Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Behind the Scenes #2: Let's Talk Hair

I've never been one for blond hair. I grew tired long ago of the stereotypical heroine/hero with the luscious golden locks in traditional fairy tales and as the main character in kids' cartoon series. The blond guys and girls were everywhere! You knew when you reached their description or saw them for the first time that they were destined to be the protagonist. You also knew they'd be extremely kind to children, animals, and old people; full of spirit; ready for adventure; would be the ones to advise and gently chide their sidekicks; and would come through the story still looking beautiful.

A nice standard but very boring when everyone used it. And ... in real life, I knew blond people came in different personalities. Many of the places I moved to had large groups of fair haired denizens. Being blond was common, so why did it have to designate power and attractiveness in stories? I took pride in never using a blond haired person as a protagonist in my stories.

So what was I to do when I dreamed up the story of my novel Trefury and in the dream both POV characters were blond? They wouldn't be the same if I altered how I imagined them. Childish prejudices aside, I had to talk myself into accepting their blondness. After all, no one can really help what hair color they are born with, or - er - dreamed with.

That was several years ago. Since then I've developed a dislike for the overuse of redheads in fiction, but that's another story. When I picked up Trefury again to edit and polish it up I did a lot of research into my psyche back when I first wrote it, since the main character was a teenager and I wasn't one any more, still mystified by the fact that I couldn't change her appearance without feeling wrong about it. And in revisiting my younger self, I found the basis for her hair.

I had a youth leader, a woman in her late thirties/early forties who defied the middle age ideal. Instead of cropping it short and manageable she let it grow down her back, kept it in a braid, and it was blond. She was an adult I really looked up to, and I believe her hair crept into my dream.

I've grown my hair out several times, partially for method writing. It helps to know what it's like to have long, thick hair and what goes into maintaining it. You spend more time with a brush and use more shampoo and conditioner for starters. Long hair also gets in the way of the simplest activities, especially if unbound. Activities such as preparing food, stooping to clean up a mess, handling children, walking through trees and bushes, even buckling a seat belt - the hair can get in the way or pulled.

My character, Cortnee, has grown out her hair for two reasons: because she has very nice hair and wants it long, the second reason is that she was in a small power struggle with her mom over short hair versus long hair. When her mom is no longer around, Cortnee has the freedom to let it grow, and grow. It gets down to her knees and she usually keeps it tamed in a braid. Her hair also becomes symbolic when she gets to a place where no one grows their hair out, representing her alien background as well as her independent spirit.

I had fun researching hair styles. I knew even a long braid wouldn't work for some of the action Cortnee would go through. It would be too easy for an adversary to catch her by the braid or for it to get tangled up. I could go into every neat idea I came across, but why bore those of you who don't care? For those who do, here is a great YouTube channel that focuses on hair styles and how to do them.

Personally, I still prefer long hair to short, and I can write about it with confidence. As to hair color, even though red became the new blond for a long time and is now being replaced with black, I do know that trying to make your character look a certain way to fit a trope or current popular ideal can backfire. Cortnee wanted to be blond in countries where the predominant hair colors were darker. Delving into the story I now know staying true to my vision created layers of symbolism.

And deep down I can still smile knowing her personality's not like the stereotypical blonds I ran into when I was a kid.

If you write, have you ever had a character want to look a certain way, even if it wasn't something you liked?

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Music to Write by #5: OCRemix Chrono Cross Another Inspiration

This piece, remixed by Scott Peeples, is gorgeous, lilting, and soothing. Don't think elevator music soothing, but rather inspirational, as the title suggests. Would work well in a writing soundtrack for a moment of realization, heading out into breathtaking new territory, a romantic moment, or perhaps a place emotionally abstract. Have a listen:

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Tongue-In-Cheek Fun

Everything seems to go into high gear as November transitions to December. The weather's gone crazy and so have some people. My family has been very sick for nearly three weeks and I'm worn out and tired. While anything is possible writing fodder (for those of us struggling to remember the bright side,) I wanted to share a couple of funny online sketches to lighten the mood.

First up, a popular YA stereotype bites the dust:

And next, the tongue-in-cheek sketch that opens up questions about plagiarism and overused tropes:

Lastly, to help you get in the mood for writing a scene where a man and a woman are arguing:

Hopefully these brought a smile to your lips like they did to mine. No matter what the stress of the season, take time to breathe and laugh.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Final NaNo Stats

Hi everyone. I'll bet you're tired of hearing about National Novel Writing Month, since several people blogged about it during November. I always like to reflect on what I took away from the experience, so bear with me.

What I learned:
1. Sometimes jumping around out of order helps cut down unnecessary scenes, makes you think harder about how the characters got from Point A to Point C, and lets you avoid writer's block.

2. Having a music playlist going, tailored to the mood and themes of the story, helps keep you in the zone.

3. You really can carve out more time for writing. Why in the world did I think I had less time during the rest of the year? November's a busy month and yet look what I accomplished.

4. Putting the internal editor in the cooler frees your creative flow, lets you experiment and try out angles you wouldn't have otherwise. Knowing that you're constructing a first draft is also freeing because no one else has to see it yet. You can make mistakes, skip over things, not worry about the technical side, and just relax and have fun with telling a story.

5. Those around you have the opportunity to gain more respect for your writing and that you take it seriously.

6. In reality, it's not about the numbers. The numbers and the calendar are the motivators. If you didn't finish the story, keep going into the next month. Hopefully you'll have picked up some good work habits.

7. If what you planned to work on during NaNo isn't the story you think about waking up day 1, don't stress about keeping to your plan. I had planned on working on two new novels. Only one of them made it into the creative process in November, and only after I'd written a completely different story first.

8. I went on a trip of self-discovery, analyzing myself and my writing naturally rather than under the microscope of the internal editor or outside influences. I have a better idea of who my audience will be, learned to accept my writing style, and became disillusioned about many of the things touted online as absolutes. I realized I had wasted time trying to fit some preconceived mold, a mold that doesn't really exist. I'd tweaked, and ripped apart, and overdone previous work which hadn't needed that rough kind of treatment.

I realized that I don't write typical commercial/mainstream fiction. I'm a niche and knowing that lifted so much anxiety, pain, and self-doubt from my shoulders. Then I was able to embrace that knowledge and it fueled my passion for storytelling. No more trying to please everyone or force my story (or myself) to be something we're not.

So what came out of November for me?
1. A completed rough draft at 48,531 words, written in 9 days.
This one surprised me. Once every few years a story idea captures my imagination so well that I have no difficulty in getting it down on paper in record time. But this is rare. I'm not normally this fast.

2. A draft 2/3 completed for another novel, a sequel. The word count is a bit hazy on this one, since I had to incorporate bits and pieces of scenes I'd previously written into it. I spent 8 days on this one, it's currently at 52,172, and most of the words were new material. This novel slowed me down somewhat, as the trilogy it belongs to is layered, complex, and involves multiple POVs and plotlines. It's satisfying to write, but I had to stop and map out the chronology to make sure the nodes of conjunction I had to write would match up correctly.

3. Made headway into a third novel. I spent 4 days on it and the word count comes to 7,196. This one follows the sequel in the trilogy and oddly I spent my writing time on the last third of this story. And it made me cry! I never cry reading or writing books. I didn't realize I was crying at first either. The truly weird part was that the scene I was constructing was actually a happy scene, a huge climax, but uplifting. The other relieving circumstance in mapping out this third book was realizing it could be the last. I don't have to write a fourth! (Originally I had two books which turned out to be too large so I figured I'd have to break them in half to write four.)

How about you?
Did you realize anything about yourself? Make a breakthrough creatively? Reach your word count goals? What did you take away from NaNo this year?


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

NaNo Update & Tips

Days spent writing: 13
Words written: 57,136
Goal - 100,000 words in 16 days

I'm happy to report I finished writing the first book out of my 2 book goal last Thursday.

How I did it:
1 - I had a brief, loose outline of the key scenes.
2 - I didn't write in order, or linearly, I jumped around depending on what scene was clicking through my mind.
3 - I jumped into scenes in the middle of them. I didn't worry about a transitional beginning or scene setting.
4 - I jumped out of scenes when my inspiration slowed down. I had written the essentials. I didn't bother with transitions for the next scene or closing-style stuff.
5 - I followed tangents, especially ones characters led me on. I learned some fascinating things about my characters that I didn't before.
6 - I didn't go back and edit anything. I pushed forward. If a later written scene had something that contradicted a scene I wrote earlier, that was okay. The 2nd draft I'll slow down and make things align.
7 - I tried not to think about my word count while I was writing. Surprisingly, it's easy to write more when you're not stressing about meeting a specific goal.
8 - I wrote more days than I planned by snatching an hour or two here and there, whenever I could.
9 - When I wasn't actively writing, I was prewriting in my mind so when I'd sit down at my computer I could hit the ground running.
10 - I don't give a care what anyone else might think of this story. I didn't think of my beta readers. I didn't think of my target audience. I didn't think of anyone except having a good time on my own, and of course, the journey of my characters.

And I'm grateful for that journey now. It was a rush, it was emotional, and personal.

So now I'm into writing the second book I planned. I'm approaching this one a bit differently.

How this one differs:
1 - Since this story has multiple POVs, I chose one person and am writing chronologically in his head. I also chose the POV I had put less prewriting thought into so that way I could be surprised as I charged forward writing. When I get through his POV I'll go back to the beginning and write from another character's POV.

I already know this book will extend beyond NaNo and 50K words. I'm not stressing about trying to cram it all in the last two weeks of November.

Some of the reasons for failure during NaNo:
1 - Finding time and taking the time to write. The idea that you need to block out half a day is just that, an idea. Maybe that's how you work under normal conditions, but for NaNo, the game is different. Grab time, a little bit here, a little bit there. Write a snippet of conversation. Write a setting description. Write an action scene. Don't worry about having an entire chapter in one sitting. You can always splice things together later.
2 - Lack of preparation. You can't just sit down in front of that computer and expect a story to magically appear in your head. You have to know what you want to write about ahead of time. Prewriting and outlines are your friends.
3 - The internal editor is still in command. You have to truss, gag, and drop him with cement shoes in the bay. First drafts aren't about getting the story perfect. This is where pantsers have more of an advantage, they know you just run along and write what comes to mind. Prepare like an outliner, write like a pantser. Do not go back and edit. Get the story written down.
4 - Distraction. Okay, so we all like to check our email or keep up with the news. But tone down your social media during NaNo. Avoid social media sites, unless you go there as a reward after you've hit your daily word count. Sure, you'll miss out on what your friends are saying and doing. That's okay. They'll still be there when you get back. And if they are real friends, they'll understand why you've gone silent and be glad to welcome you when the month is over. It's okay to blog less, to skip out on posting status updates, to refuse to critique for someone else, or even read a single book for the month. It's okay.
5 - Family. Family is important and I certainly don't believe you have to shun your loved ones for a month. The first day of NaNo, at breakfast, I had a talk with my family about what I would be doing and my goals. I explained that there would still be time spent with them, but when I go into my office to write they need to respect that time and leave me alone. It's hard with little children, I know. Naptimes are a great, so are early bedtimes. Some people get up extra early in the morning to write. Family distractions will most likely happen than not. Again why it's important not to have that internal editor going or to be more spontaneous when you start or stop a scene.
6 - Unforeseen circumstances. That happened to me last year. I'm getting plenty of that this year, too. Each Sunday I sit down to look at my calendar for the week and it fills up pretty fast. Health issues, disasters, trips (Thanksgiving anyone? Yep, I'm going out of town for a few days, too.) Don't beat yourself up if you find you had fewer days to write or if you came short of the 50K goal. If you didn't give up, you still deserve a pat on the back.

There are many other reasons. Sometimes it's just a matter of sacrificing some of your daily pleasures and luxuries. Instead of watching TV and looking at someone else's productivity, choose to be productive yourself. If your writing goals for NaNo are a true priority, you will be able to find ways to head toward them, or finish them. Self-discipline is the key.

How do you keep on track for NaNo? What are your biggest struggles?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013


NaNo Update:
Days spent writing - 8
Words written - 36,146
Goal - 100,000 words in 16 days

Are you one of those writers whose family and friends shake their heads or chuckle whenever you mention you write books? They don't believe you or believe you can. It's frustrating, isn't it?

I have a different sort of problem. My family and friends know I write and that I spend hours doing it and they've seen ample proof. My writing peers haven't. It's partially my fault because I don't put everything I've written or am writing out for anyone and their dog/cat to see. Another writer can glance up at my NaNo goal and my word count thinking "No way," or, "She's totally exaggerating."

True, my husband has shaken his head (smiling) as I report my daily word count. He especially thinks its funny when I complain about only getting a couple of thousand words done in a couple of hours. But he knows first hand what I'm capable of.

I wrote my first, industry-standards-length manuscript when I was fourteen. (I had written shorter stories before that.) Since then I've completed 20 others. I have twice that number in incomplete novels and twice that in novel ideas written out in summary or outline form.

Here's some of that actual proof; the novels I have printed out:

I've put thousands of hours into writing, trying to improve my craft, and experimenting with style, voice, and plot structure. I've learned a lot. Spending 10,000 hours on something is supposed to technically make you an expert.

But here's the thing. I've never claimed to be a fantastic writer and I'm certainly not an expert. I do admit I'm pretty good at critiquing and knowing what goes into a novel, but as to writing, I'm the first to confess I struggle. I have fantastic ideas and I'm good at world-building. In fact, one of the reasons I don't air my stuff online is because of that. Too often when I have shared some of my work, a short time later I find that the people I shared it with were so inspired that they've copied those ideas. Not everyone, of course, but it does make me leery about who I share things with. You see, having great ideas is a fundamental element of writing, having those ideas published and to be able to say, "Yes, I thought of that twist or unusual character and here's the concrete proof of it," would totally rock. Not being able to publish those ideas stinks. Who in their right mind wants to be a muse rather than a creator?

There are no copyrights on ideas, but you don't want to take something you've cultivated for years, share it with someone else, and then have them practically rip it off - with their own spin, of course. It's not fun and doesn't exactly help for a friendly relationship in the future. That's also one reason why I like to beta read for other people, that way I can go out of my way to avoid writing like them or using anything that sounds like their ideas.

I've studied the craft of writing for years. Reading books on writing, blogs, studying the works of published authors. I've learned a ton. But that doesn't mean it's translated into my own writing. I am, after all, still me. And being myself is proving to be a problem. I won't bore you with the particulars. The market is fickle. One type of voice and style dominates for awhile then gets outed when everyone's tired of them. A new star rises, everyone tries to milk it for all its worth, then it too topples. I sit back and admire this great guessing game even as I inwardly loathe it.

The fundamental idea is simple. Someone has a story to share. They write it. They publish. Readers can choose that story or something entirely different if that story doesn't suit their fancy. Simple in concept but vastly different in execution. We human beings have trust issues and we develop our own tastes and standards jealously. We want to reject the notion that someone else's tastes and standards may run opposite of ours and also be valid or good. We like to belong to a collective, to what we perceive as popular or desirable. We push others to belong to that collective and to produce what conforms to the collective's ideas. Ironically, the publishing collective is always changing and sometimes broadsided by a novel considered radical or too different to be acceptable. Another irony is that writers and those in the publishing industry like to vaunt how rebellious or trailblazing they are. Yet the cold-hearted business side is what grinds the gears and pushes for conformity.

My point, overall, is that writing is a lot of work for most people, and there is always a growth factor. Some may only have one really great novel in them, others have the gift of churning out several. Put in your 10,000 hours of learning and writing then do more. It's important to realize why you are writing.

Doing NaNo has reminded me of why I write. I love the rush of getting the story out on paper. I want to go back and read it again and again, to relive it. And I enjoy pushing my creativity to see what I'll think up next. I'm seldom surprised, so to have a story or character surprise me is the ultimate thrill.

You will have your own reasons for writing. Many of us will try to take that story and try to share it. Most of us will be denied. The reasons for this will also vary. Some shoulder the publishing yoke as well as the writing one. Others will shelve their story, write a different one, and have another go at the institution. We've all read the stories that say something like, "It took me three books before I got an agent/publisher." And others will take their deflected work and give up on the idea of publishing.

I have at least fourteen novels that none of you will ever see. I have no intention of sprucing them up and sending them out into the world. They were indulgent, practice novels. I do go back and read them from time to time. They're for me. Some of the great ideas and world building pieces, or even characters from them will wend their way into the stories I do intend to share. How and when I want to share them is something I'm debating about.

So for any who may have doubted, you have the picture proof now. I have written what I've said I've written. I am prolific. Writing for myself is easy. Writing for the few people who understand me is easy. Writing for the general public is hard. I confess this freely.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

It's Okay to Take a Day Off

NaNo update:
Days spent writing - 3
Words written - 18,924
Goal - 100,000 words in 16 days

Hi everyone. I feel like I'm poking my head outside, even though life hasn't stopped still while I've retreated into some kind of writing cave. If you look at the stats above, you'll notice that not only am I trying to do double the regular NaNo word count, but also in half the time.

Why is that?

Well, life happens. I have a family and several other obligations. So do most of you. A few days before November started I pulled up my monthly calendar, calculated how many days I was pretty sure I'd get some writing time in, and how many words I'd have to write each of those days to meet my goal. Luckily 6500-7000 words doesn't intimidate me. Word vomit is easy. The internal editor is tied and gagged, I jump around from key scene to key scene, not stressing over transitions or plot layers and I get a first draft done. The main story.

And oh, how I needed this kind of writing freedom! I've been in editing mode for too long. Editing drafts are the ones that help you grow and at the same time make you feel inferior, stupid, and weak as a writer. Going on editing mode for a great length of time wears down your ambition, your self-esteem, and your love for writing.

Which brings me to the main point of this blogpost. We need days off, guilt-free days, where we feel no constraint to approach writing or editing. I know the usual mantra on the internet is to write every day. I've found it counter-productive to drive myself at that pace, even if it's a measly 500 words one day and 5,000 another. I always reserve one day of the week to not write. And I've never broken that resolve. It's my day to step back from most things that I do during the week. I rest. I relax. I don't allow myself to feel the slightest bit anxious or guilty because I'm not writing. I don't even jot down writing notes if ideas come to me. If they're strong enough ideas, they'll keep until the next day.

After three intensive days of writing for NaNo I've pondered more on the idea of a day of rest from writing. Not a compulsion to rest because of outside obligations, but the choice to rest. To live and focus on resting. After 4-5 hours each day of nonstop writing, when I took my day off, it made a world of difference getting back into the third day's writing work. It's easy to become brain fried, dry out your eyes, and get headaches if you devote hours to writing every single day. If you suffer from these kinds of symptoms, I recommend setting aside a day off from writing. Take it even if you didn't get much done the rest of the week. Let it be your guilt-free day.

And now, I have to get back to work. I wasn't planning on writing today but some free time opened up unexpectedly and I intend to take advantage of it, because who knows what will pop up on one of my designated days to write?

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Words That Will Kill Your Query

You’re doing your best, researching how to write a query, who to query, and when to query. You’re devouring blogposts, Twitter feeds, how-to books, and any other resource you can get your hands on. You want to cover all the bases. You want to make sure your not going to be that writer, you know, the one who blows their chances by making stupid mistakes or assumptions.

So here’s another one to watch out for: if you are a speculative fiction writer, there are certain words that will instantly doom your query.

Words such as:
Chosen One
End of the World

… and so forth. You get the gist.

Why are these words and phrases bad? Just about everyone has used or is using them. Agents and editors see these words all the time. It’s an instant turn off. Suppose you had a stack of a hundred queries and each one used one of those words. You’d start to think writers only knew one kind of plot, one kind of story.

Even if your story is truly different, even if you take one of those tropes and turn it inside out, if you use those words in your query letter, you’re sunk before your story has a chance to prove it’s different.

I don’t care what Agent So-and-So recommends in their How-To-Write-a-Query book/blog/workshop. If they’ve said to use certain key words, you can bet thousands of other writers have read/heard this same piece of advice and are using those words. Watch out for overused phrases or common clichés as well.

But what if your story is about a chosen one whose destiny it is to prevent the end of the world? Find an inventive new way to describe it. It needs to stick out from the thousands (no exaggeration here) of other queries using the same general premise.

Know of any other overused words/phrases that would doom a query letter? Please share.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Music to Write by #4: OC Remix Chrono Trigger Aqueous Transgression

This month's feature music has more of a soundtrack feel, though still high-powered for writing an action scene, or to get your blood pumping anyway. Definitely more of a sci-fi or thriller vibe, than fantasy, paranormal, or horror. Of course, I could be surprised and you might find it fits in perfectly with any genre.

Enjoy! Stay tuned for next month's selection. And happy writing!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Interview with Author Michelle Hauck - Newly Represented!

Continuing with encouraging and heart-warming journeys into the world of publishing - this week let's welcome author Michelle Hauck back to Yesternight's Voyage. Michelle recently accepted an offer of representation from an agent. Her personal experience is more varied than the usual story, and there are nuggets here to help even the most discouraged querier keep at it.

1) How long have you been writing? What are your favorite genres to write in?

I’ve been writing five or six years. Time has a tendency to slip away so I wouldn’t be surprised if that number was higher. My writing tends to involve magic or the fantastic of some kind which puts me squarely in the fantasy genre. I like to branch out with age categories. My books span the gamut with adult, YA, and now middle grade.

2) What are your favorite genres to read? Which books have had the greatest impact on you?

 When I read for pleasure I tend toward epic fantasy or urban fantasy. I’m not a great fan of paranormal or fantasy based strongly on romance. Think Brandon Sanderson, Robert Jordan, and lately, The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher.

But I’m also a fan of biographies and non-fiction about history, especially the American Revolution and 16th century English royalty. While I guess you could say classics made up the backbone of my reading. I started with Jane Austin, Alexander Dumas, and the Bronte sisters and moved toward fantasy as I got into my late teens. Gone with the Wind and The Wheel of Time series all had an influence on my writing as I loved the involved and detailed characters of those worlds.

3) Aside from writing, what do you love to do?

Aside from writing and reading, I guess I’m a couch potato. I enjoy watching movies and TV at night with my husband. I’m a big sports fan for my local teams. Go Bears and Irish! I absolutely love football and baseball. And I like to make my yard colorful with all kinds of annuals and perennials, though I’m not so keen on the yard work. I might be a tiny bit addicted to twitter and running query contests. I’m a co-host of Query Kombat and Nightmare on Query Street. Those are my ideas of fun. Notice I didn’t say eat chocolate, but you can put that right up at the top.

4) May we see your agent-winning query letter?

This is the actual query that went to my agent, along with the personalized chit-chat I put at the beginning. Sarah used quite a bit of this query in the pitch letter she crafted. I’m kind of proud of that.

Thanks so much for volunteering to join my Agent Greeting contest. I’m looking forward to it on August 5th. I saw on Writer’s Digest that you were looking for middle grade and decided to send you my query in hopes you will find it interesting.
Tom, the classroom hamster, wants to escape from the h-e-double-hockey-sticks otherwise known as school. His military training at the pet shop didn’t include playing house or being sentenced to a boot camp of never-ending Show ‘n Tell, math facts rap, and story time. But he’s learned a lot behind the bars of his cage. For example, if you want to keep breathing, never trust a pygmy who has earned the nickname Squeezer. Somehow he has to get away before the pygmies dress him as Strawberry Shortcake again—or worse.
When a “subspatoot” teacher fills in, Tom sees his chance to put Operation Escape the Pygmies into action. He makes a run for the border, hamster style. Bad news. The principal says a rodent on the loose is a distraction to learning and better off flushed. The way out is turned into a battlefield of snapping mousetraps, sticky snares, and poisoned pellets.
Tom seems doomed until the friendless Squeezer lends an over-excited hand. She quickly goes from supervillain to super sidekick. Now, the greatest obstacle to his freedom may be Tom’s soft spot for this lonely pygmy.
A cross between Toy Story, Monsters Inc., and those cute AT&T kid commercials, PYGMY HAZARDS is a MG fantasy complete at 34,000 words. My epic fantasy, Kindar’s Cure, was recently released by Divertir Publishing. My short story, Frost and Fog, was published by The Elephant’s Bookshelf for their summer anthology, Summer’s Double Edge. I’ve worked at an elementary school as a special needs assistant for over ten years, giving me lots of experience with pygmies.
Thanks for your consideration.
5) How long did you query before finding your agent?

With Pygmy Hazards I entered a contest in April and started to query soon after. That would make it roughly five months before I got an offer. I will say that I got tons of rejections in that time period. Probably more than forty, though a good number were personalized about how cute the idea was and my very first query got a request. I got a whole lot of ‘just not for me.’ It wasn’t an overnight success by any means.

And Pygmy Hazards was my fourth manuscript to be queried. I was actually still querying for my YA dystopian, Dodge the Sun, when I started to query with my hamsters. And when my offer came, I had two partials out for Dodge that I had to notify. My journey to get an agent was a long and painful one.

My first manuscript was an epic fantasy which got three requests and over a hundred rejections. That’s about the time I began to get on the internet more and discovered critique groups. I soon found my manuscript was full of fatal flaws, not to mention a word count of double the usual length. The rejections were painful, but understandable given the writing.

My second manuscript was also an epic fantasy, but this time I did everything right. It was extensively beta read. All the writing flaws of my last manuscript had vanished. I got a grand total of THREE requests yet again. I was actually certain I was cursed. Cursed by the number three. Ask my CPs, they’ll vouch for that. Each rejection was like another stamp on my heart. When it queried out, I decided my manuscript was worth the effort and ended up getting an offer from a small press to publish. Validation! Kindar’s Cure came out in July 2013.

My third manuscript was a goldmine. I’d seen the trend in YA and lowered my main character’s age to go for the YA market. I still told my story, but I adjusted it a little for a new age category. Dodge the Sun got nearly twenty requests and most of them were fulls. I also set this story in the ‘real’ world. Agents jumped right over partials and asked to see the whole thing. But that’s when the market let me down.

Dystopian was a dead end. It was so crowded, that no publishers wanted it anymore. Full after full came back with ‘just didn’t connect.’ My last two fulls came back as rejections of, you guessed it, ‘just didn’t connect’ on THE SAME FREAKING DAY! It wasn’t that the agents found anything wrong with the story or the characters, they just couldn’t sell it. It was a heartbreaker for me. I used to stare at myself in the mirror while getting ready for bed and try not to cry it hurt that much. I wanted the big time tradition deal for this story so I put Dodge on the shelf, hoping the market would change.

While I waited on some late partial for Dodge, I had an ace in the hole. A little middle grade I’d finished that was nothing like any of my other books. The main characters are animals. There’s no magic, unless you count talking hamsters as magic. It is set in an everyday world inside a school. And it’s humorous! The whole story started as part of a short story contest started by Joyce for something with a talking animal. It was never meant to be a serious contender. I started querying without high hopes. The daily grind of querying has a way of squashing confidence and inflicting pain that makes me defensive about keep my expectations low.       

6) What can you tell us about your new agent and the process of signing on with her?

I sent a lot of my queries for Pygmy Hazards to new agents with the expectation that new agents were more interested in building their client lists. Sarah Negovetich was one of those new agents. She’d spent some time as an intern, learning the ropes, and was now accepting her own clients. She’d actually reached out to me first. I was having a small query critique contest where people could win critiques from agents and Sarah wanted to be a part of it. Shortly after, I sent her a query for my middle grade.

But the first offer I received came from another agent toward the end of August. Agent A had requested Pygmy Hazards from that very first contest I entered back in April. As you see, it took many months for her to get around to offering. After about a week of trying to find a time, we had the call on a Friday and talked for two hours. It was a great conversation, but I told her I needed to notify other agents and think her offer over. I just wasn’t sure because she didn’t rep fantasy and most of my writing involved fantasy.

I put out a nudge to all the agents with my material and any outstanding queries that were less than a month old. Things started moving very fast. I woke up Saturday morning to a request from Sarah to see the full. Another agent asked for a partial. Those with my material promised to get back to me within the week. Several polite congratulations but passes came through my inbox. I was honestly so busy deciding what to do and checking my inbox that I didn’t have time to celebrate. It didn’t really seem real.

I believe by Monday afternoon Sarah wanted to talk. I had a second Call with her on Tuesday. Her call actually caught me out on a walk with my husband and dogs. Let me tell you, we high tailed it home at double speed! We meshed well, and Sarah preferred speculative fiction! She had an answer for all my questions and they were very honest. She was a hands-on editor for her clients, and I loved that about her. I thought her ideas about an agent helping with their client’s marketing were a new and needed diversification for agents.  

My deadline passed, and I decided to go with Sarah. It was a perfect decision for me. We get along great and have the same ideas for Pygmy Hazards. She really keeps me informed on how the submission process is going.

I don’t think the whole process really hit me until about two weeks later. Sometimes I lay there in the middle of the night and get a little shiver that I have an agent after so long.

7) What advice would you give to those who are actively querying or getting ready to query?

It’s pretty cliché because everyone gives this same advice, but I’d say write another story while you query. That way you have something new ready to go if the querying doesn’t work out. Also do some networking and try to let agents get your name in their radar. Plus most importantly, don’t give up.

8) What have you learned from querying and writing that you didn't know before?

Writing pushed me to come out of my shell. I was always a very shy person and this process has given me a new confidence. Not only do I start up conversations with writer’s I don’t know, I’m not afraid to approach agents for invites to contests or interviews.  

9) How important were your beta readers/critique partners?

My critique partners were so important and not just for finding flaws in my manuscripts. CP’s are the ones you can turn too when you’re cursed on three requests and can never, never get any higher. They are the ones who understand what you’re going through. They are the people you forward your requests to and the ones who talk you off the ledge when you’re ready to quit. I do believe the q-word came up for me a few months ago.

10) What are you most excited about regarding the whole being agented experience?

Why now I can run more contests! Wait, no. That’s not it.

I’ve always been a curious person. I want to see behind everything to how the process works. Now I get to see behind the agent curtain to what happens during submission. So far it’s a lot like querying as far as the waiting—only now I have a filter. Sarah is between me and those rejection letters! It’s so wonderful to have a cheerleader in my corner!

Thank you, Michelle, for sharing your story and your wisdom with us. I know personally, I'm looking forward to reading all of Pygmy Hazards with my kids.

Michelle Hauck lives in the bustling metropolis of northern Indiana with her hubby and two teenagers. Two papillons help balance out the teenage drama. Besides working with special needs children by day, she writes all sorts of fantasy, giving her imagination free range. A book worm, she passes up the darker vices in favor of chocolate and looks for any excuse to reward herself. Bio finished? Time for a sweet snack.

She is a co-host of the yearly contest Query Kombat. Her epic fantasy, Kindar's Cure, was published by Divertir Publishing. Her short story, Frost and Fog, was published by The Elephant's Bookshelf Press in their anthology, Summer's Double Edge. She’s represented by Sarah Negovetich of Corvisiero Literary.

Goodreads: Kindar’s Cure

Kindar’s Cure at The Book Depository

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Interview with Margaret Fortune - Newly Represented!

Hi everyone. I'm really excited for the month of October. It's the sixth year anniversary for the Speculative Fiction Group on AQC and this month I'll be bringing you some great interviews with writers from that group who have found agents and publishers.

And I'm super super excited for this first interview with one of my own critique partners, Margaret Fortune. So here we go!

1) How long have you been writing? What are your favorite genres to write in?
My very first story was written in first grade. It was called "The Numbers' Birthday Party" and made a huge splash at my elementary school. I remember having to sit in the front of my class and read it to everyone while they followed along in their own copies--these lovely purple dittos, for those of you who are old enough to know what a "ditto" is. :) I think it was the most terrifying and embarrassing experience of my life!
While I wrote some in my youth, I didn't start writing seriously until the summer after I graduated college in 2003. It was that summer I started writing my very first novel. So I guess I've been writing for about 10 years now. My favorite genre is speculative fiction. Whether it's short stories for adults; books for middle grade and YA; serious or humorous; fantasy, dystopian, sci-fi; as long as it falls into speculative fiction, I'm there!
2) What are your favorite genres to read? Which books have had the greatest impact on you?
I read a lot of YA speculative fiction, as that's the main genre I write in. Aside from that, I read a variety of books including adult SF, romance, and historical fiction, as well as non-fiction including biographies and books about travel and sports. Oh, and I have this special spot in my heart for non-fiction books about how to survive extreme conditions--don't ask me why!
I've read a lot of books in my life, and rather than having a few that impacted me significantly, I think I've taken a little bit away from every book I've ever read. Even if what I took away from it was--Don't do that! However, I can say that my favorite short story of all time is Ray Bradbury's "All Summer in a Day." I'm also very partial to Dr. Seuss's "Oh, the Places You'll Go!"
3) Aside from writing, what do you love to do?
I love to read, of course. Other hobbies include music--I play the piano and sing. I also like to hit the gym, swimming approximately 3 miles a week as well as running, walking, rowing, climbing on the stairclimber, weightlifting--whatever strikes my fancy on a given day. When I have time, I like to design and sew purses and dresses for myself.
4) What can you tell us about your new agent and the process of signing on with her?
My agent is Lindsay Ribar of Sanford J. Greenburger Associates. She joined the agency in 2007, and represents YA and MG. As well as being an agent, she's also a YA author herself. So far, I've found her to be friendly and enthusiastic, as well as a good communicator. She also seems to be knowledgeable and on top of her stuff, as things are moving along nice and quickly.
I queried her on a Tuesday, she requested the full on a Friday, and on Saturday night around 11pm I had an email from her saying she wanted to represent me. Less than a week from query to offer! Her email was a writer's dream come true--she'd been unable to put the MS down, she loved every character, she knew the moment she finished she had to have it. As a writer, you dream about having an advocate with that sort of passion and enthusiasm for your book. Even though I had to give everyone else a couple weeks to request/read/make an offer, I knew from the beginning that it would be very hard for anyone else to top her passion.
So the process of signing with her was extraordinarily fast once I queried her, as I officially accepted her offer within about three weeks after querying her. As I'd already been waiting around for months on other agents, it was nice to have things finally moving.
5) May we see your agent-winning query letter?
Yes, you may.
Ohhh, you mean you actually wanted me to provide it here?? Oh, okay! Here is is:
Sixteen-year-old Lia Johansen is a genetically engineered human bomb with just one problem. She’s a dud.
Her task seems simple: to strike the next blow in an ongoing galactic war by sneaking onto New Sol Space Station with a group of released POWs and exploding. But her mission goes terribly wrong when her inner clock malfunctions, freezing her countdown with just two minutes to go.
With no Plan B, no memories of her past, and no identity besides a name stolen from a dead POW, Lia doesn’t know what to do with a life she was never meant to have. When she meets Michael, the real Lia’s childhood best friend, she learns what it means to have friends and family. She learns what it means to live. It is only when her clock begins sporadically shedding seconds that she realizes—
Even duds can be dangerous. Even duds can still blow up.
Now Lia must find a way to unearth her past and the truth behind her mission before her time—literally—runs out.
NOVA is an 84,000-word YA science fiction novel which may appeal to readers who enjoyed Beth Revis’s Across the Universe and Amy Kathleen Ryan’s Glow. My short fiction has been published or is forthcoming in multiple magazines, including Neo-opsis Science Fiction Magazine and Space and Time Magazine.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
6) How long did you query before finding your agent?
A looooong time.
To be more specific, I began querying my book Nova at the end of January, when I sent out 20 queries as a trial run. When I began getting requests, I sent about another 30 or so during the month of February. I got about a dozen requests out of the those queries and settled down to see what would happen. Well, August finally rolled around and everyone had rejected me with the exception of a few agents who had literally had the manuscript for anywhere from 3-6 months. That was the point where I threw up my hands and said, "This is ridiculous. This one agent has had it over 6 months!" So I decided to query everyone else in the world I wanted to query, and que será, será. So I queried another 25 agents in the last week of August and another 25 in the first week of September. I queried my agent Lindsay Ribar on the last day I sent out queries, and had an offer from her within a week. So while the process with Lindsay went very fast, overall the process was very slow.
Oh, and did I mention that Nova is the THIRD book I've queried now? So yeah, I think a looooong time covers it.
7) What advice would you give to those who are actively querying or getting ready to query?
a) Don't skimp on your query. If you have to write 50 hooks to get a good one, WRITE 50 HOOKS. Don't give up and use a crappy one because you can't think of a good one. If you have to write 100 pages of query material to get a good query, DO IT. You don't get any do-overs; once you query an agent, you can't query them again. At least, not until you write another book! So do the work and make the best query you can, so that even if you don't get requests or an agent, you know you did the absolute best you could.
b) Have a checklist for when you're sending out queries. There's nothing more embarrassing than spelling an agent's name wrong or having the wrong agent's name on your query letter. So have a checklist you go down right before sending each query: is it addressed to the right person, is their name spelled right, are the email address and subject line right, etc. So by having a checklist you go through before hitting the "send" button, you may save yourself from making dumb mistakes. And since I know everyone's probably wondering now--No, I did NOT spell anyone's name wrong or put the wrong name on a query letter. Why not? Because I had a checklist! ;)
c) Be persistent. Nova was the third book I queried, and even once I queried it, it was over seven months before I had an offer. I didn't get an agent with my first fifty queries for Nova; I had to go out and query another fifty. So it wasn't easy, it wasn't quick, and there was plenty of emotional suffering involved. Querying is tough--you go through cycles of hope and desperation and despair all in their turn, and it's hard. Yes, some people do get lucky and get an agent right off the bat or meet their agent at the first conference they attend, or get a foot in the door through a friend/family member. But for a lot of us, it's not quick and it's not easy. But if you really want it, you'll keep at it.
As you can tell from the query, Nova was an easy book to query because it's so high concept. I knew agents would read the first line and immediately be all over it or else know it's not for them. But a lot of books are not easy to query--I know because I queried two of them with little luck. Some stories just don't lend themselves well to a query. So if you're unable to get anywhere querying, you may need to be really savvy about planning your next project. I purposely chose to pursue my Nova project because I knew it would be easy to query. YA sci-fi was starting to trend in the market, and my book had such a high concept, I knew people would be interested even if YA sci-fi started to fade. Don't get me wrong--I made that project my own and I absolutely love my book. But I was savvy about the market and smart about choosing my project. So if you find yourself at the end of the query line with no requests or offers, be smart. Don't keep writing books in the same passé genre hoping things will change. Find a way to take your ideas and make them fresh and salable. Make sure you can write a great query before you spend a year writing the book. If you want to be more than a hobbyist, you have to remember writing is a business, and you need to supply something people will want. Which isn't always easy to figure out, but it's worth trying.
8) What have you learned from writing and querying that you didn't know before?
I think it's easy to get intimidated by literary agents. After all, they have the power to make or break our careers simply by saying 'yes' or 'no.' And we get radio silence or form rejects from a lot of them, and it only feeds our frustration. But honestly, a lot of these people are super-nice! They're friendly, and even when they pass they'll say kind, encouraging things. One agent who passed even encouraged me to keep in touch, even if it was just to let her know where my book finally sold or if I wanted someone to brainstorm with. I never realized agents did that! Unfortunately, radio silence and form rejects are going to remain part and parcel of the query process, but that doesn't mean that the people behind them aren't fabulous people.
9) How important were your beta readers/critique partners?
They did me absolutely no good! (Ha, ha! Just kidding! ;)
Beta readers that aren't afraid to tell you the truth are worth their weight in gold. Period. I remember getting feedback from an agent with my full. He loved my characters, concept, and writing, but hated my plot. He wanted me to rewrite the whole book! Panicked and having no idea what to do, I went to the coolest, savviest beta reader I know and begged her to read it quick and tell me if I was crazy for choosing the plot I did. Well--that beta reader who shall remain nameless (Starts with 'joy,' ends with 'ton,' and rhymes with 'Boyce Dalton') helped saved me from making the biggest mistake of my life. Enough said!
10) What are you most excited to experience in the whole being agented process?
Seriously, I have to pick just one thing? I'm excited about everything!
I think what I'm most excited about is the fact that I'm finally getting to move forward to a new point in my career. For the longest time, I've been writing and writing with very few tangible marks of success to show for it. And that can be pretty tough at times. By finally getting an agent, I'm taking huge leap forward and I'm excited for all the new things to come.
Oh, and I've cherished this long time hope of having my books published in Italy. See, I read a bit of Italian, so then I could read my books in Italian and be like, "They translated that line like that?!" I'm especially interested to see what they would do with "Nova" since "No va" literally means "It doesn't go" in Italian!
Thank you, Margaret! (And I can't wait for Nova to find a publisher next.) In all fairness, she's one of the sharpest, best critique partners I've had and as anyone who has read Margaret's work can attest, she's practically flawless in her writing. My first thoughts on finding out her good news were "It's about time!"
To connect more with Margaret:

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Win a Copy of Kindar's Cure!

My friend Michelle Hauck is being interviewed over at Thoughts and Review, and along with the interview, they are hosting a giveaway for a copy of her recently published novel, Kindar's Cure. You can enter the Rafflecopter here, on her blog, or the host of the interview.

 Book Blurb:

Princess Kindar of Anost dreams of playing the hero and succeeding to her mother’s throne. But dreams are for fools. Reality involves two healthy sisters and a wasting disease of suffocating cough that’s killing her by inches. When her elder sister is murdered, the blame falls on Kindar, putting her head on the chopping block.

No one who survives eighteen years of choke lung lacks determination. A novice wizard, Maladonis Bin, approaches with a vision—a cure in a barren land of volcanic fumes. As choices go, a charming bootlicker that trips over his own feet isn’t the best option, but beggars can’t be choosers. Kindar escapes with Mal and several longtime attendants only to have her eyes opened that her country faces dark times. 

Her mother’s decision to close the prosperous mines spurs poverty and joblessness, inciting rebellion and opening Anost to foreign invasion. As Mal urges her toward a cure that will prove his visions, suddenly, an ally turns traitor, delivering Kindar to a rebel army, who have their own plans for a sickly princess.

With the killer poised to strike again, the rebels bearing down, and the country falling apart, she must weigh her personal hunt for a cure against saving her people.


“Princess Kindar, Her Majesty will see you,” a chamberlain barked from her mother’s bedchamber.
Kindar strode forward alone. As the door closed after her, she sank into a deep curtsey before moving forward to the center of the room. Empress Eugenie Stefanous sat before a large mirror, clothed in her undergarments. Seventeen when her first daughter was born, the empress was still young, her belly and hips pleasantly rounded. Her auburn hair fell in a thick mass of long curls around a delicately painted face.
After bearing three daughters, Empress Eugenie had retired her husband, not wanting to ruin the fortunate omen with another child. Now she confined herself to her own amores. The empress’ two current favorites lounged on a chaise. Young enough to be her children, they sported more paint than their mistress. Kindar pushed down irritation that these wretches sat while she must stand.
Behind her mother, the First Minister Hayden wore a military uniform which had never seen a day’s fight. He held a sheaf of papers from which to report his latest information. Information his extensive team of spies provided. “… and the disposition of the Cushwair rebels remains unchanged.” Minister Hayden cut off as he saw her, stooping to whisper into her mother’s ear.
Eugenie lifted her eyes to Kindar’s reflection in the mirror. “I hear your humours are clean this morning, Daughter.”
Suddenly, answers clicked in Kindar’s mind. The physician had been suggested by Minister Hayden as punishment for failing to show him favor. Kindar narrowed her eyes. From such men as this, her mother sought the advice that would dictate her children’s futures. But this meant her mother might be well-disposed toward her. Her optimism grew to a painful intensity. After all, Eugenie needed all three daughters to give weight to the omen. Kindar curtseyed again. “Yes, Majesty.”
“Strange.” The empress turned her eyes from contemplating her own face in the mirror to favor her daughter with a glance. “Your humours are seldom clean.”
“It is more auspicious for the wedding, Majesty, if I’m not bled.”
“Perhaps.” Empress Eugenie set down a thick rope of diamonds and picked up a necklace of pearls. “That gown doesn’t suit you. You look like a scrawny washed-out rabbit. Why did I ever choose it? Never mind, I suppose it will do for you. I have made a decision about your future.” The minister bowed, looking suitably impressed.
“Yes, Majesty.” Kindar waited with a fluttering heart. The throne could not belong to an unmarried woman; the law made that clear. In addition to making her a legitimate heir, a betrothal would give her certain freedoms, such as the end of these painful morning visits. Even if she did not care for the peer chosen by her mother, a betrothal would give her status. She would be higher than Ceria, instead of equal, and able to overrule her actions.

Michelle Hauck lives in the bustling metropolis of northern Indiana with her hubby and two teenagers. Two papillons help balance out the teenage drama. Besides working with special needs children by day, she writes all sorts of fantasy, giving her imagination free range. A book worm, she passes up the darker vices in favor of chocolate and looks for any excuse to reward herself. Bio finished? Time for a sweet snack.

She is a co-host of the yearly contest Query Kombat. Her epic fantasy, Kindar's Cure, was published by Divertir Publishing. Her short story, Frost and Fog, was published by The Elephant's Bookshelf Press in their anthology, Summer's Double Edge. She’s represented by Sarah Negovetich of Corvisiero Literary.

Goodreads: Kindar’s Cure

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

National Novel Writing Month Preparation: The Easiest Outline Ever

National Novel Writing Month is in November. The goal is to write 50,000 words in 30 days. It's challenging and fun. I chose to do it a couple of years ago and managed to finish about a week early. I also came out with a very promising rough draft for a new story.

My strategy then was to know my story before November began. I wrote up a general summary, as I always do, and then prepared a simple outline highlighting the main plot and two subplots. I also knew my two main characters' personalities pretty well, having brainstormed for a couple of months ahead of time. The point is, I didn't go into NaNo cold turkey. I had a plan, forged through, and the results were excellent.

I plan on doing NaNo this year, only I've upped my personal stakes. I plan on working on two novels, aiming for 80,000 - 100,000 words. Yes, I'm nuts. Yes, I stand a good chance of failing. Yes, life probably will happen and get in the way. I'm still shooting for the moon.

Anyway ...

What if you aren't naturally an outliner, you want to do NaNo this year, and you want to do some prep work to keep you on course? If outlining isn't your thing, I highly recommend you don't attempt to buck your tendencies by switching courses for NaNo. However, if you want a general guideline, here's the simpliest outline format ever: chapter headings.

I once wrote an entire novel in two weeks using this method. What you do is write up a table of contents for your unwriten novel. Use fun, short sentence descriptions as the chapter titles. Think of the key scenes you want to achieve. Write up this list, brainstorm who your characters are, and then pantser-it from there. If you end up adding chapters as you go, that's great. If you end up changing up a title or two as the story evolves, it's no big deal. The point is to have a general map of the story in order to stay on track and finish it.

Are you going to do NaNo (officially or unofficially) this year? Have you done it before? Have you used any kind of outline or summary before?

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Music to Write by #3: OCRemix Deus ex 'Siren Synapse'

This month's music selection is one of my techno favorites. With a distinctively Asian vibe, Deus ex 'Siren Synapse' remixed by Alexander Brandon and Big Giant Circles, makes for great adrenaline pumping music as you write. Futuristic is the first adjective that comes to mind. Playful, beautiful yet not to be trusted. Check it out and see if you like what you hear.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

No, I'm Not a Literary Agent, but Thanks for Writing

Not too long ago, in my inbox I found someone had sent me a query letter. Not to critique, but addressed to my email assuming I was an agent. Strange? Very. It came from an author from overseas who was looking for a way into the U.S. market. Many of my blog visitors hail from other countries. I guess this person had made a mistake in the email address or mistook my spotlighting agents on this blog for my being an agent.

I am not a literary agent. Sorry!

Not that I haven't thought about it before with a little "let's pretend." I've had the privilege of working with many writers, critiquing their work, having mine critiqued in return, combing over query letters, trying to make sense of the publishing world and its workings. But I don't work at a literary agency, I don't know any editors personally, and I have no clout in the industry.

To that author, though, thanks for writing. I hope you find the right person to query and that your dream to break into the U.S. market becomes a reality. Querying is tough. Finding an agent match is worse than dating. Rejection hurts. But your letter to me doesn't go under the rejection category. It was a misdirection. And since I know how mind-wracking it is to not even hear back from someone you queried, I'm responding to your letter here on my blog. Keep researching agents and keep trying. For those who are overseas and want a U.S. agent, I highly recommend agentquery.com and querytracker.net.

Good luck!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

10 Things to Remember

Hi everyone. Thanks for stopping by, especially my regular readers. I'll be on blogging break for about a month due to outside circumstances. Please also excuse the longer response time to emails and updates on FB and Twitter.

But if I could leave you with a few thoughts before I go, it's these:

1) Write because you love to write. Write the stories you wish were out there and that you would love to read.

2) Expect bumps in the road to publication. No one has a magic portal to bypass them. Sometimes the best research and preparation still doesn't smooth the path.

3) Learn all that you can. Share what you've learned with others.

4) Develop relationships with other writers, not just business interactions.

5) Remember that sometimes the ugly snakes of subjectivity and timing will cross your path and even impede it. Don't give up. There is no such thing as a perfect writer or a perfect story. Often people don't know what they want until they come across it.

6) There is no point of arrival. We attain milestones. There is no happily-ever-after, even if that's what we write about.

7) You do have something to contribute to the writing community. We all want it to be a bestselling novel. Usually that's not the case. You may be the best critique partner ever, or a social media guru, or simply a shoulder to cry on.

8) There is no one true pathway to publication. There are guidelines and a plethora of advice out there. But no one has a correct map. Each person's journey is different, and that's okay.

9) Don't give in to despair, depression, bitterness, or hate. You will have flickers or episodes dealing with these emotions. Don't let them take you over. Don't let them drag you down. No matter how impossible or hard it may seem, take one more step forward. And then another. And then another.

10) Reflect upon what you have learned from your writing journey. You may not be where you want to be, but that doesn't mean the time was wasted. What did you get from your research? What relationships did you gain? How much stronger are you as a writer now than when you started? What wisdom is now part of your personal arsenal? Treasure these achievements.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Recaps on Writing

I hope you're all well and enjoying your writing journeys. I had some unexpected, and some overwhelming yet fantastic things hit me this week, so I'm posting a list of recaps on previous writing blogposts. And my question for you this week is: What is your favorite type of character to read about? Do you have a preference for male or female? What type of personality makes you smile and perk up as you read? Or does a character's looks strike a chord with you? A particular occupation or goal? A quirk? Think about it and then share in the comments.

Your Story, Your Spin
A post on voice.

Manuscript Disease Top 10 Symptoms
Some guidelines to help you see if you're done revising or if you have more to do.

Receiving Manuscript Feedback

Adjectives, Adverbs, and Sneaky Profanity
Are you guilty of this faux pas?

The Posting/Critiquing Marathon Part 1: What I've Learned So Far
Those painful beginning chapters.

Obese and Anorexic Novels
Why story should be a key factor in regards to word count.

Opposition is a Good Thing

The Posting/Critiquing Marathon Part 2: In Conclusion, What I've Learned
Those underworked middle chapters.

Over-Editing and Self-Esteem
For compulsive perfectionists.

Cutting Down Character Count or How to Amputate 101

Don't Spend So Much Time Polishing Your Beginning ...

World-building: Think Big, Be Creative, Have Fun!

We Are Onions Not Turnips
A few words on characters.

Enticing Your Readers

What Is Talent?

Fulfilling Your Promises to the Reader
The problem with book series.


Saturday, August 10, 2013

Music to Write By #2: The Different World by Peter Schilling

Okay, this one dates me a bit, but that's okay. What I love about a lot of 80s - early 90s music is the ambiguity of the lyrics. They give you a general feeling of what the artist wants you to feel without being blatantly open about exact meaning. The music of "The Different Story" (1989), I think, is classic. This song sets a somewhat ominous yet hopeful tone. Good for world-building, pivotal emotional scenes, or a motivator to remember that conflict is necessary for characters to grow. A story shouldn't be all roses and cake. A writer who pampers their characters doesn't have much of a story to tell.

And, if anything, it's kind of fun to watch the music video. I'd never seen it until recently and I think it captures the tone of the song very well. On the fantasy-esque side, it has a romantic vibe as well.

Performed by German singer Peter Schilling in his third English album, this song also known as "A World of Lust and Crime," here is "The Different Story":