Tuesday, August 30, 2011

I Love Harry Potter Because....


People spend a lot of time on blogs trying to come up with something clever. With something inspiring. We all try to post something that will help our fellow writers and hopefully make them want to come back. The same thing goes with our job as writers. We want to write something that changes the world; or at least, write something that people will love, such as J. K. Rowling did when she wrote Harry Potter. And one of the ways we learn to be a more compelling writer is by studying what other succesful writers have done.

The Harry Potter series is probably not my favorite set of books, but like so many others, I went to Borders on midnight when the last one came out. So what brings a book/series to the point of that kind of devotion? For me, I loved  Harry Potter because of the likable characters, witty writing, and the amazing world she created. She invented a virtual buffet of imagination for my mind.

Now that you know my thoughts, I'd like to open it up to you. I'd love to hear YOUR thoughts and YOUR opinions by responding about the Harry Potter books, more than the movies (though I've enjoyed those as well). Instead of just hearing from one person, I believe we can learn a lot more from the collective opinion of many. 

I love Harry Potter because...

Monday, August 29, 2011

Hurricane Irene + Boredom = PLOTTING TIPS

So. Hurricane Irene. 

*glares*

You see, I live in Puerto Rico. And dear ol' Irene was not very kind to my country (for some reason, I am typing this while speaking like Borat. I assure you, Puerto Ricans do not speak like Borat. Just me). Anyway, Irene hit us this past weekend. She stayed with us for about three-ish days. On Sunday, while I was watching this:



...the power went out.


The water said goodbye the next day. On Wednesday, it returned. 


The power, on the other hand, came back on Thursday.


But without cable or an Internet connection.


I spent the majority of the week looking like this:







Things Amparo Was Plotting:


1) Irene's slow and painful death

2) Her WIP



When it comes to #2, I sort of had an epiphany... because of #1. You see, when it comes to character development, the toughest things for me to nail are the external triggers that allow said development to unfold. I know how my MC will change throughout the manuscript, but not always what causes that change. 

Which leads me to Irene and my Week In Cyber Suckage: if you take something away from your MC, giving it back in half pushes them to seek the missing piece. Also, if your MC gets everything he/she wants in one fell swoop, take something else away that means more than what they gained. This could be material or not. Totally up to you, and your story's needs. I think books are all about The Lack, and exploiting what your MC's lacking makes for awesome storytelling

So yeah. I guess Irene was good for something.

Now tell me: how did you spend time with Irene? Did she help you with your WIP? Have you used these tips in your writing?

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Incredible Knowledge of Writers

Photo credit
I am in awe of you.

Yeah, you. Everywhere I look in the online writing community, somebody is sharing a new tip, sometimes very complex ones, studying the writing craft, and passing on the knowledge. It's probably the most challenging time in the history of the world to be a writer, as far as competition goes.


I see a lot of talent in you. Sometimes it intimidates me.

Challenging as it is, it's also an exciting time to be a writer. I don't think it's ever been easier (or rather, more accessible) to learn about writing well. Every shortcoming I still have as a writer can be addressed if I only take the time to research it. And I don't have look beyond your amazing blogs to find my answers.

You are awesome.

You remember obscure information you Googled one time just to make your bat swarming scene more realistic. You understand what a character arc is, how conflict is different from creating tension, and how to check your characters against real people to write authentic reactions.

You continually inspire me by reminding me over and over again that JK Rowling had a slow start, and look how successful she was. You know Stephenie Meyer's how-I-got-published story in detail and which details aren't typical so I can feel better about taking FOREVER to get published.

In short, you use your acquired knowledge for good, sharing and paying it forward every chance you get.

Thank you for being on this journey, what sometimes feels like a mass exodus with no destination (Promised Land, where are you?). You remind me every day that not one of us makes it on our own.

And really, I wouldn't have it any other way. 

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Imaginarium Of A Writer


When I was six I had a friend called Charlie. 

Charlie ate dinner with me. He sat on the swing beside me as we kicked our legs and tried to reach the sky. He comforted me when I had bad dreams. And, of course, he read books with me. Yep, Charlie was my closest friend. And the best thing about him was that only I could see him.

Charlie was my imaginary friend. And he was a mouse.

Why am I talking about Charlie? Because, in a weird way, Charlie was my first fully formed character. I knew what he looked like (brown fur with black whiskers). Where he lived (the skirting board under my bed). His family (mum, dad, twenty-five siblings) and his likes/dislikes (liked cheese, hated sprouts which, funny enough, so did I).

He had everything we associate with creating a character, but I never wrote about him. He existed for me alone. I guess when you are 6 you are selfish like that ;)

So I come to my point... Our WIPs are like the same. 

The idea comes to us. The little, whispering voice begging for their story to be told. And we write our first drafts. We share their journey. Their hopes and fears. We know their flaws better than anyone. We hold them close, sharing them with a chosen few until we send them on their way to an agent (and, hopefully, a world of readers who will love them like we do).

That spark of character building is always there as children. It is in the games we play. In the truths we bend so we don't get into trouble ("It wasn't me, it was....."). As adults we sometimes forget the innocence of childhood. The stories that flowed like water through us. 

The task as an aspiring author is to catch those sparks, craft them and share them. Because it's only by being read do characters really live.

'Stories were different, though: they came alive in the telling. Without a human voice to read them aloud, or a pair of wide eyes following them by torch light beneath a blanket, they had no real existence in the world.... Once someone started the read them, they could begin to change. They could take root in the imagination and transform the reader. Stories wanted to be read.'
The Book Of Lost Things, John Connolly.

And Charlie? One day Charlie left. I was sad but it was the right thing for him to do. He met a nice lady mouse, and they got married and had babies. He never calls, he never writes but, wherever he is, I hope he is happy.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Middle Grade Fantasy: First Lines

I've been loving Amparo's series on first lines in books. So I thought I'd chime in with my favorite area: Middle Grade Books. Middle Grade Fantasy, to be precise. Just so ya all know that our blog is not just a YA blog. We love all types of books. I don't have any insight because they are all so varied. So let me know what you think and which openings appealed to you most.


Opening Lines:

"Look, I didn't want to be a half-blood." Rick Rioddan, The Lightning Theif.

"Kendra stared out the side window of the SUV, watching foliage blur past." Brandon Mull, Fablehaven.

"Night lay upon the forest." Erin Hunter, Midnight (Warriors: The New Prophecy, Book 1).


"If someone had asked Jared Grace what jobs his brother and sister would have when they grew up, he would have had no trouble replying." Diterlizzi and Black, The Spiderwick Chronicles, Book 1.

"The sign in the front of St. Barnaby's Home for the Hopeless, Abandoned, Forgotten, and Lost read CRUSINNG THE SPIRIT OF CHILDHOOD SINCE 1898." Matt Myklusch, The Accidental Hero.

"As of today, there are only seven children who have ever read this book and lived to tell about it." Jennifer A. Nielsen, Elliot and the Goblin War.

"A thief is a lot like a wizard."  Sarah Prineas, The Magic Thief.

"You ready for this?"  Bryan Chick, The Secret Zoo.

"Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much." J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.

"The girl was shaken awake." John Stephens, The Emerald Atlas.


"It was early morning on Saturday, the sixteenth of December, the first day of the Christmas holidays." Linda Buckley-Archer, The Time Travelers.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Opening Lines--The YA Contemporary Edition

Welcome to part three of my Opening Lines series! 

If you've been following the series, you know I've already tackled opening lines in YA paranormal romance and the YA dystopian/sci-fi/post-apocalyptic mashup. Today, though, I'm tackling yet another genre: contemporary fiction. 

Le opening lines:

"It is my first morning of high school"--Laurie Halse Anderson, Speak.

"Everyone knows I'm perfect"--Simone Elkeles, Perfect Chemistry.

"The first feeling is exhilaration"--Hannah Moskowitz, Break.

"Goebbels materialized on the back patio, right before we moved to Baltimore, and started chewing through the wicker love seat"--Natalie Standiford, How To Say Goodbye In Robot.

"Jason was going to Brain Camp"--Sarah Dessen, The Truth About Forever.

"The way I figure it, everyone gets a miracle"--John Green, Paper Towns.

"I liked him first, but it doesn't matter"--Elizabeth Scott, The Unwritten Rule

"I should have known"--Kristin Walker, A Match Made In High School

"The day I broke up with my boyfriend Evan was the day he wrote the song"--Robin Benway, Audrey, Wait!

"Three things I know this second: I have morning breath, I'm naked, and I'm waking up next to a boy I don't know"--Daisy Whitney, The Mockingbirds.

"Imagine four years"--Courtney Summers, Cracked Up To Be.

"For the record, I wasn't around the day they decided to become Dumb"--Antony John, Five Flavors of Dumb.

"The winds in Washokey make people go crazy"--Kirsten Hubbard, Like Mandarin.

"I watch drops of water fall from the ends of my hair"--Nina LaCour, Hold Still.

"I, Frankie Landau-Banks, hereby confess that I was the sole mastermind behind the mal-doings of the Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds"--E. Lockhart, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks.

"This was getting old"--Kody Keplinger, The DUFF.

"Here is everything I know about France: Madeline and Amelie and Moulin Rouge"--Stephanie Perkins, Anna and the French Kiss.


After reading all those opening lines, there's one thing that jumps out at me: they are all telling. Despite the similar openings, they are all different. Why, you ask? Because they all have their own voice

And lots of it.

For example, The Mockingbirds and Anna and the French Kiss open with a list. But notice the tone in each sentence. Is it the same? Are these main characters super happy about their current situations? No. Are they both scared? Yes, but the source of Anna's fear isn't the source of Alex's fear. Also, Anna seems to be pretty sarcastic, while Alex is straight-up blunt. 

In contemporary fiction, readers may find telling opening lines, but what counts is the attitude with which authors choose to kick off their storiesIf that opening line makes you:

  • laugh out loud (Five Flavors of Dumb, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, Anna and the French Kiss
  • feel compassion (Speak, The Unwritten Rule, Hold Still, The Mockingbirds
  • sit back and go "WTF?" (Perfect Chemistry, How To Say Goodbye In Robot, Audrey, Wait!, The Truth About Forever, Like Mandarin)
  • not know what's going on, but forces you to find out (Paper Towns, The DUFF, A Match Made In High School, Break, Cracked Up To Be


...you've gotten a taste of what's to come, and of who's going to lead you to it. This is why I believe telling opening lines show you who the MC is by spelling out what he/she is experiencing, or what they think about their circumstances


So there you go, folks. YA contemporary fiction features a ton of opening lines that pull some serious double duty. If you're working on a contemp story right now, read as much as you can, and make that first sentence as awesome as the ones above :)

Now tell me: any opening lines from YA contemporary books you love? 

Friday, August 19, 2011

No Really. Literally.

A page from Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
I learn so many cool things from my CPs about writing. Like one of the first lessons they taught me was that when you're writing in a genre that bends reality (fantasy, science fiction, paranormal), you pretty much forfeit your right to metaphor.

I'm joking. Sort of.

Let me show you what I mean.

From my last WIP:

"She nods, root beer candied eyes fluttering shut."

This sentence is in reference to my Seer character, but no--her eyes are not made out of root beer candy, as delicious as that would be. This is me trying to be poetic. Unfortunately, more than one person thought it might be literal since there are other unbelievable things in my story. A later draft had "root beer colored eyes" and then I think I ended up getting rid of the imagery altogether and going with something simple like "Her eyes fluttered shut."

But even though I've already learned this lesson once, I still have to be reminded.

From my current WIP:

"She'd had no problem being invisible as a high school senior. Now, with one month left in her first post-graduation summer, she half-expected the invisibility to become permanent. But he saw her."

I posted this in the WriteOnCon forums and had the gall to be surprised when people said, "Oh, cool! She's invisible? Why can he see her?" They had lots of great suggestions for how I could demonstrate her invisibility, like when she was getting onto the plane, she could completely bypass the poor visible people getting pat-downs. Very clever ideas. I was half-tempted to run with it.

But she's not invisible. She's just shy.

Why am I posting these embarrassing examples of my world-building fails? 

I'm hoping they'll help somebody out there who's a quicker study than me. Someone who will remember that you can't take anything for granted when you're introducing readers to your brand new version of reality. 

They know nothing about your world until you tell them. Pigs could fly. Elephants could be psychic. (Why am I only giving examples of animals here?) Angels could be ice elementals who collect souls for sport.

For all your reader knows, the sun really could be a pat of butter melting into the horizon!!

So you may want to do what I plan to do from now on and reread your manuscript with an eye for poetry that could be taken too literally. Because the last thing you want is somebody thinking your romantic lead's eyes really do hold the world inside.

Now that WriteOnCon has ended, what are your new writing goals?


p.s. I just joined a Blog Chain and today's my day to talk about Self-Publishing. I'd love to hear your point of view over there.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

How Darth Vader and Decapitation are Like Writing

I'm always amazed at the little gems of wisdom that drop from my kids' mouths. My husband teases me because he says I can make anything about writing, but hey...it's what's on the brain most days so when I hear something I just naturally apply it to my writing world :)

Since this week is Write On Con (have you guys been reveling in the awesome!!?) I bought my kids a few bribes to make up for their absentee mother. My son got a Star Wars Wii game. He's been glued to the thing. Its level is a bit old for him but he's been doing very well at it.

He came into my office yesterday very excited and I thought for sure he'd done something spectacular on his game. He said:

I made it to Level 3! And then Darth Vader chopped my head off.

I congratulated him, happy that he was excited about his level progression and wasn't upset over getting killed so soon after achieving it.

Now what, you may be wondering, does getting your virtual head chopped off by Darth Vader have to do with writing?

Making it all the way to Level 3 was a major accomplishment for him. He's playing a very hard game and is doing extremely well. Sure he has some help here and there (compliments of my husband who stayed up until midnight playing that game :D ). And sure he has some moments where it seems like it's too hard and he wants to give up (sound familiar?). But he stuck with it. And he's progressed.

And then....he got his head chopped off.

How often do we make it to the next level only to get knocked back down? How often do we finish that chapter, complete that tear-inducing revision, write THE END on a new manuscript...only to find yet another problem that needs fixing? How often do we send out queries only to get rejections? Or feel the euphoria of a request only to have that rejected too? Or finally sign with Agent Awesome and go out on submission only to find that no one wants to publish your book?

More often than we'd all like to think about.

So what should we do?

Do what my son did. Come in with a smile on our faces and a bounce in our steps because of the major goal we accomplished. And then ignore the fact that Darth Vader just chopped off our heads and get right back to it...determined to beat the Dark Side if it's the last thing we do :)

I think it gets a little too easy to focus on our defeats. We don't spend nearly enough time reveling in our accomplishments. So that's my challenge to you. The next time a whizzing lightsaber comes at your head, don't let it get you down. Don't let it stop you from continuing your journey. Hit reset and get right back to the battle :) Because that's the only way you'll win in the end :)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The WriteOnCon Awesome Continues...

There is so much awesome going on over at WriteOnCon this week. For anyone in the forums, I can be found lurking/posting/commenting there. Please feel free to drop me (or any of the Operation Awesome gals) a message/friend us. I know we'd love to hear from you.

Also, I want to post some THIS from Beth Revis:



*dries eyes*

I'm back off to catch up on any conference stuff I missed while I was sleeping. Until then...

Monday, August 15, 2011

Opening Lines--The YA Dystopian/Sci-fi/Post-Apocalyptic Edition

Yep. It's time for the second installment of my Opening Lines seriesBut unlike the first installment, I'll be looking at first lines from a few genres, not just one. 


Which genres, you ask?


1) Dystopian

2) Sci-fi

3) Post-apocalyptic


Le opening lines:

"When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold"--Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games

"It was almost December, and Jonas was beginning to be frightened"--Lois Lowry, The Giver

"Good girls don't walk with boys"--Elana Johnson, Possession.

"The early summer sky was the color of cat vomit"--Scott Westerfeld, Uglies.

"There is one mirror in my house"--Veronica Roth, Divergent.

"'Nina, look.' Sandy jabbed me in the ribs"--Julia Karr, XVI.  

"I'm afraid my hair is showing"--Elizabeth Scott, Grace

"My mother used to tell me about the ocean"--Carrie Ryan, The Forest of Hands and Teeth. 

"CA-CHUNK, CA-CHUNK, CA-CHUNK"--Pam Bachorz, Candor

"Daddy said, 'Let Mom go first'"--Beth Revis, Across The Universe

"Now that I've found the way to fly, which direction should I go into the night?"--Ally Condie, Matched



Okay. Time for a closer look...



  • XVI and Across The Universe both open with dialogue, but they do it in a way that leaves you hanging. With the former, you ask yourself what Sandy wants Nina to look at. With the latter, you ask yourself what the main character's dad wants Mom to do, and why should she go first. Usually, this type of opening is frowned upon by agents, but exceptions like these ones do exist. Why? To me, it all comes down to creating intrigue. Your opening dialogue should make the reader ask themselves a question, and of course, want to know the answer immediately.
  •  Candor relies on a very unusual opening: sound. I, for one, am wondering what makes that sound, and what it entails for the main character. Is he/she in danger? Is he/she causing the sound, or is someone/something else responsible? Where is the main character? Bottom line: there are more than one questions asked here, and whichever one you choose to answer doesn't matter. What matters is that you will read on to figure out what the heck sounds like that!
  • The Hunger Games, The Giver, Possession, Uglies, Divergent, Grace, and The Forest of Hands and Teeth all share the same trait: they start with a "telling" sentence. Sure, there are more exciting ways to open (EXPLOSIONS! BATTLE SCENES TO THE DEATH!), but these authors chose to ease the reader in through good ol' telling. And I think it works. Why? These "telling" sentences make me freak out. They all have a WTF quality to them, whether they're producing fear or a raised eyebrow (WHY is Jonas beginning to be frightened? WHY is the fact that her hair showing such a big deal? WHY is there only one mirror in that house? WHY can't good girls walk with boys, for Christ's sake???). Notice the alarm these opening sentences cause? They force you to feel something you're not entirely sure why you should be feeling
  • And last but not least, we have Matched. This one is just plain lovely to me. It's sort of telling, but not exactly. The lyrical quality of that sentence suggests the main character is either reciting or reading poetry, which makes me go, "Hmm... I wonder why that quote jumped out at him/her". I think it serves two purposes: 1) set up the tone of the novel with (a very pretty) voice; 2) set up the main character's dilemma (uncertainty about which path to take). While I do believe other sentences flaunt the MC's voice, this one reflected that submissive, identity-crisis feel of a dystopian/post-apocalyptic novel. It rings true to the genre it belongs to, and makes me want to know how the MC will solve their problems.
So. There you have it, folks. If you're working on a YA dystopian/sci-fi/post-apocalyptic novel, I hope you consider these openings and make yours even better :)


Now tell me: are there any YA novels in these genres with openings you love? Share them in the comments!


Friday, August 12, 2011

Accuracy in Art: Detail in Fiction

“Art is a lie that makes us realize the truth.” -Picasso

I just spent two hours trying to find the right one-way street in downtown L.A. for the swing dancing club my characters discover. It needed to be busy with lots of big buildings around, a convenience store or gas station around the corner, and... well, I really wanted the building to have a mustard yellow door.

LOL. Why did I want to find a real place like this when I could have just made one up?

I have no idea. Actually, I do. It has something to do with Forks.

I came to the conclusion at about 3 o' clock this morning that it doesn't matter as much as I thought it did at 1:00am. Sure, some degree of realism is cool because it makes the reader feel like they could really be there. Like the cranky train guy in Harry Potter when Harry's like, "Where's platform nine and three quarters?" You gotta have a cranky train guy.

I think sleep deprivation may have had something to do with my decision to spend so much time on something so trivial, but it's also that I'm hearing all the time that we should make things as real as possible, when, really, it's probably safer for everyone involved if we make more things up.

After all, authors have been sued for making a real place of business the scene of a fictional murder. And who knows if whatever dance club I eventually might have found (in another five hours of research) even wanted to host my underage characters for a night of raucous swing-dancing and spirit-whisperering. (It's complicated.)

So maybe realism is a bit overrated. Monet was pretty popular. Some people even like Picasso. And awesome writers like Dan Brown and Vince Flynn always lose me when they start giving me a Google-esque lesson on stealth plane engine components or White House floor plans. Just saying.

What details do you think an author really should verify in a fictional tale? And what things are we better off just dreaming?


(random bold-type brought to you by 3 in the morning)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

And our Mystery Agent and Winners Are....

First a huge THANK YOU to our amazing Mystery Agent...

Victoria Marini!



Victoria Marini is the newest member of the Gelfman Schneider literary agency. She began taking on clients in 2010, and she has begun to build her own client list which includes Young Adult fiction, Women's fiction and pop-culture non-fiction. She is very interested in acquiring Young Adult (contemporary, sci-fi/fantasy, thriller and horror ), Middle Grade (fantasy, light sf/f, mystery, and contemporary with a hook) commercial women’s fiction ( urban fantasy, romantic suspense and romance).. Above all, she is looking for anything with an engaging voice, compelling narrative and authentic characters. She is unafraid of debut authors.

Victoria wanted me to pass along how impressed she was with all the entries and the authors' imaginations :) and she wanted to point out that she already has a few of our entrants' manuscripts through other contests, so she made sure to choose manuscripts that she hasn't yet seen.

And now for the winners of Mystery Agent August 2011.....

First Place: Winner of a Full Manuscript Request

#5 - HAUNTED MELODY by Christina Lee

The police ruled the death of Melody's best friend a suicide; Her best friend *strongly* disagrees.

Second Place: Winner of a Partial Manuscript Request

# 19 - JUST A CON by Jenn Nguyen

16-year-old con artist, Megan Benson lands a place living in the wealthy Keller mansion only to realize too late this is the one family she doesn't want to pull a heist on.

Third Place: Winner of a Partial Manuscript Request

# 11 - MANAS by Amber

Zellie, a prodigy spy with pink hair and a penchant for knitting, must uncover the genetic mystery surrounding her mysterious past while keeping her hacker boyfriend safe and tracking a rogue agent hell-bent on a mission to recreate the dangerous 'Project Manas.'

Honorable Mentions: Please send a query and receive a personal response with some feedback

# 25 - THE PEANUT BUTTER AND JELLY FRIENDSHIP by Janet Johnson

When selling her appendix on e-bay doesn't pan out, ten-year-old Annie Jenkins plots other ways to save her best friend's house from foreclosure.

# 28 - AT THE EDGE OF ELSEWHERE by Mary

Six teens ban together in haunted New England town and, with the help of several sentient buildings, save two friends.

# 32 - THE CURSE OF ELIZABETH BREWSTER by Julie True Kinsley

Banished to Pemberton Academy in Western Massachusetts, Eli quickly finds herself embroiled in a four hundred year old love triangle that leads her to lost secrets about America's earliest beginnings - turns out those Puritans were not so pure-can she survive it?

Congrats to all our winners and another massive thank you to our awesome agent!! Winners, please send us an email at operationawesome6 (at) gmail (dot) com and we'll pass along instructions on how to claim (or submit rather) your prizes :)

Victoria shared a little more about who she is and what she's looking for:

OA: Is there anything specific you’re just dying to get your hands on?

Victoria: Some good YA thrillers, horrors and sci-fi! I want a good southern gothic YA. I’d love a great middle grade with an interesting commercial hook. Also, I recently read Ally Carter’s HEIST SOCIETY and while I don’t want anyone copy-catting, I did love that and wouldn’t mind getting my hands on something equally delightful, commercial, and fun!

OA: What is your biggest pet peeve when it comes to queries or submissions?

Victoria: People who simply don’t do their homework; not knowing what I take on, not knowing who I am, that it takes more than a week to answer, that I don’t represent popular science etc…

OA: Are there any concepts that you are seeing way too much of?

Victoria: Hmm, every one has been pretty diverse lately. I’m still seeing a ton of dystopians (which I don’t mind as long as the concept is new & interesting) mermaids, road trips, guardian angels.

OA:What is your favorite part of being an agent?

Victoria: There’s a lot I love about it, but I can’t tell you how uniquely thrilling, joyful and fantastic it is when I pick up a manuscript and fall in love with it or when an editor says “I love it!” The discovery of something I know is special is my favorite part, I think. Plus, being an agent means I can fall in love with whatever I please - I only need to know whether I truly love something and believe I can sell it.

OA: Do you have any exciting client or agency news?


Victoria: Yes, I do! I recently sold (gulp!) an Adult literary novel called The Dangers of Proximal Alphabets to Other Press, and I can’t wait for it to come out. It’s scheduled for Fall of 2012. And it’s damn revolutionary if you ask me!

OA: Any last thoughts for queriers?

Victoria: I’m going to quote an advice columnist I love for this one: “Do the work. Keep the faith.” Just work hard and know your stuff. Use all the resources available to you!

Many, many thanks to Victoria for being our Mystery Agent this month and another huge congrats to all the winners!! 

Stay tuned for September because it is going to be a truly AWESOME month. We will have another amazing Mystery Agent for you and we will also be celebrating reaching 500 followers with some seriously EPIC festivities :)



Wednesday, August 10, 2011

WriteOnCon Ninja Agents!

WriteOnCon starts on Tuesday the 16th of August.

That's next week! *drops cookies* *flails muppet arms* Squeeeeeee!

Anyway... This year there is some extra awesome with NINJA AGENTS.

Here's the details:


This program will take place in the forums–so you must be registered and using the forums to participate. If you haven’t already done that, go HERE.

Here’s what you’ll do:

1. Post your absolute best, polished query letter or writing sample in the appropriate critique threads in the forums. (Please look carefully and ask questions if you’re unsure about where to post, and make sure you follow all our forum guidelines)
2. Don your thick dragon skin, cross your fingers, and keep checking your forum posts, because our Ninja Agents will be sneaking around, leaving feedback on whatever strikes their fancy–which could very well be YOUR QUERY.
3. Pray you’ve perfected your work enough to generate a request. Some agents may be requesting from the posts they read.
4. Remember your manners. Please don’t engage in hurtful behavior toward an industry professional because of feedback they might leave on your query. Remember, publishing is SO SUBJECTIVE.
That’s it. That’s all there is to it. All you have to do is use our forums the same way you should be using them anyway (because they’re AWESOME) and you could have a super-cool Ninja-Agent critique your work. And even if they don’t comment on your work (they promise they will try to comment/critique on as many as they can) you can learn SO much from the comments they leave for others.

So how do you know when to look for them?

Watch the @WriteOnCon twitter feed for when we tweet: “A Ninja Agent just entered the forums!” That’s how you’ll know exactly when they’re there. But really, the best part about the forum is that you can go read the feedback whenever your schedule allows.

What the Ninjas will do:

1. Each Ninja Agent will be in the forum for at least one hour (some have multiple slots). You won’t know who, and you won’t know when…that’s the beauty of a ninja. They strike when you’re least expecting it.
2. Ninja Agents have been encouraged to leave feedback—as detailed or as vague as they want—on as many queries as they can. They can also request from the queries they read.

We are announcing who the Ninja Agents are, but not when they’ll be Ninja-ing.

Our Ninjafied Nunchuckatorians are:

Michelle Wolfson, with Wolfson Literary
Natalie Fischer, with Bradford Literary
Michelle Andelman, with Regal Literary
Kathleen Ortiz, with Nancy Coffey Literary
Ammi-Joan Paquette, with Erin Murphy Literary
Jessica Sinsheimer, with Sarah Jane Freymann
Roseanne Wells, with Marianne Strong Literary
Joanna Volpe, with Nancy Coffey Literary
Mary Kole, with Andrea Brown Literary
Suzie Townsend, with FinePrint Literary
Carlie Webber, with the Jane Rotrosen Agency
Alyssa Eisner Henkin, with Trident Media
Marietta Zacker, with Nancy Gallt Literary

The Ninja-Agent Program is open for business starting on Monday, August 15, one day before the conference begins. That’s when we’ll open the main conference forums and let you start posting your work. This will give you time to get your writing in tip-top shape and in the forums before Tuesday, when our first Ninja will arrive.

So get that query/sample ready for Monday!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Revisions: The "I'm From Sweden" Approach

I believe there are two types of writers: 1) those who run away screaming from revisions, 2) and those who embrace them. Strangely enough, I belong to the latter group. But I am constantly thinking about writers who whip out their crossbows, aim, and fire! whenever someone says the R word. 

This post is for you, my friends.

And... for people who like Alexander Skarsgard... a lot... 

*cough Lindsay and Michelle cough*

So. For those of you who don't know, this is Alexander Skarsgard:



And he's on this show:



Which is currently in its fourth (super awesome) season.


The Skarsgard is out promoting the show left and right. A couple days ago, he made a stop at the Regis and Kelly show. He talked about his character, Eric Northman:




Was humiliated:


And was asked this question:

"Do you get nervous about being disrobed in front of so many people?" 


To which he replied:

"I'm from Sweden."

O_o

Kelly, who was the one to ask The Skarsgard this question, barely even finished it. She got so uncomfortable talking about nudity that she stumbled a bit. 

The Skarsgard? Not so much.

If you find revisions uncomfortable/scary/daunting/impossible, this is my advice to you: BE FROM SWEDEN.

Which means: don't let them faze you. You are awesome. You can PWN revisions any day of the week. They are not uncomfortable/scary/daunting/impossible. Attitude goes a loooong way, folks. So does confidence. Believe in yourself. Believe in your craft. 

And never give up.

Now if you'll excuse me, I must finish packing for my trip to Sweden...


Tell me: do you embrace the revision process? Or would you rather avoid it like the plague?

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Epiphany


You know the drill.

You started a story on a whim and the words just flew from your manic fingers onto the screen. In days, you had the makings of a promising beginning. You tell everybody you've got something special, something obsession-worthy. You're not sleeping. You're eating bare minimum. But it's okay because you're an artist! No, better than that: an artiste (pronounced to rhyme with 'beast').

Then one morning you wake up and open your word document.

And stare.

And stare.

And stare. Where the heck did your muse go?

Suddenly the story is complicated. There's subtext to consider and the ending to solidify in a way that doesn't completely spoil the rest of the arc! There's pressure! No!!!

What do you do at this point?

Well, if you're me, you take a break. You read somebody's else's work, published or not. Maybe you read an entire trilogy plus a sequel plus The freaking Maze Runner. And when you aren't reading, you think. (See illustration above.) You go to your thinking spot:

  • the shower
  • your bed
  • the porch swing
  • the sofa
  • favorite cafe
  • a log
  • Mount Sinai
And you think.

Because when you get an epiphany like the one I got last night, it's worth all that brain-busting waiting. Seriously, worth it. And since I spent that time thinking instead of forcing myself to write, I don't have a series of scenes going in the totally wrong direction which I now have to cut. And that feels good.

Had any epiphanies lately? How do you best trigger your writing muse?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Focus on the Words

You know, this whole writing thing can be hard. And I know you've heard it a million times before :) But..well...it's true. And sometimes it's hard to focus on what's important, on what I really want, what my goal really is.

I want to be successful at what I love to do.

Not rich, or famous, or a permanent fixture on every bestselling list out there (although yeah, that would be nice) :D But, just successful at what I love to do. I want to write. See my books in the hands of my readers. See them enjoy my stories. And hopefully help my family a little in the process :)

But often, instead of keeping that goal in mind, I focus on how I want to do it all, be the best, be everything - mom extraordinaire whose children are the best behaved, cleanest, well-fed, most incredible students in school, best all around children EVER; successful author who sells every book she writes within days of sending them out; marketing genius who merely has to mention her books' names to have droves of people lining up to buy them...in short, I want to be like her:


and if I could pull off that outfit and chase down sticky-fingered kids in high heeled boots, more power to me :D

But I generally fall a little short of that lofty goal and end up more like this:
(except change out that beer for a root beer because ooo I loves me some root beer!)

I want to be the one at the front of the pack, the one winning the big publishing race!

But...I sometimes get caught up in watching where everyone else is in the race and end up feeling more like this:

And you know, that's when I have to stop and remind myself what is really important. Remind myself why I'm doing this in the first place.

I love to write. I want to write. Yes, I want my books plastered all over the NYT Best seller's list. Yes, I want to make millions doing what I love so I can go buy a castle in Scotland and do nothing but scribble my next masterpiece up in my turret tower. It might even happen someday :)

But only one thing is for sure. Nothing I want will ever happen if I don't focus on the words. On the stories I want to tell. When the craziness of it all gets a little overwhelming, I have to force myself to settle down and take it one tiny step at a time...and focus on this:

Nothing else matters if I don't write :)

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Learning to Swim

My 2 y/o goddaughter loves water. She used to hate it. I mean screaming hate it. But now she loves it.  So, with her being more comfortable in water, I take the monkey swimming.

She's an independent little girl and, despite her age, always tries to let go of my hands when she's in the deeper parts of the pool (even though I don't let her - I'm a soft touch, but I'm not insane). But her confidence always makes me smile. 

And it got me thinking about writing (come on, you knew I'd take this to some writing level). Leaning to write and learning to swim are very similar.

There's the trepidation of dipping your toe in the water or, for a writer, the idea. The rush of cold shocking your body from your comfort zone as you move deeper into the pool, or start to type.

You take your time at first. You stay in the shallow end, maybe you hold someones hand -- in my Goddaughter's case that's me -- for a writer it may be a mentor, a writing book or a forum. The hand holder helps you. They build up your confidence and teach you some of the skills you need to learn to swim/write.

You practice. Sure you may swallow some water/ delete lots of words, but you don't give up. Over time you gain the confidence you need to push out on your own. Dip your head underwater/start a new idea. You gain strength. Keep yourself afloat.

Sure, the lifeguard/critique group is always there. Always watching, waiting to jump in and help if you need/ask for it. You know you are never alone.

But you are stronger. You are braver.

It won't happen overnight. It may take weeks, months even to learn to swim/write. But you never give up. Because practice makes perfect.