Friday, January 29, 2010

Love me or hate me, it shouldn't matter

Tip of the day: The Grammy awards are on Sunday night, Jan. 31st, on CBS! I predict Taylor Swift will walk away with at least a couple of them. Her CD, FEARLESS, is amazing, and if you want to tap into the feelings of many teen girls, listen to her music!

So, how many of us dream of being mobbed by fans, holding our books in their hands, screaming our name with words of adoration, much like teens do with pop/country star Taylor Swift?

Okay, maybe not quite that much adoration. But still, I think most of us do have dreams of going to a book signing where there's standing room only. Heck, I'd be happy if more than two people came, and they weren't anyone I had to beg to get there.

I've realized something recently, though, that I thought I'd share here. Popularity has nothing to do with our writing. Being popular, or not, isn't going to make my writing better or worse. The only thing that is going to make my writing better is for me to work and work at it.

I turned off my google alerts recently, and YA author Sara Zarr congratulated me on taking that step. I went searching for something she said on the subject. It was in an interview she did for another fabulous YA author, Cynthia Leitich Smith. The whole thing is a great read, so you should check it out (and read Sara's book, ONCE WAS LOST, if you haven't already). But I like this one sentence in particular:

"If you allow your writing to get tangled up in your popularity, you're going to make your writing life a lot harder on yourself than it needs to be, and you could wear down before you've really done all you want to do with your writing."

Of course I want people to read and like my books. But whether they do or not shouldn't be the reason I write. Sara also makes a good point about what we get out of google alerts. We get positive feedback, but we also get negative feedback. And guess which one we are most likely to remember?

Every time I sit down to write, I do the best I can. Some days are better than others. And yes, ultimately, some books will probably be better than others. But I can't write hoping for a mob of fans. I must write, hoping to write a book that might touch some people.

I must write, with no other goal than to write the very best book that I am able.

~Lisa, Miss Crafting a Career

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Writing Styles: a look at three authors

Tip of the Day: If you are going to SCBWI conference in NYC this weekend have a FAB time!! I'm so jealous!

The Saturday before last I did a YA Panel at The Book Stall in Winnetka, IL with two awesome YA authors-- Julie Halpern, author of:

and Beverly Patt, author of:

and it was A LOT of fun! Hopefully fun for the audience but lots of fun for me too. I love learning about other authors and how they write. Someone asked us how we knew when our book was finished and ready to send to the editor. And we all had totally different answers. Take me for example, when I think a book is as awesome as I can make it, I send it to my individual critique partners. They'll read and mark up the manuscript and then send it back to me. I'll go through their notes and make changes that I agree with and then send it to my agents. My agents will send me back notes, I'll make changes again, and then send it back to them. At this point, if they think it's cool, it goes to my editor. That's me.

Now take Beverly Patt. She meets with an in-person critique group. Before their meeting she'll send out what she wants the group to review and then at the meeting they'll discuss it. Eeeek! I'm not sure I could do this. There is something about having everyone talk about my work in-person that freaks me out a little. It's much less stressful (to me) to read an e-mail from an individual. It sounds like it works for Bev though and she even made it sound fun. Bev told a story about how she once killed off a character in one of her books and how when she got to her meeting the whole group was wearing SAVE LATONYA stickers. Too cute.

Last was Julie Halpern. Wow, I'm AMAZED at her process! It sounds awesome and works great for her as her books rock. Julie said she writes out the entire book by hand in a notebook. Then she types it into a word document. Then she sends it to her editor. That's it. Are you amazed too? She doesn't go back and stress and freak out and revise like a crazy person over and over again! No outside feedback! Just her and her editor! Whoa. Too cool.

So what's your process? What's your next step once you've finished writing your book?

Kristina, Miss Delighted to Debut

(Me, Julie Halpern, and Beverley Patt. Photo by Julie's nice hubby)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Write for the Market? (or Right for the Market!)

Tip of the Day: Are you a kidlitter who will be in NYC this Friday? Come to Kidlit Drinks Night!

Many writers say: "Don't write for the market. Write what's in your heart. Write what you are called to write."

I agree with this on some level. If you write a book right now about zombies/vampires/fae[i]ries, a.k.a. hot creatures that are currently on the shelves, you could miss that paranormal creature boat due to the length of time it takes to revise, sell, edit, and publish your novel. In that case, writing for the current market isn't really a great idea.

I also agree on some level that if your heart is telling you to write the zombie/vampire/fae[i]ry novel, go for it.

BUT! But, but, but...

If you are writing with the goal of PUBLICATION, then you need to combine a little bit of WRITING FOR THE MARKET with WRITING WHAT'S IN YOUR HEART.

Check out this post by agent Jenny Bent
on how to make your own luck by paying attention TO the market without writing FOR it. Don't duplicate what's currently on shelves; do read what's currently on the shelves so you know what twist to put in your work so it will stand out.

What bothers me are those who adamently insist that any writing pro (writer, editor, agent) who advises you on what to write is wrong bc you should "write from your heart."

Look, the pros are "pros" bc they closely work closely in the publishing industry and have info that us unpubbed writers do not always have. The very peeps who have the decision on whether or not to purchase your work.

If an editor or agent, for example, doesn't "fall in love" with your novel but asks to see something else bc you have strong writing, it's basically an invitation to find something else that will appeal to that editor or agent. No, that person is not telling you to write about a specific topic/plot/character, but may suggest other things they are interested in. If that new suggested idea (more "high concept"; less "angsty"; "make it darker") rings true to you, the writer, than there's no reason not to try the suggestion. If you want to be published.

Additional thoughts?

Deena, Miss Subbing for Pubbing

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Book Amnesia

Tip of the Day: cupcake stores are one of the world’s greatest creations!

It’s inevitable that sometime you are going to have to put a story aside. Maybe you’re being called to another book idea instead, maybe you realize you need to brainstorm plot ideas before continuing, maybe you decide to go a completely different direction and then after that detour you realize the original draft was the best way to go, or maybe you are lucky enough to go on a year-long trip around the world (wouldn’t that be nice!).

Whatever happens, though, it can be hard to get back into a story after it’s been set aside for an extended period of time (unless you have the memory of an elephant, which I’ve clearly not been blessed with).

The book I’m working on has been sitting on my computer collecting dust for more than a year. Trying to remember what on earth I was thinking when I first wrote it can be challenging. But even more challenging can be getting the voice correct and inside your character’s head again.

For that reason, I’ve found a few things helpful:

  1. Rewrite a brief synopsis of the book. This is especially helpful if you are deciding that after a year, you’d like to switch certain parts of the book up. Since you’ve probably been thinking about the plot and characters for awhile, it could be helpful to write the synopsis BEFORE reading the book again. That way you won’t taint your new ideas for the book.
  2. Reread the entire draft you have. This can be time consuming, especially if you have a bunch written. But one of the only ways to get to know the characters again is to spend time with them, remember their quirks, favorite sayings, and general attitude.
  3. Rewrite a few paragraphs of the book. This can seem funny, but I once read that if you rewrite good writing then you get a better idea of how it’s suppose to work then by simply reading it. I think it could apply in this situation to in trying to trigger your brain to remember how you wrote the book earlier.

Now if you are lucky enough not to have to do any of the above, bravo to you, but if you suffer from Book Amnesia as I tend to do every now and then, you might have to take a few extra steps to get back in the groove of your book.

--Emily, Miss Querylicous

Monday, January 25, 2010

Getting the Most out of Twitter

Tip of the Day: Make your Twitter account a publishing news feed by following @PublishersLunch, @scbwi, and @GalleyCat.

Do you feel like you don't need any more internet distractions to take you away from your writing? Have you been reluctant to sign up for Twitter because you don't want another time suck?

I'm going to propose that Twitter, when used correctly, can be an internet time saver.

Moving to Twitter is like moving to a new town. At first, you're frustrated: you don't know where to get your haircut, get your car fixed, or get a good chicken salad sandwich. But after you make some friends to show you around and after you take a few chances, your new town begins to grow on you.

The trick is to move to Twitter, not use it in addition to your blogrolls, online news reading, and all your other website stops. Otherwise, you would be adding to your time online. But if Twitter becomes your blogroll and news aggregator, then a quick 15 minutes a day can update you on publishing news and point you to the "best of" your favorite blogs.

What Twitter does very well is provide me with 1) headlines to let me know what content is on a particular blog post and 2) my friends' opinions on whether the blog is worth reading. So let's say I have Nathan Bransford (agent at Curtis Brown) on my blog roll and I try to remember to read his blog, but some days I'm busy. Sometimes I remember, sometimes I don't. When I do check in, I've missed the good posts and he's on vacation. With Twitter, I don't have to check in. If he posts something new, he sends a Tweet through @NathanBransford. If the content is great, my friends re-Tweet it; so if I missed his Tweet, no big deal. If I see four or five friends re-Tweeting an article, I know that's a must-read.

Just like the trick to loving a new neighborhood is to connect with the right people, the trick to loving Twitter is to follow the right people. Twitter is for my writing life. Facebook is for my personal life. On Twitter, I have a few time wasters (@alyankovic, anyone?) but the overwhelming majority of the people I follow are writers, editors, agents, publishing houses, industry followers, and local libraries. I also follow local news outlets so I don't have to also visit news sites. And I'm writing a novel set in the future, so I follow @NASA_Astronauts because they're the only people who Tweet from outer space!

I also don't post links to links, but I'm going to make an exception for these incredible "how to use Twitter" links:

Twitter from one author's point of view by our own @lisa_schroeder is full of so many tips (like using those shortened urls), it was re-Tweeted all over the place.

Twitter Guide for Writers by @inkyelbows gives you all the basics of chats, re-Tweeting etiquette, and privacy decisions.

I recommend following them on Twitter, and also @mitaliperkins, @bonnieadamson (runs #kidlitchat) and @Georgia_McBride (runs #yalitchat). Connecting with them will get your feet wet in no time. And if you'd like to follow me, I'm @katefall.

Do you have any other follow recommendations? Also, please let me know if you'd find it useful if I posted more Twitter for writers information next week about hashtags, chats, or whatever's on your mind.

-- Kate, Miss Perfecting the Pages

Friday, January 22, 2010

Writers with day jobs - when do you know it's time?

Tip of the day: The 2009 Debs have banded together with the Leaky Cauldron Fansite to Help Haiti Heal. This weekend, donations will be taken for the cause, and random prizes given away to donors. For more information, go HERE.

Last week I mentioned that I quit my day to focus on my other writerly job.

I'm pretty sure many writers with day jobs dream of that moment when they can walk into the boss' office and hand him/her the letter that says, "This is to inform you of my resignation..."

So how did I know now was the right time?

For me, it was a few different things.

1) Royalty checks coming in. This was huge for me. No matter what else happened, I knew that in February and August, I would have some income coming in. My first novel, I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME, continues to sell well, and since the advance wasn't huge, I'm now earning money on those sales. With my second book, FAR FROM YOU, now out for over a year, I'm hoping sales for that one will start to produce royalties as well.

2) Two new novels coming out within a couple of months of each other. Up until this year, I was able to balance the writing and promotion fairly well. Mostly, to be honest, because I didn't do much in the way of promotion. I decided early on that the best thing I could do to promote my books was to write more books. So that's what I did with the limited amount of time I had. But with the tween and teen publishing world getting more competitive by the day, I decided I need to have time to write AND promote. I just couldn't do it all anymore.

3) For the past five years, we built up a savings account. While I worked and wrote books, advance money was used to do things we needed to do, i.e. paint the house, put new carpeting in the family room, etc. and then, after that, it went into savings. I never would have quit unless we had a good cushion there for emergencies or whatever.

4) New projects ready, plus agent and editor support. I have two manuscripts on submission right now. My agent feels good about the possibility of selling them both. My verse novel publisher is behind my latest book, CHASING BROOKLYN, in a big way and I feel supported there. I think they want to continue to see books from me. I believe, for any author considering going full-time with the writing, you have to feel like your career is going somewhere. If you're unsure, then it's probably not the right time.

and finally...

5) My employer wouldn't let me go half-time. This was my first choice, and they said no. For any author considering quitting, I think, if you can, going gradually (FT to PT to resigning) might be a good option. Do full-time as long as humanly possible. I know it's hard, believe me, I know! I did it for a LONG time. But the longer you can do it and put money in savings and build up your body of work, the better off you'll be. Then, if possible, drop to half-time, and do that for awhile. Unless your book hits the NYT bestseller list. Then never mind.

It's a scary decision, I know, and I may end up looking for a part-time job at some point, just because there is something to be said for not only having a regular income, but also getting out and being around people. I'm going to miss that, I know.

If you're considering going FT with the writing, good luck with your decision!!

~Lisa, Miss Crafting a Career

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Shedding Some Light on Foreign Rights

Tip of the Day: So cool! Mrs. Magoo did a cute video review of THE ESPRESSOLOGIST and is giving away SIX copies of the book. WOW. Nice huh?! Go show her some love and enter her contest!

I want to preface this entry by saying that I’m not an expert on foreign rights. Not a bit. Well, I know a smidge. But maybe that smidge is more than others know so I’ll share. From what I have seen it goes like this—you sell your book to a traditional publisher and when you sell you either sell them (a) English rights or (b) world rights.

If you sell (a) English rights then your publisher can publish your book wherever English books are sold. And the foreign rights are yours to sell. Typically this is done through the foreign rights department at your literary agency and foreign co-agents. For me, my literary agency has sold German and Japanese rights for The Espressologist. Hopefully we’ll sell more in the future. Foreign rights tend to sell after the book is released but sometimes will sell early (like if you’re getting some crazy good buzz).

If you sell your publisher (b) world rights then the publisher is responsible for selling your foreign rights and will just let you know where they’ve been sold.

Which is better? Who knows. Some say (a) because then you are making additional sales and getting checks (advance and then later royalty) directly from these other foreign publishers. Some say (b) because you don’t have to think about it and it goes toward your advance so you’ll earn out faster.

What do you guys think?

And then what happens AFTER you sell your foreign rights? Do you ever talk to the publisher or work on the book with them like you do with your American publisher? This is the kind of thing I wondered about all the time before my German book came out. And you know what? In my experience, nothing happens on my side. One day the book showed up online and google alerts told me about it. Basically, your agent or publisher (whoever sells the rights) just sends the foreign publisher a copy of the finished manuscript. They translate it, pick a cover, market it how they’d like and put it on sale. And then send you pretty finished copies of the book like so:

So, that’s what I know about foreign rights. Anyone have anything to add?

Kristina, Miss Delighted to Debut

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

When All Else Fails (or "Then I'll do it myself," said the Little Red Hen)

Tip of the Day: Starbucks Tazo Tea prices are increasing due to their new supply of full leaf teas -- but they are still yummy and perfect for the coffee shop writer who doesn't drink coffee. And hot water refills are free!

*January Goals Check-In:
-- Polish and sub 2 short stories to the Highlights fiction contest = DONE!
-- Send "polished" MG, 24 HOURS, to agent with specific revision questions and await feedback = sent first 30 pages to agent before committing to more revisions; received her suggestions; modifying Feb goals as a result to: Come up with hook paras and sample pages for 2-3 new MG ideas

One of my CPs has an article up on WOW -- Women on Writing on DIY Writing Retreats. It's a great article and is based on our experience over the summer. Check it out!

And so I'm not cheating by using my CP's article as my A2A post, let me add that as I charge my upcoming trip to NYC on the credit card, the value of what we did this summer becomes more and more clear. Not that I'm not super excited for my SCBWI NYC experience, but not since that day in August when Kate, Kelley, Lisa, Maureen and I spent all day in a rented office have I produced so many pages of new words.

Anyone feeling the winter blahs of writing, I highly recommend considering the DIY retreat!

Deena, Miss Subbing for Pubbing

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Getting the most out of a conference experience

Tip of the day: if you are planning on attending a conference, don't forget to get prepared!

Next week I'm attending my first big writing conference. I've been to meetings here or there, but nothing of this magnitude. As such, I've been searching the Internet to find tips on how to prepare for a writing conference.

So I thought I'd share some of the tips I've found:

  • Have a game plan of all the break-out sessions you'd like to go to. Fortunately for the conference I'm attending you had to plan this out when registering, but if not, definitely have a game plan of what you want to attend. And leave room for flexibility if the need arises.
  • Have a prepared list of questions. You might use them or you might not. But if there's something you really want to know about the publishing industry and you see there will be a speaker addressing that specific topic, it might be a good idea to know ahead of time what you want to get out of that session. Or for informal chat in between sessions, which often times is the place to learn the most. You have a wealth of knowledge at these conferences and if you are a newbie, don't be afraid to ask someone more knowledgeable.
  • This article by Scott Hoffman at Folio Literary Management gives a great perspective from an agent on how he approaches a conference. He advices everyone to have a one-sentence short blurb about your book, just in case anyone asks. Also it's a good idea to carry around a one-page synopsis of your book, the first three chapters of your novel, and a copy of your manuscript. He advises that most likely you'll never be asked for any of the above, but having it on hand is always a good idea. You'd never want to miss out on an opportunity, would you?
  • If you get asked about your books, be confident in your work when talking about it.
This is just a starter list, and I'm hoping some people more knowledgeable about conferences might chime in with suggestions.

--Emily, Miss Querylicious

Monday, January 18, 2010

Tension in Every Scene: Even the Happy Ones

Tip of the Day: Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. I hope you're one of the lucky ones with the day off.

I'm writing a book with a romance subplot that isn't going to go well for my main character. At first I envisioned the romance starting out wonderful and deteriorating over the course of the novel, but a couple of influences changed my mind. This blog post by Mary Kole struck a chord with me, with its easy to understand graphic of starting a novel at a baseline and having life get a little better for the protag before it gets way, way worse.

The other big influence is my friends at Verla Kay's blue boards. Someone else began a thread about starting a book with a perfect romance or giving it a few chapters to develop. Writers chimed in with opinions and book titles, and the general consensus was that most people like to see a romance develop: it's part of the fun of reading.

So now I'm writing scenes in chapters 1 and 2 where my main character is falling in love. These are easier to write than I thought they would be, but we'll see what my critique group says about them! They're kind of fun, but they'd be boring if they didn't have any tension. I don't want them to be the equivalent of your BFF from high school telling you for hours on end about how her boyfriend is soooo cute. So what gives a scene tension where my main character is realizing the guy she's always wanted is falling for her?

  • Am I imagining this or does he think we're still just friends?
  • I want to be supportive of his plans for the future, but those plans will take him away from me.
  • Why doesn't he realize that I need someone to support me right now?
  • I wish I could help him with the problems in his life more than I actually can.

So even though my characters are holding hands and sharing their dreams and deepening their relationship, it's not all chocolate and roses and angels singing. The other problems in their lives can't help but intrude. But as every 16-year-old like my main character knows, all the problems are worth suffering through in exchange for true love. Until chapter 4 or 5, bwa ha ha ha.

What keeps your "they're so in love" scenes crackling with tension?

-- Kate, Miss Perfecting the Pages

Friday, January 15, 2010

A New Year is Here!

Tip of the Day: The Dream Big blog series is still going on and continues through January. You can read the entries HERE.

Last year my goals were to work REALLY hard to make CHASING BROOKLYN and IT’S RAINING CUPCAKES the best they could be. I think I did that, and I’m proud of how they turned out. CHASING BROOKLYN has received two wonderful reviews from Kirkus and School Library Journal, and I’m getting lots of nice notes from readers, so YAY! The hard work paid off!

I also wanted to stop worrying about things I can’t control, like sales, negative reviews, etc. I said, “I want to write without worrying about it all.” I’m carrying this forward to this year because I’m still working on this. It’s hard! But important. I don’t think I worry as much as I used to, so that’s good. Progress is always good!

My last goal was to go to New York to meet my publishing peeps. That didn’t happen, I went to ALA in Chicago instead, and I’m happy I went. I met Tina there! This year, New York is going to happen, and I’m so excited!

Writing wise, last year I spent a good chunk of time writing a book different than anything else I’ve ever written. I wrote it for me, and I had fun. We’ll see if it sells in the coming weeks, but if not, I needed that time to write something fun, and I’m glad I did it!
So, new goals?

It’s a new year, and a new opportunity to grow as a writer. I’ve taken the leap and today is my last day at the day job. My only job now will be author!! I’m excited and nervous and a hundred other things, but more than anything, I want to enjoy this time in my life. I don’t know how long it will last, but while it’s here, I want to wake up every day and appreciate all that comes with it. It’s an incredible thing, to be an author for kids and teens, and I feel so incredibly blessed.

One thing I really need to do is figure out school visits. How to do them, how to market myself to do them, and get some scheduled for next school year, hopefully.

Other than that, I think it comes down to what I often sign in my books.

Read. Write. Dream.

Yep. That pretty much covers it.

~Lisa, Miss Crafting a Career

Thursday, January 14, 2010

2010 Writing Goals!

Tip of the Day: If you’re near Winnetka, IL, I’m on a YA Panel with Bev Pratt and Julie Halpern this Saturday the 16th at 3pm at The Bookstall. Come see me! Details here.

I do this thing every year in my personal journal where I rewrite my resolutions from the year before and comment on how I did before making the new year’s resolutions. Since I made writing resolutions on A2A last year I’m going to see how I did with those.

Goal 1: Celebrate my book coming out. Oh yeah. I totally did that. Such fun!

Goal 2: Work on all that marketing stuff that goes along with a book release. Um, pretty good I must say. I still owe some interviews out there but I’m getting to them. :)

Goal 3: Edit Book 2. I kinda rocked this one. I wrote book two in just a few months (too lazy to go look up exactly how long) and finished edits and now it is happily off somewhere in copyedit-land.

Goal 4: Be faster with my critiques for my wonderful critique partners! Oh wow, I was BRILLIANT with this one. Ok, no I wasn’t. Maybe a smidge better. Will keep working on it!

Goal 5: Read tons more YA (I already do, but even more) and buy lots of books to support fellow authors this year. Yep!

Goal 6: Finish the Middle Grade proposal I'm currently working on and complete two more YA proposals I've been thinking about. Yeah. Finished this way early in the year. In fact, that MG proposal is the book coming out 9/1/10.

Goal 7: Write at least one full YA book. I wrote two and the first few chaps and outline of a third. Go me, go me, go me.

Goal 8: Sell more books. No. But I did sell Japanese rights to The Espressologist at Thanksgiving. Does that count?


So I didn’t do too shabby on the writing front as far as goals. Now on to this year’s:

Goal 1: Sell another book. DONE! Read here for details. :)

Goal 2: Keep up with book signings and school visits and interviews as best I can. Get ready to promote next book.

Goal 3: Visit with some of my CPs. DONE! Deena and Emily are visiting next month for the Anderson’s Children’s Literature breakfast.

*Pause* I kinda feel like I’m cheating since I keep listing things already planned. I better come up with new stuff.

Goal 4: Revise books I haven’t sold yet. That’s one MG and two YAs. I love them SO much so I must figure out what will make then extra sparkly to sell them.

Goal 5: Come up with the next most wonderful bestest book idea ever and write that book. I’m thinking Twilight meets Harry Potter meets High School Musical meets The Office. Ok, I’m totally kidding on that last part. But I do want to write at least one new book this year and I have no idea what that will be.

Ok, that’s enough writing goals. I’ve been trying to catch up on personal goals this year and have been spending a ton of time at the gym (OMG, I LOVE spin class!) so it’s eating into my writing time. Oh, that would be a good goal—

Goal 6: Work on balancing everything.

Happy 2010!

Kristina, Miss Delighted to Debut