Wednesday, February 26, 2014

9 Articles That Can Improve Your Craft

My mission in starting this blog was to create a resource library, of sorts, for myself *buffs nails on chest* because I'm a collector. But when it came time to make sense of my writing advice collection I was overwhelmed. Where to start? There is a ton of advice on the interweb. Trying to make sense of it all can be a bit...frightening.

Good thing fear doesn't stop writers, it fuels us.

I jumped head first into the swirling, whirling, madness that is advice on the web and set about pooling all the best, IMHO, writerly advice into a giant vault. Mostly so I could swim around in it, like this:

My entire vault can be accessed any time via the resource tab of my blog.

But for those writers who demand immediate gratification, (*looks at you* yeah, I know you want it)here's some highlights:

1. From PIXAR, 22 Tips on Story Telling

2. From Stephen King, 20 Tips for Becoming a Frightening Good Writer

3. Sage advice from Natalie Whipple a YA writer and card-carrying nerd.

What Natalie Whipple Would Say to New Writers

Pulling a Story Out of Nowhere

Natalie's thoughts on 'When the [writing] Honeymoon Ends'

4. From Raewyn Hewitt, Bridget Jones meets Tolkien, an ordinary girl, writing a story of epic proportions...

When Writing Gets Hard

5. From Chuck Wendig 25 Hard Truths About Writing

6. Oldie, but goodies: From the wiseNathan Bransford, industry insight and advice.

From Twitter: Advice in 140 characters

10 Commandments For the Happy Writer

What do Agents Do Anyway

How a Book Gets Made

Nathan's writing advice database

7. From Dahlia Adler, a founding member of the YAMisfits, Q&A compilations:

Q&A for Querying Writers

Q&A for Agented Writers

Q&A for Pre Pub writers

8. On Beat Sheeting: Beat sheet for romance by Jami Gold

9. How to Fix the Dreaded Info Dump by Amber A Bardan, Jami Gold

What sites do you like? What advice would you give someone starting down the writerly path?

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Supporting Small Business aka your favorite author

Pursuing publishing as a career has made me acutely aware of small businesses and the way they operate.

Because, *cue big reveal* every author is a small business. Just like your local book store or indie coffee shop is a small business. Even your local doctor’s office, accountant's office, or attorney's office. All small businesses.

Recently, a traditionally published author who I love/follow posted a blog about why she can't give away free stuff. It started a bit of a sensation. In this post she revealed her actual advance and other real elements of her contract with a big publishing house. Of course, a few hours after the post went live she was forced to take it down (it apparently violated the non disclosure terms of her contract). I read it while it was live and understood the main objective to be this: Authors aren't rock stars. They don't get bags of money. They don't get tons of support in marketing their book. And they certainly don't get unlimited free copies of their books they can give away for free.

In other words, authors are small businesses.

Even if an author has a book published by a traditional publishing house they are still, first and foremost, in business for themselves. The big 5 publishing company is just their partner. And it definitely doesn’t mean said author is instantly rich and famous.

Small businesses fight daily to stay a float, to feed their families, and to continue providing their awesomeness to the public. If you can, you should support a local or small business. Because your business, no matter how small, makes a difference to them.

It's something of an oddity to think your single purchase makes a difference in our current global economy. Walmart will go on without you but the local coffee house/bookstore/doctor/lawyer/author needs you.

And you should definitely not steal or use pirated materials. I know, you’re thinking, ‘it’s only one download, or ‘it’s really no big deal,’ or even ‘If they didn’t jack their prices so high I could afford it. They’re really forcing me to steal it.’

Stop right there. Pricing is not a conspiracy against you. It’s business. And business is aiming to make a profit. But not all profit is evil. In fact, I’d argue that no profit is evil (but I digress). Profits are what keep your favorite actor working, or your favorite writer writing. Profits are what keep your favorite TV shows on the air and what drives movies to be made.

You wouldn’t work for free, and neither would your favorite small business person (aka author, actor, writer, artist, doctor, lawyer, accountant, etc.)

Everyone wants to be paid for their work. Be apart of the writing/bookselling economy. Support your favorite authors. #shopsmall

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Write Foot Forward: Training and Discipline

The truth about publishing is that it’s a long, hard road. It’s not likely that you, or any writer you know, became an overnight success. Writing, editing for structure, editing for content, editing for style, creating the actual book – it all takes time. Even if you self publish you know you are supposed to do all of these steps anyway, right? So that takes time. Maybe less, but still, you get the point.

It’s a long hard road. And to get to the finish line of this race, or any other, you need discipline and training.

I’m a runner and I slow. I’m overweight and I’m not particularly athletically inclined. If other runners are thoroughbred race horses I’m a Clydesdale (we typically have way better hair than race horses, anyway).

Regardless of age, shape, and size, I ran a marathon, a full marathon (All 26.2 grueling, wonderful miles *raises fist in victory*). Here's a happy pic from the middle of my first marathon:

I was able to accomplish that goal, one that less than 1% of the worlds’ population has accomplished, mind you, because I trained for it and I learned to discipline myself.

Writing is much the same. Training and discipline are a must. And luckily, for both running and writing, training and discipline can be learned.


You can’t write 60 thousand words in one sitting. You can’t. But you can teach yourself how to produce more and more words each time your write.

Just like runners, who typically pick mileage goals and slowly increase their miles over a period of time until they are fit enough to conquer the race distance, a writer can set daily/weakly/monthly word count goals.

Here’s a great post with a plan that can help you finish the book: Chuck Wendig: How to push past the BS and write that novel

I suggest picking monthly word count goals and dividing those down to daily word count goals. Remember, just like a runner, you need to allow yourself rest time and flexibility.

If your goal is to write a novel in a month, maybe you should reconsider. Unless you can put the entirety of the rest of your life on hold for that month, you are going to struggle – a lot.

Remember, when setting goals they should be SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound. Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard – Stacy Jones

Here’s a great post on maximizing your word count: Chuck Wendig: How to maximize your word count


Is all about practice. You want to write 800 words a day? Practice. Get as close as you can as often as you can. Repeat. Aim to make writing a daily part of your life – but remain flexible. A lot of writers have publicly discussed how they cannot write every day – their creative juices run dry. Don’t worry. That doesn’t make you any less of a writer. The truth is, you’ll never know if you can write every single day unless you try. So go for it.

There will be a lot of misses. Don’t give up. You can’t give up. You must stay the course in the face of hardship because this wont come easily. Here’s a post from Chuck Wendig about how the process takes as long as it takes. Chuck Wendig: It takes the time it takes (aka hang in there, it’s a long ride)

You can’t control an Agent or Editor. You can’t control whether or not you get a huge book deal. All you can control is you. You. That’s it. You can control how you spend your energy (positively, pushing forward to write another book, goddamnit – or negatively, pouting about how you deserved to get soemthing and someone else didn’t). Remember, this is a business first and foremost, and you aren’t owed anything. Chuck Wendig: 25 Hard Truths About Publishing

The only thing that will get you somewhere in this business is work. Put in the work. Keep the course. Your training and discipline will pay off only if you are willing to do the work.

Heck, you wouldn’t throw your car away because you got a flat tire? Why abandon your dream of publishing because you got a rejection?

In the words of the wise Yoda:

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Strategy for the Query Letter

Query letters are no joke. It's hard to boil an entire novel down into three paragraphs.

Luckily, I attended RWA's national conference last summer and learned some FABULOUS tips on query letters.

In general, the query should read like the back jacket of a book - high energy, low details, and dripping with suspense and tension.

Format, there is actually a format to a query. Someone at the conference was preaching about structure in queries and it finally clicked. Knowing the format took a bit of the mystery out of it for me.

Think about it like the three act structure in your novel (beginning, middle, end) only in the query it should be something like: Intro, Conflict, Stakes.

In the intro give one or two sentences setting up the character and world/setting. At least one sentence stating what the character wants and why it's important. It's okay to be direct.

Next you have the conflict: What goes wrong?

And then last but not least, we need the stakes: what happens if she fails? What does she stand to lose? What will she have to sacrifice? This should be big so it hooks us to want to read more.

Try this, exercise. Fill in the blank.

"She's a ____________ that wants nothing more than _____________. He's a ____________ that wants nothing more than______________. Together they must __________________ or stand to lose_______________________. "

Ideally, what she wants and what he wants should be in direct conflict with each other. Together, what they must do should push their limits and threaten to unravel them as individuals. What they must do together is the test that makes them grow and change.

This is a good format to start a query because it has the intro, conflict and stakes. This is also the format you would want to use if you were pitching this MS to an agent or editor live, and in person, at a conference or something.

What strategy do you use to craft your query? Share ideas here:

Want more advice on query letters? Check out this post and this one.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Maximize your Crit

Shakespeare said it best, “get thee to a crit partner.” No? Well, then the internet said it best: “get thee to a crit partner.” Whether you are writing your first or fiftieth novel you need to crit partner (CP). Preferably a team of them – because the more eyes on your book baby, the better. But simply having a CP isn’t good enough, usually. To get the most of your crits you might want to take some of these steps:

1. Define the aim of the crit: Are you looking for a big picture crit that examines potential plot holes, character inconsistencies, opportunities for improvement, etc. or more of a

A line by line (LBL) crit that digs deeeeep into each line looking to correct punctuation, grammar, and language usage. Or what about a Structure crit and evaluates the story structure as a device (beginning, middle, end) and the structure of each chapter. Or some combo of all of those.... It’s best to know what you’re looking for early on. Establish what you need from the crit so your using your CP’s time effectively. Have 3 CP’s? Maybe have each CP read with a different goal. Remember, your CP’s may have different strengths than you – use their strengths to compliment your own. And always, always, be respectful of their time.

2. Break your crit up into manageable pieces: One CP I've worked with had a great system for this. She broke her MS into chunks of 3-5 chapters and sent them to her CP's with deadline 'goals' for having them returned. That way, she could work on revisions her CP’s suggested in chunks while her CP’s were busy reading the next few chapters. Also, it’s way less overwhelming to work on changes/suggestions to 3 chapters than 30.

3. Don’t forget your query letter and synopsis: If you plan to start down the long, and winding road of querying be sure your CP’s have had a pass at your letter and synopsis. The query letter is so critical because it’s the only thing the Agent is guaranteed to read. If you can’t hook them with the query then they may never read your sample pages or synopsis.

Defining your strategy and goals can help ensure your crits are laser focused and productive. Need more on getting the most out of your CP relationships? Try these posts – list posts.

How do you approach a crit?

Want more about CP's:

SC Write - Handling A Tough Crit

Secret Life of Writers - The Secrets of and Awesome CP Relationship

Ladies Who Critique - CP 101

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Olympics - Jocks Achieving Greatly or a Nerd Chasing a Dream?

The Olympics kick off today, best birthday present this nerd could ask for btw.

I love the Olympics. I think I just love watching someone aggressively pursuing their dreams (that’s also a super fun part of following writers on twitter – go get those dreams!)

Is it possible to be an Olympics nerd? Do they have a fandom I can join because, I would love that.

It’s always been a huge part of my life. Not because I was ever athletically gifted – quite the opposite, really. I’m about as athletically gifted as Bella Swan. But I remember watching the Olympics on the first TV I had in my room when I was a kid. It was one of those TV’s that only got 4 channels and had two knobs – I never could figure out what the second one was for because it never seemed to do anything.

Anyway, I adored the pomp and ceremony. I held my breath as athletes raced to the finish line or struggled to leave their personal best out there. I even had a cassette tape with the Olympic Fanfare and Theme music used during the opening ceremonies. (Did I also mention I was a band nerd?)

I love the Olympics, whether it’s winter or summer, because it is a reminder to us all that hard work, discipline, and sheer will can accomplish amazing things. That we are, all of us, are capable of so much more than we think we are.

And for a nerd chasing a dream, it’s inspiring to see so many people accomplishing theirs.

Do you love the Olympics? What are your favorite events?

Some of mine include:

In the Winter Games: Skiing slalom, snowboarding and skiing high jump (anything aerial usually gets my blood pumping), bobsled (Did you hear? LoLo Jones is competing in bobsled this year! Awesome!!), and figure skating

In the Summer Games: track and field events, marathon (of course), swimming, gymnastics (men and women’s), and weight lifting (which is surprisingly impressive)

Share your favorite Olympic moments here:

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

8 Literary Agents You Should Be Following in 2014

In an effort to continue my writerly resources I decided to spread the word about some awesome Agents out there.

So last year my top 10 most popular posts varied a bit, but always in the top 5 was a little post I did about 7 literary agents you should be following. Which is great – yay page views. But over time the information I shared in that post became outdated. Brittany Howard is no longer an agent (although reading her tweet history might yield interesting details...but that sounds like a lot of work). Some agents are no longer open to submissions and therefore tweet less, etc etc. This business is fast moving and full of surprise.

Now, I'm not biased or anything: as of now I'm still unagented.

It’s time to update this post with a new and improved: 8 Lit Agents You Should Be Following in 2014. This list is comprised of Agents who provide helpful feedback or resources to writers via twitter:

1. Jennifer Laughran aka @literaticat - Jennifer has been known to blog and tweet sage advice. I love her Big Ol' Genre Glossary.

2. Sara Negovitch aka @SarahNego is an agent with the Corvisiero Lit Agency. She tweets helpful tid bits about the queries that grab her attention.

3. Sarah LaPolla - she's a live wire and fun to follow. Her snapping good advice has made me smile more than once.

4. Pam van Hylckama aka @bookaliciouspam - A self proclaimed super geek which immediately makes her awesome. Her blog is a terrific resource.

5. Laura Bradford: of Bradford Literary Agency. Her tweets are an interesting peek behind the curtain; a day in the life of an agent.

6. Sara Megibow aka @SaraMegibow, agent with The Nelson Literary Agency. She does #Tenqueries and tweets great feedback.

7. Bree Ogden: of D4EO. Tweets regularly and columnist at LitReactor.

8. Mandy Hubbard: also of D4EO. Tweets regularly and has been known to teach LitReactor classes on YA. I took her YA class last year and really enjoyed it. I highly recommend it.

Want more Agents to follow? Check out this post.

Which Agents do you love to follow? Has an agent tweet helped you on your path to publication?

Monday, February 3, 2014

I Can Haz Productivity: January 2014 Month In Review

This month has been crazy. First, there was coming down from the holiday buzz (all the eating, traveling, and family fun). Then, of course, there was #PitchWars.

Pitch Wars was an amazing experience. My mentor and teammates were amazingly supportive and insightful. I’m so glad I got to participate in the event and meet so many lovely new writers.

Part of the contest involves getting feedback from a pro author, your mentor, and making changes. It’s sorta like a revision boot camp.

I have some revisions – alright, a lot of revisions – to make and I’m still working through the details. But one thing is clear, my MS will be stronger because of the help and insight I received. I can’t thank my mentor and teammates enough. And none of it would have been possible without the tireless efforts of Brenda Drake and her team.

What else, what else…? Oh yeah, then snowpocalypse hit ATL and the entire town locked up. It was unreal. I’m lucky in that my Day Job boss let me work from home so I missed all the traffic gridlock. My hubby was in the thick of it though. His commute mutated from a 25 minute ride to a 3 hour ride. He was one of the lucky ones.

Friends were reporting on FB that they took 5 – 10 hrs to get home. And some didn’t make it home at all. Some of my friends crashed in hotels or in stores like CVS. Kids were stuck overnight at schools. It was a disaster.

Here are some shots from the roads around my house. This was taken of google maps on Tuesday. Nearly all the major roads around ATL were red. Sorry notsorry, for the glare.

After my hubby got home on Tuesday we hiked to the nearest gas station to buy some food. We had a lot of stuff but felt like we should get a few essentials. Here’s my hubby holding our bread triumphantly.

The traffic on the road was terrible. Cars were sliding into each other or spinning out, unable to get traction at all. We spotted this lone parks employee trying to help by dumping buckets of sand under the wheels.

You don’t realize how hilly ATL is until the hills are converted to death traps by an inch of ice. On a major hill by my house we spotted this evacuated accident. The eeriness of the abandoned scene reminded me of The Walking Dead. I wonder if they will throw in some winter weather next season.

Many cars were abandoned in the street or pulled into strangers yards and left empty.
Several friends reported walking miles home after they gave up on traffic.

Right now a lot of effort is being focused on blaming someone for the disaster. I don’t really care much for that. It seems more important that we learn something from this than hang someone for it….but that’s just me.

With all this activity where does that leave my writing? This year I changed my daily writing goal to 800 words a month. I didn’t hit my goal – but there were words. A lot of words actually.

I had to plan my writing around contest activities and blog tour deadlines. So what did my month yield? The productivity is as follows:

25 + blog posts (crazy, I know. But I start a class in a few weeks that will surely suck up a lot of my free time. I needed to setup a lot of posts over the next few weeks).
0 novels read
2 Friends MS’s CP’d
And words, lots of words *does happy dance *

For a grand total of 14, 154 words. Next month will be better. It’s my birthday month, and the Olympics are starting (I LOVE the Olympics). I start a class and I should finish my revisions. A lot of exciting activity ahead of me.

This brings my total ‘tracked’ word count for the year to 14,154! That’s a great start to 2014…wait. 14k in 2014….that’s awesome. I need to play the lottery. *grabs purse and runs to the door*

How are your writing goals coming along? How do you determine you daily word goals?

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