Friday, December 31, 2010

The Awesome of 2011 (in advance)

File:Crystal Clear app lists.png

Confession: I love lists. 

A lot.

So New Year's Resolutions? They are definitely in my top-five list of Best Lists Ever.

But since I've already covered New Year's Resolutions on my personal writing blog, here I'm going to post a list of things I'm looking forward to in 2011.

The Awesome of 2011 (in advance)

1. The second annual WriteOnCon kidlit writer's conference. (Online and free. It just doesn't get better than that!)

2. The LDS Storymaker's conference. Elana Johnson will be there talking queries. Also, Storyfix's Larry Brooks and two amazing agents, Sara Crowe and Sara Megibow. With two little kids, it's going to be tricky, but I'm really hoping to attend this one.

3. Operation Awesome's own Michelle McLean has a book coming out in January 2011. Homework Helpers: Essays and Term Papers kick starts the year with some pure awesome! She'll have some games and prizes on her blog very soon.

4. I hesitate to list a few for fear of leaving a million other great ones out, but what the heck! POSSESSION, ACROSS THE UNIVERSE, and SCORE are all YA debut novels coming out in 2011! (Please list ones I've missed in the comments so we can get excited about them as well.)

5. Another amazing year of interviews, writing tips, commiseration, and Mystery Agent goodness at Operation Awesome.

How about you? What's got you squee-ing for the New Year?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Work It Out!

It's time to get into shape.

At least that's what the fitness DVD display told me yesterday. I exercise, but the sight of those new fitness regimes made made me roll my eyes and go buy a soft pretzel. Then I started to think. As the New Year approaches we make plans for getting our bodies back into shape, but what about toning our writing?

I won't go over the whole 'this is what you need to trim' thing. You're all awesome enough to know about that kind of stuff already. But I do have a few tips for a leaner, meaner MS. It's not the full 'go for it' workout, but small steps work. And, unlike a tough workout, there won't be any painful muscle cramps the next day. Yay!

Start slow with a warm up of spell checking.

Raise your heart rate by deleting some adverbs. Those little blighters like to cling to the hips of your MS. Not all adverbs are bad (like fats), but streamlining them will give your paragraphs a leaner look.

Tighten by omitting redundant words/phrases. Flex your muscles to reduce blow-by-blow action, adjectives, and dialogue tags.

Cool down with a hard copy read. It is amazing how many errors, weird phrases, and word choices pop out at you when you read from paper.

There are lots of other ways to trim the fat from your MS. So tell me, how do you trim yours?

P.S. Katrina is having an awesome New Year's Revision Blog Party over on her blog. Feel free to join the fun.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

My New Year's Resolution is......

(drum roll)


Absolutely Nothing.

I don't know about you all, but in the past I've made these so-called resolutions and pretty much failed within a month or so. OR, I forgot I made them, then when the year rolls around, I'm like, "oh yeah!" and I realize that I've failed pitifully. I'm a flake like that, I'm afraid. I'm pretty good with deadlines, goals that others impose on me. But when I make them myself....well, I guess I know I'm a pushover.

So instead of New Year goals, I plan to focusing on improving myself, all year long. Day by day. Step by small step. In my writing. In my housework. In my organization at life. And  hopefully, this time next year I will feel good about what I've accomplished, and not feel ashamed that I didn't meet some start of year goal.

Cause, in all honesty, shouldn't we have that same type of attitude every day, instead of waiting until the calendar year ticks around?

Monday, December 27, 2010

3 Reasons Why Your Internal Editor Sucks

*waves hello* Hope ya'll had an awesome Christmas!! And got TONS AND TONS of awesome presents!! Feel free to send some my way in case you didn't like them or anything :D

So. Last Monday, I blogged about 3 reasons why your Internal Editor rocks. As promised, today I'm defending the counterargument.

Ladies and gents, I give you...


1) You try to do too much all at once

Main Character has to get from Point A to Point B in a span of twenty chapters. You start mapping out each event as you go, or you outline before diving into the first draft. If Internal Editor steps in once you do start writing, everything might fall into place perfectly--your ending will make sense because you've secured coherence along the way. BUT Internal Editor wants everything to be perfect on Round One. Every. Single. Detail must be clear. Your writing must be lyrical/cynical/awesome, therefore your main focus becomes the novel as a whole. By doing this, you might give yourself a heart attack--tackling everything at the same time in one draft can be exhausting. Sure, it might be easier to revise a manuscript that has everything in its rightful place in just one try, but you have to be certain you can handle the pressure of being 150% aware of setting/mood/tone/character development/structure/pacing/voice all in one sitting.  Are you up for that challenge?
 2) You don't move ahead until Internal Editor says you can

Let's say Point A is sucking hard. You stop working on Other Events and make sure Point A rocks as much as possible. But what if the answer isn't as clear as you thought it was? A nice little session of brainstorming is in store, right? Well, what if during that brainstorming session, ideas for those Other Events come to life? And Point A can't seem to make any sense, no matter how hard you think about fixing it? Internal Editor might tell Other Events to take a hike until you figure out Point A. You will not type a single word of anything else. Period. To me, that's like putting your creative juices in a coma. Writing stops being fun and spontaneous and mind-blowingly great. It becomes stressful. All because Internal Editor wants everything to be perfect.

3) Writing becomes You vs. Internal Editor, not You and Internal Editor sitting in a tree

This is a direct result of reason #2. Most people expect the first draft to be messy. It's up to you to decide the degree of "messy" it is. Or is it? Internal Editor says "messy" is a curse word. How obscene of you to even think about writing scenes out of order, or experimenting with POV, or not delving too deeply into world-building on Round One *gasp* When you let Internal Editor in, your instincts might get a little jealous. They're being left out of the party. And whenever they try to go back in, Internal Editor slaps their wrists and says, "Excuse me, I am BETTER than you and you are uber-stupid." Or, you know, something along those lines... Point is, you might start a war with yourself. One no first draft should be subjected to. Mistakes are allowed on Round One, aren't they? Well, don't be afraid to make them. There's nothing wrong with listening to your gut, even if it makes zero sense. You get to worry about sense later on. That's what draft two/three/four/onethousand is for.

So there you go. Internal Editors can rock or suck. In order to stay mentally sane, you have to choose which team you're on, or find a balance between the two.

In the end, it's all up to you.

Now tell me: any other reasons why Internal Editors suck?

Sunday, December 26, 2010

It's That Time of Year Again

It's the day after Christmas, the year is drawing to an end, and it is inevitable that our focus begins to turn to the shiny new year waiting just around the corner. I've heard the phrase "New Year's Resolutions" bandied about frequently in the last several days. It's not a term I like much. Mostly because it feels like yet another to-do list I'm going to fail to accomplish.

So this year, I decided to make a Desire List instead....everything sounds better with the word "desire" in it....okay, maybe not EVERYTHING, but it certainly sounds better than "resolutions" which just makes me think of "requiem" for some reason, and that just isn't a fun word.

Anywho....what do I desire for next year? The usual, I be a better mom and wife, write some books, sell some books....and of course lose 10 (+ a few dozen and a few dozen more) pounds.

There are a lot more things I'd like to do, more goals to accomplish, but really, those are the big ones for me. Spend more time with my family....continue working on my writing career.

Or to simplify it even keep my focus on the big picture. 

I figure if I keep it simple and keep my focus narrowed on what's truly deep down important to me, maybe the stress of trying to keep up with everything else will lessen. Maybe I won't be so hard on myself when my blogging fizzles. Maybe I won't feel so guilty if I spend a few extra minutes with my kids instead of on a manuscript. Maybe I'll let my exhausted body rest instead of staying up till the wee hours of the morning plugging away on some project or other.

Maybe. :)

I think too often we allow ourselves to get so overstretched and engrossed in whatever million projects we've got going on that we forget to focus on the big picture, the main goal, the one thing we really, truly want. We allow the details to swamp us until we forget the goal we were working toward in the first place.

Lindsay mentioned Pointilism in her awesome post a few days's sort of like that....We get so focused on the dots we don't see the larger pictures. Are the individual dots important? You betcha. Without them, there wouldn't be a larger picture. But if you spend all your time staring at those dots, you'll never see the masterpiece they form.

So, next year, I'm going to try to focus on the masterpiece, and spend a little less time stressing over the dots. :)

How about you? What's on your Desire List for the new year?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Rejection and Persistence

As agents and editors clear their in-boxes ahead of publishing's long winter's nap, we writers debate whether it's better to be rejected before the holidays, darkening holiday spirits, or after, kicking off the new year with a kick in the pants. Neither is much fun, and neither is in our control as writers.

So what is in our control? How we react to rejection. And thus I present posts from two wise women:

Dealing With Rejection, from agent Mary Kole

Will All Good Writers Be Published?, from agent Rachelle Gardner

I didn't find either post particularly cheering, but they are thought-provoking during this time for taking stock and looking forward. Someday I hope to become a Jedi master, able to stare editors in the face and say, "This is the book you're looking for. You want to offer a six-figure pre-empt immediately."

Until then, my sticking point with the competence breakdown is between the stages of Conscious Competence and Unconscious Competence. All we can do as writers is work to improve our craft -- revising, editing, improving, reading, beginning new stories. I have to think that most published writers become published while in the Conscious Competence stage.

Of course, it's also true that many Consciously Competent writers produce good books in this stage that will never see a bookshelf. And that, my friends, is what drives us crazy.

What are your thoughts on rejection? On stages of competence? Where are you?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Be Creative. Make Mistakes.

                "Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep."
                                                                                                                          (Scott Adams)

One of the other creative things I do, other than writing, is drawing. There's something about a blank piece of paper that makes me smile. It can be what I want it to be. I can mould the image to reflect what's in my mind. When I studied art at school, the teacher told us never to be afraid to make mistakes. Mistakes can be erased, painted over. Heck, even artists like Vincent van Gogh used to paint over their canvases and start again.

But mistakes are also lessons. Without mistakes how do we know what works and what doesn't?

Look at Pointillism. Up close it's a mass of dots, but stand back and the image takes shape.

(Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, 1884-1886. Georges Seurat)

Art critics coined the term Pointillism to make fun of the technique. They thought it was a mistake. Now those paintings are some of the most visited works of art.

And writing is just like art.

We ready our canvas. Mix our words on the page. We delete to start over. We agonise over tiny sentences and words. We don't want to make a mistake. The mistake can ruin everything. Sometimes we just need to let the words flow. Creativity an writing is about discovery. Taking the story in places you never imagined.

So let creativity be your guide. Make mistakes. They can always be revised later. Who knows, one of them may end up being the most important dot in your word painting.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Flawless Writing?

I went to college for music. That was, of course, a while ago now. But one thing I learned as a musician, is that when one practices, it is important not to practice something wrong. Once one practices the wrong note, or technique or whatever, it is much harder to move past it than if one were to get it right the first time. I'm sure the same can be said for athletes or anything else that requires a skill.

I went to a face painting class recently. The instructor told us about the time she had lunch with a member of Cirque du Soleil
She told us that they practice a performance for two years before they actually bring it to stage. She also told us that he used a philosophy called flawless practicing (or something along that line, I don't remember exactly what it was called).

The man was a juggler. When he creates a new routine, he starts with only one ball. He practices that one ball until he can do it with his eyes closed. Only then does he add a second, and then a third. His routine is perfect when it is done. In the last fifteen years, he's never dropped a ball.

So the instructor encouraged us to use flawless practicing of our brush strokes. To paint 100 tear drops in a row without making a mistakes. To aim for consistent accuracy. So when the time comes during a job (or performance) your painting doesn't suffer.

So, with that in mind, it got me to think about my writing. It kind of goes along with Amparo's post yesterday, about letting our internal editors in. If we plow though a manuscript, not caring of the words that come out, are we practicing to be bad writers?  Every time we do something, it reinforces that action. So is spewing out as many words as we can a good thing?

Now, I'm not saying that we need to hang on the same page, editing it over and over again. I've done that before, and it really doesn't help complete a manuscript. But it does have me thinking about what does come out when I write. Perhaps I should focus on the quality of my words each day, instead of wordcount. In the long run, is writing muck just to get the draft done quickly going to help me grow in my craft?

Just some thoughts...

Monday, December 20, 2010

3 Reasons Why Your Internal Editor Rocks

So. Today I've got something for you NaNo doers. Or for those who just started working on a first draft *raises hand* There's tons of conflicting info regarding writers' internal editors. 

Write first, edit later vs. Edit while you go.

Well, I'm going to try to defend both points *cracks knuckles* Today we start with the Edit while you go approach. Here's the original post from my blog:


Yes, NaNo is still happening, folks. No, I'm still not participating. *hangs head in shame*

BUT I figured I'd take more precious blog space to talk about something people usually freak out over. 

The Internal Editor.

*cue girl shrieks from scary movies*

What is the Internal Editor? Well, it's just like regular people--it can either be your friend or your enemy. The reason? It tells you what to do. While you're working on Draft #1. Which is supposed to suck.

Internal Editor will stop you every once in a while, maybe every two pages or so, and go, "Yo! This scene blows big time, G!" Yes, Internal Editors can be from the ghetto :D 

Anyway, while some people shut their Editors off during the first draft, I'm here today to defend the opposite. 

Here's why:

1) Your word count... well... counts.

You have a goal to reach 2k in an hour (I hate you...). But during first drafts, you simply type whatever comes to mind without caring about the coherence/structure/awesomeness of what you're typing. You just want to meet that freakin' goal. But if Internal Editor steps in, you get the best of both worlds. You get to 2k, and every word counts. It's not fluff or boring or stupid. It makes sense for your story, and you'll be able to push forward with a better outlook on what's to come. 

2)  Your writing/story improves along the way.

The more you read your own work and spot weak writing, the sharper your skills get. Typos, info dumps, inconsistent characterization--you can catch it all while it's still hot, and take it out immediately. Also, your story's thread is kept intact. You don't go off course by simply writing for the sake of writing something. You keep track of what you want to convey, and force yourself to stay faithful to it. By doing so, you get a clearer view on what your acts should consist of, what the chapter/scene goals are, and how everything will lead up to that ever-important climax. Sounds like hard work, but it's not--you go little by little until there's a whole bunch of awesome at the end.

3) Less hair pulling after you type THE END.

Every draft needs to be edited after it's done. I don't care what anybody says. There's no such thing as a perfect first draft. *rolls eyes* Even if your Internal Editor works along the way, you still need to have other people read and critique your baby, as well as a pair of your own eyes in the freshest state possible. BUT if the Internal Editor has been pulling its weight along the ride, those revisions you're dreading will be less than the amount you would've endured without it. And what could be better than less work??

So. There you have it. Internal Editors rock.

What say you, blogging buddies? Do you let your I. E. out while you're drafting, or do you shut the door in its face?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Q and A with the Awesome Leah Clifford

We have an awesome treat for you today! The amazing Leah Clifford has stopped by the OA today for a little Question and Answer session :D

I first met Leah about three years ago on the then brand new forum. There were only a few of us back then and we formed a tight-knit group that is still one of my main sources for support and inspiration. We were all just starting out on our querying journeys back then, but it has always been evident that Leah has what it takes to be a rock star :) It has been a pure joy and thrill to see Leah find her incredible agent, Rosemary Stimola, and land an amazing three book deal.

Her first book, A Touch Mortal, will be coming in Winter 2011 from GreenWillow / HarperCollins.

Leah has offered to stop by throughout the day today and answer any questions that you might have. In fact, she said you can ask her ANYTHING, questions you might be afraid to ask another writer :) Bring ‘em on!!!

I asked Leah to tell us a bit about her book to get us started:

LC: This is a mishmash of my query and the PM announcement...

Death isn't what Eden expected. Where the hell is her release? Her quiet ending? Not that Eden remembers the details of her final hours, but one thing is for sure--becoming a Sider, trapped between life and death, was definitely not part of the plan...

For Eden, nothing seems to be coming easy. Somehow, word's gotten around that her power can kill her own kind. With desperate Siders already camping out on her doorstep, the last thing Eden needs is the rumor to spread. Especially since it's true...

When her ability pulls her into a feud between Fallen and Bound Angels, she'll have to figure out who to trust and get to the truth behind her death, even if the answers will alter heaven, hell and everything in-between.

MM: I cannot WAIT to read this book! :)

All right folks! Your turn! Leave your questions in the comments and Leah will stop by to answer them :)

Friday, December 17, 2010

Storyteller or Wordsmith?

Blacksmith removing rust with sand (or fairy dust, if you have any imagination)

Here's a thinker for you this Friday (Happy Friday, by the way, everyone!! Woot!):

Are you a storyteller or a wordsmith? 

I've noticed lately in my reading that some people truly excel at story, like Frank Baum of Wizard of Oz fame, or Rick Riordan of the Percy Jackson series; and others weave words like master artisans in the households of kings, like Libba Bray of Going Bovine and A Great and Terrible Beauty, or Gayle Forman of If I Stay, or my critique partners. ;) (Seriously, you guys are in for a real treat when any one of them breaks through the publishing bottleneck.)

Of course, it would be nice to have it all, but nobody starts out that way. That's why we call writing our craft.

So which part of our craft is your strong suit? Storytelling, with its plot structure, twists, and revelations? Or wordsmithing (how can that not be a real word?), with its heart-piercing phraseology and dew-from-heaven gloriousness?

It's an important question because the answer can tell you where you need to focus your practice. Me, for instance. I've got wordplay down to a hyphenated art. Okay not really, but I became a writer because people told me I write well, not because people said I come up with the most air-tight plots ever. So I fall in with the wordsmith lot. For me, this means my current focus has to be plot. And not just plot. Storytelling includes characterization and setting, so you can see I have my work cut out for me.

Knowing where my strengths lie as a writer gives me focus, but it also reminds me to allow myself a little failure in my weak areas. It's okay if my first draft is filled with plot holes. For me, revision is less about crafting perfect sentences and more about re-imagining the story... over and over again, until it all fits. And, of course, since this is my cross to bear I think storytelling is much harder than spinning beautiful phrases. Which is more difficult for you?

Now you know what to work on this weekend.

On that note, hop on over to my linky for the New Year's Revisions Blog Party. (You can totally cheat and write your revision goals before the 1st. I won't tell, if you don't.)

Psst! The OA blog circle is abuzz with excitement over Leah Clifford's new book, A TOUCH MORTAL. Michelle, Lindsay, and Amparo are all pimping it. The exciting news is that Leah will be HERE on the OA blog doing a Q&A about her upcoming book, her writing, whatever you think to ask, this SUNDAY!

Coming February 22, 2011

See you there!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Celebrating Rather Glumly

January is for New Year’s Revisions (and plain-old resolutions, for non-writers). December is for celebrating the past year, as YA writer Jennifer Walkup reminded me with her blog post yesterday.

So what did I accomplish? On the face of it, not much. I started the year on editorial sub and ended it unpublished and uncontracted. I didn’t get as much freelance writing work as I needed. I gained five pounds.

Still, there are things I did well. I finished a big revision of my last book that I’m proud of, so it can sit on the shelf looking pretty. I wrote and partly revised a new book that I like very much. I dipped my toe into getting involved in the writing community. I published a couple decent articles that keep my professional credentials current. Most importantly, I spent a year parenting my two wonderful little girls. I celebrate that every day.

Right now I’m waiting on feedback for my current novel, and whatever happens, I I’ll spend a good part of next year revising it. I’m confident I’ll write another novel too.

Other than that, who knows? I’m certain that there will be a lot of changes, probably ones I’ve been dreading (like leaving full-time parenting) and not the ones I’ve been wishing for (a book contract).

This post isn't as celebratory as Jenn's original post, but cheers anyway. Bring it on, 2011. I plan to.

What are you celebrating about 2010?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Query Sushi

Today finds me in baking land. With it being my goddaughter's 2nd birthday on Friday, I'm deep in baking a Mickey Mouse cake. So I bring you a fun post I had over on my blog. Now I need to check on Mickey's ears. Yes, my life is weird sometimes. :)

I did some early Christmas shopping with my friend in November. As a treat, since goddaughter was being babysat by my mum, we had lunch at Yo! Sushi.

For anyone who hasn't been before the idea is you sit in front of a conveyor belt and choose what you like from a selection of dishes. Each dish is colour/price coded. And you can order off a menu if you want something in particular.

(Image: Voucher Mum)

So I'm sat watching all the yummy dishes going round, waiting to be chosen and enjoyed, and I realised that this is the same as querying.

I imagine an agent is pretty much sat at the table looking at all these dishes going around. We know they have a huge number to choose from depending on their preferences, but they only have a short moment to make up their mind before they pass. What they choose could be different on any given day.

Just like what you pick from the sushi bar.

Some days all you see are California roll/urban fantasy and you want Katsu curry/dystopian YA.

But the agent could still pick your California roll query out if it looks appetising.

The job of the chef/writer is to make our dish/query stand out from all the others on offer.

So next time that 'I'm afraid this isn't a good fit for me' email pings in your inbox it just means the agent wanted a different dish that day.

One day an agent will pick your yummy California Roll/query off the conveyor belt.

It's just a matter of appetite.

*No sushi was harmed during the writing of this post. It did make me hungry though. :)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Book Necromancer

Image found here

For those of you who aren't fantasy geeks, a Necromancer is one that uses magic to raise the dead. I'm feeling a little bit like that today, me and my poor dead book. It's the book that I'd shopped with my agent. My trunk novel, so to speak.

I wrote a new opening chapter yesterday, just for kicks. And, I must say, I really like it a lot. It's an angle I'd never considered before, and it is my favorite opening yet. The idea popped into my head and I just couldn't help myself. My book Necromancer self kicked in.

Heck, I'm even considering entered it in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Competition (again).  I entered it last year after rewriting my whole novel for myself. I switched the book from third to first POV. I deleted several viewpoint characters. I took out chapters and added others. And I also embellished some elements to improve world building and improve the connection with my protagonist. However, after my book's resurrection and transformation, my pitch sucked so badly that I didn't even make it past the first round.

I do have a super cool critique group this time, so maybe my OA crit buddies can get my pitch all shiny and new. (Shrug) I have no expectations. I do this kind of editing self-torture once in a while, just for fun.

And, just so you all know, I understand how important it is not to dwell on past projects, to keep pressing forward and writing something new. I learned that the hard way. So don't worry. I'm just "playing" with my old project for a short time (a couple of weeks, maybe) then I'll dive back into my new project again.

So how many of you are book Necromancers? Do you have a WIP but periodically raise an old one? Is there one particular book that you use your undead magic skills on, or do you take turns with your book corpses when you bring them back to life?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Creating Compelling Characters

I've been thinking about characters a lot lately. Maybe it's because I've been reading waaaay too many awesome books with awesome MCs. Or because I've been watching a couple movies with so-so MCs, but awesome supporting characters. Could go either way.

Point is, today I'm going to discuss... wait for it... characters!! In particular, what makes them compelling to me. This post was originally part of The Great Blogging Experiment, but I thought it would be cool to share it with you OA peeps. 

Here is ze post:


Yep, it's another blogfest entry, folks. Today I join the Trifecta of Awesome that is Elana Johnson, Alex J. Cavanaugh, and Jen Daiker for their Great Blogging Experiment

The topic? Creating compelling characters.

There are three things that make a character unforgettable to me. I like to call them the three C's:

1) Their channeling. Voice--we've all heard about it. We've all suffered through the terror of not creating a believable, authentic teen voice. To me, it's not so much that a character's voice has to be believable or authentic in terms of how teens really speak nowadays. It's all about how your main character channels the world around them to your reader. And the best way to create a compelling channeling experience is to see that world from an unusual point of view. 

When I say unusual, I don't mean weird. I mean saying 'it looked like a dog barfed on the stupid thing' instead of saying 'it looked terrible'. Anyone can say something looks terrible. But how does your character say it? How does he/she see what surrounds them? If a character can make me envision setting/action/emotions in a way I never expected to, I'm sold. They stay with me long after I finish their story.

2)  Their choices. Sure, motivation is super important. They're what makes a character move forward in the story. But let's say we have two different books with two different main characters. Character A is shy and insecure, while Character B is outgoing and cocky. They both have the same motivation--to get the girl before senior year is done. That's not what makes them who they are, though. It's what they do to get the girl that matters. It's how they face the seemingly impossible obstacles in their way that makes them jump off the page. Remember that awesome quote from Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets? "It is not our abilities that define us. It is our choices." Yep. The old timer nailed it.

3) Their change. Character development is often sacrificed for other things in books. This. Cannot. Happen. Seriously, who wants to stick around with a person who never learns from their mistakes? Who brushes off the hardships thrown at them by life without getting derailed? Not only is this annoying to most readers, it's also reflective of poor writing skills on the author's part. Trust me--you don't want people hating on you because of poor writing skills! 

Let's go back to Characters A and B for a moment. Character A, the shy and insecure dude, starts off in a really sucky place emotionally. As the story progresses, so does he. It can be offering his crush a lopsided grin first, then a full-blown smile, until he finally plucks up the courage to talk to her. How he does that is totally up to the writer, but the end result (the change) has to be there. Same goes for Character B, and for any other character in any other book. 

Static is boring. Change rocks. Remember that. 

Now go write some awesome fake people ;)

There you go, folks. Awesome fake people are what we should all aspire to create. 

Tell me: how do you create compelling characters??

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Inspire Me

People often ask me where I come up with ideas for my stories. The answer...everywhere. Seriously, watch what you say to me (no worries if you are a writer and start out by saying "this is my idea for a new story" - I'm not going to steal it from you) :D But in every day conversation....yeah, something you say to me may end up in my next book :D

I once showed my husband a scene from my my last book - and he burst out laughing because it was a pretty close rendition of a conversation we'd had once.

For me, inspiration is everywhere, in music, art, people, movies, books (have you ever wanted to write a retelling of a fairy tale or a cool twist on an old story?) When it comes right down to it, I suppose I’m inspired by life in general. Events of the past, my own life experiences, the experiences of others expressed through music, theater, art (a really great painting can get all kind of creative juices flowing – the walls of my house are plastered with historical romance inspiring art), movies, books, etc, watching the world around me, experiencing that world, living in other worlds through vivid dreams….all of this combines to create the stories that run through my head at all hours of the day or night.

A few of my favorite inspirations are:

- Music. Some songs just really hit me hard and make me want to write. For one of the stories I am working on, I pretty much have Apocalyptica's "Not Strong Enough" on repeat. And Ke$ha's "Take it Off" :D A few other bands that always inspire me are Coldplay, Everlast, Rob Dougan, Evanescence….those haunting melodies are just great inspiration for the drama needed for some good fiction.

- Art. My walls are plastered with art. Everything from Renaissance artists to abstracts to photographs. My husband teases me about it because there is not one blank wall in our house. I also troll the internet… is a great place for inspiration.

- Movies. Certain movies just really hit home and tweak emotions that are hard to contain. A big favorite is P.S. I Love You. I’ve watched it I don’t know how many times, because it makes me laugh and cry and drool (Gerard Butler…ummm gorgeous!). It makes me want to write something that will make people feel the way I feel when I watch it.

- Books. I read. A lot. And I mean A LOT. If you are going to be a good writer, I think it’s a necessary part of the process to read. I call it research. It gets me an eye roll from my non-reader husband, but it really is research. Most of the time I get lost in the story, but now, as a writer, I can never really shut off the edit mode. Sometimes I’ll come across a passage or a really good (or bad) dialogue sequence and think, “wow, I love how she did this,” or “ooo, I never would have worded this like this, it just doesn’t work.” Reading other’s work makes it easier to spot both the good and the bad things in my own work. And, like the movies and the music, sometimes I’ll read a book that just inspires me to write, inspires me to create something that will invoke the emotions that I felt while reading.

So tell me...What inspires you?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Mystery Agent Revealed: Weronika Janczuk


Pic and bio from her amazing blog.

WERONIKA JANCZUK of D4EO Literary Agency

I am Weronika Janczuk, a lit agent with D4EO Literary and a lover of witty books, tea, autumn, funky art, + '80s ♫.

(Query & full manuscript!)

Author: Pam Harris

Title: WANTS
Genre: Contemporary YA
When Alicia and Savannah find out that their boyfriends are lovers, school cliques are thrown out the window as this love square unravels.

I think this one won me over because of its simplicity—we see at the core an issue with a lot of depth and potential, but then the author gives it a spin with the voice (cliques thrown out the window, love square unraveling, etc). I really like the title, too.

(Query & first 50 pages!)

Author: Marquita Hockaday
Title: In Limbo
Genre: Historical YA

Syl thinks life sucks when his older brother goes off to fight in World War I and he's left with unstable parents, a bully, an absent best friend, and a budding interracial romance, but he soon finds his high school woes are nothing compared to the Spanish Influenza.

I love a very specific kind of historical fiction—large, sweeping dramas, particularly about female characters—but here I was struck by the last phrase in particular because the voice and the attitude of the novel really comes through for me, and the conflict is intriguing because it seems to be very layered.

           Author: L. T. Host
Genre: Adult Commercial

James Pratchett, born in Balmer, Alabama as a black boy, returns to the town sixteen years later as a white man to enact his revenge on the men who killed his mother and made his life a living hell, only to discover that his childhood friend and first love is still there.

Awesome story. This would have won, maybe, if the author had done a better job setting up the potential for a love story (or love interest) in the beginning of the pitch; it follows as a random addition, though of course one that promises a lot of depth and interesting racial conflict.

Author: Julie Brannagh
Title: The Best of You
Genre: Single Title Contemporary
The NFL meets "The Biggest Loser".

Hehe. I’m curious—the pitch alone doesn’t suggest a genre, which might be a problem, but it was enough for me to know that this is a romance with this kind of angle.

Author: Noelle Pierce
Title: Stars in the Night
Genre: Regency Romance
Amateur astronomer Lady Selina Hamilton doesn't want to spend the summer in a London Season, especially after a seductive whisky smuggler kisses her, mistaking her for her twin--and who only has revenge on his mind.

That last phrase—“and who only has revenge on his mind”—could have a little bit more oomph to it, but overall this pitch shows a lot of elements in a really elegant way and the voice and description fits the genre—I’m definitely intrigued to see how this works out.


I’d be more than happy to see a query and the first ten pages from anyone who participated in the contest, but based on the pitches, I especially would like to hear from the authors of OUT OF MY BODY, THE IRON WOOD, ANGEL OUT OF THE WATERS, THREE PARTS DEAD, SIEGE OF THE HEART, PHANTOM FIRES, THE WHISPERING CITY, and THE CABIN AT LOST CREEK.

You guys, Weronika just granted all contest entrants the privilege of querying her with YA material, though she's normally closed to unsolicited Young Adult queries!! And I don't know about you, but I counted one full request and FOUR partial requests up there! Congratulations, everybody! 

And now for a helpful Q & A with our no-longer-a-Mystery Agent, Weronika (pronounced like Veronika):

Is there any specific thing you'd love to see in queries right now?

I’m not open to unsolicited YA queries at the moment (this contest would be an exception), as Mandy Hubbard handles those, so my answer may not apply to many of you, but I would really love to see a strong romance and a strong thriller particularly with a literary edge (a la Gillian Flynn).

I’m always looking for strong pitches and hooks, and anything that is upmarket—literary with a commercial bent—I will jump on.

What bugs you in fiction (e.g. disconnected prologues, Mary Sue characters)?

Bad writing.

No voice.

Characters that aren’t sympathetic and that don’t jump off the page so much that I can sense they could be seated next to me; I hate thinking that, if a character and I met randomly, we wouldn’t be able to have a conversation because the character falls completely one dimensional (there are, of course, exceptions—I won’t be talking to a serial killer anytime soon).

Plots that are too predictable; I pass on 90% of partials because I feel that I know what will happen, not in the sense that I’m guessing, as I would in a mystery, but in the sense that the novel is taking a very one-dimensional and linear approach to the genre and the conflict.

Do you have any client or agency news, new clients we should check out, etc?

I’ve been agenting since August, and I’ve already sold two books, one this month. You can check out that most recent announcement here.

And for any of you more adult/literary readers, check out the blog of my newest client, Scott Bailey, who’s written a sweet retelling of HAMLET.

You can follow all of my other news about deals and clients on my website/blog.

(More info on the two sales: The first book -- TRUCKER GHOST STORIES (Tor, 2012) -- is written by Annie Wilder, who can be found here, and the second -- MISERERE: AN AUTUMN TALE (Night Shade Books, July 2011) -- is written by Teresa Frohock, who can be found here.)

What movies/T.V. shows keep you coming back for more?

Criminal Minds—love that show!

Movies that I’ve watched more than twice (on purpose)—Titanic, Harry Potter films, Lord of the Rings films, Die Hard films, Oceans trilogy, Bourne films, almost every Julia Roberts and Susan Sarandon film, Fight Club, etc., etc. I love movies.

What's your favorite candy and/or baked good?

I love Reese’s Pieces. Hershey’s milk chocolate (with almonds, too). Chocolate chip cookies—warm and with milk.

Thank you so, so much, Weronika, for judging the contest and picking so many winners! 

Find Weronika online:

Winners, email your query plus requested materials to
 per these submission guidelines. And don't forget to mention this contest.

Congratulations to the winners!! Good luck querying and submitting! 
And Merry Christmas!