them in the comments! (You know we love to hear from you, so don’t be shy!)

And don’t forget to check out our book recommendation for The Poison Diaries!

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Book Recommendation: The Poison Diaries

31 Jul

by Vanessa Di Gregorio
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One word: breathtaking.

There is just something about those stories that just seem to slowly creep up on you – the ones that are quietly beautiful – that just takes my breath away. And Maryrose Wood’s The Poison Diaries does just that. I could not put this book down; it ensnared me right from the first page of its lyrical prose. And the ominous poison garden was just such a foreboding image; one that intrigued me as much as it does Jessamine, the protagonist. Full of vibrant imagery, romance, mystery, and even – at times – terror, I fell absolutely in love with this novel. There was even a touch of fantasy filling its pages, washing everything with a surreal beauty that is just captivating.

To start off, here is a quick summary of the novel from Harpercollins:


In the right dose, everything is a poison. Even love . . .

Jessamine Luxton has lived all her sixteen years in an isolated cottage near Alnwick Castle, with little company apart from the plants in her garden. Her father, Thomas, a feared and respected apothecary, has taught her much about the incredible powers of plants: that even the most innocent-looking weed can cure — or kill.

When Jessamine begins to fall in love with a mysterious boy who claims to communicate with plants, she is drawn into the dangerous world of the poison garden in a way she never could have imagined . . .

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The entire premise is great; reminiscent of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story Rappacinni’s Daughter, the story is based on a concept by The Duchess of Northumberland – and her famous Poison Garden at Alnwick Castle. And yet, this story remains utterly unique. The story centers around Jessamine Luxton, whose father is an apothecary, and a strange and mysterious young orphan who stumbles into their lives. While her father leaves to heal others, Jessamine is alone with only the plants for companionship; but when that strange boy appears, Jessamine suddenly has someone other than the plants and her father to talk to. And Weed seems to be in possession of great knowledge when it comes to plants; a knowledge that will prove to be quite dangerous.

The plot moves quickly, though there is little in terms of physical action. No sweeping swords here or a tremendous amount of fighting; and yet, I was never bored. The plot is well-paced, and there is conflict between the characters and their surroundings. The entire story never strays far from the little cottage that Jessamine inhabits; or from the castle, garden, and fields surrounding it. And yet I was thoroughly immersed in the world that was built, and in the characters inhabiting it.

At the beginning of each chapter is a short journal entry; after, the story continues in first person. There is just something that I loved about reading the little snippet of a journal entry before the prose continued. The journal entries become integral to the plot, and are very cleverly used. And the prose! Absolutely lovely. I was completely enchanted. Jessamine’s voice is an absolute pleasure to read; thoughtful and curious and full of wonder. And her character was just as lovely. She is innocent, and wonderfully flawed. She doesn’t always do what she should, or what is right; and that made me love her character even more. Weed is just as fantastic a character. He starts off as a blank slate; a silent character who doesn’t speak, and a character so devoid of attachment to people. Everything about him is a mystery. But oh, how thrilling it was to see him grow! To see him fill up with emotion, and become a character of unbelievable loyalty.

Thomas Luxton was also a magnificently crafted character. There is always the sense that he is much darker and more cruel than he appears to be, and this ambiguity made him such a wonderfully dubious character. And I loved having no clear cut line between good and evil; he heals people for a living, and as such is good. But I always felt as though there was something untrustworthy about him at times. Which, in my mind, was brilliant on Wood’s part.

But quite possibly the most fascinating character of all became the plants. Maryrose Wood was able to make the flowers and trees and bushes come to life with such vitality and force. But she was also able to make them frightening; the poisonous plants exude a threatening presence that I felt throughout the course of the novel. This was the most unique aspect to this novel; the almost human qualities that the plants seemed to possess.

And that ending! When I finished reading it, I was still under the impression that this was a stand-alone novel, and that there were no sequels to follow. And I loved the ending. It was dark, and sad, and so absolutely brilliant. Some might complain that it isn’t satisfying; but I thought it suited the book so perfectly, and was such a brave and lovely ending. To know that it is the first of a trilogy makes me happy, for I’ve become incredibly attached to the world and characters. But the fact that it has a sequel is not the reason I first loved the ending; Maryrose Wood wrote an ending that fits the mood of the entire book.

So, I highly recommend The Poison Diaries. If you love fantasy, or tragedy, or romance, or lyrical prose, then you’ll probably love this book as much as I did. And you’ll probably want the sequel to come out as much as I do. So, pick this book up; I promise you’ll love it.

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ARC Received From Publisher

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Vanessa is a Sales Assistant at Kate Walker & Co., a book and gift sales agency located in Toronto. She is also enrolled in a publishing program. Currently, Vanessa is working on a YA fantasy novel and a Children’s non-fiction series.

QOTW: Publishing World

30 Jul


This week, the question comes from Summer, who asks:

How do you submerge yourself in the publishing world if you’ve never been published before? As in, what are the first steps you have to take (after finish your novel)?

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After you finish your first novel, find critique partners if you don’t yet have any. Revise your manuscript. If this is all done already, your next step is to start querying. Start researching literary agencies and agents – and read their submission guidelines. Figure out who represents the type of story you’ve written. Make a list, and write your query letter. That’s pretty much the next step you take after finishing your novel.

Submerging yourself in the publishing world is so easy now thanks to the internet. I highly suggest joining Twitter to follow publishing houses, published authors, aspiring authors, literary agents, and anyone active in the publishing industry. Join any writing communites you can find. A lot of literary agents and authors have blogs as well, so be sure to bookmark them and read their articles. The publishing/book community is great – there are so many things to learn, and so many great people to befriend. So get yourself out there, and start making a name for yourself. You’ll learn invaluable tips regarding this trade that will help you towards your goal of publication.

– The Writer Working in the Industry

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Research, research, research! When I first decided I really wanted to get involved in publishing, I began reading more publishing-related blogs (Nathan Bransford, Miss Snark, Editorial Ass, agency blogs, etc.) and following authors and agents on twitter. I’m always amazed by the amount of information you can find online, even after all this time! I found plenty of sites that explained how to write a query letter and synopsis, learned about the different steps in getting published, what kind of work goes into finding an agent, then getting a book deal. So many authors and people in this business are willing to offer guidance, and so few people take the time to really soak it up. So a new writer working their way into the publishing world really needs to be a proverbial sponge.

Also, as Vanessa said, get some critique partners to look over your work. And not just your manuscript, but your query and synopsis, too. Never send stuff out without having others look it over. I’ve read so many manuscripts and synopses with typos galore, or improper formatting, and all of that could have been so easily fixed with the help of a critique partner. They’re invaluable to a writer.

The Writer Who’s Loving Her Internship

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Vanessa and Sammy have covered pretty much everything I can think of! But I’ll add, when you’re researching agents, see what they’ve sold, and what they like. Find interviews they’ve done on different blogs and what they say about how they read queries and any advice they give in general. Read other writers’ advice on the process so that you have a really rounded view of it and aren’t too optimistic or too pessimistic. Be as realistic as possible.
Also, follow blogs. Agents, writers and readers all have great blogs out there with not just tons of information, but a community as well. Read them and join in discussions in the comments. That way you’re actually entering the writing community. There are plenty of critique contests out there that you can enter to get a range of opinions on your writing, so seek them out and put yourself out there. Just always remember to be polite and professional.

-The Writer Revising Between Queries

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My co-contributors have already hit most of the major points, but I’d like to reiterate that a great way to meet people (aka network) is by joining twitter. There are tons of weekly chats to discuss the industry, and you can learn a LOT just from watching professionals (authors, agents, editors) discuss the ins and outs. Also, join a site like AbsoluteWrite–it’s a great way to meet people. Be brave, and don’t be afraid to comment on popular blogs and tweet at strangers!

-The Writer With Her First Book Deal

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I am not just submerged. I am drowning in it. 😉

But seriously…. most of publishing is in NYC, and I’m in Seattle, but I am still an effective agent, because, well, the internet ROCKS. 😉 A little google-fu and you can learn ANYTHING you want.
Many agents blog (myself included), there are sites like agentquery.com or querytracker.net, forums like absolute write or verla kay, etc, etc. Do you twitter, or like message boards? Would you prefer to just passively read blogs?

Another option, if you write YA/MG, is this amazing free online conference: http://writeoncon.com/

Agents and published authors will be posting lectures, and best of all, its free.

Also, check out professional organizations– SCBWI for YA/Mg/Picturebooks, RWA for romance, SFWA for Speculative fiction, etc. There are SO MANY resources through those organizations!

The Literary Agent and Writer with Multiple Book Deals

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How do YOU like to stay involved?

Blog Tour – Alice Kuipers Guest Post & Giveaway!

29 Jul

Today, we have the pleasure of being the very first stop in Alice Kuiper’s Blog Tour! She’s the author of the award-winning and bestselling novel, Life on the Refrigerator Door, and her newest book, The Worst Thing She Ever Did. The thing that was the most compelling in her newest novel was the mother-daughter relationship; it is complex, and certainly not perfect. The characters are flawed, and can be at times weak – but ultimately, they grow and find strength. So, we asked Alice if she could talk about the process of creating the complex and dysfunctional mother-daughter relationship that both her books involve.

Take it away, Alice!

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Alice Kuipers

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I’ve been reading Let the Words Flow and I think you’ve got a great site, full of useful information for emerging and published writers. You’ve asked me to write a blog entry about how I create the complex and dysfunctional relationship between mothers and daughters in my two books – Life on the Refrigerator Door and The Worst Thing She Ever Did.  I think the best way I can answer this is to talk about character.

A while ago, when I was writing, I realized that although my characters had to be themselves all the way through a manuscript, it didn’t mean that they couldn’t be contrary and difficult and sometimes even horrible. I know, it seems obvious, but it took me a while to really get this. I love my characters so when I gave them more flaws writing about them became a lot more challenging. And interesting. And real.  In Life on the Refrigerator Door, Claire and her mom, Elizabeth, felt very real to me as they fought, made up, loved each other and hated each other. In the opening of The Worst Thing… Sophie’s mum is suffering terribly, just as is Sophie. Both of them are barely able to hold it together – without sounding cruel, this dynamic was fantastic to write about. And emotional too. Because I haven’t been able to write about mothers and daughters without thinking about my own relationship with my mother. It was, and is, a complicated, loving, essential relationship, and so when I’m writing I use that to ground me and keep my fiction feeling true.

Practically speaking, when I write about characters, I need and want them to act and react to the events of the plot. As they do that, I feel like the story is created. Everything evolves from their interactions with each other and with plot events.  I keep this in mind when I’m writing – if I get slowed down, I make my characters do something. Fight or try to talk. Or both. (An editor told me to do this and it’s superb advice!)  When your characters (or my characters) have to do something, you get to see who they really are.

I’m gratified when readers feel that the relationships between mothers and daughters in my books feel true. They feel true for me, too.

Thanks, I hope this gives you a practical (useful?!) insight into how I write – I have lots of thoughts about writing and tips on my website: www.alicekuipers.com

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Thanks so much Alice!

Now, since we love to share, we’re giving away a copy of The Worst Thing She Ever Did! Sound awesome? Well, click here to browse inside and read some of the chapters!

But first, here’s a description from Goodreads:

“My New Year’s resolution: I’m moving on from everything that’s happened. I’m not going to talk about it, think about it, let the memory pounce upon me like a waiting tiger, nothing.”

All Sophie wants to do is forget. But it’s not easy now that everything’s changed. The house feels too big, school drags on for too long, lights are too bright, the room spins, and her hands get sweaty for no reason. And she can’t remember why she was ever best friends with Abigail, who is obsessed with parties and boys. Only the new girl, Rosa-Leigh, with her prose poems and utter confidence, might understand. But talking to her seems impossible.

Lost in memories of the life she once had, Sophie retreats into herself. But there’s only so long she can keep everything bottled up inside before she explodes. Maybe by confronting the tragedy of her past she’ll figure out how to fix her future.

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Giveaway details:

All you have to do to enter the giveaway is leave a comment and respond/offer your thoughts in regards to Alice’s post, and/or your experience with creating dysfunctional relationships.

For +1 extra entry, follow Alice Kuipers on Twitter (and let us know if you have!)

Don’t forget about adding your email so that we can contact you! This contest is open to US and Canadian residents only (sorry!).

The contest ends at noon EST on Saturday, August 28th. The winner will be picked using random.org, and will be announced on Sunday, August 29th.

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Alice Kuipers is the award-winning author of Life on the Refrigerator Door and The Worst Thing She Ever Did. She was born in London, but has since moved to Saskatoon, Canada, where she now lives. Her hobbies include belly dancing, playing Ultimate Frisbee, teaching Pilates, cooking, and – of course -reading. You can follow her on Twitter, or check out her Website, which is chock-full of writing tips!

Agent Interviews: Natalie Fischer

28 Jul


As a blog fiercely dedicated to helping readers understand the inner-workings of the publishing industry, we thought it might be fun to start a new series in which we interviewed literary agents we’ve had the pleasure of working with. Some of us are signed, and some have interned with agencies, and we felt that the amount of knowledge we’ve gained through these experiences should be shared with our readership as well. As gatekeepers to the industry, agents play a vital part in getting your book published. Each agent and agency does things a little bit different, so hopefully these interviews will help you all understand what they do a little bit better, and what makes life in this industry so special! And, who knows? Maybe you’ll find an agent who could be the perfect fit for that novel you’re writing!

Love,

Sammy

~~~

 

Introducing Natalie M. Fischer of the

Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency

Natalie was interviewed by her client, LTWF contributor Julie Eshbaugh

Natalie Fischer,literary agent

LTWF: How did you find your way to the Sandra Dijkstra agency?

Natalie Fischer:  By accident (which, funny enough, is how many of us ended up here!). When I was a sophomore in college, I randomly started searching for internship listings on our school job site, even though I knew I didn’t want to start until my Junior year, and…there it was. THE PERFECT INTERNSHIP. After freaking out over my resume and cover letter, dancing when I got an interview, and dancing/crying/jumping up and down when I was accepted for the position (starting immediately but what did that matter; you FIT opportunities to your schedule), I had my foot in the door. After graduation, I asked them to keep me in mind for any positions that opened up, which is how I became an office assistant…and later agent!

LTWF: When did you know you wanted to get into publishing?  When did you know the correct role for you was agenting?

Natalie Fischer:  I knew I wanted to go in publishing from the time I was ten years old. I THOUGHT I wanted to go into the writing side of things. After writing a few YAs, and later romance novels (one of which landed me MY agent), I made it as far as ed board at a few houses, and general consensus was: great writing, needs plot. Ouch. Until I started helping one of the former Dijkstra agents with her clients/slush one-on-one…and found a whole new world. It wasn’t until I started assisting the contracts manager at our office and fell in LOVE with negotiating that I realized where I really belonged: pitching and selling fabulous talent. Because of my own query/rejection/writing background, I have a little more insight and sympathy for writers than some other agents, and I’m also very involved editorially with my clients. I found the perfect balance for me right in the middle of both worlds!

LTWF: Which genres do you represent and how did you choose them?

Natalie Fischer:  I represent romance (all genres), children’s (PB-Teen, no thrillers), historical fiction and select memoir/non-fiction (projects that I find really unique and connect with). I “chose” these genres because they’re what I read for fun, i.e. what I know. I don’t read history books, nor am I that interested in reading them, so I don’t really know that much about what’s already out there, nor do I know who buys it. That’s my personal logic, at least, on what I represent.

LTWF: You use some unique methods, including “scouting on the internet,” to search for new clients.  Can you talk about this and give unrepresented writers some tips on how to make themselves visible to agents?

Natalie Fischer:  Everyone wants to know about the scouting! I lurk, really, and give it a better name is all…

Tips to make yourself visible: find who is making THEMSELVES visible, via blogs/twitter, and follow them. You’ll learn a lot, not only about personal taste, but publishing. Once you get up the nerve to start interacting (and please do!!! I LOVE hearing from people on twitter), make sure you have a blog of your own, with a short (oh, say, 200 word) writing sample and paragraph of your hottest project linked to your name… Lurkers/scouters such as myself WILL click on those links. Especially ones in writing forums, such as absolutewrite.com, or romancedivas.com, etc.  And for Pete’s sake, keep it professional. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot; go rant over a beer, not over twitter.

LTWF: What about your current clients made you want to sign them?

Natalie Fischer:  Their work. As absolutely amazing as each one of my clients is, their work sold me. However, I never would have even THOUGHT to sign any of them if they’d ever once displayed one ounce of non-professionalism in the query stage. I’m not saying each one followed guidelines, believe it or not; but if I called them out on it (which I did), there were no “buts” about it. They respectfully corrected suit. Which may make me sound like a hard ass, but really, I don’t remember when people don’t follow guidelines; I remember when they talk back. (Emailing to check in on an email submission…which I would have deleted for not following guidelines, also counts as talking back.)

LTWF: Finish this sentence: “I would love to see more…”

Natalie Fischer:  Romance submissions (hint hint).

LTWF: What’s currently at the top of your To Be Read pile?

Natalie Fischer:  Client or non-client? Published or un? I have four TBR piles; none is less than a foot high (except my client pile, which hovers around a constant half-foot. I keep this one moving the most rapidly. Clients get priority). Let’s see: client, a revised ms, non-client, a contest critique, published, The Help. Or Some Like it Hot. Or The Duff. Or The Good Daughter. Or… oh who am I kidding, if I ever get time, I’ll DEVOUR Some Like it Hot and move onto The Duff. (I’m horribly behind, clearly; trying to “keep current” ends up…in this range).

LTWF: And now, for a non-publishy question! What do you like to do when you’re not being an agent?

Natalie Fischer:  Is that a trick question?

I love game nights, red wine, dinner parties (which I do NOT cook for), renting movies, and sitting in the sun. And, because I think it’s also relative, I’m a Cancer and a cat person.

Favorite TV shows: Supernatural, Ghost Whisperer, House, Bones, CSI: Las Vegas, Law and Order: SVU, Cake Boss, Family Guy, Simpsons, NCIS, Eureka (I love connecting with people on the random shows I like or used to watch.)

Please read and follow The Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency’s submission guidelines very carefully.  Natalie only accepts queries by snail mail, and asks that very specific material be included.  You can read the agency’s submission guidelines here.  You can also follow her extremely helpful twitter feed here.
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Sammy Bina is a fifth year college senior, majoring in Creative Writing. She is currently querying her adult dystopian novel, THE AGE OF NEVER GROWING OLD, working on a YA paranormal romance, and interns at the Elaine P. English Literary Agency in Washington, DC. You can follow her blog, or find her on twitter.

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Julie Eshbaugh is represented by Natalie Fischer of the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency. You can follow her on LiveJournal here and on Twitter here.


 

The Writing Community’s Kryptonite…AKA Jealousy

27 Jul

By

Sarah J. Maas

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Okay, I’m just gonna say it: Jealousy is rampant in publishing. Like, out-of-control rampant. It’s hard not to be jealous when you see an author get a seven-figure deal for a book that sounds just like yours, or jealous when you’ve been querying for 16 months and your friend lands an agent within days of querying. I’ve seen authors get jealous about money, book covers, press—pretty much everything. And I’ve seen firsthand how jealousy can eat away at writers—how it turns them into monsters.

Yeah, it sounds dramatic. But it’s true. I had a friendship fall apart as a result of jealousy. When I met this aspiring writer, she was sweet, and funny, and optimistic. I’d just signed with my agent, and I was more than happy to help her out with her own path to publication—I did everything from critiquing her manuscript to helping with her query letter to researching agents for her. But as the months wore on, and she didn’t get any closer to landing an agent, while I moved closer to getting a book deal, jealousy set in.

It came to a head when she told me she couldn’t be friends with me anymore—that I’d essentially become a colossus casting a shadow over her and stomping on her dreams. I felt blindsided. I felt guilty about my own successes. Had I done those things? Had I stomped on her dreams by talking about how awesome my agent is, or what editors were interested in QUEEN OF GLASS? Was I casting a shadow over her because my blog had more followers? Um, no. Far from it. But I ultimately realized that it wasn’t an issue about ME. It was about HER. Her insecurities and fears poisoned her.

That’s what jealousy is, really. A poison. It clouds your judgment, it turns friends into enemies. It makes you into something you are not. It turned this girl, who was a friend I loved and valued, into someone I didn’t recognize. By the end, she claimed all sorts of horrible things about me. The worst, though, was when she claimed that I never cared about her at all. I don’t think I ever told her this, but I had her number on speed dial. I have five people on my speed dial. And she was one of them.

Our friendship ended. And even though we left things on rocky terms, I wish her the best—I really do. Because I understand how it feels to be jealous of someone, how it makes you physically ill, and I know there will always be someone to be jealous of. But you can’t let it get to you. You can’t let it eat up everything inside of you, because you lose so much as a result.

But it’s hard to let go of jealousy. Really, truly hard. I have to actively tell myself to STFU every time I get jealous. So, here’s some quick and dirty advice when you feel that miserable rush.

1. Don’t panic. So someone sold a book for a hell of a lot more money than you received. So someone got an agent that you really wanted. So what. Do these things affect your daily life in any way? Does that one person getting an agent imply that you won’t ever land an agent? Take a deep breath. Put things into perspective.

2. Sometimes good things happen to undeserving people. Again, so what? Just because an insipid author was featured on the front page of the NYTimes Book Review doesn’t mean you won’t ever be. Look inside yourself—what is prompting your negative reaction? Why are you so upset about it? Once you understand the source of your jealousy, it’s a lot easier to confront it—and let go of it.

3. Someone else’s success doesn’t make you a loser. I don’t think I need to explain this one.

4. Sometimes, we have to work harder than the average person to achieve our dreams. But everything happens for a reason. Maybe we need that harder journey—maybe that journey will make us into better people. Don’t be afraid of taking the longer path. It might lead to some interesting places.

How do you guys combat jealousy? Any tales of woe and misery to share?

~~~

Sarah J. Maas is the author of several novels, including QUEEN OF GLASS, a YA fantasy retelling of Cinderella that will be published by Bloomsbury in late 2011. Sarah resides with her husband in Los Angeles. You can visit her blog here.

Writer’s Block

26 Jul

by Kat Zhang

Today, folks, we’re going to talk about this.

Yes, that’s right, the dreaded Writer’s Block (yes, it’s important enough to be capitalized). I always thought its name didn’t accurate describe its…well, blockishness. Blocks are cute. They remind me of the primary colored wooden building blocks I had as a kid (no legos for me!). Instead of Writer’s Block, it should be…oh, I don’t know. Writer’s Great Wall of China. Except, you know, less culturally significant.

Some days, you just sit down and nothing happens. You write a sentence or two. You stop. You read over those sentences again. You sigh. You write another word. You pause. Hm…I think I’m hungry. Oh, look, a dust bunny. Have I gotten to the mail yet today?

No, no, focus. Okay. Let’s try again. You write another sentence. Oh, man, this sucks!

You erase everything.

Writer’s block can hit at the beginning of a project, in the middle, or at the very end. All are equally frustrating. So what do you do? First, let’s see what some more famous writers have to say on the subject…

Mark Twain: “The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.”

Okay, so my takeaway from this is: focus on what you’re doing right this moment. You’re writing. You’re not querying (this project). You’re not selling, and you’re certainly not editing. I know marketability is important, but if worrying about whether or not this project will ever sell or get you an agent or reach the best sellers list is preventing you from even writing the piece in the first place…Well, then don’t think about any of those things. Remember, you can’t fix something that hasn’t been written yet.

Jeffery Deaver: “I’ve often said that there’s no such thing as writer’s block; the problem is idea block. When I find myself frozen–whether I’m working on a brief passage in a novel or brainstorming about an entire book–it’s usually because I’m trying to shoehorn an idea into the passage or story where it has no place.”

Are you stuck on a certain scene? Or maybe your characters need to overcome/get around a certain obstacle, and you just can’t figure out how they’re going to do it. Maybe you’re thinking about it the wrong way. I once spent days re-writing a certain passage, never quite getting it right. Finally, I realized I was doing the literary equivalent of forcing my characters over a mountain when there was a clear path going around it. I’d simply been too bent on doing it this way to see the other possibilities. So if one particular part is giving you trouble, try rethinking it entirely. Talk with your CP. Brainstorm.

J.G. Ballard: “All through my career I’ve written 1,000 words a day–even if I’ve got a hangover. You’ve got to discipline yourself if you’re professional. There’s no other way.”

Nicholas Sparks“I write 2,000 words a day when I write. It sometimes takes three hours, it sometimes takes five.”

Set yourself a word count goal for each day–a reasonable one. Then MEET it! No matter what. Once you miss one day, it’s so much easier to miss another, and then another, and another… So try not to break your streak at all. Brag to your friends (the writer ones. the other ones might not care…) about how you’re gone a whole month now with 2000 or 1000 or 500 words a day.

And finally, my own advice? What helps me the most when absolutely nothing wants to stick to the paper? Here it is in list form (because you guys know I love lists).

1. Read an awesome book, preferably in the genre you’re trying to write. This works for me every time. Unfortunately, I’ve been on a YA literary contemp. kick lately, and my WIP is fantasy, but hey, it just means I’m racking up a whole lot of YA literary contemp. short stories…

2. Refocus on why you’re writing. Hopefully, you’re writing because you love to write. Forget about the whole darn publishing business for a while. Reclaim your happy place 😉 Just write. Write whatever you love. Write for yourself. Something is better than nothing. And something, unlike nothing, can edited later.

3. Surround yourself with other writers. If you don’t know many in real life, meet some online! This is yet another reason why critique partners are awesome. Hearing about other people’s writing successes–especially those of people I know personally–always inspires me.

Now get writing!

…you can start by telling us in the comments how YOU overcome Writer’s Block 😀

~~~

Kat Zhang is a Spoken Word poet and a Creative Writing major. She spends most of her free time either querying HYBRID–a book about a girl with two souls–or pounding out the first draft of her work in progress. Both are YA novels. You can read more about her writing process and books at her blog.

Moleskine Notebook Giveaway!

25 Jul

Hey all! As a thank you for helping us reach 300 Twitter followers (WOO!), we’re giving away a pocket-sized Moleskine Volant notebook (which actually comes in packs of two!). AND, for helping us reach 100 Facebook followers, we’re giving away yet ANOTHER set of Moleskine Volant pocket notebooks! That’s right! There will be 2 winners!

Since Moleskine has so many different types of notebooks, here’s the description from the Moleskine website for the Volant style:

The Volant Notebooks with soft cover come packed in sets of two, consisting of two different shades of the same colour except in black.  The acid free paper pages are thread-bound and the detachable sheets are perfect for loose notes. Available in black, blue, green, pink and in the new 2009 colours, red and sky blue.
Inside the history of Moleskine.

We have green, red, navy, and black pocket notebooks to give away – which is perfect for carrying around with you wherever you go! If you have a colour preference out of the ones just listed, let us know in the comments.

So want to snag a free set of these legendary notebooks? All you have to do to enter the giveaway is leave a comment with your email address AND answer this question:

Moleskine notebooks are used for various things – writing, doodles, grocery lists, favourite quotes, to-do lists — but what would YOU use your Moleskine notebook for?

For extra entries, you can do any (or all!) of the following:

+1 for following LTWF on Twitter (add your twitter name to your comment so I know you’re following)
+1 for being a fan on Facebook
+3 for following this blog – (if you don’t, just subscribe to us with your email!)
+1 for sharing this contest on Twitter – (please provide the link of your tweet in the comments)
+2 for sharing this contest on your blog – just be sure to leave a link (so that we know who you are, and how you’re sharing it!)

There are 9 entries in total. Don’t forget adding your email so that we can contact you! This contest is open internationally.

The contest ends at noon EST on Saturday, August 14th. The winner will be picked using random.org, and will be announced on Sunday, August 15th.

Good luck!!! And thanks for being so awesome!

~ The LTWF Team

Saturday Grab Bag: New This Month & Mashup

24 Jul

New This Month!

Every now and then, we look at books being released this month that have caught our attention. Here are 5 books that have all been released this July that look intriguing.

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Sleepless by Cyn Balog

Eron De Marchelle isn’t supposed to feel a connection. He is a Sandman, a supernatural being whose purpose is to seduce human charges to sleep. While he can communicate with his charges in their dreams, he isn’t encouraged to–after all, getting too involved in one human’s life would prevent him helping his other charges get their needed rest.

But he can’t deny that he feels something for Julia. Julia, with her fiery red hair and her sad dreams. Just weeks ago, her boyfriend died in a car accident, and Eron can tell that she feels more alone than ever. Eron was human once too, many years ago, and he remembers how it felt to lose the one he loved. Eron has always felt protective of Julia . . . but now, when she seems to need him more than ever, he can’t seem to reach her . . .

Sandmen are forbidden from communicating with humans outside their dreams. But will Eron be willing to risk everything for a chance to be with the person he loves?

[Description from Goodreads]

Contributor Comments:

I’m excited about this one because one of my favourite graphic novel series is The Sandman by Neil Gaiman. Yes, I know – this book will be COMPLETELY different. But, I have a thing for Sandmen now. And I just like the idea that this book won’t involve vampires or werewolves. It seems like it’ll be a very refreshing YA paranormal romance. This book came out July 13th, so I clearly need to go out and pick this one up soon.

Vanessa Di Gregorio

I’ve never read any sort of story about a Sandman, and the whole concept intrigues me a lot! I’ll have to check it out. Plus, I always love books that deal with dreaming or dream worlds. The cover is pretty in keeping with YA paranormal nowadays, but I’m still loving the flower. Carnations (if that is indeed a carnation…), with their hundreds of petals, just…are cool 🙂

Kat Zhang

I’m beyond excited to read SLEEPLESS!

Cyn’s debut, FAIRY TALE, was really charming and poignant, and this seems in a similar vein. I already have my copy reserved at my local Borders, and I can’t wait to go pick it up this Saturday!

Sarah J. Maas

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The Forbidden Sea by Sheila A. Nielson

When Adrianne comes face-to-face with the mermaid of Windwaithe Island, of whom she has heard terrible stories all her life, she is convinced the mermaid means to take her younger sister. Adrianne, fierce-willed and courageous, is determined to protect her sister from the mermaid, and her family from starvation. However, the mermaid continues to haunt Adrianne in her dreams and with her song.

Yet, when the islanders find out about Adrianne’s encounters with the mermaid she is scorned, for this small and superstitious community believes the mermaid will bring devastation to the island if Adrianne does not give herself to the sea.

A powerful and lyrical story of one girl who must choose between having everything and having those she loves.

[Description from Goodreads]

Contributor Comments:

Okay, so I also have a thing for mermaids. I don’t know what it is, but they’re just so…. exotic to me. And I’ll admit it… Harry Potter completely made me fall in love with mermen. I remember being so fascinated in book 4. Plus, I’ve heard that the prose is great – and we all know how much I love lyrical prose! I just think the premise is so great too. This book came out July 1st, so it looks like I’ll need to make a trip to the bookstore!

Vanessa Di Gregorio

Did someone say lyrical prose? I think that catches my attention, always. Of course, if the plot goes nowhere, even the most beautiful prose can only do so much. Unlike Vanessa, I’ve never been a big mermaid fan, but only because the mermaid stories I got my hands on as a kid tended to show them as nice and cute. This book seems to promise a much darker view, and human sacrifices are always fun, right? (Uh, did I really just say that? What I meant was, “Human sacrifices make compelling plot points.” Yup.)

Kat Zhang

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The Poison Diaries by Maryrose Wood

Jessamine Luxson lives with her father, Thomas, an apothecary, in an isolated cottage near Alnwick Castle. Thomas’s pride and obsession is his locked garden full of dangerous plants, which Jessamine is forbidden to enter.

When a traveler brings an orphan to their cottage, he claims the boy has special gifts that Thomas might value. Jessamine is drawn to the strange but intriguing boy, called Weed. Soon their friendship deepens into love. Finally, Weed shares his secret: He can communicate with plants. For him they have distinct personalities—and some are even murderous. From the locked garden the poisonous plants call to Weed, luring him with promises of deadly power.

When Jessamine falls inexplicably ill, only Weed’s relationship with the Poisons can save her. But Thomas is determined to exploit Weed’s abilities, even if it risks Jessamine’s life—or drives Weed to the brink of madness.

[Description from Goodreads]

Contributor Comments:

After receiving an ARC from Harpercollins Canada, I was excited to read this. And now, after having read it, I can say that I ABSOLUTELY love it! I’ll be writing a book recommendation for this book soon, so keep your eyes out for it! All I’ll say is that I was extremely happy to find out that this is the first book in a trilogy (which I also happen to have a thing for, since 3 is my lucky number!). This just came out earlier this week (on July 20th!), so I’m pretty sure you all need to go out and buy this ASAP. And if you still have doubts, just wait till my recommendation! You’ll regret not listening to me sooner! :p

Vanessa Di Gregorio

~~~

The Fool’s Girl by Celia Rees

Young and beautiful Violetta may be of royal blood, but her kingdom is in shambles when she arrives in London on a mysterious mission. Her journey has been long and her adventures many, but it is not until she meets the playwright William Shakespeare that she gets to tell the entire story from beginning to end. Violetta and her comic companion, Feste, have come in search of an ancient holy relic that the evil Malvolio has stolen from their kingdom. But where will their remarkable quest—and their most unusual story—lead? In classic Celia Rees style, it is an engrossing journey, full of political intrigue, danger, and romance.

This wholly original story is spun from Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, and includes both folly and suspense that would make the Bard proud.

[Description from Goodreads]

Contributor Comments:

I read Pirates by Celia Rees YEARS ago, and I remember thoroughly enjoying the story, the characters, and the prose! And, I have a bit of a thing for Shakespeare (I took Jacobean and Elizabethan/Shakespeare and his contemporaries type Literature classes ALL throughout my undergrad). So I enjoy the idea of stories that are inspired by or include bits of Shakespeare’s plays. And I can never get enough of political intrigue! This also came out on July 20th, so it looks like I’ll be spending quite a bit of money on my next bookstore trip!

Vanessa Di Gregorio

~~~

The Education of Bet by Lauren Baratz-Logsted

Bet is sixteen, very intelligent, but only knows as much as her limited education will allow. In Victorian England, girls aren’t allowed to go to school.
Will is also 16, and though not related by blood, he and Bet act like brother and sister. In fact, they even look like brother and sister. And though they’re both raised under the same roof, by the same kind uncle, Will has one big advantage over Bet: He’s a boy, and being a boy means he isn’t stuck in the grand house they call home. He gets to go out into the world–to school.
But that’s not what Will wishes. He wants to join the military and learn about real life, not what’s written in books.
So one night, Bet comes up with a plan. She’ll go to school as Will. Will can join the military. And though it seems impossible, they actually manage to pull it off.
But once Bet gets to the school, she begins to realize the education she’s going to get isn’t exactly the one she was expecting.

[Description from Goodreads]

Contributor Comments:

I love the idea of girls disguising themselves as boys in order to pursue something. Alanna from Tamora Pierce’s The Lioness Quartet did it, and there have been a few sea-faring books that also include girls disguising themselves as boys. So, I’m already intrigued. Plus, she seems like she’ll be a very strong heroine. So I’ll definitely be keeping my eyes out for this one! This one came out on July 7th, so it’s already on bookshelves! Yes, ALL these books are already out – that way you don’t need to pine over them! Just run out and buy them all in one go (that’s MY plan, anyways!).

Vanessa Di Gregorio

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Mashup:

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Happy reading everyone! Let us know if you ever pick up/have picked up any of the books we’ve mentioned – you know we always love hearing from you!

And are there any new releases out this month that you can’t wait to get your hands on? Or any awesome links you’ve come across? Share them with us in the comments!

QOTW: Editing and Revising

23 Jul


This week, the question comes from NLMars, who asks:

I’m currently editing my first novel, and I was curious to know how you guys edit, and what processes you go through until you know that it’s publishable material. Do you have any tips and hints?

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Once upon a time, not so very very long ago, I thought that editing meant “line-editing.” I would say, “Oh, I’m editing my novel now” and change nothing but comma placements and things like that. Yeah, it wasn’t working. Luckily, I got myself some awesome critique partners who taught me that *gasp* I might actually need to do things like change my plot and characters!

So now I try to write my first draft as quickly as possible. It’s kind of like my first draft/really detailed outline. At this point, I have no to little idea where the story is going. This is pantsing at its finest, haha. I usually get about 3/4 through the story. Then I stop, let the story sit for a few days or weeks. After that, I go back and start over, building on my first draft. Some scenes are kept more or less intact. Others are deleted or revised heavily. Characters are cut out or added in or fleshed out. I put in foreshadowing that didn’t exist before because I didn’t know what I was supposed to be foreshadowing!

This time, I write to the end (usually). I let it sit for a little while again. So far, only HYBRID has gotten past this phase, so I’ll just tell you what I did with it afterwards. I went back and polished until it was presentable to eyes other than mine (namely, those of my lovely CPs). Off my story went. Then, when I got feedback, I revised again for a month or two, then sent it back (because my CPs are awesome like that and will read my ms twice).

Finally, I polished, polished, polished some more. And yay, off to agents!

The Writer Querying

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I was like Kat… editing = line editing, in my head. Way long ago I didn’t have writer friends, or a real understanding of the industry, and I hadn’t heard any stories about complete rewrites with massive plot rehauls. So yes, I went through 10 ‘revisions’ where I replaced corny sentences and adjusted commas, but there weren’t any big character or plot changes (like there needed to be).

Then I got an agent, and my understanding of the word ‘edit’ expanded. My agent would highlight a section of 35 pages and say, ‘this has too much fat. It’s too emotional. Trim it.’ Thus I learned the ‘cutting’ part of editing.

But I have to say that I’m only just now coming into my complete understanding of the editing process. If you read Mandy Hubbard’s blog then you’ll have heard her talking about completely rewriting Prada & Prejudice multiple times, so I had a small concept of completely rewriting, but this is the first time I’ve approached it with one of my books. Recently my agent suggested that I condense my trilogy down into 1 book. Talk about editing!

Instead of jumping into it, I’ve found outlining to be really useful. An ‘outline’ in the publishing world is a document where you list each chapter and then a paragraph or two (or five, in my case), about the main action and emotional points in the chapter. This has really helped me see my novel from a high level, and I can easily trace the emotional highs and lows, and all the plot development. I would recommend this method to someone editing a novel for the first time; it really shows you how tight or loose your novel is, and if you have unevenly spaced developments.

Mostly, my advice is to not be afraid of huge changes. You can always keep the original document saved somewhere on your computer if you don’t like the end result.

Best of luck!

-The Writer Currently Performing a Complete Rewrite

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When I first started writing, I would always go back to an MS and end up rewriting it. Editing, for the longest time, was line editing in my mind; fixing grammatical errors, and maybe moving around a few words around here and there. But I’ve always loved to go back and change what I’ve written until I’m happy with it. Which, often, would mean constant rewrites. But I always thought that rewrites were just that – changing around whole paragraphs, whole scenes, even whole chapters and characters and bits of dialogue – but different from editing. I just didn’t think of that process as being a part of the editing process itself. I just figured that I was one of those people who could never be completely happy with their work, and would have to keep changing and adjusting until I felt I could do no more.

Now that I know that rewriting IS editing, I’ve noticed another problem – I like to edit while I write. This means that even before I finish my first draft, I’m attempting to polish up all the scenes I’ve already written every time I go back to “writing”. I need to tell myself to stop, and just push through finishing the first draft – I’ll have plenty of time to rewrite and revise and edit later. So my advice is, don’t edit while writing your first draft. Edit after you’ve completed writing your beast of an MS. If you start editing while writing, you might polish up scenes that later, you’ll want to change as your story morphs and changes. Even if you start off writing about one thing, you might realize as you write that it is about something completely different. So, finish writing before you edit!

– The Writer Working in the Industry

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I don’t have much to add to what everyone else has said, but in terms of knowing when your manuscript is ready to be queried/publishable…definitely get a critique partner. Not a cheerleader, a REAL critique partner. Someone who will be brutally honest with you (while still being uplifting!). Having an outside opinion really helps–they’ll pick up on problems in the manuscript that you didn’t even know were there! Even if I do a million rounds of revisions on my own, I’d never send anything to my agent without a CP reading it first.

And a general word of advice about revisions: don’t rush. I know a lot of writers are REALLY eager to query, so they rush through their revisions (often without knowing it, and even DENY it when you call them out on it). There. Is. No. Rush. To. Get. Published. The industry will not die out before your book gets a chance to be on shelves. And your age doesn’t make any difference (I know SO many young writers who think that once they hit 25, they run out of time/aren’t ‘cool’ writers anymore). No one is going to ‘steal’ your idea before you get the chance to query it. Just breathe, relax, and focus on creating the best manuscript you can produce. And maybe that means six months of revisions–or a year. But Do Not Rush Your Revisions. Please.

-The Writer With Her First Book Deal

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Tell us about YOUR editing and revising process!