Tag Archives: Sarah J. Maas

A (Belated) NaNo Pep Talk

16 Nov

FYI: I posted this on my personal blog last week, but I figured it’s worth repeating, given the number of anti-NaNo articles that have flooded the internet lately, and given the number of LTWF readers that are participating in NaNo!

 

~

By

Sarah J. Maas

 

~~~

Okay, some of you might know that I’ve never done NaNoWriMo, and I’m not technically participating this year, but I AM in the midst of writing a top-secret new WIP. So while I don’t have a NaNo account, I’m totally mooching off the energy and enthusiasm that’s running rampant right now.

Last week on our LTWF Twitter account, we got a request to address all of the NaNo naysayers, which made me pause for a second—do all of the anti-NaNo posts actually discourage the NaNo participants that much?

Well, that kinda pisses me off. And by kinda, I mean a lot. Because in today’s world, I don’t see how anyone could discourage somebodyfrom turning off the tv and writing—especially when there are a few cases of NaNo books getting published. Don’t believe me? Go check out my friend, Courtney Moulton. Her phenomenally awesome debut novel, ANGELFIRE, was a NaNo book.

Maybe NaNo is a different kind of novel writing—and maybe the speed of it can sometimes detract from the quality of the writing. And maybe people who like to say things like “my craft” and use fancy literary terms when referencing their writing find NaNo to be a cheap way to write a book. But you know what? Everyone writes differently. It’s what makes this community so awesome.

There are the people who like to savor each word, who take a week to write a 500-word chapter, who like to think of writing as this long, thoughtful process. Yeah, it’s a beautiful art/craft, and a wonderful tradition going back thousands of years. But just because some people take nine months to write their first draft doesn’t mean that their method is the ONLY method, or the right method, or the true method.

Then there are the people who write in a frenzy—five, eight, ten thousand words in a day. Every day. Until it’s finished, or you break from the insanity of writing-writing-writing until you drop. And sometimes what we pound out is equivalent to vomit, but sometimes that frenzy and momentum gets us so into the scene that what we write kicks ass.

Obviously, I am a part of the frenzy group. When I write a book, it’s pretty much like NaNo. I don’t set daily or monthly word count goals, but I literally just write until I think my brain is going to explode, or I’m going to pass out at my desk. While writing the first draft, I don’t have any interest in contemplating the deep themes and pretty words in each and every sentence.

I write the first draft for the plot and the characters—I write because this story’s been building up inside me for so long that once I start that first chapter, I have to hand over any hope of having a life for the next month or so.

Maybe that’s not real novel writing to some people—but you know what? It’s real writing to me. That’s how I write books. And that’s why I love writing. Because Ilive for that frenzied feeling, for the thrill of characters and worlds springing up at the touch of my fingers on the keyboard, for eighteen hour days that go by in the blink of an eye. For the days when I write 12k words and it’s 3 AM and I can STILL keep going, but I have to make myself stop, because I have to be up in a few hours.

So, I just want to say, for the record, that NaNo rocks. Don’t listen to the haters. Enjoy the frenzy. Enjoy the sensation of having so many people writing around you.

Actually, one of the best things about NaNo so far is the fact that many of my friends are also writing. We’ve had a Write Nights, where a few of us chill on gchat, write our WIPs for 30 minutes, then check in to share what we’ve written. If you’re having trouble getting motivated for NaNo, or just plain stalling in the middle of your ms, get some friends to do a Write Night with you. In the few hours that we had Write Night last week, I wrote 4,400 words (for a grand total that day of 8,500 words). The pressure of being expected to produce something in 30 minutes was a fantastic motivator, and the positive energy was ridiculously awesome.

And you know what? This WIP of mine? It kinda sucks right now. I’m about 1/5 through it, and I already know that I’m going to have to rewrite the first 5 or 6 chapters. But that’s for later, and even if I took all week to write one chapter, it’d still be just as rough. No matter how fast or slow I write, I always need the first 5 or so chapters to sort out the voice, pace, and the world.

Right now, what’s more important to me is creating the skeleton of the story and riding the wave of energy and motivation until I write the last sentence of the ms. THEN I can go back and focus on prettifying sentences. Once I can see the ms in its entirety, THEN it’s time to slow down and focus on revising. But that’s just me. And it’s not the right or the wrong way–it’s just my way. I’m not gonna tell you you’re doing it wrong if you do it differently.

Don’t worry if you think what you’re writing now is lousy because you wrote it fast, or whatever the naysayers claim. It’s probably lousy because it’s a first draft, and EVERYONE, no matter if they’re an aspiring or published author, no matter if they write fast or slow, writes first drafts that need heavy amounts of revision. You’re in good company.

So, here’s to you, NaNo participants. Here’s to your novels, whether they wind up in a drawer or published. Here’s to those lousy first drafts. Here’s to writing, whether it be fast or slow.

Stop listening to the haters, to the naysayers, and just WRITE.

 

~~~

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.

 

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Research, Research, Research!

18 Oct

By

Sarah J. Maas

~~~

So, most of you know that I write fantasy. And while I have the luxury of inventing my own worlds and histories, it also involves a ton of research. But if I can make up my own rules, why bother to research anything?

The short answer: because it makes it believable.

The little details really make or break world-building. Learning how our world operates—how people in the past went about their daily lives, how clothes were made before the Industrial Revolution, how battles were won prior to the invention of gunpowder….all of that is immensely useful when world-building for a fantasy novel.

Don’t believe me? Let me show you. Writing QUEEN OF GLASS involved a crap-ton of research over the years. And in the average day of my heroine, Celaena, most of that research comes into play. I’m going to demonstrate just how much research goes on behind the scenes (lol), by providing you guys with a “Day In the Life” look at her schedule.

~~~

6:30 AM: Go for a 4-mile jog. Research: How far can someone who is very out of shape (thanks to a year of malnutrition) run? How fast can they run? How long does it TAKE to run 4 miles?

6:45 AM: Pause jog to vomit all over the place. Research: Why do people vomit when they run? Do people vomit if they eat before running? Do people vomit if they DON’T eat before running? How long will it take for someone to get back into shape?

8:00 AM: Bath. Research: History of indoor plumbing. How can I bend the rules so that my semi-medieval castle has running, heated water? When were faucets invented? How did Roman baths work? When were shampoo and conditioner invented? When were towels invented/called ‘towels?’

8:30 AM: Breakfast. Research: What kind of fruits/juices would be available in their climate? Would imported fruits be a rarity? When was porridge invented?

9:00 AM: Get dressed. Research: History of corsets. How does it feel to wear a corset? How quickly can you walk/talk/eat with a corset on? How long did it take for dresses to be made? How costly would such a dress be? History of dresses; browse fashion websites for color/fabric/design ideas. How long does it TAKE to put on undergarments, corset, and then the dress?

9:30 AM: Make-up. Research: What did women use for concealer? Eyeliner? Mascara? Blush? Lipstick? Eye shadow? How costly were these items? What parts of the world did they come from? How did they pluck their eyebrows? History of beauty standards.

10:30 AM: Off to the library. Research: When were libraries invented? When did mankind start writing down its stories? When did mankind start producing bound books? When did the masses start being educated? Where did people usually discuss books? History of the French Salon.

12:00 PM: Lunch. Research: Was it called ‘lunch’ or ‘dinner?’

1:00 PM: Do Cool Assassin Things. Research: How long does it take for someone to die after you slit their throat? How much blood is there? Does it actually spray everywhere? How many inches is it from the chest/skin into the heart? History of weapons. History of ninjas. History of awesome fighting techniques.

7:00 PM: Dinner. Research: Is it ‘dinner’ or ‘supper?’ Research random food items. History of champagne/wine/alcohol.

11:00 PM: Bed. Research: When did people stop wearing ugly nightclothes and start wearing sexy things? Did men sleep in nightgowns? When were fluffy pillows invented? Were fireplaces lit all night?

3:00 AM: Fight some demons lurking in secret passageways. Research: History of demons—for visual ideas, mostly. If you break a bone and/or get a deep scratch/wound, how long does it take to recover? What were traditional herbal substitutes for anesthesia? For fighting against infection? For painkillers?

~~~

So, obviously, there is lots of research involved. Sometimes the research doesn’t make it into the actual scene, but the knowledge of it is there/in the background. Usually, I’ll research, learn a bit about the history of (insert topic here), then examine how it can fit into Erilea (the world in which QOG takes place), and how I can twist it to make it my own. Or completely ignore it.

QOG isn’t a fantasy set in one distinct time period that matches up with our own—which requires me to do some research into history to see HOW I can possibly combine different eras in a believable way. It’s really fun to make up my own world history (especially the fashion component), but it also requires a degree of authenticity—which only comes from research.

That’s not to say that you need to research for months and years before writing—in fact, I’ll usually write a scene, then go back and google things like: “History of mascara” to add into the scene later on. And sometimes I don’t find what I’m looking for, in which case I’ll just invent stuff completely.

But when you’re establishing your world, I’d definitely recommend some research (at a minimum, clicking through Wikipedia, lol)—you’d be surprised by how much you’ll learn! And how much of a difference it makes.

~~~~

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.

LTWF Anniversary…What A Year It’s Been!

7 Oct

By

 

Sarah J. Maas

 

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Looking back to last year, it’s hard to believe how far this blog has come in just twelve months.

When I got the idea for Let The Words Flow, I had very few writing friends—fewer still from FictionPress. The FP friends I did have didn’t know each other—didn’t know that there were others out there, struggling to make the leap between FP and publication.

The only proof I had that you could make the jump was embodied in Mandy Hubbard, our resident rock star, who supported this group from Day 1. I knew that if Mandy was on board, we’d have a degree of credibility—Mandy, with her multiple book deals and oodles of success, was our poster child for all that we could accomplish.

But there had to be more of us out there—there had to be other FP people with book deals, or agents, or querying agents. So I looked. I looked and looked, browsing through the profiles of other FictionPress “Greats.” And I found a few—enough to start a blog, if they would only join Mandy and me.

I still remember the terror and anticipation of sending out those initial emails to potential contributors—I remember praying that any of them would respond to me.

After all, very few of us were friends—in fact, most of us had been fierce rivals on FictionPress. We never talked, and if we ever came across each other, it was in fan-run contests that did nothing but increase the tension between us. We were all islands surrounded by a sea of adoring fans.

You can’t imagine my surprise when all of them not only replied to me—but they all accepted my offer to join LTWF.

The biggest surprise came from Savannah J. Foley not only accepting the offer, but being absolutely thrilled to join the group. She’d been one of my biggest rivals on FP—QUEEN OF GLASS and WOMAN’S WORLD were always matched up against each other in contests. But it was our similarities, not our past differences, that bonded us: we both had agents, and had both started submissions to editors. Though she had a ton of potential, I had no idea—none—that she would become not only a close friend, but also the solid foundation upon which LTWF would be built.

I will admit, initially, I was swamped. I managed a lot of features on the site, and would often bolt upright in the middle of the night to realize something needed fixing. We only posted three days a week, but it was enough to keep us all busy. We survived the initial few months, and our readership grew more and more every day—we actually had readers! We had people who were interested in our journeys, people who were having journeys of their own—people who were interesting and brilliant and oh so lovely.

One of those people was Biljana Likic. A long-time friend of mine from FP, Billy is a bit of a child prodigy—though she was only 17 at the time, her writing was  (and is!) incredible. At the risk of sounding like an old person, Billy showed a tremendous amount of potential. She’s also wonderful person—funny, kind, and clever, and she brought a much-needed burst of humor and fun to the group dynamic when she joined in January of 2010.

With Billy on board, we had enough members—and enough readers—to start posting more frequently. We dared ourselves to start posting five days a week. I fretted over that (when am I NOT worrying?), wondering if we could possibly keep it up, and how we could keep our readers interested. I also wondered if we had enough diversity in the group—there were plenty of aspiring writers in LTWF, but what about the other side of the desk? What about aspiring agents and editors?

That answer came in early March, in the form of Vanessa Di Gregorio, an aspiring writer attending a publishing course, but also an intern at a literary agency with dreams of working in publishing. The other side of the desk didn’t look so empty anymore. Of course, we had no idea that being on the other side of the desk would later be the way we got hooked up with prizes for all of our giveaways, or that she’d become the Grand Dame of our Saturday Grab Bag posts and book reviews. Or that she’d be the one to revamp our site and become the ghost behind our twitter account, taking it from 50 or so followers to over 450 followers (and counting)!

By that point, it seemed only natural to add Jenn Fitzgerald to our ranks in late March. Another aspiring author, Jenn spends her days living out one of everyone’s childhood dreams: working as an archaeologist. Her adorable MG novel brought a bit of a change from our usual YA fare, and her determination to keep querying and writing, despite digging all day long, made her an inspiration.

At this point, we found new members left and right. We had people applying to be in the group. That absolutely blew my mind.

In the group itself, the number of emails back and forth skyrocketed. Communicating with my contributors was no longer a daily thing, but an hourly one. Girls who I had once seen as my enemies were my confidantes and cheerleaders. I’ll never forget the joy of sending an email to them, announcing my book deal with Bloomsbury—and I’ll never forget crying in my car as their replies showed up on my blackberry. Sharing that moment with them was one of the best moments of my publishing journey thus far.

In the wake of getting a book deal, one of the congratulatory wishes I received was from a FP writer named Julie Eshbaugh—who sent me a message to say that LTWF had inspired her to keep querying, and that she now had an agent. She was so passionate about the group (and had received multiple offers of representation!) that we knew she had to join us. So, in early April of 2010, she did. And she meshed perfectly.

With so many members, we no longer had to worry about filling out the calendar. In fact, we were all so eager to post that we added another day of posting, and in May, we kicked off our Saturday posts.

Swamped with pre-wedding preparations, I had to step back a bit from my LTWF duties. I wondered if this group—which I had once managed all on my own—could function without me for a few weeks. Well, to my delight, it could—and it did. The site that I had struggled to maintain months ago was suddenly a well-oiled machine—people had assumed responsibilities without even my asking. Realizing that it had become a community-run blog was one of the proudest moments I’ve ever had.

One of the members who would later become a huge help was Kat Zhang. She submitted an application that blew us all away—not only was she querying agents with a wonderful manuscript, but she was also an amazingly talented spoken word poet. We had tentatively discussed not taking on any more un-agented new members, but Kat’s humor, kindness, and brilliance won us over. We knew it was only a matter of time before she landed an agent. And this September, she did. Kat claims she didn’t cry the day she got the call, but I think a few of us cried enough on her behalf to compensate.

After Kat joined, we had a dilemma: did we have too many members? Were our readers getting detached from the warm, cozy atmosphere of the site? It would take a truly incredible member to get us to change our mind. We found two.

Sammy Bina originally joined us as a month-long guest contributor, though by the end of week 1, it was pretty apparent that we had to have her forever. An intern at a literary agency, Sammy brought invaluable advice to our readers regarding all aspects of the querying process—and as an aspiring, querying writer, she was also a contributor our readers could connect with. More than that, Sammy was also a part of the wildly-popular Plagiarism Haven group, and many of her readers became LTWF regulars. If you attended our latest livechat, you’ll know that she’s a firecracker, and provides us with endless hours of entertainment (which is obviously the most important thing she could do!).

The last member to join our ranks was Vahini Naidoo—who came to us just days after accepting an offer of representation from an agent (after receiving multiple offers)! Not to mention, she’s still in high school (way to make us all feel bad, Vee!). Hailing from Australia, Vee took LTWF from a North American group to a truly international one, and her dry sense of humor melded beautifully with our group dynamic.

Had you asked me a year ago if I knew that the group would become so large, and so diverse, I would have laughed. When I started the blog, I had high hopes, but I never thought farther down the road than a few months. Now we think in years.

One of the exciting new features that we’ll be adding is our free online creative writing course, which will begin in February of 2011 (details soon to come)! We’re also planning tons of livechats (next month: querying!), adding some new members, and we have a few more surprises up our collective sleeve.

But we wanted to do one more thing—just to say thank you to the readers who have helped make this blog such a success.

In honor of our one-year anniversary, we’re going to be giving away nine gift baskets customized by each LTWF member! On Saturday, we’ll post the official contest announcement/sign-up, but gift baskets will include contributors’ favorite books, moleskine notebooks, and much, much more!

Because we owe it all to YOU. We never could have added new members—we never would have met each other—if we didn’t have readers coming back every day, asking us QOTWs, entering our contests, and turning this blog from a dream into a reality.

A year ago, that’s all this blog was—a dream. A dream that we weren’t the only FictionPress people trying to get published. And if there’s any moral to this post—to this blog in all its entirety—it’s that you are not alone.

I think that’s what took us all by surprise: despite years of rivalry on FictionPress, we are more similar than any of us realized. We are not alone. We are no longer islands.

Thank you all for proving that.

~~~

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.

Don’t Quit Your Day Job

25 Aug

Today’s Dose Of Reality is Provided By:

Sarah J. Maas

~~~

Like most writers out there, when I daydreamed of my first book deal, I dreamed BIG. Ferraris, a mansion in Maui and a villa in Tuscany, a live-in chef to make me gourmet mac and cheese whenever I wanted. No joke. I fantasized about making enough money off my books that I could write full-time and never have to work again.

Well, let me tell you two things:

1. Writing IS work, so even if you’re writing full-time, it’s not like taking a permanent vacation.

2. For most writers (myself included), even if we get a pretty awesome book deal, it’s not enough to permanently quit our day jobs.

Yeah, it sucks. But it’s a reality we have to face. I thought I’d get out of college and never have to work. HA. Funny.

See, unless you get a ginormous deal that will make you financially set for LIFE (which is extremely unlikely, I hate to say), you’ve got to be able to support yourself. While that initial advance might last you for a few years, what if you never sell another book again? Until you can say—without a doubt—that your writing provides enough income for you to live comfortably (no ramen diets, please), don’t quit your day job.

There are other reasons, of course, not to quit your day job. Like…being social. Not just from a writing perspective (because real life experiences translate into real good books), but also from an emotional one. Meeting people and getting out there is healthy. Believe me, I’m a bit of a hermit by nature, and I still have to force myself to go outside—and you know what? It’s good for me.

Also, there’s the emotional strain of not having a steady paycheck. The money you make off your books doesn’t come every two weeks. I got my book deal back in March, and I have yet to see the first installment of my advance. If I didn’t have the income of my day job to fall back on, I’d be freaking out. My husband would be freaking out. My DOG would be freaking out (no more treats and toys for her! Boo.). My house would not be a happy place to live.

But, Sarah—if I have a job, won’t it interfere with my writing?

No. You will be tired, and you will be stretched thin, but you can do it. Don’t whine, and don’t make excuses. If being published is truly your dream, then a 9-5 won’t kill it. Maybe it’ll be a lesson in discipline—which you are going to NEED if you someday want to write-full time (you wouldn’t believe how tempting daytime TV is). And everyone loves a good rags-to-riches story—think of how cool it will sound when you tell Oprah that you slaved in a corporate prison for years before you had your breakout book!

But my writing is really, really good! I’m sure I’ll get an agent/book deal really quickly!

Don’t count on it. No matter how awesome your writing is, you could easily spend months, if not years, querying, and then even longer on submissions. And again, even if you sell your book right away, you might not see any money for months.

But…but…but…

No buts. You are not the exception to the rule. Unless you’ve got a fantastically wealthy family or spouse to provide for you (and if they don’t MIND providing for you, which is also key), you need a day job. Not necessarily a career (unless you want one), but a day job. Something to keep the electricity running.

It sounds harsh, I know. Honestly, I was the Queen of Buts (…maybe I should re-title QUEEN OF GLASS…). And in the 18 months after college—during which I was unemployed, but writing full-time—it WAS an emotional burden not to have a job. Even if I wrote….6 books in those 18 months, there was always that pressure. It’s not fun.

So, be patient. Serve your time. You’re in good company. Most of the successful authors you see on shelves had to work multiple jobs before they could write full-time. Finish college, get a job (however miserable), and keep your eyes on the prize. You CAN get there someday—but until then, just don’t quit your day job.

~~~

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.

The Writing Community’s Kryptonite…AKA Jealousy

27 Jul

By

Sarah J. Maas

~~~

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.

Book Recommendation and Giveaway: PARANORMALCY

20 Jul

By

Sarah J. Maas

~~~

Publisher: HarperTeen

Release Date: August 31, 2010

Summary (from Amazon.com):

Evie’s always thought of herself as a normal teenager, even though she works for the International Paranormal Containment Agency, her ex-boyfriend is a faerie, she’s falling for a shape-shifter, and she’s the only person who can see through paranormals’ glamours.

But Evie’s about to realize that she may very well be at the center of a dark faerie prophecy promising destruction to all paranormal creatures.

So much for normal.

~~

It’s not every day that I get SUPER, UNBELIEVABLY EXCITED about upcoming books. But from the moment I saw the cover for Kiersten White’s PARANORMALCY, I got that “MUST READ NOW” feeling. And when I received an ARC of it last week, I pretty much died. No joke, I was actually dead to the world. I curled up on the couch and didn’t stop reading until 2:30 AM. I didn’t watch TV, answer emails, take phone calls, or pay attention to my poor hubby–I just Could. Not. Stop. Reading.

It was love at first paragraph, and Evie stole my heart when she described her blinged-out pink taser (nicknamed Tasey). I rarely get attached to heroines the way I got attached to Evie–she’s the perfect blend of sass, smarts, and sensitivity, and I found myself laughing and crying along with her.

And the love interest–Lend! Can I say how HOT he is? I mean, he’s a freaking shapeshifter, which is pretty awesome, but more than that he’s just a nice, GOOD guy. He’s not one of those brooding, menacing, “I love you, but I want to kill you” dudes that pop up all too often in YA, but rather a kind, smart, and funny guy. I adore books where the romantic interest is an actual good guy (but maybe that’s just because I married one). In a desert of stalker-esque, sparkling, and all-around emo love interests, Lend is an oasis.

In a nutshell, PARANORMALCY is a combination of BUFFY: THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, HELLBOY, and all that’s best in YA paranormal lit. I haven’t read something this delightful in a while–I kinda want to cuddle my ARC right now. I could definitely come up with ten more paragraphs regarding WHY it’s so awesome, but…I think you already get the point. Plus, I’m still in that post-reading “!!!!” phase where I can’t formulate coherent thoughts (even a few days later).

I honestly can’t wait until PARANORMALCY hits shelves, because I’m pretty sure it’s gonna be a huge hit–and because I want all my friends to read it ASAP! August 31st cannot come soon enough!

Pre-Order it. NOW. You won’t regret it.

BUT just in case you can’t wait until August 31st, we’re hosting a giveaway of our ARC! That’s right–you can have a copy of PARANORMALCY before it even hits shelves!

All you have to do to enter is leave a comment with your email address AND answer this question:

Evie comes across a lot of fascinating and terrifying creatures in PARANORMALCY–if you could be any paranormal/mythological creature (vampire, werewolf, mermaid, etc.), what would you be and why?

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! (Also, please note that this contest is NOT open internationally–US and Canadian residents only, please)

The contest ends at noon EST on Friday, August 6th. The winner will be picked using random.org, and will be announced on Saturday, August 7th. Good luck!!!

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ARC Received From Publisher

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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.

Get Over Yourself

12 Jul

By

Sarah J. Maas

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I’m going to confess something. Back when I started writing QUEEN OF GLASS (like, years and years ago), I was arrogant. And I knew it. I embraced it. I thought my book was the greatest thing ever written, and that everything I wrote was perfect. I sneered at my classmates in my creative writing courses—I scoffed at my teachers (one of whom deserved to be scoffed at, though, so I’m sorta justified). I thought I would never, ever, EVER have to change a word of QUEEN OF GLASS.

Well, I was a dumbass back then. Eight years and about five major rewrites later, I could seriously beat the crap out of my sixteen year-old self for thinking what I wrote was untouchable.

Nothing you write—especially a first draft—is perfect. And even when you’ve revised and polished until your eyes cross (which, believe me, they will), odds are, you could still revise and polish a little more. Sometimes, doing that billionth rewrite means the difference between publication and…more submissions. Deciding to do a rewrite—even after years of revising—means accepting that your work is not perfect, that you are not perfect. It means getting over yourself.

With QUEEN OF GLASS, I’ve had to get over myself a lot. But somewhere down the road (I’m pretty sure it was when I was about to query with a 240k word manuscript, and Mandy Hubbard was like: “Um, NO.”), I realized that I was the only thing standing between myself and publication.

I realized that cutting out 100k words wouldn’t kill QUEEN OF GLASS, nor would cutting out another 20k words, nor would another massive rewrite that required the removal of a major plotline and some beloved characters. I realized that I had to let go—I had to stop being narrow-minded about my vision for my book, and I had to consider whether keeping that one character or plotline was worth the cost of not being published.

And one day, I realized that all those changes had made the book stronger. Better. Something that I could actually be proud of—an awesomeness that I wasn’t entitled to, but rather something that I’d earned.

A lot of aspiring writers wonder if they’re selling out or sacrificing their artistic vision by doing extensive revisions to please an agent or editor. You’re not. Listen to your gut, but use your head: are you clinging to that character because he/she is necessary to the story, or just because you like them because of that one cute scene? No one in their right mind would have published that first draft of QUEEN OF GLASS. Or it’s 240k word version. And I’m glad. Because those drafts weren’t the best possible book I could have written.

But in order to learn that, I had to start looking at my book from an objective perspective—I had to let go of my sentimentality and arrogance. I had to let go of my fear.

Don’t be afraid of rewriting your manuscript, even if it means deleting 90% of it. Don’t be afraid of failure, or of ‘running out of time’ to get published.

But do be afraid of becoming a writer who refuses to change a word. Be afraid of becoming a writer who doesn’t listen to others when they offer great critiques. Be afraid of becoming an arrogant writer, who thinks they’re above rewriting.

Because the writers who rewrite, and who listen, and who polish until their eyes cross? Those are the writers who make it. Those are the ones you see on a shelf. Those are the ones who got over themselves.*

*Well, to some degree. 😉

~~~

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.

Five Rules To Remember When Breaking Into The Industry

8 Jun

First of all, a huge thank-you to everyone (and my fellow LTWF contributors) for all of your congratulatory wishes! I had an amazing wedding and an awesome honeymoon, and even though I’m bummed to be back from vacation, I’m really glad to be active in LTWF again!

Anyway, I’ve reached a point along my path to publication where I feel like I can give somewhat useful advice. So, I compiled a list of the five most important rules I’ve learned so far! I hope you’ll find them useful, and that you’ll remember them on your own journeys to publication!

Five Rules to Remember When Breaking Into Publishing

By Sarah J. Maas

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5. Be patient. This is perhaps the hardest thing to do, but learning to Wait is an essential skill. The waiting never gets better, believe me. Whether you’re waiting for an agent to respond to your query, or for your editor to read your revised manuscript, it always sucks. But this isn’t a lightning-fast industry—things take time.

Your agent and editor are usually juggling multiple projects, all at different stages of publication. No news isn’t necessarily bad news—sometimes no news is just…no news. Learn to distract yourself—try to avoid staring at your inbox for hours on-end. Write another novel, watch TV (I became a Bravo addict while on subs), go to the gym. In short, force yourself to do anything other than refresh your inbox and stalk twitter feeds! Don’t drive yourself crazy while waiting.

4.  Do your research. This isn’t just about researching before you query agents. You should try to keep abreast of what’s happening in the industry: recent sales, what’s hot (and what’s going out of fashion), recent scandals (yes, we have those), and who has drama (especially in the sense that you should learn to avoid such drama). This isn’t to say that you should become a gossip, because no one likes people with big mouths, but keep an eye on what’s happening in the industry. If anything, it gives you things to talk about when you meet other writers.

3. Be kind. And classy. You’d be surprised how far this gets you. In case Rule 4 didn’t convey this, word gets around. Even if you think no one knows who you are, odds are some people have heard of you. Don’t become notorious for starting drama or insulting other authors/agents/editors.

I knew a writer who really damaged their reputation by starting drama—and I was really shocked when I learned that people totally unconnected to that writer had heard of the drama and now thought negatively of said writer. So, be kind—be polite. Authors talk. Not just to each other, but to their agents and editors as well. You might not realize it now, but someday you might be sitting on a panel with the author whose book you slammed on Goodreads, or you might have your work on submission to that editor you whined about in your blog. If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.

2. Open as many doors as you can for others. This goes hand-in-hand with Rule 3. But I remember once explaining this to another writer, who balked at the idea of helping someone get ahead when she was having so much trouble doing it herself. She was afraid that if she helped out a fellow writer (just by reading/critiquing their query letter) that it would hurt her own chances of getting published and being successful. I found (and still find) that to be ridiculous. Someone once told me that lighting other candles doesn’t diminish the brightness of your own flame, and I couldn’t agree more.

Remembering to reach back is crucial—not because you want to gather a horde of people indebted to you, but because it’s a good thing to pay it forward. It’s good for your soul. I wouldn’t be in the position I’m in today if my fellow LTWF Contributor, Mandy Hubbard, hadn’t opened a door for me. Not only am I forever grateful for that kindness, but she inspired me to reach back to others, too. Please don’t become someone who shuts doors on people.

1. Don’t give up. Ever. This might seem pretty obvious, but this is the most important thing I’ve learned so far. The only thing/person standing in your way is YOU. Agents and editors might reject you left and right, but if you give up, the blame is on you. It only takes one person to say yes, and one phone call to change your life.

I know a writer who sent out 96 queries to agents. Her now-agent was number 95 on that list. She could have given up at 50 queries, or 60, or 94. But she kept querying, and the 95th agent was the one who said Yes.  If getting published is your dream, then you’ll understand that it’s not how many times you get knocked down—it’s how many times you get back up. Keep getting back up.

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I’m sure there’s plenty of stuff I didn’t cover, but I wanted to keep the list as short as I could! Hopefully you guys will find something to take away with you!

What are some rules/things you’ve learned so far in your own writing journeys?

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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 fiancé in Los Angeles. You can visit her blog here.

Congratulations Sarah!

30 May

Congratulations to Sarah J. Maas, who got married today to her one true love, Josh!

We love you and wish you both a happily ever after!

-The LTWF Ladies

Dealing With Criticism

5 May

By Sarah J. Maas

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You finish your novel after months—if not years—of writing. Then you revise, revise, revise until your manuscript is so polished that it gleams. Then—querying. The ups and downs, the moments of hope and despair—and you start thinking: if I can get an agent, I won’t ever have to worry again! Of course, you eventually land an agent, and you start worrying: if I can get a book deal—no matter how much or little I get paid for it—I won’t ever need to worry again! All the dark days will be behind me! I’ll be set for life just as long as I can see my book on a shelf!

Well, let me tell you something: it’s not over. Getting a book deal doesn’t mean Happily Ever After. Within a few hours of getting The Call, I was already fretting about a dozen different things. Perhaps the most pressing of them is the question of: Will people like my book?

Seriously, that’s the question that haunts my every step—the question I ask myself every time I read my novel or edit a sentence or have someone tell me that they’re excited to read QUEEN OF GLASS. Will people like my book?

The answer is maybe. Maybe some people will love it. Maybe some people will hate it. I can’t control that. But I can control how I choose to react to it.

Learning to gracefully deal with criticism is one of the most important skills a writer can attain. That’s why having a critique partner is great, and why querying and submissions are wonderful learning experiences.

There will ALWAYS be people who don’t like your book. And there will always be people who go on Goodreads to give your book 1 star without having read it. I’ll never forget how furious I was a few years ago (when QOG was still on FP): one of my fans created a series of Wikipedia pages about QUEEN OF GLASS, its characters, and me (as an author)—and one day, it was all gone.

I looked it up, and in the deletion records, it showed that someone had anonymously sent a message to Wikipedia, demanding that they take down the pages because I wasn’t a REAL (i.e. published) author. I thought that was pretty hurtful—but it was made worse when I spoke to a friend about it, and she confessed that a mutual acquaintance had been the one who wrote to Wikipedia.

I wanted to throw my computer through a window. No—scratch that. I wanted to throw my computer at his HEAD. I seriously started and deleted about ten different emails that all began with a series of profanities and insults. Ultimately, I never called him out on it. Why? Because I realized that he was just a miserable, jealous person who couldn’t stand to see other people getting ahead.

That is NOT to say that every person who gives you a bad review is a miserable loser looking for attention. Far from it. But I am saying that I am SO glad I never confronted him—because it would have made ME look bad.

With reviews, I’ve come to realize that sometimes people’s personal tastes just don’t jive with mine. I mean, I can’t count the number of times I’ve HATED a book, only to have a friend love it—or vice versa. That’s what’s so great about this industry, and about books in general: people will react differently to everything. And when that happens, awesome debate begins.

It’s really hard not to take things personally when someone slams your book: your book is your baby, after all. But it’s unrealistic to expect that everyone will love it. Not every agent or editor will go gaga over your book and beg to represent/publish you. If you’re the kind of person who is devastated by bad reviews, then don’t look at your Goodreads ratings, or your reviews on Amazon and other sites. I’ll admit: I’m nervous about those bad reviews—I’m nervous about how deeply they’ll cut, or if they’ll make me never want to write again.

But I know that even when I get my first bad review, I can’t lash out. Because that’s unprofessional—because readers are entitled to their opinions, and because without debate, this industry wouldn’t thrive.

So, will people like my book?

Maybe.

Will I react to every review—no matter how good or bad—with graciousness and professionalism?

You betcha.

~~~

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 fiancé in Los Angeles. You can visit her blog here.