QueryTracker Blog

Helping Authors Find Literary Agents

Friday, July 29, 2011

Publishing Pulse: 7/29/2011

Author Patricia C. Wrede talks about selling your first novel. She also has an excellent two part post on agents. You can find the first post here and the second post here. And while you're there, be sure to check out her great wall of publishing post if you've ever felt discouraged about trying to get published.

Ever get stumped with trying to figure out the specifics of your story? Small details that bring it to life? While the Children's Brainstorming List is specifically for kidlit writers, there's a lot of great stuff there regardless of age group or genre.

With changes to Apple's app selling rules, Kindle, Nook, and Kobo are no longer selling ebooks through iPhone and iPad apps.

And finally, with publishing going through some major upheavals, agents are considering assisting with e-publishing more and more. Agencies like the Waxman Agency, Dystel and Goderich Literary Management (and here), and now Bookends LLC are already doing it, and Agent Rachelle Gardner poses the question about whether or not agents should be publishers.

Historical romance writer Courtney Milan penned an open letter to agents and detailed why having your agent also acting as your publisher can lead to a conflict of interest. Author Bob Mayer tackles the question of can your agent be your publisher and should they?

What do you think of all these changes?

Danyelle writes MG and YA fantasy. In her spare time, she collects dragons, talking frogs, and fairy godmothers. She can be found discussing the art of turning one's characters into various animals, painting with words, and the best ways to avoid getting eaten by dragons on her blog. Her serial novel THE FAIRY GODMOTHER DILEMMA can be found here. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Was Giving Up Ever an Option?

When does one call oneself a writer? There’s a disconnect from reader to writer on how easy/hard it is to write a book. The reaction from people can be strong. Make you question yourself, if you’re cut out for it.

I started writing two years ago. I was watching Julie & Julia, wishing I had the urge to cook something for dinner. I didn’t. We ordered take-out and watched Julie feverishly cook her heart out. It was her tenacity that had me intrigued. She worked at a dead-end job and she knew she wanted something more. Rather than drowning with everyone she jumped.

I took another bite of chicken fried rice and really thought about what I wanted. Her determination gave me motivation to kick my unhappiness out the door. That evening I started a blog. I was going to write every day about my life and what my plans were.

It took me less than two minutes to get frustrated. I wanted to be a writer and yet I couldn’t even think of a blog name? My husband looked at me and said “Why don’t you title it Unedited? After all, it’s all a work in progress.” My husband shaved off my unhappy mood and opened up a window of opportunity.

For months I blogged and wrote. I wrote a ton of crap, thousands of words that brought me happiness. I hadn’t finished a novel but the fact that I was writing meant something to me, more than anything had ever meant.

Characters started talking to me. Writers embraced me. I had only shared the journey with my husband. It was still fresh, just a hobby. What would it take to get me to break out of the barrier I created? When would I call myself a writer?

I read On Writing by Stephen King, the book that changed it all. He gave me the option to call myself a writer. It was when YOU felt it. When YOU accomplished what a writer would.

I needed to write a novel.

It was then I opened up my word document and pantsed my way through my very first (horrible) manuscript. I cried when it was completed. It was that emotional. It was then that I told everyone I was a writer. I was na├»ve. I thought for sure it would land me an agent and I’d be the next Stephenie Meyer.

It’s all a learning process. Each stage has its ups and downs and every writer knows that patience and perseverance is involved if you want to succeed.

They say NEVER GIVE UP. They don’t say it because they finally made it. They say it because it’s true. You’re supposed to embrace every emotion (the good and the bad).

Ask yourself… as a writer, could you stop writing right now? Could you imagine your life without the characters, without the several notebooks gracing your coffee table filled with your words?

You couldn’t. So was giving up ever an option? Hasn’t it improved your life?

No, I’m not referring to the pile of laundry sitting in the corner, the kids eating frozen pizza for the third straight day in a row, or the cats meowing for attention. Those things do fall to the wayside but the love you feel for writing is more than just a job. It’s a lifestyle.

So are you a writer? Have you made that commitment to yourself? Do you need help jumping on the motivation train?

Here are some tips:

Start a journal – write what you feel. How was your day? Who did you pass? Even the most unsuspecting person can be interesting. When picking up your coffee did you notice anyone in particular? The more you notice your surroundings the more you can relate to your future characters.

Be creative – Are you one who follows a daily routine? If you want to embrace your inner writer do something that makes you think outside the box. I love museums but never go to them. When I make a point to visit them new feelings erupt. New emotions take place. I feel something that might be useful in the future.

Read – Don’t know what genre you want to write in yet? Who cares! Pick up a book. Read the novel and think about why you like the characters. Is it because they relate to you? Because you wish you could stand up to someone? Wish you felt that kind of love. Make notes on why you like those characters. They’ll become useful later.

Write – Prompts are great. They teach you to think for yourself. Create your voice.

Go on. Start to write. Learn the process. Embrace every moment, the good and the bad. After all, giving up was never an option.

Jen Daiker writes humorous women’s fiction, where cupcakes and cocktails are always on the menu. She’s spends way too much time on Twitter and can be found on her blog Unedited.

Monday, July 25, 2011

O Itchy Trigger Finger

Twitter is full of #pubtips and #querytips. Oftentimes you find yourself laughing because the writer has forgotten to treat his or her writing like a business, but this time I found myself wincing for the writer:

Why are we writing? Because we have to tell a story. Something inside us is clawing to escape, so we give it faces and names, we create high stakes and protagonists and antagonists, and we craft a world around those people, and we consign far too much of our grey matter over to solving the problems of imaginary people (and, it must be admitted, to making their problems worse. Sorry, my beloved characters. But it's true.)

It makes sense that any story which compels us to lose sleep, distracts us during conversations with our families, and leaves us wondering when we last ate a meal would be something we're eager to talk about. How are you doing, Jane? Great! I'm up to thirty-two thousand words, and the love interest just said something that made my protagonist thinks he dislikes her brownies! Except he really loves them and now he's going to wonder why she's stopped making them. Oh, and I thought of the perfect word to describe the Brooklyn Bridge in daylight.

(You've done it too. Don't look so innocent.)

But it's not enough to tell your story to the nice lady on the bus who turned down her hearing aid and got off three stops early. You know everyone will love your story. It needs to be published. You're only halfway through the first draft and you already envision the cover. You know which page of the book review section it's going to be on and you're thinking of your Amazon keywords and coming up with interview answers for when you're on NPR. The only things left to do are find an agent and a publisher.

You want to query.

You aren't even done yet. But you want to query. Because it's so good.

All the agents say only query a finished novel. But you've heard they take a while to respond. Surely you'll be done by then. What's the harm?

Well, don't. Disconnect your internet connection if you have to, but don't.

When you query too soon, you lose an opportunity. Every agent who looks at your manuscript in an unready condition is one agent who will not be seeing it six months later when it's "really ready." And you can't requery with, "You know, I actually edited it this time, so I was wondering--"

You lose an opportunity every time an agent requests a full and you don't have a full. You lose an opportunity whenever an agent rejects a draft that lacks the depth the next version will have. When an agent turns down something that wasn't your best work, you've lost the chance for that agent to see how compelling your best work can be.

Is the manuscript unfinished? Don't query.

Is the manuscript unedited? Don't query.

Your beta-readers haven't gotten back to you yet? The perfect song hit the Top 40 and you want it for the closing credits of the movie? You can't imagine anyone turning down your story? You just want to test the waters and see if anyone's interested? Please, please, don't query.

Trust me, I've felt that itchy trigger finger. I've sat on a manuscript I thought would blow the whole world wide open. I know the pressure of wanting it out there right now. I'm betting most writers know it.

It was reportedly said at the Battle of Bunker Hill, "Don't fire until you can see the whites of their eyes." Imagine facing an army of soldiers who intend to kill you. You've got powder in your gun. They're coming closer. You're sure you could hit one if you fired now. They're even closer. Your commander has told you to wait. But they're so near.

Objects in your query field seem closer than they are. That's all I can tell you. Publishing is not a fast industry; the publishers and agents will still be here tomorrow, or in six months. (Note: if they all go away in six months, querying early won't have mattered anyway.)  You get one (1) chance to impress an agent with this manuscript, and your story deserves the best you can give it to make that chance a positive for both you and the agent. Deserves to be finished, to be edited, to be critiqued. Deserves to rest and be re-edited, possibly rewritten.

Don't query until you can see the whites of their eyes doesn't have the same ring, but don't let your itchy trigger finger hit "send" too soon. You love your novel. Others will love it too. First it needs your time.

Jane Lebak is the author of The Guardian (Thomas Nelson, 1994), Seven Archangels: Annihilation (Double-Edged Publishing, 2008) and The Boys Upstairs (MuseItUp, 2010). At Seven Angels, Four Kids, One Family, she blogs about what happens when a distracted daydreamer and a gamer geek attempt to raise four children. She is represented by the riveting Roseanne Wells of the Marianne Strong Literary Agency.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Publishing Pulse: 7/22/2011

Around the Internet This Week

Following the sad news that Borders is liquidating, Jane Friedman points us to 4 different angles on where bookstores will be in the future.

Rachelle Gardner gives you tips on both Crafting Your Elevator Pitch and delivering it.

Fuel Your Writing has a fun post on writerly work spaces. What's yours like?

Have trouble Dealing with Criticism? And Donald Maass offers tips on which critiquers to listen to most carefully.

Trying to decide whether you should become an active blogger? The Urban Muse looks at the pros and cons.

If you're on Google+, here are a few tips for writers.

Another blogger, Mary Robinette Kowal, offers advice on how to set up a Google+  writers hangout.

And finally, Debbie Ohi has been collecting huge lists of literary folks on Google+.

Have a great weekend!

Carolyn Kaufman, PsyD's book, THE WRITER'S GUIDE TO PSYCHOLOGY: How to Write Accurately About Psychological Disorders, Clinical Treatment, and Human Behavior helps writers avoid common misconceptions and inaccuracies and "get the psych right" in their stories. You can learn more about The Writer's Guide to Psychology, check out Dr. K's blog on Psychology Today, or follow her on Facebook or Google+!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Melodrama Isn't a Four Letter Word: Guest Post by Deborah Halverson

We are thrilled today to be joined by editor Deborah Halverson. She is the founder of the well-known Dear Editor site as well as a former editor with Harcourt. Her most recent publication is Writing Young Adult Fiction for Dummies.

*Ms. Halverson has generously offered to give one of our QT followers a copy of Writing Young Adult Fiction for Dummies. The details of how to win are at the end of the post.

Melodrama Isn't a Four Letter Word
Deborah Halverson

So, you’re a Thirty-Something writing a teen novel, and you want your narrative voice to sound convincingly youthful. That’s an outstanding goal. A believable voice makes all the difference in the success of a manuscript. But how do you actually do it? The answer might surprise you. It may go against every rule you’ve ever learned about writing good fiction. It might actually make you shudder. The answer is . . . you need to channel a key element of the teen persona: melodrama.

“No! No!” you cry, throwing back your head and draping your forearm across your brow. “Not (*gasp*) melodrama.” Indeed, every writing instructor who ever lived has marked up countless margins with the red-inked words “Not believable—too melodramatic.” I often penned it myself as an editor, first for a major publisher, and now freelance. And with good reason. Melodrama is exaggerated emotions. Melodrama is indicative of stereotypical characters and a lack of tension in your plot. Melodrama is hokey and makes readers think, “Oh, gimme a break. No one would say that in real life.” Melodrama is a no-no.

Or is it? Those are all good points, no doubt about. But they aren’t the be-all, end-all, either. Melodrama isn’t always bad. In the case of teens, melodrama is real.

Think about it—with a teen, things aren’t bad, they “suck, big time.” And Big Brother doesn’t get mad, he “freaks out.” And don’t forget the classic, “He’s gonna kill me!” Teens don’t self-analyze, they just react. They are all about exaggerated emotions and grandiose notions of self. The world revolves around them, doesn’t it? They certainly don’t analyze their treatment of their friends and come to sophisticated judgments like, “I was curt, even to Melanie.” They say, “I even ripped into Melanie for no good reason. Some friend I am. Here, Mel, let me shove you off a cliff while I’m at it. God, I can be such a jerk.”

Your preferred narrative voice might not be that colloquial, of course. You might be going for a more formal feel, with the terms “gonna” and “ripped into” and “freaked out” far from your word bank. But your character’s situation will be the same. The words and phrases you choose must suggest a grandiose view of that situation, its extent, its implications, and its impact on the protagonist herself. Teens tend to see themselves as the center of the universe, and their judgments stem from that. One aspect of your protagonist’s internal journey will involve the maturing process, with her learning through the course of the book that the world does not, in fact, revolve around her. She’ll see that what she does affects others, and that what others do isn’t necessarily about her. So, okay, maybe Big Brother won’t actually kill her.

Cracking the door open for teen melodrama does not mean you’re throwing that door wide for stereotypical characters or hokey dialogue. You still need to support your characters with a strong plot filled with tension that stems from high stakes. You can’t let everything lie flat and just count on melodrama to add all the excitement—that’s what’s given melodrama its bad name. Wield melodrama as but one tool in your belt, the one that will add a youthful outlook to your narrative voice.

Teens can smell a poser a hundred yards out. Melodrama is your ticket to crafting a believably young voice. It’s about overreacting to the situation, sounding way too dramatic for the events at hand—and that’s pretty much a definition of the teen experience, isn’t it? You’re absolutely right to want the narrative voice in your teen novel to sound convincingly young. Let the things that happen to your teen protagonist rattle her cage, big time. Let her be melodramatic about them, let her judge herself and others harshly, erroneously, and/or quickly. Inject a little melodrama into your character’s personality . . . you’ll sound decades younger in no time.

Deborah Halverson is the award-winning author of Writing Young Adult Fiction For Dummies and the teen novels Honk If You Hate Me and Big Mouth. Armed with a masters in American Literature, Deborah edited picture books and teen novels for Harcourt Children’s Books for ten years before leaving to write full-time. She is a frequent speaker at writers conferences and a writing teacher for groups and institutions including UCSD’s Extension Program. Deborah is also the founder of the popular writers’ advice website DearEditor.com and freelance edits fiction and non-fiction for both published authors and writers seeking their first book deals. For more about Deborah, check out her website DeborahHalverson.com.

*To enter to win a copy of Ms. Halverson's book, Writing Young Adult Fiction For Dummies, leave a comment below. The winner will be contacted by email on Monday, July 25th. Links to more posts by Ms. Halverson and other chances to win her book can be found here

Monday, July 18, 2011

What Are Your Goals Up To Lately?

In my former life, I was a drug rep. Each December, the sales group for my territory would get together to figure out our business plans for the following year. Welcome to my start as a fiction writer. None of us liked writing these things. Fortunately, my teammates didn’t care what I wrote down. They just wanted to be out on territory. So, while they were out freezing their butts off (I live in Canada, in case you’re wondering), I created some impressive plans for the upcoming year. What can I say? I love creative writing.
Turns out I wasn’t the only budding fiction writer in the company. Eventually (like five years later), head office clued in that the business plans were boarding more on fantasy than reality. The result was a mid-year review to make sure we were following through with our goals.
As you may remember, the Querytracker.net blog had a post back in January on writing goals. The aim wasn’t to come up with resolutions that would be broken within a few weeks. It was a chance to figure out what you want to achieve this year in a realistic manner.
Well, it’s time to revisit them and see if you’re still on track, or see if things need to be tweaked. That’s right. Just because you said you were going to accomplish A, B, and C doesn’t mean you cannot change your goals to A, D, and E.
Say, for example, you wrote that you were going to query your novel, land an agent, and said agent would sell your book. Maybe you achieved your first two goals, but although your book came close to being sold, in the end you didn’t achieve the third goal (which is why it probably wasn’t the best goal to begin with). However, since there’s a lot of buzz about self-publishing lately, you’ve decided that it might be a viable option for you. Now you need to change your goals for the remainder of the year:
  1. Investigate the realities of self-publishing (especially for your given genre). Some genres (e.g. romance) are thriving in e-publishing; whereas, others are not doing so well in that format. E-published books are selling, but not to the same extent as in romance. This might affect your decision on self-publishing, or how you’re going to achieve it.
  2. Research the time, work, and expensive involved. Is it something that still interests you after you discover how difficult and time consuming it might be? Or does the idea of doing the work leave you feeling dizzy, in a positive way?
  3. Study all you can about marketing and social networking.
  4. Create a business plan. Sorry, no fiction writing here if you want your book to succeed. Trust me on this one. You only have yourself to impress.
As you can see, this is a very different set of goals from the original ones. For the next step, figure out a time frame in which you want to achieve each goal, and pick another date (maybe in three months) to make sure you’re still on track. Do you need to tweak them (because after doing #1, you’ve decided you don’t want to self-publish the book after all)? Or have you let your plans slide, and you are now behind schedule?
Remember, this was just an example. Maybe your plan is to work on a different project than what was laid out in your goals at the beginning of the year. Maybe you want to improve your craft so you are no longer receiving form rejections. Or maybe you’ve decided that you want to write short stories and novellas, and establish your name before returning to your original goal of writing a novel. The main thing is to change your goals to something that you can live with and is achievable. And do it now, rather than waiting until January 2012.
Any questions or suggestions?

Stina Lindenblatt writes romantic suspense and young adults novels. In her spare time, she’s a photographer and blogging addict, and can be found hanging out on her blog, Seeing Creative.  

Friday, July 15, 2011

Publishing Pulse: 7/15/2011

With the advent of Google+, along with Facebook, Twitter, Blogging, and other social networking sites, it's easy to get overwhelmed. Author Jonathan Fields discusses technology and the death of creativity.

Agent Jessica Faust discusses re-querying and what to do when you have an offer.

Agent Rachelle Gardner shares some secrets for great pitches as well as explaining why agents don't explain why they say no.

On Agent Mary Kole's blog, she has a guest post discussing alternative plot types.

Editor Alan Rinzler talks about trusting your reader and gives some tips on strategic tweeting for authors.

Have a great weekend!

Danyelle writes MG and YA fantasy. In her spare time, she collects dragons, talking frogs, and fairy godmothers. She can be found discussing the art of turning one's characters into various animals, painting with words, and the best ways to avoid getting eaten by dragons on her blog. Her serial novel THE FAIRY GODMOTHER DILEMMA can be found here. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Are You Passionate About Your Stories?

Have you stamped your pages with your passion?

There are two ways to write a book. One, you can think about the kind of story you would love to read and then write it, or two, you can try to figure out what you think the public  wants, and write that.  Now, I know that there are writers out there who use the latter strategy and I’m sure they’ve done fine with it, but following your passion is a lot more fun (and in the long run, probably more lucrative)!

Once in a while people ask me what kinds of stories I write, and I can tell they’re waiting for me to say I’m working on the Great American Novel – something Steinbeck or Faulker or DeLillo. I have to tell you the truth. I don’t even feel a little bit bad telling them that I wouldn’t write the Great American Novel if I could. You know why? Because it’s not my passion.

I got an English degree in college, so I spent a lot of time reading great works of literature, but they aren’t what got me really excited. Which is not to say there is anything wrong with them, or with loving them. They just weren’t my proverbial cup of tea. I was off drooling over Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire (this was back before vampires were cool), Stephen King’s The Shining (still an all-time favorite book), and wishing I had as many cool ideas as Phillip K. Dick had in his left thumb. These days I’m also loving all the great urban fantasy stories steaming up the endcaps in bookstores everywhere.

I’m the same way with movies and TV.  I love the big-budget blockbusters like Aliens and Gladiator and Inception. So that’s the kind of story I aspire to write.

So what’s your passion?  Maybe you're like me, and you aspire to be a "hack" half as good as Stephen King, or maybe your passion is literature in a YA paranormal market. (Or maybe you're really lucky and your passion matches the market right now!) Regardless, if you’re not chomping-at-the-bit excited about your characters and your story and the world you’ve created, you need to step back and figure out what you really love, and why you aren’t feeling it in this particular story. One way to identify what you’re passionate about in fiction is to list your favorite books and movies.  What do they have in common? Are those things finding their way into your stories?

Sometimes people get excited about a particular type of fiction, but they’re afraid they won’t be able to pull it off.  I understand that feeling. I was the kid that saved the best pictures in the coloring book for later, when I was better at coloring.  And then one day I realized that life is not about doing everything perfectly – it’s about doing it passionately!  It’s about daring to try what matters most, and figuring you’ll learn important lessons from your mistakes along the way.

So how about you? How do you put your passions into your stories?

Carolyn Kaufman, PsyD's book, THE WRITER'S GUIDE TO PSYCHOLOGY: How to Write Accurately About Psychological Disorders, Clinical Treatment, and Human Behavior helps writers avoid common misconceptions and inaccuracies and "get the psych right" in their stories. You can learn more about The Writer's Guide to Psychology, check out Dr. K's blog on Psychology Today, or follow her on Facebook!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Productive Arguing

Don't take this the wrong way, but I suggest you argue with your critics.

I've been involved in critique groups since I was twelve. I've critiqued and been critiqued; I've organized critique groups. I've been in classes that worked and classes that didn't, and it's my opinion that where critique works best is where there's a certain degree of argument on the part of the author. But it has to be the right kind of argument.

First let's cover the wrong kind, since it's easier (and funnier) and you've probably been on the receiving end. (Maybe, if you care to admit it, you've done it yourself.)

Nonproductive arguing is when someone points out a flaw in your manuscript, and you fire back with, "Okay, you may feel that way, but that's not what it's really like. I meant to do that. This wasn't a problem for anyone else, and I think it's perfectly fine."

Do that and I guarantee you two things. First that your manuscript won't improve, and secondly that you'll be beating the pavement looking for another beta-reader.

The sad fact is that just because you intended to do something (and even worked hard at it) doesn't mean it works in your manuscript. I've been on the other end of that kind of defensive critiquing, and when I realized 45 minutes of our critique session's hour were taken up with this writer defending the work rather than listening to the criticisms, I shifted to a position of "State it once and then let the writer blow steam at me." Shortly thereafter, I left the group.

But there's a productive way to argue with your critique, and it's not to defend. It's to let the work defend itself.

First, while you're receiving your critique, make sure you stay utterly quiet. You take notes, or if it's over email, you just read. You get the whole thing in without responding. (Mary has suggested putting the critique in the freezer.) You judge for yourself whether this person is working to make your piece better and if you're a good match for one another. Assuming both are true, you can then proceed to argue.

And you do that without the person in the room. You sit in front of your manuscript and you look at the changes this person wants you to make, and you ask yourself how the manuscript itself responds to this particular criticism.

Why yes, I was the woman sitting at her computer desk yelling at the marked-up manuscript, "Are you blind? Were you reading the same story I was? Because that information is in there!" But in order to do that, I had to make sure the information really was in there. Sometimes you discover mid-holler that it's not. (Oops. And then won't you be glad you didn't argue in public?)

It's the same with comments about character, setting, dialogue: listen to the criticism. Evaluate the manuscript and let the manuscript defend itself. If the manuscript can't, tackle the change, even if you don't change it in precisely the suggested fashion.

Whenever I edit for someone, I send them a caveat: that their ideal response is not to say "Yes, ma'am" and make every change I suggest. I'd much rather they say, "Jane, you are full of hooey, and if you'll look at the manuscript, you'll note the following reason why."  Or even better, "Yes, that's a problem, but I have a better way to fix it."  That way, the writer fully owns her own manuscript.

Three days ago, while responding to my agent's comments on one of my manuscripts, I started replying to one suggestion in the negative. She has a razor-sharp editorial mind. She'd pointed out an unfortunately large "expository lump" and said it needed to be broken down, and possibly moved. In my email, I started typing something like this:
Yes, I understand this is a lot of exposition, but it has to be in the manuscript by this point so the reader understands what happens on the next page. If it's moved, it would have to be earlier rather than later, and I can't think of anywhere we'd move it to. The only possible way to do it would be to put this information in the dialogue of--
That is the point at which I highlighted my entire response and deleted it. I went into the manuscript, cut the expository lump, and went back into the opening scene to put it in the mouth of that character; the character not only presented the information but also gave us a much better understanding of his personality in the process. The manuscript is improved in multiple ways, and only because I "argued" with my critic.

And in arguing, realized she was right.

Go ahead and argue. Just make sure you argue effectively.

Jane Lebak is the author of The Guardian (Thomas Nelson, 1994), Seven Archangels: Annihilation (Double-Edged Publishing, 2008) and The Boys Upstairs (MuseItUp, 2010). At Seven Angels, Four Kids, One Family, she blogs about what happens when a distracted daydreamer and a gamer geek attempt to raise four children. She is represented by the riveting Roseanne Wells of the Marianne Strong Literary Agency.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Publishing Pulse: July 8th, 2011

Querytracker.net Success Stories
Steve Cordero     

Around the Blogosphere
Author Roni Loren shared some suggestions on how to avoid overediting your manuscript due to critiques. Sometimes too much of a good thing will kill what editors are looking for:  raw talent in your voice.
Getting ready to pitch your project at an upcoming conference? Be sure to check out these nine tips from the Pitch University. There are also nine links to help your pitch really sparkle.
If you have an agent but are looking at self-publishing your book, here’s one agent’s view on the situation.

Author Nathan Bransford talked about why you might be receiving rejections on your query. Agent Rachelle Gardner also weighed in on this topic.

Agent Janet Reid presented notes from the Thrillerfest workshop by Mark Tavani: Forget Your Weaknesses; Attack Your Strengths.  

Here’s some advice from Pimp My Novel on what to do during the summer slowdown in the publishing world.

Writer Resources

One of the best resources for fiction writers that I’ve found on the internet is the The Bookshelf Muse. It contains user friendly thesauruses for emotions, settings, symbolism, weather, and character traits.

Stina Lindenblatt writes romantic suspense and young adults novels. In her spare time, she’s a photographer and blogging addict, and can be found hanging out on her blog, Seeing Creative 

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Power of "I Can"

Courtesy of sundstrom
Writing professionally can often be a daunting task. It isn't enough to have an incredible idea, you have to be able to pull it off too. And learning how to pull it off well enough to create a story strong enough to stand on its own can take years.

And then there's the time that you have to invest. Time to write. Time to revise. Rewrite. Edit. Polish. Rinse and repeat. The number of people who would like to have written a novel far exceed the number of people who have written. Discipline can be a very hard thing--especially when there's no guarantee that you'll ever receive anything from the story you've written beyond the satisfaction of having started at the beginning and gone on until you got to the end.

And that's just the writing part.

To write professionally, you also have to be willing to take care of the business end. Part of that is keeping current with the market and trends by reading. Another part is the need to keep improving. You can do this multiple ways: conferences (both in person and online), taking classes, having a crit group, beta reading, studying from books on writing, spending time analyzing the writing from the books you read as well as the books you write. 

And then there's the part of business where you have to put yourself out there. This can be through social networking (blogs, Twitter, Facebook, forums, Tumblr, etc.), library readings, signings, professional presentations (school visits, etc.), and touring. 

That's a lot to juggle, and it's no wonder that writers, as a whole, can sometimes be a little . . . unbalanced.

So what do you do when you look at the mountain ahead of you?

It's a long road. There are only a few guard rails, and you're not sure you brought enough food and water. In fact, you're almost positive you didn't bring enough supplies, because when you signed up for the hike, you had no idea how long and hard the trail would be. (And everyone's trail has it's own difficulties, whether we see them or not.)

What do you do when Doubt starts to seep into your skin, making everything heavier, harder?

Because Doubt is one of the companions you can count on showing up during this hike. It's always there, sometimes loud and sometimes quiet, whispering in your ear. It asks you if you really think you can do this in that sweet, solicitious way that makes it clear that it doesn't believe you can. It reminds you of all the ways you've failed in the past, and are likely to fail in the future. It asks you what the point is, since you're never going to be good enough, and people probably won't read you anyway. (And it never fails to point out the epirical evidence staring at you in the form of rejections from agents and editors. But the thing to remember is that you have those rejections because you're doing something to attain your dream. People who don't get rejected, haven't really tried.)

So what do you do when the desire to create is a tiny flame in the center of your being, but all of this rests heavy on your shoulders?

This is where the power of "I can" comes in. 

So often, we writers obsess over the things we have no control over. We can't control whether an agent will like our query or our novel. We can't control whether a publisher will pick us up. We can't control how many copies a bookstore will purchase. And we can't control how many people will buy our books.

But there are some things we can do.

We can continue to improve. We can cultivate humility while we learn--this will be very helpful when we succeed and when we read our reviews. We can help others along the way. We can polish and shine our manuscripts until they glow.

We can take that first step.

Everyone's journey is different, because no one writes in exactly the same way. Sometimes, in order to take that first step, we have to forget about the summit of the mountain and focus on the "I can" in front of us. I can sit down and write today. (A goal usually helps--either time or word count.) I can sit down and write tomorrow. That's something you can repeat until you get all the way to the end. 

And then it's time for a different step. I can sit down and revise today. It may only be a page, but that's one page closer to a polished manuscript than you began with when you woke up.

It's so easy to get bogged down in all the ways Things Could Go Wrong and I Could Fail to Succeed, that I think sometimes we forget what we should be focusing on is the "I can's" of our journey.

Sometimes it will be all you can do to get 250 words written, but don't ever underappreciate what you did there, because it all adds up. Take enough tiny steps, and you'll be scaling that mountain before you realize it.

Is the way easy? Sometimes. Is it hard? Sometimes. But so long as you keep moving, you'll make it eventually. The top of the mountain may not be what you thought it was, and it may not be what you envisioned when you first began your journey, but it will be your mountaintop. A victory in its own right.

What are some of your "I can's"?

Danyelle writes MG and YA fantasy. In her spare time, she collects dragons, talking frogs, and fairy godmothers. She can be found discussing the art of turning one's characters into various animals, painting with words, and the best ways to avoid getting eaten by dragons on her blog. Her serial novel THE FAIRY GODMOTHER DILEMMA can be found here. 

Friday, July 1, 2011

Publishing Pulse for July 1st, 2011

New At QueryTracker:

Six agent profiles were updated this week, including two closed to queries for the summer and one who has left agenting. Always, always, always check for the most recent information (both from QT and from the agent's website) before you query.

Publishing News:

ALA 2011 took place in New Orleans, where approximately 10,000 tweets were sent taking about everything from the food to the panels. (No, I don't have a citation for that. I probably saw it on Twitter.) Meanwhile, New York City hosted RWA 2011. 

In ebooks, 3M announced their ebook lending program, while Overdrive announced enhancements to theirs.

JK Rowling has announced Pottermore, a free, collaborative website for the HPverse with exclusive material that hadn't appeared in the published books, as well as plans for ebook and digital audiobook distribution.  

Around the Blogosphere:

A writer discusses reading slush for Angry Robot books.

Kathleen Ortiz talks about what goes into a good writer website.

A discussion of "spoiler culture" and how it affects writing.

Agent Ginger Clark discusses why different countries will use different book covers for the same book.

Literary Quote of the Week:

The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there, written in invisible ink and clamoring to become visible.  ~Vladimir Nabakov

Jane Lebak is the author of The Guardian (Thomas Nelson, 1994), Seven Archangels: Annihilation (Double-Edged Publishing, 2008) and The Boys Upstairs (MuseItUp, 2010). At Seven Angels, Four Kids, One Family, she blogs about what happens when a distracted daydreamer and a gamer geek attempt to raise four children. She is represented by the riveting Roseanne Wells of the Marianne Strong Literary Agency.