Friday, May 29, 2009

Author in distress

Tip of the day: Did you know if you're a teacher or a librarian, you can nominate titles for the ALA Best Books for young readers? The nomination form can be found on this page (click on Nominate a Title)

So, last week I quit. I quit writing. I got up out of my chair, went into the kitchen, made dinner, trying not to cry, all the while thinking, I'm done. It's over. I can't do this anymore. It's too freaking hard.

In the past few months, I started writing two books. One of them I only got through a couple of chapters before I knew it was not the book I wanted to write. The other one, I got to 20,000 words when I said to myself, this is crap. Now, of course we know, first drafts often are just that. But there still needs to be a great premise, a great voice, a great *something* to hold on to. I had a friend read it, and she said she liked it, but still, something was really bugging me about it.

The day after I quit, I woke up and I asked myself if still wanted to quit. I thought about all the amazing books I've been reading lately and all the reviews for amazing books coming out later this year. What if those writers had quit when it got hard?

The thing about writing first drafts is that, for me, I don't outline much, and so I have to just write the book, letting the characters lead the way. When things go the right way the whole way through and magical moments happen without effort, it's a wonderful, happy thing. But things don't always go that way. My book, IT'S RAINING CUPCAKES? That book came almost effortlessly during the entire first draft. I wanted my current book to be like that book. But each book is different, and just because a book makes you struggle more, it doesn't mean it's not good. Right? Please tell me I'm right about this!!

In the end, my resignation lasted all of a day. I took a deep breath, opened a new document, and started the book over. I've gotten about 10,000 words done. This weekend, I plan to write up a chapter-by-chapter outline because obviously, with this book, I need one!

Hard? Yes. But necessary. And in the end, probably easier than quitting.

~Lisa, Miss Crafting a Career

Thursday, May 28, 2009


Tip of the Day: Aprilnne Pike's debut book, WINGS, has been out for three weeks. She's been on the New York Times Bestseller list all three weeks. Last week she was #1. Ever wonder how your life would change after making the NYT bestseller list? Read about it here.

Remember show-n-tell in grade school? Sigh. I loooooved show-n-tell. I can't for the life of me remember what I used to show the class back then but I knew each week it was something hugely important in my life. Like a light-up yo-yo. Or maybe my cabbage patch doll.

So this week I thought I'd bring back show-n-tell and show you something I stumbled upon online last week. My German book!

First, look at that cover. Isn't it adorable? And the translation of the summary is so funny! Granted, maybe the translator I used is off but here is what it says:

A triple espresso on ice - who is appointed, has class. Latte Macchiato with skimmed milk and sweetener means against: Zick Alert! Jane, in a coffee shop working, calls it "Espressologie" - the art of people based on their coffee preferences to be characterized. Their newest game is for single customers the perfect partner. Hit rate: 100%! The little coffee shop is a Mecca of the lonely hearts. But in their zeal to make everyone happy, Jane looks over almost the icing on her own Moccaccino ...

Okay, I LOVE the phrase Zick Alert! Em (Miss Querylicious) translated it for me and it means B**ch alert. HA!

And that last line of the summary-- it's almost scandalous sounding isn't it?

It was so fun finding the German version of my book online already and I hope the book makes sense as translated. I personally will never know since I don't read German but if anyone ever gets a hold of a copy and reads it you'll have to let me know what you think!

Kristina, Miss Delighted to Debut

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

What Teens are Writing (or The After-Effects of Uglies)

Tip of the Day: Get more info about our very own Lisa and enter for a chance to win her two fabulous novels at

In January and February, my library runs a writing contest for teens in our town. This year we had 119 entries in both junior and senior divisions and the prose and poetry categories! I didn't have time to read all of the entries, but I did read the first place, second place, and honorable mention winners'. And do you know what the overwhelming theme was for the prose?

Science fiction!

Jet-powered sneakers, feuding interplanetary colonies, illegal children being reclaimed by the government -- intense futuristic/dystopian stuff!

Is this a sign of the next Big Trend to come in YA when vamps, wolves, and faeries slow down? I'm not sure, but it does seem that the teens must like reading these stories if that's what they're writing! Too bad I don't have one waiting in the wings....

Deena, Miss Subbing for Pubbing

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Summer Reading

Tip of the Day: don't forget today is Tuesday, not Monday.

At my day job, we've been gearing up for our annual library summer reading program. As a result, I keep thinking of all the things I want to read this summer. I've widdled them down to my top 5 (in no particular order):

5.) Prada and Prejudice by Mandy Hubbard:

Out June 11. I'm really looking forward to this book. Both because I love time-travel and Regency England. And I'm always looking for a fish-out-of-water story, especially if it involves romance.

4.) Perfect Fifths by Megan McCafferty

This one is already out, but I haven't read it yet. Word is it's the best in the series. Considering I loved the first four, I'm pumped to read this one.

3.) Don't Judge a Girl By Her Cover by Ally Carter:

Out June 9. I'm very excited about the third installment in the Gallagher Series. She had me at hot boys and spys.

2.) L.A. Candy by Lauren Conrad:

Out June 16. How could I not read this book? Who doesn't want to learn all the juicy secrets of a real-life reality star, even if it's fictionalized. Plus, don't you really want to know if she talks about Heidi, Spencer, Brody, or even Justin Bobby? How the writing is? Or figure out if it's co-written?

1.) Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen

Out June 16. I always look forward to Sarah Dessen's novels, but I'm especially excited about this one. Maybe it's the bike on the front cover, the main character's name Auden, or the love-connect of two insomniacs. Regardless, knowing Sarah's other works, this is going to be good!

--Emily, Miss Querylicious

Monday, May 25, 2009

Happy Memorial Day!

I hope you're all having a wonderful Memorial Day! I had planned to do lots of revisions this weekend, but then a wondrous thing happened. The sun shone in Rochester, New York all weekend!

That never happens. Ever.

So I spent the weekend outside. I bought a trampoline! I went to a cookout! I barbecued chicken and drank beer! I did no writing whatsoever!

I can see I'm going to need to recall last year's summer strategies for writing while the sun is shining. After this long, long winter, I've apparently forgotten them all. I never had much luck with the sunlight bouncing off the laptop screen. I'd like to blame the kids, but I know in my heart that I'm the one who can't sit still with Spring Fever.

I also know in my heart that this is Upstate New York and it could easily snow next week. So forgive me, writing muses, for the taking the weekend off. This week's top priority will be remembering all my summertime writing strategies. I promise.

-- Kate, Miss Sunburned in May for Once!

Friday, May 22, 2009

A2A The Teen Years: Not a lot of reading going on

Tip of the day: Have a safe and happy Memorial Day weekend!!

My strongest memories of books and reading are actually the mid-grade years. I read a lot then – LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE, MRS. PIGGLE WIGGLE, ENCYCLOPEDIA BROWN, and many others. I think I was in fifth grade when I read FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC by V.C. Andrews. And somewhere around there I read ARE YOU THERE GOD, IT’S ME MARGARET, too.

Once I got into high school, though, the reading pretty much stopped. I was too busy having fun. Going to football games and dances. Looking at the boys. Oh, and then there was that reading for school thing, which I didn't like much. I can't even remember much of what we read, although I know we read this one:

I think one of the reasons I can’t get enough of YA novels these days is that I would have LOVED them when I was a teen. I just know I would have been a huge fangirl of Sarah Dessen and Laurie Halse Anderson if they’d been writing when I was in high school.

I wonder if I’ll ever grow up and be an adult reader? Check back in five years and we’ll see!

~Lisa, Miss Crafting a Career

Thursday, May 21, 2009

A2A The Teen Years: What I Liked to Read

Tip of the Day: I'm @TinaSpringer on Twitter. Talk to me! :-)

I've always loved to read. When I was little it all started with the Little House on the Prairie series.

I started with one, got hooked, and then couldn't wait to get through them all. And I'm happy to say I'm passing this along. A couple of months ago I bought my 8-yr old niece a Little House book and since then she's gotten the rest of the series and is making her way through. Yay!

I guess I was always a series girl because from then on I hopped from series to series. From about age 10 to 14, I would read a book a day. I guess I had a lot of time back then.

I adored, let me repeat ADORED The Babysitter's Club.

I can't tell you how many times I tried to start my own babysitter's club but couldn't find friends who wanted to babysit. (little interesting fact about me: I was always trying to start clubs as a kid: save the whales club, boycott grapes club, NKOTB fan club and so on.)

And then there were the Sweet Valley Twins.

I liked them and read probably 10-15 before I dove in the Sweet Valley High series.

I loooooooooved this series. Really. There are still like 100 SVH books sitting in a box in my garage as we speak.

And my other favorite series that no one has actually mentioned yet? The Girls of Canby Hall Series!

Come on, someone else had to love this series, right? It was all about three very different girls at a boarding school and all the messes they got into. Sigh. Good stuff.

After that I'm blanking. I'm having a hard time remembering what I read in high school I know there was V.C. Andrews like Deena mentioned yesterday but I can't remember what else I read. Besides the required reading for English class of course. Hmm-- is that a trend? I think Em mentioned this too. So did we stop reading for fun when it became work in high school? Anyone else do this?

Kristina, Miss Delighted to Debut

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A2A The Teen Years: What I Read (or Incest, Murder, and Torture -- What More Could a Teen Ask For?)

Tip of the Day: If you tend to accidentally kill house plants, opt to grow spider plants. Those things are more indestructible than Superman after a full night's sleep!

In junior high, there was one author's work that I was obsessed with (well, more like a ghostwriter's but you get the idea): V. C. Andrews. Even her name was cool!

The first book that lured me into her world of incest, murder, torture, orphans, twins, kidnappings, mansions, evil half-sisters, and creepy grandparents was FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC.

Remember you flipped open the cover and saw a picture of the whole twisted family? I loved those pictures!

It was actually my best friend at the time, April, who introduced me to these books. I have to give credit where it's due. :)

After I saw the movie, I was off to read the entire Dollanganger family series.

That first series was just the beginning -- HEAVEN was waiting for me! MORE sadistically twisted familial tales!

Yes, my mother knew what I was reading at ages 12-13 along with my LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE series (which I also loved), but I'm not sure she knew the extent of the twistedness of the books. But even if she did, she's a good mom and would've trust us girls (my sis and I) to read them anyway (no, I have not become a murderous, rich grandmama).

The DAWN series was next for me. Looking back, how did I do it? Each series really was the same except for the color of the MCs' hair....

Fess up -- who else out there read all these books?

Deena, Miss Subbing for Pubbing

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Readings from a Reluctant Reader

Tip of the Day: want to have some fun? Find old copies of books you read in middle school and re-read to see how different you feel about them now!

Many people can identify books that changed their lives, or books they read as teens that made them want to be a writer. I don't have any of those.

Growing up I loved to read, and devoured books like the Babysitters Club, Boxcar Children, Sweet Valley High and Nancy Drew. But then I hit high school and that all changed. For English class we were given stuff like Beowulf, The Scarlett Letter, and The Canterbury Tales.

Not that there was anything really bad about these books, but they didn't exactly make me long to cozy up next to a crackling fire and read them. I really wanted to keep reading about romance with the Wakefield Twins, what mysteries Nancy would unexpectedly find, and completely unrealistic plots that really entertained me. I didn't want to try to determine what passages like this meant:

"The miller is a lout, as you're aware;
So was the reeve, and so were many more.
They both told bawdy stories. Then beware,
And do not lay upon me all the blame,
Or take in earnest what is meant in fun."
My brain, my brain. I like to use it, but when reading it likes enjoyment and to relax. Which is why I probably read Sweet Valley High books for a little too long, then stopped reading completely, and why when I finally realized not everyone has to read books like you did for AP English, I started to enjoy reading again. And yes, it may have taken me several years after college to come to that conclusion, but at least I discovered it before it was too late.

Had I known about awesome books like these when I was in High School, I think I would have been doing more than checking out home-decorating books, fashion magazines, movies, and music during my semi-regular visits to the library.

--Emily, Miss Querylicious

Monday, May 18, 2009

A2A The Teen Years: Teen Readers Unite!

Tip of the Day: Christine Kane's blog provides practical encouragement for artists with goals. It's one of my "must reads." This post on motivation is why:

I was a big reader as a teenager. I had a lot of extracurricular activities but that didn't stop me. I was the type of girl who brought books to work and football games in case I got a chance to read a page or two. I used to bring books when I hung out at friends' houses until someone took me aside and told me it was rude. (I'm still internally debating the merits of that etiquette tip.)

What did I read? My rule was I read pretty much everything that my mother didn't.

My mother reads a lot. She used to take me to the public library with her every two weeks. No matter how we were getting along, that was a trip I never turned down. When I was in high school, she was into gothic historical romances, books with ladies on high cliffs or possibly moors on the cover, the wind whipping about their Georgian dresses, Rebecca-like stares of panic frozen on their innocent white faces. (You can see I put a lot of thought into giving my mother a hard time about this.)

My friends and I were into Stephen King. I loved reading the same books my friends read, debating which Stephen King book was best, making stupid Pet Cemetary jokes and watching all the cheesy movies with them. SciFi reruns of Maximum Overdrive and Children of the Corn bring me back to high school faster than a time machine.

I read a lot of other books, thick ones so I could give my mother grief about her "negligent, vapid" reading choices. But then a funny thing happened. The thick books led to historical fiction, and then historical romance. By college, I was ransacking the house on my home visits for Mom's old Regency romances.

By then, she was bored with Gothic and had given the books away. She was into cosy mysteries. Cosy mysteries! Mom, you have GOT to be kidding me! Like Murder She Wrote? Ugh, I'm going to the library!

Mom moved onto more adventurous, suspenseful stuff while I moved onto sci fi and fantasy. But now I find myself craving adventure books. Sure, I wouldn't read Janet Evonovich when Mom was recommending her, but I'll try it now.

Well, guess what? She gave her Stephanie Plum books away. Now she likes paranormal romance. Way to jump on the bandwagon, Mom. Geez.

On the other hand, at this rate she should come around to Stephen King in a few years. I'll save a copy of Desperation for her, just in case.

-- Kate, Miss Perfecting the Pages

Friday, May 15, 2009

My writing weaknesses

Tip of the day: Want to make sure you write every day? Set a goal of 100 words a day, no matter what. 100 words is easy. I’ve found that often, the hardest part is just opening the document. 100 words a day makes you open the document and get something down, even if you only have 15 minutes.

I’m working on a new project and I’m just trying to have fun with it. It’s a young adult novel, not in verse, sort of an urban fantasy thing, I think. And it is fun, except sometimes I spend the longest time on the stupidest little things.

Here is a list of things I struggle with ALL the time. Please, tell me I’m not the only one!

~ Getting my character from one place to another. I don’t know why I struggle with this, but I do. I seem to use – “I headed toward” a lot for some reason, maybe because I get tired of saying “I went” all the time?

~ Figuring out where to put in little bits of background information. I think my problem with this is that I just want the story to keep going forward. I don’t want to take time to explain something that’s happened in the past. But it is necessary sometimes, I know!

~ Putting in just the right number of beats and actions during dialogue, so you see the characters there, doing whatever they’re doing while they’re talking, but not so much that the dialogue doesn’t flow well. What’s too much? What’s not enough? I don’t know!!!

If you have any helpful tips, let me have them!

~Lisa, Miss Crafting a Career

Thursday, May 14, 2009

You Don't Have to Do this Alone

Tip of the Day: Using the crushed ice option on your refrigerator, fill a cup with ice and pour juice over it. It makes a sno-cone! Sorta.

A few weeks ago I was talking about how cool it is to hook up with other YA authors. I got to do that again this past week with two fellow Debs when Kristin Walker and I went to Aprilynne Pike's booksigning at Anderson's Bookshop in Naperville, IL. After the signing we hung out and gabbed and had a great time. And it reminded me how needed it is to talk to other people in your field, other people who "get it". Sure you have plenty of friends and family that you can talk to but will they really understand how torn up you are when you get another new cover so close to your release (um, yeah. If you haven't noticed my cover has disappeared from the sidebar on our blog here. #3 is in the works) or you're revising your book for the 50th time? As authors we're not in cubicles in an office building where we can get up from our desks at any time and walk across the aisle to a friend and whine about the boss or the neverending project problems. So we need to find other ways of doing this. And here are a few suggestions you may want to try:

Writing Retreats: You can shell out some bucks and go to a nice organized one with an instructor and everything like this one in Italy or you can grab a couple of writing friends and make-up your own writing retreat like Em, Deena, and I did when we picked a spot inbetween where we all lived and rented a floor in a B&B for the weekend. And gave the retreat a cool name of course.

Conferences: Or try a conference! I still haven't been to any of the SCBWI conferences but I hear such good stuff about them! And the big SCBWI-LA one is coming up. From what I'm told, all the cool people go to this one.

Writing Groups: Start or join a writing group. You may not be able to find a young adult fiction only group but there are plenty of general writing groups out there. Go to a Web site like and type in your city and writing and see what's out there. It's a chance to hang out with other writers anyway. Or, walk into your local Indie book store or Barnes & Nobles and ask to see their calendar of events. My local B&N, for example, has a monthly writer's group where people take turns reading their works aloud.

What about you guys? Do you successfully reach out to other writers to stay sane in this business and if so, how do you do it?

Kristina, Miss Delighted to Debut

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Me Funny Part II (or What I Learned From Stephen Colbert!)

Tip of the Day: If you ever need a big laugh, watch some episodes of the Colbert Report. You won't be sorry (but you might pee your pants).

Since my post last week about funny books and how to write funnily (or funnilier than the spelling of this word), I've come to three conclusions as to what makes me LOL when reading a book (or watching TV or a movie, etc):

1) Deadpan jokes. How does Stephen Colbert do it? How does he say something completely outrageous with a totally straight face?

The one time I actually had a captive audience laughing was in my undergrad communications class. We had to give a speach to persuade the listeners that they should adopt an idea that was against the norm or a current insitutionalized belief. Some students discussed why alcohol should be sold to minors, or why pot should be legalized (very important topics to the undergrad population), while I did my speech on why there should be an open hunting season on squirrels in our college town. With as straight a face as I could, I described the serious menace of squirrels today, complete with evil photos of the tree rats, and a supported list of evils they caused, such as eating Halloween Jack o'lanterns, chewing through garbage cans, and blowing out the power on the entire street when they exploded themselves on the street's power transformer (true story). The class was actually laughing at my speech! I was so happy! I don't think it ever happened again.

And now years later I realize why: the deadpan approach.

2) Narrative voice. Our own Tina and Emily have this one covered (and yes, I am jealous of the brilliant saracasm they can cast in their narrator's voice). Here's an excerpt from THE ESPRESSOLOGIST by Tina to illustrate this point:

"So, Jane Turner, isn't it?" Melissa asks. "Still dating family members, Jane?" Both girls laugh.

I grab the cream instead of the skim milk and pour it into the foaming pitcher. There we go -- we'll see who's laughing when she gets on the scale later.

3) Dialog. In real life, listening to people's conversations can yield hilarity even if you don't know what they're talking about. Sometimes that makes it even more funny. Different word choices or described situations can make me laugh. Here's an example from Robin Benway's AUDREY, WAIT! between best friends Audrey and Victoria:

"See, now, Evan wouldn't have done this," Victoria pointed out as she took her drink. "He wouldn't have noticed that you were even thirsty, much less that I was. I mean, you could both be walking in the Sahara desert and you'd be dying of thirst and he'd be like, 'Hey, Aud, I've got this killer idea for a song.' Totally useless."

I swirled my ice with my straw. "Evan used 'killer' last year. This year, everything's 'fool-ass.'"

"Okay, Audrey? Let me introduce you to something called The Point. You are missing it."

So now, my personal mission, should I choose to accept it, is to write something funny this week in a WIP.

What if my breakout novel ends up being this funny WIP? Then will there be pressure to be funny all the time? ACK! Does the pressure never end?

Deena, Miss Subbing for Pubbing

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Entering Writing Contests

Tip of the Day: want to try a new way of critiquing? Try entering a contest!

I used to think contests were a waste of money. Who wants to fork over $30, $40 or $50 just to get a critique of their first chapter or so, especially if you have awesome critique partners? After entering my first contests this year, I’ve changed my mind. For those of you on the fence about contests, here are some reasons they might be beneficial for you:

  • It gives you an opportunity to get your first chapters cleaned up and ready to submit.
  • You get feedback from a new set of eyes. And often that feedback is limited to the most important chapters—the beginning. You get to see exactly what’s working in those, without relying on your other chapters to back them up.
  • You often get numerical feedback, which most critique partners probably don’t do. And if you are like me, numbers—no matter how annoying they are sometimes—help you make sense of your strengths and weaknesses. It helps paint a picture of what you really need to devote your time to improving, and approximately how far you need to improve those weaknesses.
  • You might even final—and let me tell you instant gratification in the glacially-moving writing world can do wonders for your confidence, motivation, and psyche. Everyone needs a pat on the back once in awhile.

Yes contests are still subjective, as are everything with writing. On the last contest I entered, two of the judges loved my writing and one scored me significantly lower. But the results still helped me get an understanding of what was working for the majority of people and what I could improve to appeal to even more agents, editors, and eventually readers.

If you are interested, here are a few resources I use for finding good contests to enter:

Please feel free to include additional resources you use for contests in the comments!!!

--Emily, Miss Querylicious

Monday, May 11, 2009

Is This Makeover Good or Bad?

Tip of the Day: I hope you all had a great Mother's Day! You know what Moms like for gifts? Books of course!

Today I have some big news on the teen girl front. I may be a little late to put all the pieces together for my report, but it's probably still news to those of you so busy with your own writing that you haven't had time to keep up with celebrity makeovers. This well-known teen girl has had a radical makeover: nose job, major orthodontia, the whole works. Take a look:

Here's the original Big Ethel from Archie Comics. I'm guessing this cover is from the early or mid-1960s.

And here's this month's cover of Jughead (still selling tons of copies a month decades later, talk about a backlist):

In fact, she's not even Big Ethel anymore. Now she's just Ethel.

I can kind of see the point. The jokes where the mere fact that Big Ethel is ugly was the punchline don't hold up over time. And now that a girl doesn't need a man right out of high school to provide her with financial security, Ethel's grasping desperation comes off as flat out weird. So why didn't they just gently retire the character? Why the makeover?

A big Archie digest recycles a lot of old comics. No fear that today's girls won't receive the full historical impact of 40s, 50s, and 60s era Betty, Veronica, and Ethel's lack of goals other than boy chasing. New Ethel is right next to Big Ethel in the digests, so that may be some of the reason for the makeover.

Personally, I'm in favor. The "she's ugly" jokes were tiresome ... yet I'm strangely happy that Archie comics is leaving Ethel's official height at 5'10". I'd be even happier if they'd stop making her Jughead's doormat! But it looks like her main storyline is still the same, so apparently all that dental work didn't change Ethel on the inside.

Actually, some earlier makeovers made Ethel much prettier than this month's cover, but the artists seem to have scaled back the glamour. Reader input, I wonder? (You can see the wide variety of new Ethel looks at

What do you think of the makeover?

-- Kate, Miss Perfecting the Pages

Friday, May 8, 2009

Editorial Feedback - let me have it!

Tip of the day: Books on CD are my new favorite thing. I have a 30-minute commute each way to work and it makes the time go by SO much faster listening to a good book. PLUS, I think it’s helping me to be a better writer, *hearing* the story aloud. Try it, you might like it!

In 2001, I wrote my first children’s story. I had been thinking about writing for kids for a long time. I’d ordered books off the internet, and been trying to figure out what you did once you had a story done, because that part worried me. I’m not good at doing something without having a plan in place. But I eventually realized, if I wanted to write for kids I needed to, you know, actually WRITE.

So I wrote a chapter book about two kids who made a wish and turned into an animal for a day. I thought, it can be a series! Each book will have them turning into a different animal and it will teach kids about an animal while also being fun and entertaining at the same time.

I showed it to a neighbor, who also wrote for kids and was the one who got me excited to actually start writing, and she had some concerns and suggestions. I’m pretty sure I was crushed, even though she was very kind about it all. I think I put the thing in a drawer, pulled it out a few years later to look at again, and put it right back in.

I used to be so afraid of feedback on my stories. I would wait, holding my breath, for comments to come in from my critique partners. Please like it, I’d think. PLEASE! Ha!!!

My how things have changed. Now, I crave feedback. I want my critique buddies, my agent, and my editor to mark up that manuscript and help me see the weaknesses. More than anything, help me to make the book the best it can be, PLEASE!!! I have seen brutal reviews. I have seen 1-star ratings on goodreads and comments that make me want to cry. In my mind, those are ten times worse than any editorial suggestions I might get to make my story better.

My editor has told me a couple of times how much he likes working with me. I believe it’s because I take his suggestions, I listen to them, I think about them, and I do what he asks me to do. Which makes me wonder, are there many authors who don’t listen? Who argue and don’t think believe the editor is correct?

Granted, my editor has never asked me to take my story in a totally different direction. And he asks lots of questions, to get me thinking, rather than saying outright – it should be like this. So maybe that’s why we haven’t had any conflict with the three books we’ve worked on together. For the most part, though, I take his suggestions to heart, wanting to make the book as good as it can be and knowing I can’t do that alone.

So many writers seem afraid of the editorial process – of working on a manuscript with an editor, and having to make changes. I say, don’t be afraid! Be open to the possibility that your manuscript can be better. A lot better!

I don’t know. Do you think my experience – a great working relationship with my editor - is the exception rather than a rule? Do you think there are lots of authors who dig their heels in hard when asked to revise something, and then resent their editor for asking?

~Lisa, Miss Crafting a Career

Thursday, May 7, 2009

What Not to Wear (or somebody dress me please!) Author Edition

Tip of the Day: Do you want to laugh? Check out this music video a debuting 2009 YA author made about editing letters.

Last weekend I went shopping for clothes. And, I don't like to shop so much. I used to LOOOOVE shopping but that was when I could go out with a girlfriend and have a fun time. Now, it's generally a mad dash into a store inbetween a gazillion other errands. And I can barely put an outfit together when I have time so the mad dash route is not so great.

Here's the deal. There are these authorly events coming up and I'm going to need to dress appropriately. So what's the appropriate way an author should dress? Really. I need help.
Let's look at a few different situations. Take your average book signing. What should I wear? Should my outfit be different if signing at a conference versus signing in a bookstore?

And what about this. I have a dessert party to go to at 9:30 on a Friday night during ALA. What does one wear to a dessert party? Do I need to press the ball gown? Kidding. It's already pressed. But really, someone tell me what to wear! I asked my agent and she said she always wears black pants and a nice top to everything. Jacket in the car in case she needs it. But she also stressed that since she was an agent she had to be more serious and that I could have as much flare as I want.

I don't have a lot of flare. Anyone know where I could pick some up? :)

This is what I bought so far.

It's similar to this at least (and I'm going to stand JUST like that too. Sans heels. I don't do heels).

And I picked up a cute necklace.

The colors are similar but I bought bigger fake stones (and there were three of them). I was thinking maybe this for the evening party.
I also have a breakfast thingy to go to. Maybe another dress but something with color this time? Argh. I don't know.


Kristina, Miss Delighted to Debut

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

"In these hard economic times..." (or Make Me Laugh Already!)

Tip of the Day: Refreshing your email 502 times a day does not make news come any faster.

In the YA section at my library, there are four shelves of released-in-the-past-six-months "new" books. So many great great titles! But what is lacking on these shelves?





I mean, I'd love to read a humorous YA like "Ferris Bueller's Day Off"! The closest I've gotten with new books lately are the hilarious:

(read these and lol)

That's not to say there isn't great stuff, including this dark fantasy:

and this contemporary, serious novel:

plus this historical fiction:

But in order to appreciate the brilliance of some of these more serious works, I need to intermix them with some light, fun, lol reading!

Any suggestions?

And while we're on the subject, I want to write a hilarious MG or YA. What would some fun plot situations be that could expand into a funny novel?

Deena, Miss Subbing for Pubbing

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Reading as a Writer

Tip of the Day: don't forget to make time for reading in your writing life. Sometimes snuggling up to a good book is a nice break and sometimes it's needed to get new ideas or work out an issue in your own writing.

To me one of the most important things I've done to improve my writing is to look at books with a critical eye. Trying to figure out what makes a character likable, how a plot fits together, and even what gives the book that something extra special for fans to plaster the names of their favorite characters on homemade or store-bought t-shirts.

Sometimes I can't help but look at a book from the view of a writer, especially if I'm not loving it. My inner critic comes out and wants to judge every aspect of it as if it were an American Idol contestant: "where was your own take on it?" or "it was just okay for me, Dawg."

While it's easy to judge those books we don't like, sometimes it's harder to look at books that suck us in instantly. But it's just as important. It's important to figure out how writers make books with conflict, but don't overwhelm the reader with too much information. It's important to learn how most books have a similar structure, but still remain unique, original, and fresh. And it's important to look at how secondary characters are handled, given their own personalities, but never overshadow the main character.

Here's where a second read for a book you love comes in handy.

When I first started writing, I took the time to analyze one of my favorite books chapter by chapter. I made an outline and basically wrote down all the main points of the chapter. Not only what happened plot-wise, but what the character learned, how she/he learned it, how the conflict got resolved, and any other pertinent info.

Going chapter by chapter helped to learn how a book was structured. It took a long time, but I think it was well worth it to look at a book in a smaller way, instead of the big-gigantic way most people normally see a book--with looking at what they liked, didn't like, and if they would recommend it to a friend. And then trying to figure out how that small aspect fits into the larger picture to make it good to the average reader.

And I continue to do this analysis when a critique partner points out a weakness. I try to find a book where the author is good at that particular aspect (say a really likable character), and try to determine what text they use to make that happen. A handy highlighter comes in great for this if you own the book!

I've been watching a lot of decorating shows lately and I heard a good quote yesterday that basically summed all this up, "the difference between good design and great design is in the details."

--Emily, Miss Querylicious

Monday, May 4, 2009

Spring Cleaning

Tip of the Day: I love having the kids play in the backyard all day. I get so much done--until they track in a metric truckload of dirt. Bring snacks and drinks outside so you can ban the neighborhood kids from inside. And a vacuum cleaner you actually like is a good investment.

I did something very exciting this weekend. No, I didn't get to see a movie premiere or hike a waterfall, but what I did instead was just as rare. I organized my writing files. That's right, spring cleaning!

Cleaning can be a form of procrastination, but I was at the point where I was spending up to half an hour a week looking for "that important piece of paper, you know, the one with the black ink that I folded into quarters." So the time investment should pay for itself.

The problem is that I'm an index card abuser. I carry index cards in my purse so I can jot down writing notes in the car wash, at the doctor's office, etc. I also have a stack of index cards on my desk at work. I suppose I could email myself notes from the office and I'm sure that works for some people. But the thought of keeping track of index cards and hardcopy critiques and Word documents and then adding emails to the mix is making my hair stand on end. Add in scribbled-out conference notes, ideas that came to me after I shut down the computer, chapters I printed out to revise ... well, my writing desk looked like this.

So I took myself to Staples and found index card boxes for both the big and small index cards (I use both). Then I spent an hour reading and weeding every card I had thrown in my desk.

The different colors are to manage multiple projects. Pink/purple is for my tween novel with the female MC, blue/green for the novel with the male MC, and white/yellow are miscellaneous notes and story ideas.

I also purchased colored one-and-a-half inch pocket folders. I went through every hardcopy critique and printed chapter revision and pruned ruthlessly. One full recycling tote later and look at my desk drawer now.

I have red folders for the tween novel, blue folders for the novel with the male MC, green folders for my graphic novel planning, yellow folders for new story ideas, and white folders for short stories and conference handouts (I ran out of colors). I also have color coded stick drives for file backups.

So now my multiple projects are managed colorfully. Best of all, I have a new, refreshed outlook. Clutter is cleared away and that full recycling tote reminds me of how far I've come. I'm so past those old revisions. I'm a cleaner, more streamlined writer now. Watch out, Spring!

So what do you think? Is cleaning up your files another form of procrastination? If not, what makes it worth the time (and the office supply splurge)?

-- Kate, Miss Perfecting the Pages

Friday, May 1, 2009

Writing 101

Tip of the day: Happy May Day! When you were younger, did you leave flowers on a porch, ring the door bell, and run? I used to do that and it was SO fun! I wish a kid would do that to me today, I would love seeing a little bunch of flowers on my doorstep.

Lately I’ve been getting a LOT of e-mails from teens wanting writing advice. So I thought I would use this as an opportunity to post some thoughts on this very broad, and very BIG, topic, and perhaps I can just refer them to this post as I need to!

Sometimes the person asking for advice will say something like, “I really want to write, I just don’t know how to get started.”

Lots and lots of people *talk* about wanting to write a book. I think I read a statistic that said 97% of people in the US have thought about writing a book at one time. The number of people who actually DO it, however, is much, MUCH smaller. And perhaps it is because it seems so overwhelming – like running a marathon is to non-runners, probably.

And so, if we compare this to running a marathon, you wouldn’t necessarily wake up and decide to run a marathon with no training. Instead, you’d go to the track, and maybe start out doing a mile, if you could, right? So why not start small with the writing too? Try a writing prompt, or simply write about your main character and get to know him/her. One easy and fun thing to do is to write your main character a letter, and then write a letter back to yourself as your character. See what she says!

As far as writing prompts, here’s a website I found that has hundreds of writing prompts: . Move your mouse around the screen and look at all the different ideas you can find!

Sometimes, a writing prompt can turn into something bigger. And that’s great! Go with it. If not, that’s okay too. Writing is like anything else – the more you do it, the better you get. So write, write, write. every day, write something.

When you really feel ready to write a novel, you’ll need a big, novel (ha!) idea. This is not always easy for me, so I know it can be difficult to think of something you could write an entire book about. So, as I’ve suggested before, keep a journal, and write down thoughts and ideas about things and places and people you like. Maybe you LOVE dogs. Maybe you are especially crazy about cocker spaniels. Write it down. Think about a place you love. The beach? Write it down. Just keep writing things down and then, see if you can piece them together to make a story.

A good, simple formula is to ask yourself what your character wants and what is standing in her way. A story will contain characters that seem like real people. They’ll have likes and dislikes, a certain voice, a certain style. Play around until you find the right character to tell the story you want to tell. Then take us on a journey and let us see the character struggle to get what she wants.

Here are some great writing books to check out:


Happy writing!

~Lisa, Miss Crafting a Career