Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Grammatically Yours

I have decided to bring you a new feature on the blog called “Grammatically Yours.” Grammar can be exceptionally confusing, but it is a key component to being able to write.

Obviously, all of us are going to make grammar mistakes. The purpose of these posts is not to nit pick. I myself make mistakes even though I have studied grammar for years.

The purpose of these posts is simply to aid and to – dare I say it? – have fun.

Yes.

Fun.

Grammar does not have to be scary.

Every once in a while, I may put up a grammar game, or something similar, to get our creative juices flowing. Hopefully, we can make grammar interesting.

I have not settled on a set day for this feature. However, if it becomes something that everyone is interested in, I may dedicate a day to it at some point.

The first post of “Grammatically Yours” will begin next week. Feel free to comment publically or email me with topical suggestions. I will certainly take them into consideration when planning blog posts. Any comments are welcome and also very much encouraged.

What are your experiences with grammar? Is it the plague? Do you grudgingly admire it? Or are you someone who gets excited at the mere mention of infinitive phrases?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Writing Hint #12 - There's No Time Like The Present

Past is Present, Present is Future, Future is…Past?

What?

Is it really Friday? Is it?

Whether you are writing a time travel adventure story, a paranormal, an alternate dimension, or a strait-forward contemporary there is one thing you absolutely need.

A timeline.

You may think you are absolutely brilliant at keeping track of days and hours in your manuscript. But more likely than not, you will get something mixed up at some point in the writing process. Keeping a detailed timeline of scenes and events will go a long way in making sure that your story makes sense to the reader. Déjà vu is confusing in day-to-day life, but experiencing it in a novel is beyond confusing. Don’t send your poor readers through time warp.

And face it…

A timeline will keep you as the writer from going crazy when you encounter time difficulties that you were certain had already been accounted for. In your mind at least. *grin*

Don't rely on your memory. Write everything down. Use a traditional calendar, or make lists of days. Find a system that works for you and is compatible with the makeup of your novel. Stick with that system.

Don’t try to keep everything in your head. There will be times that you mix up the days or forget how much time has actually passed (on and off the page).

Time has to make sense. To you and to your reader.

Use a timeline.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Writing Challenge - The First Draft

Writing the first draft of a manuscript can be a magical time. Scenes, conversations, new characters, action – it almost seems to write itself. Your fingers are sore because you can barely type fast enough to keep up with the story. Whether you are driving to work, watching TV, lying in bed, or taking a shower your mind is in another place. Everything makes you think of your story. You even run out in the middle of a conversation because something has triggered a fresh idea and you must write it down before you lose it.

Everything is perfect. You have a perpetual smile on your face.

Until one day your main character stops cold, crosses her arms, and refuses to be prodded one step further. You can hardly blame her. After all, look at all the stuff you’ve put her through over the last several thousand words.

Or perhaps your main character is cooperating, but you have come upon a plot twist that you didn’t account for. It’s a brilliant twist, and you want to write it. But there is a problem. It does not fit with the overall story.

Maybe all of your characters are behaving, and your plot twists are seamless and exciting. Maybe you simply cannot think of anything else to write. You have hit a wall covered in spikes. (Ouch!) You realize that you have…

Gasp...

Writer’s block.

(queue forbidding, creepy music)

The first draft is certainly magical, but it is also filled with pitfalls and scenes that make you want to tear your hair out.

What is the cure?

Just keep swimming.

I mean writing.

(Sorry…Dory moment...)













Just keep writing.

Even if it is only a page, a paragraph, or even a sentence.

Make yourself sit down at that computer or pick up that notebook and write.

Eventually your characters will cooperate, your twisted plotlines will straighten out, and the words will flow once more.

I came across this really cool chart on this post a while back. If you are a person who works well with a schedule, what more could you ask for? Start with day one and keep going. Write every day.


I am going to start this challenge today. Anybody else interested?

How many days in a row can you write without breaking the chain?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

WriteOnCon Live Event and The Cuteness Factor

This is just a quick post to let you know that WriteOnCon will be having a live chat this next Monday (March 28th) at 5 PM EST. Michael Bourret and Jim McCarthy, literary agents with Dystel &Goderich Literary Management will be participating in the chat. To learn more about them, check out this post.

So mark your calendars! It’s going to be good one.

Also, this picture by Kathleen Ortiz, literary agent with Lowenstein Associates Inc., has got to be the picture of the week. Love it! (direct link





Friday, March 18, 2011

Writing Hint #11 and Pitch Contest

For today’s Writing Hint, I would like to redirect you to a series of posts by Rachelle Gardner, a literary agent with WordServe Literary Group, entitled Myth Busting.

Here are just a few of the myths addressed in these posts:

Myth: You’re finished with rejection once you’ve signed your first book contract.

Truth: Rejection is a part of every single phase of your publishing career…and it’s the worst when your book is published and “rejection” comes in the form of nasty reviews on Amazon and cruel letters from readers.

Myth: "If you don't follow this ONE piece of advice, we will immediately reject you, and you will never get published."

Truth: Agents give a lot of tips and advice on their blogs and Twitter, but you don’t have to worry that we’re going to reject a great project if you don’t follow every last little tip we’ve ever given. Every piece of advice is simply that - a tip to help you become a better writer or create more powerful queries.

Myth: Most agents won't consider any manuscript over 120k words in length.

Truth: NOT a myth - this one is true! Until you've proven yourself with a couple of books that sold well, you're not likely to sell an epic or saga much over 100k. There are always exceptions, of course. But if you're trying to break in, your 180k-opus is probably not the ticket.

Myth: Your work doesn’t need editing.

Truth: If you believe this myth, please don’t pursue traditional publishing. You will be impossible to work with.

Myth: You don’t have to worry too much about spelling and grammar—the editor will fix it.

Truth: See answer to previous myth.

Myth: Once your manuscript goes to an editor at a publishing house, it will be torn to pieces, covered in red ink and completely scrutinized and changed until you're in tears and your work isn't recognizable as your own.

Truth: While the editorial process can be challenging (frustrating, painful, infuriating, humiliating), it’s my experience that 99% of authors come through it having learned, grown as writers, and believing their manuscript is much better for it. And believe it or not, many actually love the revision process.

AND THE BIGGEST MYTH OF ALL…
"Becoming a published author is a pipe-dream that will never come true."

Truth: I’ve only been doing this job for about three years, and already I’ve been involved in helping at least 27 authors get their very first publishing deal. Dreams coming true all over the place!


Click the following links to read the full text of all three posts:



And now.....

CONTEST!!

For all those interested, YAtopia is having an awesome agent pitch contest with Ammi-Joan Paquette, literary agent with EMLA. The rules can found here. If you have a manuscript ready for submission, be sure to check it out! Ms. Paquette is currently closed to submissions so this is a great opportunity. Good luck!

Did You Say Spring? What Spring?

When I woke up this morning, there was something a little off....

The temperatures have been in the fifties everyday. The snow has been melting. The skies have been brilliant blue, the sun bright, the air crisp and clear. The birds have been returning - chirping and building their nests.

Even today the sky is still a brilliant blue. The sun is still bright. And the birds are still chirping.

But it looks like this:




And this:



And this:



And this:



All told....we got eight inches of snow.

Now I am not complaining. The birds are though. They were going crazy in the trees. Actually, they sounded quite hostile (wet, snow-buried nests and all).

But I am actually enjoying it. Spring snows are the best. It is warm enough to explore outside, the snow is real heavy and wet, and it does not linger for untold weeks. It is just fun.

So what's the weather like where you are?

Oh, and don't worry. I have not forgotten about today's Writing Hint. I will have the post up this afternoon, so be sure to check back!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Patience Truly is a Virtue - The Submission Process

There are a lot of writers out there who are in the middle of the submission process. During this time, patience is one of the absolute best virtues you can have.

So maybe you are just starting to query. It can take days to weeks before you hear anything. Or maybe you have already been querying extensively, and perhaps those queries are starting to yield some fruit. Maybe you have a few partials out there. Perhaps even a full or two. You are excited that an agent (or two, or three) has been intrigued by your novel and wishes to see more.

But now you must wait….

Remember, literary agents are extremely busy people, and their clients get top priority. Agents receive hundreds of queries and, at any one time, have a number of partials and fulls sitting on their desks or computers. They need time. Period.

This post is about what you do during this time of waiting. A time when patience is of more value than gold.   

Do you buy out the local DVD rental store and have a movie marathon? Do you leave town and take a vacation? Do you clean out the shelves of your local bookstore and bury your nightstand with lovely new books? Do you begin a new manuscript?

After all the waiting, what if those submissions come back as rejections? Don't get angry. Don't harass the agent over email or Twitter or whatever else you can think of. Don't lose heart. 

Use those rejections and learn from them. Fix what needs fixing, and grow as a writer. The submission process is just another step along the road. It can make you strong. Revel in it. Learn from it.

And most important.

Don’t. Stop. Writing.

Before I leave you, I have a picture that made me smile. I came across it on this post by Vickie Motter, literary agent with Andrea Hurst Literary Management.

Don’t you feel bad for him? Seriously?

He needs a hug.


Awww. Poor him.

Are any of you in the middle of the submission process? Are you close to submitting? What do you do when you must be patient? 

Friday, March 11, 2011

Writing Hint #10



Today’s writing hint was inspired by this post written by a fellow writer. Basically her topic dealt with what to do when you find yourself overwhelmed by your own writing. I am sure every writer gets “stuck” from time to time. The question is – how do you get “un-stuck”?

Here are a few of the things I do to get going again:

I read – Anything and everything. Immersing myself in a book can help my own words to flow.


I go back and read what I have written – Oftentimes going back and reading previous scenes will spark new ideas.


I fall in love with my characters all over again – If I don't write their story, no one will.


I revise – Revising scenes shows the potential of the story and helps me to get back in the right frame of mind to write.


I outline new ideas – Plotting new scenes, concentrating on world-building, etc., can get things going again.


I work on another project - This is why I like having two novels to work on simultaneously. If I am stumped in one, I can work on the other. When I return to the first, I have all sorts of new ideas after my short break. Sometimes leaving a manuscript alone for a couple of days can make a huge difference.

I write - Even when things seem overwhelming and my brain is fried, I try to make myself sit down and write *something.* Even if that something is only a sentence or two. 


I remember the joy - This is the most important thing. If I think of why I began writing in the first place (the love, the joy, the *need*) things don't seem as overwhelming anymore.

What are your own thoughts? What do you do to motivate yourself when you find yourself overwhelmed by your writing?

Monday, March 7, 2011

WriteOnCon 2011!!

I am excited.

Why?

Because the dates for WriteOnCon 2011 have been announced!!

For those of you who have absolutely no idea what I am talking about, WriteOnCon is an online writer’s conference. The conference itself is dedicated to kidlit writers. To learn more about it, visit the WriteOnCon website. The conference will take place Tuesday – Thursday, August 16-18. Mark your calendars!

While you are on their site, check out the brilliant contest they have going right now. There is only one word for it…. WOW. This is an amazing opportunity to get a query critique or even an illustration critique from some fabulous individuals. There are eight total prizes. They are as follows:

Query Critiques from:

Sarah Davies with Greenhouse Literary
Jennifer Rofe with Andrea Brown Literary
Marietta Zacker with Nancy Gallt Literary
Beth Fleisher with Clear Sailing Creatives
Tina Wexler with ICM
Ginger Clark with Curtis Brown LTD
Jill Corcoran with Herman Agency Inc.

Illustration Critique from:

Marietta Zacker with Nancy Gallt Literary

Finally, keep an eye out for the WriteOnCon live chats. They are super-informative and tons of fun.

While you are roaming the cyber sphere, check out the Author Blogs post by Meredith Barnes and this really cool Flow Chart on Kate Hart’s blog.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Thunder Snow and The Synopsis

So last night, I was just sitting in my room working on an outline and new scenes for Novel B2. All of a sudden it started pouring ice balls (hail with a twist), and the little things were bouncing off the roof and windows with a tremendous amount of noise. A few minutes later it began snowing like crazy.

And lightening.

And thundering.

We were having a true thunder-snow-storm.

This morning there was about five inches of snow, and it is still coming down.

I have decided that March is the most indecisive month. One day it feels like spring (fifty degrees, clear, sunny), and the next we’re having thunder snow. Go figure.

Anyway, today’s the day for…

Writing Hints!!

So, here we go:

Writing Hint #9 (Query Hint #6)

Another item frequently needed during the submission process is a synopsis. Some agents do not require them. In fact, Suzie Townsend, with FinePrint Literary Management, has gone so far as to call them “evil.”

A synopsis is certainly not the easiest thing to write, but it is likely that you will need one at some point in the submission process. Because of this, you need to know what it is and how to write it.

The synopsis is not the same as a query letter. The keywords for a query are “brief” and “enticing.” In a query letter, you introduce your novel and tell what it is about in such a way as to catch an agent’s attention. You should do this in no more than 250 words. Do not reveal the end of the story.

A synopsis is a much longer summary of your novel, approximately 2-3 double-spaced pages (this varies from agent to agent). In the synopsis you usually *do* tell how the story ends. There is no “holding out” in a synopsis.

I am going to redirect you to a post by Nathan Bransford. I am including a portion of it below, but please click the link to read the post in its entirety.


A synopsis is not an opportunity to talk about every single character and every single plot point in a "and then this happened and then this happened" fashion. A synopsis needs to do two things: 1) it needs to cover all of the major characters and major plot points (including the ending) and 2) it needs to make the work come alive. If your synopsis reads like "and then this happened and then this happened" and it's confusing and dull, well, you might want to revise that baby.

…in the synopsis, you definitely want to capture how the novel begins and the hook and include all of the major climaxes and the big climax at the end. Between those points introduce major characters and their relationships, and make sure you're conveying the core of the conflicts between all of these elements. But then, rather than just filling in with more and more plot and more and more characters, connect the dots between them with your own summarizing, in order to make the synopsis easy to read and compelling on its own.


Jessica Faust, with BookEnds, LLC, also has an informative post about the synopsis here.

Do you have any words of wisdom regarding the synopsis or helpful links with tips about writing it? 

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

WriteOnCon and Q & A

If you missed the WriteOnCon live chat Monday night, you missed a good thing. Seriously.

Suzie Townsend with FinePrint Literary and Maria Gomez with Harper Collins were absolutely amazing. They were more than willing to answer questions, and they were insightful and helpful. I was able to ask each of them a direct question and was rewarded with detailed, informative responses.

The chat was one hour and fifteen minutes of complete awesome. It was fun and funny. The WriteOnCon crew who set up the live chat did a great job pulling everything together and moderating.

There will be more chats in the future, and I will be sure to give you the details here. If you were able to participate in the chat, what are your thoughts? Did you learn anything new? Did you enjoy it?

For those who were unable to participate, you can read the full transcript of the chat here.

In other news:

YA author Natalie Whipple is hosting a Q & A on her blog. Do you have any pressing writing questions? Direct them to her here. She will continue the Q & A all day.