Archive | July, 2011

Saturday Grab Bag

30 Jul

Mashup

Here are some great links on writing, the industry, and all things book related. Some are serious, and some are just downright hilarious. We highly recommend you read them!

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What We’re Reading

Sammy: TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD by Harper Lee

Sarah: VANISH by Sophie Jordan

Savannah: A DANCE OF DRAGONS by G. R. R. Martin

Susan: THE BODY FINDER by Kimberly Derting

Mandy: THOU SHALT NOT ROADTRIP by Antony John

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Early August Debuts

CLEOPATRA’S MOON by Vicky Alvear Shecter (8/1)

THE NEAR WITCH by Victoria Schwab (8/2)

DARK PARTIES by Sara Grant (8/3)

HOOKED by Catherine Greenman (8/9)

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What are you guys reading? Excited for any upcoming novels? Let us know in the comments!

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Why an agent can’t give you feedback at the query stage

29 Jul

I tweeted the following tweet this morning:

“A lot of replies to form rejections today, asking for feedback. No matter how tempting, resist.”

Here’s the thing, guys: If an agent had a strong opinion to share with you AND the time to share it, they wouldn’t have used a form reponse.

I sometimes get queries for things that are not even YA or MG (the only “genres” I represent) and the time it takes just to copy/paste a seperate form for those folks was throwing off my rhythm. I went back to a blanket form for all.  To actually type up specific notes–even just a sentence– for each query means I’d be spending a half hour of every day writing responses to writers I did not plan to work with. That means if I stay away from the query box for just a week, it would take me almost four hours to type up responses.

Any time I send out more than a dozen rejections at once, I can count on getting a few “thank you for your time” responses (not neccessary at all at the query stage, but harmless) and one or two asking for feedback.

I know it’s frustrating to get nothing but forms. The first project I ever queried got twelve of them and no requests at all. 

I know you can’t learn anything from them, and you don’t know what to do without actual feedback. But there are many, many resources for you– Absolute Write, Verla Kay, SCBWI, RWA– the list goes on and on. Other writers can help you build and hone your query.

The other thing is… I’ve passed on a half-dozen projects which had offers on the table from other agents. I pass on queries every day that are well written, accompanied by solid writing. .  Those writers probably will  sign agents, it just won’t be me. Did you read and love Twilight? Wicked Lovely? Anna and the French Kiss? Thirteen Reasons Why? The Forest of Hands and Teeth? Hatchet?

You might love some of those books. But I bet you don’t love all of them. I don’t love every well-written query + sample no more than I love every book I buy at the store.

And if I did love every project that was well-written, I’d have 100, 200, 300 or more clients by now. I have to pick and choose projects the resonate specifically with me, because I’m the one who may spend months pitching and submitting your project. I’m the one who has to write up a pitch and convey my enthusiasm.

I finished a full manuscript this week and I thought to myself– If this was a published book, I could see reccomending it to X friend. And I mean that. It was well written. Interesting. It kept me turning pages.

But the commitment and effort it takes to represent a project is on a whole ‘nother level than enjoying a book just for the sake of reading it.

That’s why, then, it’s so hard to give feedback. A book is not a widget, or a car, or a house. I can’ tpoint to a crooked wall and say, unequivically, it needs to be fixed. I can’t say that you should tighten those two bolts before you show it to the next person.

Because the things I say could be wrong. The next person you query could love it as it is. So If I haven’t even read your full manuscript (I DO provide feedback on fulls), then I’m not going to be able to provide you feedback– both becuase of time and becuase in most cases, what you’ve sent me is perfectly good. It’s just not for me.

Mandy

D4EO Lit

www.MandyHubbard.com

Twitter: @Mandyhubbard

RIPPLE news

27 Jul

by Mandy Hubbard

~~~

Hey all!

Just wanted to shout from the rooftops that RIPPLE is now in stores, and I’ll be at a great joint-author signing on Sunday at 4PM at Lake Forest Park’s THIRD PLACE BOOKS (near Seattle!) with the likes of:

I know, I’m not really sure why they’re letting me sit with them either. But if you live in the SEATTLE AREA, come join us!  Sunday! 4pm! Third Place Books!

~~~

As you might have heard, some of the LTWF girls met up in Florida this past week for a writer’s retreat! While there they had lunch with a fan of the blog and went to B&N to take pictures with RIPPLE in-store!

From left to right: Susan Dennard, Biljana Likic, Savannah Foley, our fan Sydney, Sarah Maas, and Kat Zhang.

Beasts, Monsters and Eldritch Abominations

25 Jul

A lot of fantasy worlds tend to be populated by the same sorts of creatures: dwarfs, trolls, giants, elves, things that look like elves but are called something else to show you that they’re not your typical elves and are possibly speshul, etc. It can be fun to play around with these standards, like giving your own twist to vampires or mermaids, but it can be even more interesting to find an obscure creature or to create your own. If you want to make your own fantasy world, you’re going to need more than a few old standbys as well to give it enough complexity to make it believable.

One source to look at for inspiration is folklore. Folklore is the origin in one way or another of most of our traditional monsters, like vampires and werewolves, but there is far more variation on these creatures in the original stories. Can your vampires cross running water? Or do they have to be beheaded and buried at a crossroads to stay dead? It depends on which area your vampire tales come from. In particular I like creatures from American folklore. Books of folklore are a handy source too, along with folklore journals. If you’re still in college or have access to academic journals, there are whole journals devoted to folklore studies. There’s also an encyclopedia of American folklore and a dictionary of English folklore.

Extinct animals are great for adding flavor to a new world. Mammoths, cave bears, and saber-toothed lions are recognizable enough that they don’t need explanation but extinct so they immediately let your reader know they’re dealing with a slightly different world. Moa, flightless birds bigger than ostriches, and giant sloths are odder. While something like a Paraceratherium, a long-necked hornless rhino bigger than any mammoth, or a tasmanian tiger would need some explaining but add depth and detail to a new world.

And for the terrifying and bizarre I’d suggest looking at the world’s oceans, especially those animals that lived with or before the dinosaurs, or at bugs. For example, the sea creatures from the Cambrian look particularly alien: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anomalocarid. Of course you don’t have to go for species that have been extinct for millions of years to get inspiration. Tube worms, jellyfish, and deep sea crabs are strange creatures that could give rise to plenty of nightmare fuel if used properly.

However, you want to be sure you have the right sort of creatures for your setting. Horror can get away with almost anything because monsters in horror don’t need a reason to exist. They are just there to be scary. On the other hand, for sci-fi and fantasy the point is usually to create a congruous world where the various elements fit together to make a setting that feels complete and real (according to its own rules). Essentially, don’t have a swamp monster living in a desert, unless you put it in an oasis. Similarly, don’t have a dark forest filled with only predators, they’ll end up going hungry. But it’s fine to make the things they eat dangerous too.

And finally, it’s always good to over prepare. Just look at J.K. Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. She has tons of magical creatures that don’t appear in the Harry Potter series. But should she want to write about Ron and Hermione taking the kids on a vacation to any part of the world, she already has the creatures that they’d encounter there. The more you have worked out beforehand, the less chance you have of things seeming slapped together or incongruous. So go ahead and start working on a bestiary.

What’s the strangest creature you’ve come up with, or your favorite published monster?

Victory Fist Pump!

20 Jul

 

by Susan Dennard

~~

So, the first round of the Nautilus Writing Workshop Writing for Young Adults came to a close last week. Sarah and I hope (and think!) our six diligent students learned a lot, but there’s one thing I’m absolutely certain they all came away with. I know it because I came away with it.

And that is this:

One of the most important pieces of your writing life is TO TALK about it with other writers.

This same maxim applies to other crafts–interior design, knitting, water colors, whatever. There’s really nothing that will motivate you to work, stimulate your creativity, or make you smile quite like talking about your art.

From sharing your experiences and dreams to discussing your toolbox to bemoaning your frustrations–you’ve just GOTTA talk about this stuff. But more importantly, you need to talk about it with someone who knows what the heck you mean.

It’s one thing to have your idea-bouncer-offer-person–someone I do believe we all need in our creative lives–but it’s quite another to have your writing buddy who knows the terms, the trials, and the terror.

So I’m coining a new phrase.

Victory Fist Pump Buddy: a person who is also a writer, and therefore knows just how freaking hard this whole writing biz can be. This person is qualified to Fist Pump over your victories and share a tissue over the roadblocks. This person actually knows what it takes.

I mean, we all know how it feels when you see that dude at the supermarket…

DUDE

Oh, so you’re a writer?

YOU

(proudly)

Yeah, I just finished my first novel.

DUDE

Awesome! When’s it come out?

YOU

(uncomfortably)

Um, well…it doesn’t quite work that way.

Or how about this conversation?

YOU

I just got an agent! Oh my gosh, this is the happiest moment of my life!

DUDE

(staring stupidly)

Why? Aren’t you the one that hires them?

YOU

No. It’s a really competitive thing–like, thousands of writers all have to send query letters and… Oh, what’s the point. Forget it

You throw your hands in the air and storm off.


Or maybe even this one:

YOU

Oh. My. Gosh. My book has SOOOOLD!

DUDE

Sweet! I’ll go buy it! Does Amazon have it?

YOU

(frowning)

No, it takes an average of 2 years for a book to reach stores.

DUDE

(stupidly)

What? Why?

YOU

Because! That’s just how it works. And no, it is not a reflection on the quality of my book! I’m really proud of my novel.

DUDE

Oh, well that’s still awesome! So your book will be the next Harry Potter, right?

You just roll your eyes and stalk away.

But then you have your writer buddy–your Victory Fist Pump Buddy who knows EXACTLY what you’re talking about. When you tell them that an agent requested a partial, they squeal with delight. When you groan over lack of self-motivation, they offer to keep you in check. When you feel like jumping off a bridge, they talk you down.

I never knew how much I was missing until a year ago, when I joined some online communities and suddenly felt connected–felt like I’d found people who really understood.

And since then, my relationships with other writers–the LTWF community, in particular–have grown stronger and more valuable. I can’t live without my Victory Fist Pump Buddies! Sorry to my husband, but when it comes to writing, your ever-willing-to-listen-ear just isn’t enough. I need someone who’s been there too! Someone who’ll nurture my creativity while also challenging it.

That said, I challenge YOU to find your own Victory Fist Pump Buddy. If you don’t already have one, go out and meet some other writers (online or in person) TODAY! If you do already have some buddies in your life, then drop ’em a line and tell them how much you appreciate having them around.

I appreciate all of you guys–all of you readers who leave us comments that let us know we’re not alone. I appreciate my fellow LTWF gals who answer my panicked or joyful emails with unwavering support and love.

So let’s all do it together in a super cheesy made-for-TV movie moment:

::victory fist pump::

Huzzah!

Susan Dennard is a writer, reader, lover of animals, and eater of cookies. She is repped by Sara Kendall of NCLit, and her debut, SOMETHING STRANGE AND DEADLY, will be available from Harper Children’s in 2012. You can learn more about her on her blog or twitter.

Digesting the Revision Letter, a pep talk

19 Jul

A Guest Post by Erin Bowman

~~~

You’ve written a book. Your agent has sold it. Your editor (holy cow, you now have an EDITOR) is working on getting you revision notes. They’ll come in the form of a “revision letter,” which will likely be long and single-spaced and full of big picture items that need addressing.

If you are anything like me, you will simultaneously crave and fear this essential document. So without further adieu, some things to keep in perspective as you read through your letter:

Remember that Editor loves your book

She had to love it enough to pitch it in an Acquisitions meeting. She had to get Sales and Marketing and Higher Ups onboard. She had to believe that your story was one the world should see, and then she brokered a deal that would make that possible. Remember this, because a revision letter can come with big and sometimes overwhelming suggestions. Things like: Subplot A should be cut, Character X feels flat, world-building is lacking, and oh, lets switch from first person present to third person past. You might not be prepared for it. So no matter how long your letter is, no matter how many characters are flat or subplots need cutting, remember it in no way correlates to how much (or little) Editor loves your story. She loves it. The end.

These edits will make your book better.

Stronger. Tighter. Un-Put-Downable. Everything Editor points out is done with the end goal of crating a better story. She might even ask a bunch of questions, offering no answers along the way, simply because she wants you to think about what these questions mean for the story and know that readers will be asking the same things as they devour your tale. As you read through your letter, there’s a good chance you’ll be nodding your head in agreement to 99.9% of the things Editor says. I know I did. You might even kick yourself for not seeing them first. Deep down, we know there are flaws in our books, areas that can be strengthened. Editor will find them, document them on paper, and then push you to man-up.

Take some time to digest it all.

There’s a rare chance it works for some people, but I advice against reading your letter and immediately jumping into revisions. I like to sit on my thoughts before any major rewrite. I let ideas marinate. I think about how one change here might affect twenty things there. I brainstorm several different options before I sit down to tackle the right one. I think this is a crucial step. Read your letter. Think about it for a week or two. Make notes. Think some more. Then start.

Ask Questions.

If something is unclear, always, always, always speak up. When I was younger, I never asked questions when I needed clarification. I thought it would make me look dumb, like I had no clue what I was doing. I am a firm believer that you actually look smarter when you say, “Hey, I’m not quite following this. Can we talk it over again?” And here is why I bring this up: Revising is hard. We all know this. You don’t want to spend weeks revising only to take the story down a path opposite of what Editor had in mind. If you don’t follow something in your letter, ask Editor to clarify. If you see what she’s saying but think it will drastically (and detrimentally) alter other points of the story, see if she can hop on the phone to hash it out. I’m pretty sure she’ll be more than happy to discuss things.

You have the answers.

You do. You envisioned the story, dreamed up the world, peopled it with characters. You have the answers even when you fail to see them. Remember this when you are knee deep in a scene, your story’s guts spilled because you’ve hacked it apart, and all you can think is, “I have no clue what I’m doing. How will I ever fix this?” You will. Maybe not that very day – you might need to take a break or go for a walk or come back to it tomorrow – but you will figure it out. You will find the answer and you will stitch your story back together impeccably. It won’t even scar.

Do it your way.

This has been more of a pep talk than an advice-centric post because I truly believe that writing (and editing) is an individual and unique experience. No two people will tackle it the same way. Only you can decide what works for your story, your situation, your process. Find those tactics and stick to them.

Happy Revising!

~~~

Erin Bowman lives in New Hampshire with her husband. When not writing, Erin enjoys hiking, giggling and staring at the stars. She drinks a lot of coffee, buys far too many books and is not terribly skilled at writing about herself in the third person. Her debut THE LAICOS PROJECT will be available Winter 2013 from HarperTeen. She blogs regularly at embowman.com.

Writing the 2nd Book in a Trilogy

18 Jul

by Kat Zhang

So, I’m almost done with the first draft of my outline for Book #2. Considering I just turned in my edits for WHAT’S LEFT OF ME (eee! New title still makes me all tingly, lol), it may or may not be a little early to be working on the outline, but somehow, I suspect not. Either way, considering I go just a little bit crazy when I don’t have something writerly to be working on (especially when school isn’t in session and ready to distract me with physics and spanish and american politics), I don’t really have much choice in the matter.

The outline will need to be cured of about two or three good-sized plot holes before it’s in a state to be shown anyone. Not to mention the line “I will think of something appropriately sweet and non-cliche eventually, haha” is probably going to be replaced at some point. Yeah.

But overall, I’m pretty darn satisfied with the whole thing, and so very relieved that I am. Of course, we’ll have to see if my agent and editor and the rest of the team at HarperTeen are satisfied before it’s full sails ahead for my starting to write the actual book, but I personally can’t write a book unless I feel a certain soul in it, and I think I’ve found the right one for Book #2 of the Hybrid Trilogy.

To be honest, I’ve never written a trilogy before. So this whole process has been very much a learning experience as I try to figure out what constitutes a good sequel, especially when it also has to serve as the bridge between books 1 and 3.

I decided early on that I wanted to steer away from a common complaint people have about second books in a trilogy—that they’re the weakest ones. The ones with the least excitement. That they often only serve to put things in place for book 3. I hope that this book 2 comes to stand on its own as a story in and of itself—of course strongly connected to the other books, but no lesser than its fellows in terms of plot or characterization or excitement.

This is probably all way early to talk about considering WHAT’S LEFT OF ME is still a good year away from publication, but I’d like to keep a record as I go on writing and editing and outlining this series—both for myself and for whomever else is actually interested. So as of today, the first draft for the outline for Book #2 is just about done. I’ll let you guys know when I actually start the first true words of the manuscript.

I’ll die of excitement. I swear 😉

~~~

Kat Zhang is a Spoken Word poet and a Creative Writing major. She is represented by Emmanuelle Morgen and her book WHAT’S LEFT OF ME is about a 15-year-old girl fighting for her right to survive in a world where two souls are born to each body and one is doomed to disappear. It recently sold in a three-book deal to HarperTeen. You can read more about her writing process, travels, and books at her blog.

HAPPY POST HARRY POTTER!

14 Jul

A good number of you have probably seen the very last Harry Potter movie by now. (How many of you cried? Be honest!) Some of us here at LTWF have seen it, too, but a number of us are holding out until next week, when we’re going to get together and see it in the same theater :]

We were going to have a QOTW as normal today, but then we stumbled across this and thought it was more fitting to the end of the Harry Potter movie franchise…

20 Harry Potter Movie Sequels (that should never be made)

Happy Friday, folks!

-LTWF

Too Close For Comfort?

14 Jul

or

Why you are in love with your first novel

 A Guest Post by Aya Tsintziras

~~~

We’ve all heard the saying “you’re too close to your book, you need someone else to look at it with fresh eyes.” And while getting different opinions on your novel is an integral part of the editing process, no matter what stage of the path to publication you are at, what if being too close to your novel is a good thing?

I believe that it is.

Confession: I don’t have a CP. When I’m finished a draft of a book, I show it to my mom, who I consider my first reader, and she points out little stuff like typos and the bigger stuff like a plot point that doesn’t make total sense, or a secondary character’s boyfriend who has three different names (that happened in my current WIP). Then I revise. Then I send my book off to my agent. (Then more revisions, of course.) That’s it. I’m not saying you shouldn’t have CPs. Whatever works for you. I don’t show my early drafts to more than two people, and that makes me very close to my work. In the case of my first novel, with each round of revisions I did with my editor, I started to feel more and more disconnected from my book, like it became something of its own, something that was less of a story I used to write in high school late at night in my bedroom or in my favourite Starbucks after school. It became something more like, well, a novel that would be published. (On August 26, 2011, to be specific.)

But I know the book so well I could basically recite it verbatim if you asked me. And this is a good thing, because if you get some comments on your novel during the editing process, for instance on changing a plot point, you can say, no, my character wouldn’t do that. You know your characters, because my theory is this: the relationship you have with your first novel is the most important relationship you will ever have with any book you write. Feel free to disagree with me on this – I’m not saying you won’t ever enjoy writing another book again. You’re a writer, so you love to write. But the first one is like your first love affair with a potential career, with the idea that you can really pursue the path to publication, with the fact that you are serious about this. And it’s probably true of every writer who makes the transition to author that their first novel is the one they will revise again and again for years upon years. I worked on my own first book for six years, counting before and after my book deal.

I don’t have the same attachment to my current WIP. Not that I don’t love working on it, not that I don’t think it’s another important story to tell. But it’s just not the same. And that doesn’t make me sad, it’s kind of bittersweet. Because my first novel is the only first novel I will ever have, and I feel a sense of real peace that soon it will make its way into the world.

So it’s okay to be “too close” to your novel, at least your first novel. You know the characters like they are your best friends, and you know what they would say and do in certain situations. And eventually, whether you’re sending off queries in the hopes of landing an agent, or waiting for the next round of revisions from your editor or agent, you will have to let go a little bit. And with each round of edits, you will let go a bit more. And when your book is on the shelves, that’s when you will let go the most, I bet. Because you’ve worked hard to make your dream come true, and now it’s time to work on your next book, and to continue living the dream.

~~~

Aya’s first novel, PRETTY BONES, will be published by James Lorimer on August 26, 2011. Aya lives in Toronto, where her days are filled with coffee, pop culture and, of course, writing. She is addicted to television, so it’s probably a good thing that come September, she’s off to grad school to study TV writing and producing. You can follow her on twitter @ayatsintziras and visit her website at www.ayatsintziras.com.

To the Boy Who Lived

13 Jul

A Farewell to My Childhood

By Sammy Bina

~~~

Every generation has its thing. Something people remember it by. My grandparents bore witness to two world wars. My parents grew up with Star Wars.

Me? I had Harry Potter.

I remember the day the first book came out. I was in fifth grade, attending a tiny Catholic school in Wisconsin. I begged my parents to buy me a copy but they refused because apparently their priest told them people who read Harry Potter would go to Hell. (For the record, I’m pretty sure if there is a Hell, and I’m going there, it isn’t because I read Harry Potter.) Rambunctious, sneaky child that I was, I did what anyone else in my position would have done: went to the library and checked it out anyway. I read it under my covers at night (Just like Harry!), and by the time I’d finished it, I was hooked.

To this day, I still can’t pinpoint what it was about that first book that made me fall in love. Maybe it was my not-so-hidden desire to transfer to Hogwarts, which seemed infinitely cooler than any school I would ever attend. (I still stand by this.) Maybe it was all the magical treats Harry got to eat; as a growing child, I was always shoving food in my mouth. It could’ve been the fact that Ron and Hermione seemed like the two best sidekicks ever, and my best friend at the time didn’t even know who Harry Potter was. These days I’m pretty sure it was a combination of all the above and then some.

By the time the second book came out, my parents had come to their senses and made sure I had a copy waiting for me the day it went on sale. I devoured it in less than a day, and then spent months waiting for the next one. Prisoner of Azkaban came out while we were on vacation, and then my parents played a cruel game and made me wait until we got home before I could procure a copy. Needless to say, I spent six hours in the Colonial Williamsburg gift shop reading it. I didn’t run into any snags after that. Thanks to some creativity and a little hard work, I managed to get a copy of each book the day it come out. (I wasn’t so lucky with the movies, but that’s another story entirely. (I blame the fact that most of my friends don’t possess the same nerdy gene that I do.))

What I’m trying to say here, dear readers, is that Harry Potter is full of memories. It was, essentially, my childhood. I can define points in my life by when the books came out. I can tell you where I was on 9/11, and I can tell you where I was the day The Deathly Hallows came out. In their own ways, each event has had huge significance in my life. 9/11 forced me to look at the world a little bit differently, and Harry Potter made me look at myself. In comparison, I had it pretty good. I wasn’t living in a cupboard under some stairs, and my parents were still alive and loved me. No, I didn’t get to go to a kickass school like Hogwarts, but I got a good education anyway. (And I could play witches and wizards any time I wanted. (I still do.)) It made me grateful for the things I did have. I already loved to read, but my hunger for books grew ten-fold after I stumbled upon JKR’s series. That, in turn, led me to where I am today, and I couldn’t be more grateful.

Books are what you make of them. Harry Potter defined my childhood, but also restored my love of books at times when school tried to destroy it. It convinced some of my friends that books really were as awesome as I’d tried to tell them. It got my siblings to read. The written word is a powerful thing, and I’ve loved watching people’s opinions change over the years. With the last movie coming out on Friday, it’s time to officially bid farewell to my childhood. Ironically, the ending of Harry Potter really does coincide with my shift into being an adult. Where Harry’s closing the last chapter, I’m just beginning a new one. So while I’m sad to see him go, it’s exciting, too.

So really, all I have left to say is…

~~~

What about you guys? It’s time to reminisce! What are some of your favorite Harry Potter memories?

~~~

Sammy recently graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in Creative Writing. She is currently in the midst of moving to New York City, where she hopes to find a job in publishing. Her free time is spent editing her YA dystopian, SILENCE, and you can find her on twitter, or follow her blog.