In the Blogosphere: 9/20-10/15

“In the Blogosphere” is a series, which lists links to writing-related blogs I’ve stumbled upon throughout a given week (usually).

I’m admittedly behind with my Blogosphere posts—I have about 50 links saved, dating all the way back to May/June-ish (oh noes!)—but they are all still worth a look.  I’ll catch up eventually, right?

AGENT STUFF

Author and D4EO agent Mandy Hubbard gives a bit of unorthodox advice . . . about how one line can change your career.

Here, another agent-turned-author, the fabulous Nathan Bransford of Curtis Brown, Ltd., talks about “undercooking” a novel.

Here, Bookends, LLC, agent Jessica Faust offers some query don’ts.


CRAFT & MANUSCRIPT PREP

Over at Write Anything, Annie Evett did a nice little series on voice and dialogue.  Here’s the last of those posts, that contains links to the others in the series.

At League of Extraordinary Writers, Angie Smibert discusses handling readers’ baggage and creating the appearance of truth that readers can find believable.

At Novel Matters, Patti Hill demonstrates how to weed your manuscript.

One of my favorite features over at YA Highway, Amanda Hannah talks about passive sentences one “Sentence Strengthening Sunday” (you don’t have to be a YA writer to appreciate the fabulosity of this) right here.

Confused about manuscript formatting?  Author Louise Wise gives you a crash course here.

Here, YA author Jamie Harrington talks about constructive criticism.  Can you handle it?

Middle-grade author Janice Hardy discusses a subject near and dear to my heart—grammar.  Just what are the basics everyone needs to know?

PEP TALKS

We all need a good writerly pep talk now and again.

Here’s one from YA author Elana Johnson.

Here’s another from freelancer Heather Trese, for good measure.

EXTRAS

You’ve got just over a week left to enter my scary story contest—freak me out in 1,000 words of less!

Over at Savvy B2B Marketing, Wendy Thomas discusses a subject that fascinates me these days: online writing vs. old school journalism (being that I used to teach journalism . . . and now I do a good bit of online writing!).

Here, Writer’s Digest Books’ own Robert Lee Brewer offers a Twitter cheat sheet for those not “hip” to all the “lingo” (hehe) or not quite sure how to optimize your use.

In the Blogosphere: 9/12-9/17

“In the Blogosphere” is a series, which lists links to writing-related blogs I’ve stumbled upon throughout a given week (usually).

I’m admittedly behind with my Blogosphere posts—I have about 50 links saved, dating all the way back to June (oh noes!)—but they are all still worth a look.  I’ll catch up eventually, right?

GET WRITING!

My weekend plans fell through, so now I will be sitting at home [probably with all the lights on all weekend because this will be the first time I’m staying home alone at my house—how lame am I?] with my computer and my beagle.  Which, as much as I love them both, can also both be time sucks!  But I’m buzzing on my WIP right now and would LOVE to get to 30,000 words by Sunday.  It will be a bit of a challenge, but I’m up for it.

Adorable little baby time suck. And a bunch of crap she'd dragged out everywhere and was chewing up. (And my husband's foot.)

All-grown-up time suck.🙂

That said, here are some resources—some of which I’ve used and some of which I haven’t yet but might have to employ this weekend, in order to get words written.

  • Write or Die—You can set your word count and your time goals, and this interface will get IN YOUR FACE [well, if you set it that way] until you reach your targets.
  • WriteRoom—This is for Mac users.  It’s a full-screen writing environment that rids you of the “clutter” of word processing programs.  [Referred to by The New York Times as the “ultimate spartan writing utopia.”]

  • WordWatchers—This has been working for me this month—and this isn’t just shameless self-promotion, as a number of writers have been getting tremendous amounts of work done using this writing program.  It’s through The Write-Brained Network and, like its sister weight-loss program, is something each individual designs to fit his or her lifestyle.  All us Write-Brainiacs participating have set challenging goals, and while we haven’t all been hitting them each week [guilty!] we have been getting tons of work done. And, some people have finished entire projects or gotten over slumps, due to the prodding encouragement of others.

QUERYING & SUCH

Here, literary agent Jennifer Laughran busts publishing industry myths that most writers believe or have heard.

Yeah, but this is real, though.

Two takes on the 5 stages of querying:

  • The first, a guest post by writer Anne Gallagher on the Guide to Literary Agents blog
  • The second, by the inimitable Tahareh

When when those rejections come, Holen Mathews at GotYA offers some constructive questions you need to ask yourself.

SOCIAL MEDIA TIPPAGE

Social media got you down? [If you’re Greyhaus Literary’s Scott Eagan, then yes.] Author Jody Hedlund offers some advice on how to use it effectively without allowing it to take over your life—and writing time.

And here, Daily Writing Tips lists 40 Twitter hashtags for writers.

CRAFT

I was going through my saved posts for “In the Blogospheres” today and came across this little jobby, by Heather Trese at See Heather Write, on the importance of having a pitch . . .

. . . which goes hand in hand with the post I wrote this week on plot vs. situation.

It was really hard to narrow down which picture I found to be the chachiest. So I went with this one.

Here is a lovely post by Christina Mandelski over at Will Write for Cake wherein she discusses the importance of setting in a story.

And here, Writing for Digital talks about the value of a good editor.  One edit quite possibly changed the entire course of American history!

FANGIRL LOVE

I heart you, John Green.

I heart you, Meg Cabot. [the Allie Finkle #6, Blast from the Past, review she links to at the end of this post is MINE!]

PLUG!

Inky Fresh Press interviewed little ol’ me!

Grounding is important.

Happy weekend, everyone! Come harass me on the WB or Twitter and make sure I’m getting my words written!

In the Blogosphere: 7/26-8/6

“In the Blogosphere” is a series, which lists links to writing-related blogs I’ve stumbled upon throughout a given week (usually).

I’m admittedly behind with my Blogosphere posts—I have about 50 links saved, dating all the way back to May/June-ish (oh noes!)—but they are all still worth a look.  I’ll catch up eventually, right?

THE STRAIGHT DOPE ON CONFERENCES

There have been a ton of conferences this summer, but more are just around the corner.

Not sure what to bring to a writers’ conference?  Over on her blog, See Heather Write, writer/editor and aspiring YA novelist Heather Trese gives the basics on what to pack and what to leave home—via this vlog.

Have you never been to one of these events?  Check out this post at The Bluestocking Blog, which details one writer’s lessons learned from her very first conference.

This is an oldie-but-very-goodie post from guest blogger Leah Odze Epstein over at Adventures in Children’s Publishing.  Epstein took great notes at SCBWI Metro New York and was nice enough to share them in a conference round-up.

By the way—WriteOnCon, the FREE online kids’ lit conference, is next week.  Click here to register!

THE NEXT STEPS

So, I’m good on querying and getting and agent and everything—but what happens after that?

Sixteen-year-old Australian YA author Steph Bowe demystifies what happens after you get a book deal in this post on her blog, Hey! Teenager of the Year.

And, here, the ever-fabulous Rachelle Gardner of WordServe Literary explains what is in a publishing contract.

EDITING & CRITIQUING

My SW(IRL) group began critiquing this summer, and some of our members were a bit resistant to it.  I do hope they’ll check out these links!

Here, Jodi Cleghorn of Write for Your Life talks critique etiquette.

In her guest post at Genreality, debut YA dystopian author Jamie Harrington gives a feedback pep talk during which she explains what getting feedback means, why it’s important, and how we need to get over ourselves and get some!

Over at her fantastic blog, author Jody Hedlund offers suggestions of what to do with positive and negative feedback.

And at YA Highway, Amanda Hannah gives us a checklist of what we need in order to get cracking on those revisions.

HILARITY ENSUES

I believe this oldie-but-goodie post was the first I had ever seen of the now-infamous Tahereh (T.H. Mafi), over at Got YA—in which she tells us what the QueryShark herself, Janet Reid, is really thinking.

If You Missed the SWO LIVE CHAT . . .

. . . you weren’t alone.

For those new to the blog, I just had to move my online writing group from Ning to Grou.ps, and the new network is buggy: I tried to send a reminder about the chat to all SWO members today to no avail (I found out that feature has been defunct the last two days—grr!), one of my regular attendees couldn’t access the network at the time of the chat, as well as a host of other wonky things with the new site.

Eeeeeeeeh - the site is buggy, Doc!

Overall, I’ve been impressed with Grou.ps.  After all, it can’t be easy for them to accommodate the Great Ning Exodus of 2010.  They have a tech support group for administrators, which has been helpful to me, and they seem to be actively taking care of buggy things as people report them.  However, don’t mess with my chat!

I suspect they’ll have all the kinks worked out before the May chat.  (I hope! I hope!)

THE GIST

If you missed our chat on revision and rewriting tonight for whatever reason, here are the highlights:

  • Re: Revision & Rewriting: What’s Your Process & How Do You Know When to Stop?
    • We discussed a method of editing I use: editor Bobbie Christmas’s “Find and Refine Method” as outlined in her out-of-print book, Write in Style: Using Your Word Processor and Other Techniques to Improve Your Writing
      • In the book, Christmas discusses how to tighten your writing and lists words and phrases you can search for within your manuscript to quickly find the problematic areas—all using your word processor’s “find” function (i.e., passive verbs, adverbs, certain words and phrases writers often overuse, etc.)
    • One member mentioned a CD called Writer’s Mind, which is designed to engage patterns of your own EEG and stimulate your creativity
    • We talked about reading your manuscript aloud
      • Doing this not only makes others think you are strange, but it also enables you to catch spelling/grammar mistakes as well as pinpoint problematic syntax, etc.
    • We touched how allowing space/distance between yourself and your manuscript is key
      • If you are too close, you’re not going to catch as many errors—your brain kind of fills in missed words, etc.
      • We debated how much space one needs—how much distance—and this, of course, is subjective
        • Some felt sleeping on it and revisiting the manuscript the next day was sufficient
        • One person suggested you not live, touch, or breathe the MS for at least a month before editing
        • Some mentioned sending the piece to beta readers and working on something else to get your mind off said manuscript
          • By the time the betas have read it, you should be sufficiently recharged

    Make like Michael Strahan's front teeth, and get some space between you and your MS!

  • This led to a discussion about beta readers—Re: where to find them and how to know if you can “trust” someone to give you constructive feedback
    • Some places suggested to find beta readers included: listservs, online writing groups, writer friends you make at conferences, etc.
      • One of my favorite comments of the chat: “Beta readers = fellow writers. Avid readers. Not Mom, Not Dad. No one you’ve slept with.”🙂
    • Re: How to know if the betas are going to be any good
      • We pretty much agreed that it’s a crap shoot
      • You want to be on the lookout for someone with a “good eye”
        • You might establish this by getting a feel for the person through e-mails, chats—get to know them—see if they’re a good fit—research them.  THEN, make your decision.
        • One member said he has his betas complete a questionnaire so he can elicit constructive feedback—a very interesting way to guide the beta reader to focus on whatever you need them to focus on!

You could also pick up a beta at a pet store for, like, a dollar.

  • Re: How to know when to stop editing
    • We pretty much said it can be kind of a gut thing
    • My rule:  When you’ve revised so many times that you hate yourself—and your manuscript—and you feel like you might physically die if someone made you look at it again, then you *might* be done . . . but you should probably still have someone else look at it at that point.  Get that distance we mentioned.

Rappers from the '90s have surprisingly good advice for revising. (It was a toss up between this and one with "Stop - Hammertime" spray-painted on it.)

  • Re: Miscellaneous
    • We discovered that the new chat has awesome—but random—emoticons that we just stumbled upon
      • For example, by typing “(rain)”, a raincloud appears in place of the words—WHA?
      • This distracted us several times.
    • We discussed light versus edgy YA, as a few of us learned we had been hearing similar comments from agents about our MSS.
    • Marice decided she’s going to host a writing conference at her place Down Under.😉
    • I invited myself to Australia, Los Angeles, and Macon, Ga.

Now, it’s your turn.  Anything to add to the conversation?

You Have a Question? I Have an Answer: How to Break Up Long Manuscript Using Arcs

“You Have a Question?  I Have an Answer” is a feature that answers real questions from real writers.

Q:  Ricki, I’m currently editing my manuscript (it’s YA fantasy), which many people have suggested might be too long.  It’s intended to be a series, so I’m trying to figure out if I can split it—but I’m thinking I might be too close to it.

In your post on editing last week, you mentioned the word “arc.” You said if you had two arcs, you could maybe split your manuscript into two.  Can you explain this a bit?

–A.C.

A: Thanks for the question!

When I said arc, I was referring to the dramatic arc, or plot.  If you already know this is a series, it sounds to me like there must be some over-arching plot and a lot of little sub plots.  This is good!  It means you have a lot of material to work with, and that will help you in your editing of the first book.

This will probably ring a bell from seventh-grade English, but each story arc is made up of these six basic parts:

  • Exposition
  • Conflict
  • Rising Action/Complications
  • Climax
  • Falling Action
  • Resolution

For instance, let’s look back at the Harry Potter series (and I’m assuming, if you’re writing YA fantasy, you’ve read Harry Potter.  If not, you need to drop everything and read it NOW because you should be using these books as your bible!  Also, if you haven’t, *SPOILER ALERT*).

But I digress.

In the HP series, you’ve got the overarching plot of Harry vs. Voldemort; but, in each of the books, J.K. Rowling focuses on something different.  Although you get that it’s Harry vs. Voldemort, it’s a different piece of the puzzle each time.

In the first one, you’ve got Harry learning he is a wizard, learning about the existence of Hogwarts/this whole wizard world, and learning about the overarching theme (Voldemort is a bad guy, who seeks to return to power and destroy him).

And while “Harry vs. Voldemort” is the bigger-picture plot, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone’s arc/plot in the dramatic-arc breakdown looks something like this:

EXPOSITION

  • Harry’s an orphan
  • His aunt & uncle are heinous to him
  • Oh yeah—and he’s a wizard

CONFLICT

  • They learn of the attempted robbery of the Sorceror’s Stone from Gringotts Bank
  • This incites talk of why someone would want to steal it (because it has the power to give a wizard what he wants most) as well as who might want to steal it (He Who Must Not Be Named—a.k.a. Voldemort)
  • Harry learns from Ron and Hermione that people say Voldemort is planning to return to power

RISING ACTION/COMPLICATIONS

  • Harry learns the ropes of coming into his wizardry
  • Malfoy’s a pain in the ass & Snape’s not much better
  • Voldemort lost his power after killing Harry’s parents and trying to kill Harry, and he’s probably not too thrilled that his attempt on Harry’s life failed
  • Harry, Ron, & Hermione suspect Snape is after the Sorceror’s Stone because he hates Harry, and they think he tried to sabotage Harry with a spell during the Quidditch match
  • Harry and his friends venture past the three-headed dog guardian of the Sorcerer’s Stone because they believe Snape is going to steal it (the series of challenges they face on the way to the stone, etc.)

CLIMAX

  • Harry finds Professor Quirrell is about to steal the SS—not Snape—and it’s because he serves Voldemort
  • Voldy is feeding off Quirrell’s energy, and he wants the SS so he can restore his power and come back to life—ya know, without residing in the back of Quirrell’s head
  • Quirrell/Voldemort tries to take the stone from Harry, but Q/V burns up when he touches him

FALLING ACTION

  • Harry’s in the hospital
  • Dumbledore tells Harry that Voldemort is likely to return—and he’s probably pissed at Harry

RESOLUTION

  • Harry goes back to his aunt/uncle’s for the summer
  • Even though they’re awful, he’s happier because he knows he has Hogwarts and a whole wizarding world of his own to look forward to in the fall.

My suggestion would be to read (or reread) Sorcerer’s Stone and Chamber of Secrets.

You said yourself you’re too close to your book right now to know what to cut, and this can be a good break.  But it’s not just a break from your book—it’s research.

Read those two books and study J.K. Rowling’s use of exposition—how she sprinkles it in.  She really does make each book capable of being a stand-alone, but they each fit into the overarching plot—and that’s what you’ll want to do as well.

I would also suggest, for the sake of your own series, plot out Chamber of Secrets (and maybe even more of the HPs—even if you use Wikipedia summaries for the rest of the series) in the same way I just did above.  This will get you accustomed to figuring out how to break down stories this way—and that will be key in breaking apart your own.

Once you get away from your book and immerse yourself in this task, you’ll have a fresh pair of eyes for the trimming and tightening—I promise!

I hope this helps!

Editing: Get Distance, Get Advice & Get Over It

When I finished my first manuscript—well, the first time I finished it (heh)—there was one nagging question I had in the back of my mind: is the time span too long?

It started with my protagonist in her sophomore year of college, flashed back through some of high school, and ended up just after her college graduation; so, while the span was technically only two years, it seemed like six or seven because of the flashback.

SEEK HELP

I swapped manuscripts with a few other YA writers—without mentioning my concern about time span.  I figured, we’ll see if it slides.  For the most part, I received positive feedback, but one woman—the one whose manuscript was the best out of all those I critiqued and the one who, during our swap, landed a literary agent—mentioned she thought I should set the whole thing in high school somehow.

Ugh—I wanted to query—but I knew she was right.  So I set out to make it fit within the parameters of my main character’s sophomore through senior years of high school.

NOT SHORT ENOUGH—SHOOT ME, PLEASE

Halfway through the manuscript makeover, I attended the South Carolina Writers’ Workshop and had a critique with Waxman Literary’s fabulous Holly Root.  When she said three years is still too long of a time span for young adult lit, although it killed me, I knew she was right. As a friend at that conference put it, “Three years in YA is the equivalent of War and Peace.”  So I trudged home, consulted several fellow writers, read several YA books and studied those I’d already read, and even asked YA author Lauren Myracle for some advice.

Myracle reiterated what most people had said, most kids’ books take place over a very short period of time (a few weeks, a semester, a school year at the longest). In addition, she asked if I had more than one arc—because, if I did, I could split the book into two.

GET SOME DISTANCE AND GET OVER IT

During that month of researching and gearing up to edit once more, the biggest thing I had to overcome was wrapping my head around mushing my story from three years into two semesters.  I was too close to it at the time, and I just didn’t see how it was possible.

I thought a good deal about what my editor and friend, Chuck Sambuchino of Writer’s Digest Books, had said when he reviewed my pages: there was a lot I could cut—if the reader “gets it” with just one scene, why drag it out and have three similar scenes?  He said he often sees this when writers add autobiographical elements to their manuscripts; they want to stay true to “how it happened” and they end up sacrificing story because of it.

So, with some distance from my novel and armed with lots of great advice, I put marker to dry-erase board and plotted out my story.  I looked at every scene and evaluated its worth to the overall story.  With the fictionalized autobiographical scenes, I let go of the “how it happened”—and in most cases, I eliminated them altogether.  It all began to click into place.

SO . . .

It took about a month of revisions, but what I now have is a much tighter, much better, much more marketable story.  I ended up changing my focus pretty much completely, playing up my hook, adding/deleting scenes—and it still wound up being 20K words shorter.

I’m not saying this process won’t likely happen all over again when/if a lit agent is interested in it—and then probably again when/if a publisher is interested in it.  But the most important lesson here is that, if you’re too attached to the “how it happened,” too in love with your words, and too close to your manuscript, you cannot be an effective editor.

In the below Vlogbrothers video, YA author John Green talks editing.  He says he deletes over 90% of his original words and that all the things people like about his books emerge in later drafts. Enjoy!

In the Blogosphere: 2/8-2/12

“In the Blogosphere” is a weekly series, which lists links to writing-related blogs I’ve stumbled upon throughout a given week.  Most posts will be from that week, but if I find some “oldies but goodies,” I’ll throw those up here as well.

I never find as much time to read blogs as I want, but here are a few posts that struck me this week.

RESOURCES

If you’re entering the editing stages, this post by YA author Natalie Whipple is for you.  On her Between Fact & Fiction blog, Whipple discusses different ways to edit.

Stuck on structure?  Aspiring sci-fi author Andrew Rosenberg has a great series on story structure at The WriteRunner—and here, he’s begun another one on scene structure.

Need help with your synopsis?  The good people of Writer’s Digest have provided this checklist for your perusing pleasure.

There is a serious drought of boy books in young adult fiction, but before you try your hand at breaking your way into this area, check out this post over at YA Fresh.  In it, Tina Ferraro shares tips on writing for guys, as outlined by YA authors Michael Reisman and Ben Esch at a recent bookstore appearance.

This isn't the kind of boy book I'm talking about, but it's good too.🙂

LITERARY AGENTS

If you’re in the query stages and you’re not getting any bites, see how your query stacks up against a really good one.  Here, Caren Johnson Literary‘s Elana Roth analyzes a query letter that grabbed her.

I know I’ve been linking to her a lot lately, but WordServe Literary‘s Rachelle Gardner keeps writing terrific posts!  In this one, she talks craft, story and voice.

THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND

In a world where real journalism is dying and blogs are taking over cyberspace, the folks at Hyper Modern Writing remind us of the importance of fact checking.

As well, at Ragan’s PR Daily, Christine Kent says short, snappy subject lines might be the key to freelancing success.

If you’re thinking about joining a writing group, Australia’s Marsha Durham gives you a few things to consider before making a commitment, over on her Writing Companion blog.

IN THE NEWS

I just added this link so I could post a picture of Taylor Lautner (just kidding).  In The New York Times, director of the American Indian Studies Center at the University of California Angela R. Riley opines about Twilight saga author Stephenie Meyer‘s use of the Quileute Indians.

Someone get this poor boy a towel!

INTERVIEWS

Over at Writer’s Digest, check out what 179 Ways to Save a Novel author Peter Selgin has to say about agents, writing and the publishing industry overall.

As well, The Knight Agency‘s Lucienne Diver had an interesting little chat with The Naughty List author Suzanne Young over on her blog, Authorial, Agently and Personal Ramblings.

In case you missed my post earlier in the week, I interviewed fellow Southeastern Writers Association presenter inspirational author Emily Sue Harvey.

Also, Shenandoah Writers Online member Katy Doman conducted our first Author Spotlight with nonfiction writer and poet Dana Wildsmith. You must be a member of SWO to access this interview, but e-mail me at ricki@rickischultz.com, and I’ll send you an invitiation on the double!

GRAMMAR HUMOR

Hehehehehehe.

FACEBOOK FUN

Think your Facebook etiquette is decent?  Better check, using this cartoon at The Oatmeal as well as this YouTube video.