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Pushing Past the Wall

  Posted by From The Write Angle , 29 June 2015 · 35 views

by Charlee Vale


Writer's Block. There's a whole host of people who claim Writer's Block doesn't exist, others who swear there's a magical block keeping the words from pouring out onto the paper like Shakespeare. But no matter which school of Writer's Block you ascribe to, I don't think there's anyone that can deny that sometimes you're just stuck.

And being stuck? SUCKS.

I'll be perfectly honest, this has been me quite a lot lately. I can come up with a million different reasons for why my writing feels like wallowing in quicksand--and they'd all be right to some degree. I have a difficult job that sometimes saps any creativity I have before I get home. I'm writing a book that goes against my normal writing process. The book is far more complicated than anything I've ever tried. Sometimes I'm tired. Sometimes I just don't feel like it.

But in the end? None of those explanations and excuses matter. What matters is putting in the time. When I sit down and open the document--even the times when I don't write a lot of words--it's still progress. Who knows what kind of future breakthrough that time spent thinking unlocked. Who knows what kind of genius is brewing under the surface while you stew? And sometimes I manage to sit down and get into the groove. Before you know it you've got a couple new chapters under your belt and the world seems bright again.

My point to all this is to say that if you're feeling stuck or blocked or drained or defeated, push past it. This is a wall that can seem higher than we can reach, but we can make it through it when we are determined. I know it's hard, but few things that are good come easily.

Do whatever you need to do. Make a playlist, a Pinterest board, draw a sketch of a character, or write some backstory. But whatever you do, put in the time. The time is the only thing that puts cracks in the wall. Enough cracks and it will come crumbling down.

Charlee Vale is a Young Adult writer, agency intern, photographer, and tea lover living in New York City. You can also find her at her website, and on Twitter, and chipping away at cracks in her wall. 

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Ruts

  Posted by From The Write Angle , 25 June 2015 · 38 views

By Matt Sinclair

I’ve been in a rut lately. Since the year began, a bunch of little things have gone wrong. Car accidents. Promises unfulfilled. Goals unmet. Projects not started or incomplete. Too much time spent on others that should have been nixed. Now, here we are, halfway through 2015, and it seems like I’ve struck out looking. (Perhaps it’s fitting that I’m a Mets fan, but I digress…)

Ruts are worrisome because they’re comfortable. They’re developed over a long time of doing mostly the same thing. As a creature of routine, I like having a sense of what is ahead; it enables me to address problems when they occur. But a rut is different from a routine. For me, recognizing a rut usually means I’m at risk of getting stuck in the mud, and boy those wheels can spin, can’t they?

Doing something completely different seems to work best. The other night my wife was working on a home project. She was invigorated. She felt creative. She couldn’t be stopped. I bet she felt darn good after accomplishing what she set out to do. It certainly looked good.

A part of me was jealous. So I decided to write something different. I like the initial results. Of course, the jury’s out on whether what I create will be worthwhile, but that isn’t the point. The goal is to get out of the rut, to see things from a different perspective, to make progress.


What do you do to get out of a writing rut? Care to share?

Matt Sinclair, a New York City-based journalist and fiction writer, is also president and chief elephant officer of Elephant's Bookshelf Press, which recently published Billy Bobble Makes a Magic Wand by R.S. Mellette and Tales from the Bully Box, a collection of anti-bullying stories edited by Cat Woods. Matt also blogs at the Elephant's Bookshelf and is on Twitter @elephantguy68.


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A Basic Guide to Tumblr

  Posted by From The Write Angle , 23 June 2015 · 39 views

These days, social media is the fastest way to engage with readers, if that's your sort of thing. Some people, of course, choose to create a veneer of mystery instead, not Tweeting, not Facebooking, nada. But the great thing about social media is that it's so simple! You can do it all while sitting at home, not wearing any pants! I don't know why you're not wearing pants. Better not to ask.

Pants aside: when it comes to various social media platforms, people don't seem to think Tumblr is as simple as Twitter or Facebook. Every time I mention Tumblr to people who don't Tumbl, they react with alarm, bafflement, or a mixture of the two. This makes sense to a degree, since Tumblr culture is, erm, sort of weird. But never fear! I know the place a little too well, since over the last few years, my blog has stumbled its way into 10,000+ followers, and I also spend about 10,000% of my free time on the site. I've made this cheat sheet to explain a few things about Tumblr if you're looking to get started.

But first: why should you, gentle author, care about starting a Tumblr? Well, if you write Young Adult, Middle Grade, or New Adult, here's why: in a recent article, TechTimes says that more than 70 percent of Tumblr's users are age 16 to 34. Moreover, "Tumblr, now the fastest growing social site, has seen an increase in its active users by up to 120 percent within the last six months." Tl;dr -- it's where your target audience is hanging out.

Without further ado, here are the five things you need to know about Tumblr Culture:

5) Keep Up

One thing that can seem intimidating about Tumblr is the pace, which is breakneck. The Dashboard -- home to posts from all the blogs you follow -- is active 24/7 and constantly updating, so things get easily lost in the mix. Tumblr even has a specific function to encourage constant activity: the Queue. You can set your queue to post automatically for you, up to 24 times a day. Compared to hosts like Blogspot, that can seem like an extreme number, but on Tumblr, a steady stream of activity is good.

"Wait!" you might say. "What about the quantity of stuff I will need to generate, if I want to post that often? Am I supposed to sell my soul? Quit my job to make Tumblr posts all day?" No, friend. Although I'm sure Tumblr staff would love for you to do that, you don't have to, because ...

4) To Blog is to Reblog

On most other social media outlets, people focus primarily on their own content -- displaying it, advertising it, etc. But the climate on Tumblr is one of sharing. The site prides itself on being full of not only creators, but creative communities. For instance, you might find fanartists who draw pieces based on a fanfiction writer's work, or people who write 3,000-word essays about a TV character's psychology just to share with others and discuss.

Tumblr is hugely about interplay, which is why -- even on many popular blogs -- you'll find that the percentage of original content is relatively low. Each blog feels something like a miniature aggregate site, a collection of art, writing, opinions, etc. that the blogrunner enjoys. Like a little internet gallery! (For those unfamiliar, reblogging works quite simply: by clicking the "reblog" button, you rehost an original post from somebody else's blog to yours, and thereby share it with all of your followers.)

All this is to say that you don't have to stress about making your own stuff 24/7. The general mood of Tumblr is to stay active by reblogging others' work to support them, and you'll find your kin through common interests. This is best if you ...

3) Learn the Tag System

Some people migrate from Twitter to Tumblr and assume that tags function in essentially the same manner, but this is not the case. On Tumblr, people use tags in several primary ways. Firstly, you can organize your blog through tags. On many blogs, you'll find tag-based Navigation pages -- here's a screenshot of what mine looks like:


... so, whenever I make a post with a horrible pun, I tag it with "GET THEE TO A PUNNERY!" Then, on my Navigation page, when you click the "Get Thee to a Punnery!" link, it can take you to a page that displays every post I've ever made (or reblogged!) that has a horrible pun in it.

The second primary use of tags is to add commentary. On Tumblr--unless you have something vital to contribute to a conversation--it's seen as weird to reblog and add a comment to the post, because the original poster will see it as a response. This might feel counterintuitive, because on most other sites, commenting is seen as the best way to connect. But on Tumblr, people often get concerned that too much text messes with the ~aesthetic~ of the post.

If you do have an opinion but don't want to address it to the author of the original post, what many people do is reblog the post and write it in the tags, like this:


Tags are also gathering spaces. This function is more like the way Twitter uses tags. If you go to the Doctor Who tag, for instance -- http://tumblr.com/tagged/doctor-who -- you can see every post that Who fans have tagged with "doctor who". For smaller fanbases, the tag becomes like a little home base.

Phew! Okay. Tagging is a lot. Moving on ...

2) Do Not Engage with Call-Out Culture.

I waffled on whether to include this. For people just looking to make an author Tumblr and connect with their readers, one would hope it wouldn't be an issue, but you never know.

Tumblr users tend to be impulsive, passionate, opinionated -- and overwhelmingly socially liberal. It's a haven for LGBTQ+ people and intersectional feminist discourse; it has huge communities for the marginalized. And in people's desire to make Tumblr a safe space for social discussion, they often turn to "Call-Out Culture." This is where people present problematic behavior (racism, sexism, homophobia, etc.) and eviscerate it publicly. And for those who are actually famous, public opinion can turn on a dime and give the site a feeling of mob mentality. (See: that recent John Green debacle.)

Mostly, call-out culture is nothing to be afraid of, assuming you're not actually sexist/racist/etc. But it's the internet. Misunderstandings abound. A few months back, one of my joke posts got popular, but -- alas! -- it had a snarkier tone than I usually employ, and a comment arose claiming that I was jeering at young, female writers. (Which would be weird of me, as a young, female writer.) I tried to clarify, but people were already coming to my askbox yelling cursewords at me. So I didn't engage. After making a separate post to clarify the situation, I deleted the original post and turned off my askbox, and things simmered down.

There are far worse things than the overly enthusiastic social justice community. Like, say, the pro-anorexia side of Tumblr, or the shoplifter community. Also, a few years ago, I was mobbed by Men's Rights Activist users, who gave 18-year-old me appalling threats of sexual violence. Same solution: turn off the askbox; don't engage. This too shall pass.

Moving on now to the most important thing:

1) The Golden SocMed Rule: It's Not Really About You

I think this holds true for any social media platform: engaging with an audience should be about the audience first and foremost. A Twitter that consists mostly of a bot posting promos every five seconds is about the most self-defeating thing in the world. People are inherently self-serving, and if what you're posting isn't funny, useful, or in some way pleasing, there's no reason they'll want to connect with you.

Of course, the more famous you are, the less the Golden Rule applies. If you have a giant, rabid fanbase, you can probably talk about yourself all day and night and people will still love you. But for people trying to build buzz through social media, incessant self-promotion doesn't make sense.

Anyway, if you're already famous, all of the above is totally irrelevant. You could probably post just the word "butts" on Tumblr once a day and get a hilariously huge following.

I hope this is helpful! Questions about Tumblr, or about any of the above? Leave them in the comments. Until then, signing off.

Riley Redgate, enthusiast of all things YA, is a senior at Kenyon College represented by Caryn Wiseman. Her debut novel, Seven Ways We Lie, will be released by Abrams/Amulet in Spring 2016. Her site (hosted by Tumblr, no less) is here, and she Tweets here.



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The Stages of Grief--Um I Mean Marketing (*nervous laugh*)

  Posted by From The Write Angle , 18 June 2015 · 43 views

It is t-minus 6 months and counting.  Another book launch for me.  There will be celebration of course.  Releasing a book into the wild is always an achievement, and an act of faith.  It must be celebrated as such.  It is also a signal to release the demon: the marketing monster.

Most of us who write do not say to ourselves, “Hey I want to be an author so I can market the hell out of my creations.  You know if I could JUST do the marketing, I’d be in heaven.”  No, what most of us say about the promotional aspects of this gig would be patently inappropriate for a blog post.  Yet marketing swiftly becomes our primary focus, our obsession, and the monster hiding under our bed—from six-months out to six-months post-release.  That’s a year of our lives mes amis.
See--this is the book.
And clearly I am a publicity whore

This morning as I sat down at my desk I found myself thinking not (with delicious anticipation) of finishing a draft of my wip (I am within striking distance), but of what I could do or say about my soon-to-release-novel that wouldn’t sound like “buy my book” and wouldn’t make me feel like I was naked on a street corner during rush hour.

And then, out of nowhere Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s stages of grief (which I allegedly learned in a psychology class somewhere in my distant past, but which actually lodged themselves in my brain—as so many things do—only as a result of a piece of popular culture, Bob Fosse’s “All That Jazz”) popped into my mind.  In case they are not fresh in your mind, here they are, the big five: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

They are supposed to describe how we’d feel if we lost someone dear to us but frankly I think they do a credible job of explaining the phases of book promotion.  Hear me out.

Denial—Good books sell themselves right? I am with a big five publisher, they will take care of all the publicity and marketing for me.  That’s their job.  Writing is mine.  It’s too early to be thinking about pre-sales/sales/reviews.  If I start this early I will burn out.  Jeez, I am burned out already and I haven’t started.

Anger—F**k this s**t!  I feel like a whore, and not even an expensive one.  I hate having to remind people that books that start their lives with strong pre-orders are printed and distributed in larger quantities, stay on shelves longer, and are displayed more prominently.  The thought of sending notes to people on my xmas-card list reminding them I have a book releasing gives me hives.  I am NOT doing this, do you hear me! Not. Doing. This.

Bargaining—Fine, I will send the post cards.  But surely I don’t need to start thinking about marketing my book until a week or two before release.  After that I swear, I SWEAR I will be all about that novel, but for the next few months I want to be about what I am writing now. Pretty please?

Depression—I am doomed.  This book is doomed.  I can’t even get my own siblings to pre-order.  They just said, “nice postcard.”  Probably screaming, “did you order the damn book” was not the best response on my part.  I am going to be seated at the kids table for Christmas.  I am not going to be invited to Christmas.  I do not know why I am finishing my wip, because if sales are not good on the new release I will never have another published work.  I wonder if I can be a dog walker?  Too bad my own dog does not even like me.

Acceptance—Marketing, for better or worse, is a large part of what I as an author have to do in modern publishing. This is true whether I am with a major publisher, a small publishers, or I choose to indie publish.  The day of the “recluse who just writes” are past—unless and until I hit super-star status, and then I will buy a castle and let the books sell themselves. So, I will square my shoulders and divide my writing day.  Six months out it will be 75% wip and 25% laying the groundwork for launch. By the time my launch is a month out, that will be flipped.  For the last week before and the first six weeks after launch my wip will be my “treat,” and working on it will replace my other leisure activities.  I will sign books, blog, be present on social media.  I will carry a stash of postcards in my glove compartment and another in my purse.  I will support the efforts of my publicist and my marketing team at every turn and I will come up with ideas and actions to supplement what they do.  I will thank them—often.  I will thank my friends, and remind them that having bought the book they are not obligated to read it.  I will not ask them what they think of it.  I will be merciful.

Oh, and I will NOT forget all this.  I will not make myself go through these damn phases again . . . until I do ;p


Sophie Perinot’s next novel, Médicis Daughter--set at the intrigue-riven, 16th century French Valois court--will be out in December of 2015.  But you can ABSOLUTELY pre-order it now.  DO ITShe does not care if, once it arrives, you use it as toilet paper on your next camping trip.  To find out about Sophie's previous literary endeavors, visit her website, or her FB page.  You can also  follow her on Twitter as @Lit_gal


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How To Read To Your Kids

  Posted by From The Write Angle , 15 June 2015 · 56 views

by R.S. Mellette

A recent critic of Billy Bobble Makes A Magic Wand stated that her son kept having to ask questions about what was in the book. She said this like it was a bad thing, which got me to thinking about my childhood.
I have a distinct memory from first or second grade of me flipping the blades of my little toy helicopter in front of the TV. I watched as the direction of blades seemed to go forward, stop, then go backward. I asked my Dad about it. That must have been around five or six in the evening. By eleven o'clock, he had explained stroboscopic effect, the speed of light and sound, Einstein's theory of relativity, and a myriad of other subjects that might bore me today, but which I found fascinating then.
Another time, I asked what the stars are, and where they go during the day. He explained that the stars are just like the sun, only bigger, and some of them might have died out millions of years in the past. That led to another long series of questions and answers, ending with our living room blacked out, a solar system of a globe, a tennis ball, a basketball and a flashlight for the sun.
Later, when I was an adult, a friend of mine complained that her son asked too many questions. "He asked me why the sky is blue, and where the stars go during the day. I don't know any of this stuff, so I just tell him not to worry about it."
That broke my heart.
Each question a kid asks is a spark that can start a fire of learning. Not the kind of learning that is force-fed in schools, but the kind that comes from feeding a hunger for knowledge. Everyone likes to talk about "teachable moments," but there is none better than when a kid asks "why?" or "where?" or "how?".
How to read to your kids? When they ask a question, stop reading. Answer their question. That will lead to more questions. Answer them. You might not get back to the book until the next day. That's fine. It's a book, it'll wait. That's what books do.
In this day and age, there is no excuse for not answering a kid's questions. Sure, Wikipedia might not be the best source for a master's thesis, but it'll get you started.
As for the mom on Amazon with Billy Bobble; it's possible she answered every one of her son's questions, and he just got bored and walked away. That's fine. Not everyone is going to like my book.
But I do take pride in the fact that… I made him ask.
R.S. Mellette's new book is Billy Bobble Makes A Magic Wand. He is an experienced screenwriter, actor, director, and novelist. You can find him at the Dances With Films festival blog, and on Twitter, or read him in the anthologies Spring Fevers, The Fall: Tales of the Apocalypse, and Summer's Edge.

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Take The Guilt Out Of Writing

  Posted by From The Write Angle , 11 June 2015 · 46 views

by Mindy McGinnis

A writer's worst enemy is procrastination.

The second thug in our lives is procrastination's close cousin - responsibility.

Too often our writing time is carved out of the day, the niche of a few minutes where there isn't food to make, laundry to do, floors to sweep, lawns to mow, weeds to pull. The terrible truth about the to-do list I just ripped off is this: it never ends. The food will be eaten, the laundry will get dirty again as will the floor. Grass grows, and weeds (unfortunately) grow even faster.

Very rarely do we treat writing as a responsibility on its own. Even when I'm under contract or on deadline, writing still very much feels like something I do for myself. Because writing is a solitary undertaking, it's easy to identify it more as me time than as something that requires a true work ethic in order to be properly executed.

Squaring these two facts is no easy feat. Sitting down to write can often feel like a guilty pleasure if there are dirty dishes in the sink, or socks on the floor. While the to-do list is daunting, it cannot go ignored - unless you don't mind starving, stinking, living in filth, and being covered in ticks from your yard. And if all of those things sound just fine to you, I'm guessing that finding some alone time isn't all that much of a challenge anyway.

I recently went on a writing retreat, which is something I've always pooh-poohed in the past. I used to think that if I took a writing retreat, I would laze about, act like I'm in a coffee commercial while I sit on the deck of a cabin, then take long walks in the woods while pretending that I'm in some sort of medication commercial. None of these things would bulk up the word count, so I always thought a writing retreat was a euphemism for I'm going to get drunk in the woods and play Tetris on the laptop but keep a serious look on my face while doing it so that everyone thinks I'm writing.

Surprisingly, I wrote quite a bit while hanging out in a cabin, and starred in exactly zero imaginary commercials. I realized on the second day that the reason why was because I wasn't worried about laundry, floors, lawns, food, or any other myriad of responsibilities present in day-to-day life. I could sit down and write without guilt.

I realize that leaving home for three days might not be in the cards for everyone, realistically. But the lesson remains - next time something is stopping you from sitting down to write, ask yourself if it's actually the chore that is the obstacle, or the guilt?

Because if it's the guilt, don't worry - the chore will be there tomorrow.

Your inspiration might not.

**********************
Mindy McGinnis is a YA author who has worked in a high school library for thirteen years. Her debut, NOT A DROP TO DRINK, a post-apocalyptic survival story set in a world with very little freshwater, has been optioned for film my Stephanie Meyer's Fickle Fish Films. The companion novel, IN A HANDFUL OF DUST was released in 2014. Look for her Gothic historical thriller, A MADNESS SO DISCREET October 6 of 2015 from Katherine Tegen Books. 



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Writers, Don't Be Vain

  Posted by From The Write Angle , 04 June 2015 · 50 views

by J. Lea López

One of the questions and concerns I see most often over at Agent Query Connect is that of vanity publishing. An author is excited that they found PayMe Publisher online, and this is finally their chance at publication! So they ask the AQC community for any personal advice or recommendations regarding this publisher. Usually it takes only a quick look at the publisher's website for another member or moderator to realize that PayMe Publisher is a vanity press. If you've been reading my posts for any length of time, you know that I'm not usually one to make always or never statements, but here's where I make an exception. When it comes to vanity publishers, don't do it.

Money flows to the author


This is a basic tenet of publishing. In traditional publishing, the publishing house may or may not pay an advance, but they pay the author royalties on book sales. They do not charge the author upfront fees for editing or marketing or anything like that. They are invested in the success of your book, and they take a cut of your royalties to pay for those services and hopefully make a profit upon publication.

Vanity publishing operates in the exact opposite way. The fictional PayMe Publisher mentioned above will have publishing packages that include a lot of official, fancy, and impressive sounding things that might sound, to a writer, like everything you could ever ask for from a publisher. Those packages also come with a hefty price tag, and they're couched in the typical sales language where you can upgrade to an elite or gold level package for even more stuff! You end up paying the publisher to publish your book. There is no submission process usually. They will take any book given to them and publish it. Once you pay for your package up front and your book is published, PayMe Publisher will continue to take a percentage of your royalties, and that percentage is often the same as if you'd been traditionally published. So you're getting the same percentage of sales as with a traditional publisher, but you've also paid a nice chunk of change to the vanity publisher up front. So what exactly have you gotten for that money? Nothing that you couldn't have gotten for free with a traditional publisher.

This doesn't even begin to touch on the sometimes terrible contracts you have to sign with vanity publishers, or the predatory practices of some vanity publishers like Author Solutions. I highly recommend David Gaughran's blog for a ton more info on Author Solutions and why you should steer clear.

Self-publishing "services"


With the rise of self-publishing, there has also been a rise in companies offering self-publishing service packages to assist authors who want to go that route. Unfortunately, many of these are simply vanity presses in disguise. You still pay a big chunk of money for the same types of services (book formatting and cover design, mostly, but they'll break that out into all the small individual parts so it sounds like you're getting more for your money), and your ISBN will still be branded with that publisher's name, you may not get editing services for what you're paying (such as with Writers Digest's Abbott Press), and many of them will still take a portion of your royalties for the length of your contract.

I've heard some people try to equate self-publishing with vanity publishing simply because the author is paying out of pocket for the necessary services. I'd like to give those people a swift kick where it hurts, because it's not the same thing. If you want to self-publish, you are going to pay out of pocket for editing, proofreading, cover art, and so on. But when you truly self-publish, you are your own publisher, and you are not obligated to those service providers once the transaction is complete. A publisher pays their cover designers and editorial staff and others up front, too, without waiting for royalties on the book. The lines may be a bit blurry since you and the publisher are the same person when you self-publish, but that is the same function you are performing when you pay for services. Once those services are complete, you, as the self-publisher, receive all profits from the sale of your books (minus and percentages withheld from distributors or retailers).

So let's recap.

Traditional publishing = Publisher covers all upfront production costs, then takes a percentage of royalties for the length of your contract to cover those costs and make a profit. You may get an advance, and then you earn a percentage of royalties after the amount of that advance. You pay nothing out of pocket.

Self-publishing = You act as your own publisher. You pay one-time fees to contractors for your editing, cover art, and other production costs. You retain all monies paid to you by retailers. You pay contractors once for the same services a traditional publisher pays their employees to perform. After that, you pay nothing out of pocket.

Vanity publishing (and many self-pub service companies) = You pay them for production costs, like book formatting and design. You may or may not receive editing as part of your package, so you pay for editing. Once they have done everything they said they would do for their fee, you continue to pay them a percentage of royalties for the life of your contract.

Vanity publishers are counting on you to be uneducated about the way publishing works, or impatient to wait for traditional publicaiton, or too scared/unwilling/busy to learn how to shop for quality contractors to do the work needed to help you self-publish. Then they present their pretty packages and say, "Here, we'll do it all for you.. for a price." But for the most part, that price is not worth it.

I know that as authors, seeing your name right there on your book, which is for sale at all major retailers is an intoxicating thought. But don't rush. Don't be vain. Don't fall prey to vanity publishing.

J. Lea López is an author who strives to make you laugh at, fall in love with, cry over, and lust after the characters she writes. She also provides freelance copyediting focused on romance and erotica as The Mistress With the Red Pen. She welcomes online stalkers as long as they're witty and/or adulatory. Kidding. Maybe. Check for yourself: Twitter, Facebook, Blog.

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The Realities of the Second Book

  Posted by From The Write Angle , 01 June 2015 · 97 views

by R.C. Lewis

I feel like I'm at a weird place in my life right now. Post-debut, pre-release of second book. Is this how parents feel when they have one child and are pregnant with the next? Like, I should know sort of what to expect now, but the experience is somehow different.

And it is different. Not only from book to book, but from author to author.

Setting aside fears of falling victim to Sophomore Slump (because if we don't talk about that, it can't be real, right?), there are a lot of things that can make getting your second published book out the door different from the first.

For some authors, right off the bat it's a matter of getting that second contract because their debut is a one-book deal. Usually the debut publisher gets first look at your next manuscript, but do they accept it? If yes, proceed to the next paragraph about two-book deals. If no, then you're back in submission-land all over again, which is its own kind of wondrous terror.

Say your first publishing contract is for a two (or even three!) book deal. Hooray for a little bit of security! I'm going to assume we're not talking about sequels/series here, because they're a different experience—one I don't yet have any expertise on. But here are some reasons you may find you upgrade your Professional Writer hat a few levels in the process of creating Book Number Two.

Organics-B-Gone
You're already contracted with a publisher, they have their idea of the brand they're going to present you as, and you probably want to keep them happy. This may mean they want your second book to be in a particular vein, probably in some manner similar to your debut. And this can be great! ... Except instead of bolt-from-the-blue inspiration like you had for that first book, you may have to go digging for an idea that fits this mold. That can make it a less organic process than you may be used to. (This happened to me for my next book. Fortunately, by the time I finished the first draft, I was in love with the characters and story! But it took some time to get there.)

Popping the Question ... Over and Over
Often if the second book is unspecified in the original contract, you go through a phase of pitching ideas to your editor until you find something they'd like to see you write. Sometimes this is informal, maybe a handful of one-line pitches and your editor says, "That one sounds cool," or "They all sound great to me—is there one you're particularly excited to write?"

Other times, you may go through writing more formal proposals. This can involve a full (sometimes lengthy!) synopsis and some sample pages/chapters to establish the voice. Sounds like less work than writing a whole manuscript, and it generally is by most measures, but I also know some authors who've been through the mental-wringer trying to write proposals.

And if that proposal is turned down? It's back to work, grinding out a proposal for another idea.

The Revolving Door of Publishing
The longer you're under contract at a particular publisher, the more likely this is to happen to you. Your acquiring editor may not even be the one who's your editor by the time your debut comes out (that happened to me), and then the editor who launched your debut may not be the one who sees your second book through to the end (that also happened to me ... in fact, I was between editors when my debut released).

This is no big deal (says she who chased off two editors before ever her book hit shelves), but the transitions can be a little jarring. Your acquiring editor loved your writing! You know it, because of all the "I love this!" during the "We want to pay you money and publish it" phase. What if New-Editor doesn't love your work? They didn't pick you—they just got assigned.

Really, it's okay. New-Editor may not love your work the same way, but they'll love it in their own way. Their editing style may be different, but we all want to be in this business a nice long time, right? That'll probably involve working with lots of different editors along the way no matter what, so flexibility is key in the skill set.

(If New-Editor really does hate every word you write, though ... That may be time to call Agent-Awesome and get them to intervene.)

And remember that all of the above are likely things that will happen to us at some point in our careers. If not on our second book, then one down the line. If we get there, it means we stayed on track, and that's a good thing!

R.C. Lewis is the math-teaching, ASL-signing author of Stitching Snow and her *second book* Spinning Starlight (Oct. 6, 2015), both from Hyperion. You can find more information at her website, or find her random musings on Twitter.



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Learning to Rewrite

  Posted by From The Write Angle , 21 May 2015 · 44 views

by Jemi Fraser

For me learning to rewrite a draft was NOT an easy road.

Stage #1 - Complete Ignorance

  • in my first rewrite, I had no idea what I was doing. I went through the draft, fixed all the typos, tweaked some sentences, and was daring enough to eliminate a couple of paragraphs here and there
  • then I met some amazing folks over at Agent Query Connect and learned that a rewrite should be a slightly more intense process
Stage #2 - Gaining Confidence
  • the next step in my journey was realizing that everything I'd written in my first drafts didn't have to be included in the final draft. I could take out entire scenes. I could move entire scenes. Change pov.
  • these realizations actually shocked me, and took me a while to wrap my head around 
  • at this point, I carefully saved each new 'draft' with a date indicating the changes
Stage #3 - Gaining Crit Buddies
  • this changed my world and burst my naive little bubble. And I will be forever grateful.
  • I learned that a rewrite involved more than the tweaking I'd been doing.
  • reaching deep down into the story was pretty tough. I was faced with some big realizations. Probably the biggest one was that external conflict isn't enough. There needed to be internal conflict too. For both my MCs (I write romance).
  • this involved re-reading and re-writing scene by scene, making changes, keeping track of changes, making notes, deleting favourite scenes & lines, adding conflict (lots and lots of adding conflict)
  • I no longer saved drafts, only the main one, with a folder (I'd discovered Scrivener at this point) with the very few scenes I though I might want to reuse or rescue somehow
Stage #4 - A Real Rewrite
  • I tried my Stage 3 version of rewriting for several of my novels, and found it very discouraging. Several stories I know have tons of potential were languishing. I also discovered Stage 3 is HARD. Very hard. For me, a million times more difficult than writing a first draft.
  • brainwave!
  • I decided to dump all my chapters and scenes into a new Scrivener folder titled Draft 1
  • because I love (LOVE!!) writing first drafts, I decided to treat Draft 2 like a Draft 1
  • I rewrote the draft from scratch. At first I found it tough to not peek at the first draft, but it definitely got easier. The changes I needed to make were core changes and because of that, the story changed dramatically, while keeping the same basic plot elements, and I already knew those plot elements, so I didn't peek.
Stage #5 - Unknown
  • as I'm evolving as a writer, I know my style will change too
  • I've got 5 or 6 stories begging for rewrites (I was stuck fast in Stages 2 & 3 for far too long) and at this point I'm nearly salivating wanting to do a Stage 4 rewrite for each of them
  • I wonder if I'll have discovered Stage 5 by the time I get to them all?
Learning to write well (and to rewrite well) is a personal journey. My journey will probably look nothing like yours, but I hope by sharing mine, you might find some ideas to help you move along to the next step. Or suggestions as to what Stage 5 might look like for me!

Do you rewrite? Do your rewrites look anything like mine?

Jemi Fraser is an aspiring author of contemporary romance. She blogs  and tweets while searching for those HEAs.


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How to Make Your Novel Sellable - Step 1

  Posted by From The Write Angle , 14 May 2015 · 51 views

by +Denise Drespling


Edit Novel


Last week, I gave you the 7 steps to edit your novel and make it a sellable quality.

This is a subject that is so near and dear to my heart that I'm not through discussing it yet. And it's one that is vitally, critically, MAJORLY important. Mainly because editing is too often rushed through or skipped over entirely.

Not editing is, to me, like going through the difficult (and dangerous) work of jackhammering the rock from the mine, but not bothering to have it cut into a diamond and polished. What do you have? A hump of ugly rock that no one wants to look at. But chip away the rough parts, sparkle it up, and suddenly, you've got something highly valuable that's worth admiring. Get out your chisel, it's time to polish your gem!

Here is a review of the 7 steps:

  1. Initial Read Through
  2. Seek and Destroy Problem Words
  3. In-depth Word Analysis
  4. Read it Out
  5. Get Some Feedback
  6. Let it Rest
  7. Repeat!

And now for a deeper look!

Step #1: Initial Read Through
Once I feel the novel is complete, the first thing I do (after my little happy dance) is an initial read through of the whole thing. I don’t edit much while writing because it messes me up and distracts me. Even if you do edit while writing (or write longhand, then type it up), this should still be step one, it’ll probably just be a cleaner step one.

What I’m mainly looking for is plot issues. Big things like unanswered questions, timeline consistencies, holes, and dull parts. I try to do the reading quickly, as much at a time as I can so that I can get as clear a picture of the work as a whole as possible. I don’t pay too much attention to the words themselves at this point, though I’ll fix a typo or clean up an awkward sentence if I think it needs it. This is where I’ll also add description or scenes that seem to be missing.

It’s important that this is step one because if you don’t fix the big stuff first, it’ll be harder later. You may have to do this step twice (or more). If you’re not sure about how the plot is holding together or you added or removed a lot, keep doing this step until you know it’s working.

Before I begin, I make a style guide (which is probably better done at the start of the novel writing, but I never remember to do it). The style guide helps me keep spellings and usages consistent. Things like character names, names of places, or unusual spellings. I also have a section for little details like “Owen has off Wednesdays and Sundays.” That way when I get to a Wednesday in my story, I can make sure Owen’s home and not skipping off to work.

I also make a list of things that are “out there.” By this, I mean dangling questions or bits of information that create a loose end, even a tiny one. It’s the “plant” part of plant vs. payoff. I make notes of the questions or information, then delete them once I get to the part where it’s covered.

What tends to happen while writing is that you have a scene, and a character does something or says something that creates a little, “hmm, why’d that happen?” in the reader’s mind. But if it’s not a major part of the plot, you might forget. For example, I had my character, Nora, ask Reece if he snored. This was an important question, but not critical to the plot. At the time, he answered her, but when he asked why she’d asked, she changed the subject. Reece won’t let that go. It’s going to nag at him because it’s a strange question, or was, in the context of their conversation. Problem was, I forgot all about it by the next time they had a conversation. I caught it because I wrote down “Nora asks Reece if he snores” on my style guide and realized, after they’d had many conversations, that this should have come up again, but didn’t. So I added it.

These are the loose ends that can be frustrating for your reader if they go unanswered. I’m sure you’ve read a book like that. This just happened to me recently reading The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer. I liked the book a lot, but toward the end, she mentions something that will happen soon (don't worry--no spoilers). By the end of the book, the thing has happened, but she doesn’t share the outcome. Now, I’m left wondering, well, what happened there? She brought it up, she created the question in my mind, and she didn’t answer it. It’s one thing if you’re Joyce Carol Oates going for a “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” ending. Or even Rainbow Rowell doing an Eleanor & Park ending, where there is some ambiguity left for the reader to decide what happens. This wasn’t that. This was a minor detail that could have been skipped over all together. But she choose to bring it up. Then she forgot about it. Not cool. Don’t do this.

Part of the reason to read it fast and all at once is to help you see the character's voice. You don't want dialogue or actions that don't fit. Maybe your character started out a little differently, then changed as you wrote. You may have to fix up the beginning a bit to keep it consistent (but also remember your character should grow and change throughout the story). Keep an eye out for pov and tense shifts, too. These become more obvious when you read a lot at one time.

This step is a good place to do major changes. Play with character flaws or strengths, do timeline adjustments, add scenes or delete, etc. Hopefully you have a picture of the flow of the thing and which parts need to be sped up or slowed down, expanded or streamlined.

Make sure you've done this step thoroughly enough to know that the plot, timeline, etc. is starting to work before you move on to step 2: Seek and Destroy Problem Words.


Denise Drespling is the author of short story, “Reflections,” in the Tales of Mystery, Suspense & Terror anthology (October 2014) and “10 Items or Less,” in 10: Carlow’s MFA Anniversary Anthology (April 2014). You can also find her work in these anthologies: The Dragon's Rocketship Presents: The Scribe's Journal and Winter Wishes.

Hang out with Denise at her blog, The Land of What Ifs, her BookTube channel on YouTube, or on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, or Instagram.


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