In the Blogosphere: 2/28-3/11

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

I’m making one of my resolutions to be better with these blogosphere posts.  *Well, I’m trying, but I’ve been reallllllly busy!* I’ve saved a lot of great stuff, though, and it’s all definitely worth a read.


Here on Pub Rants, Kristen Nelson of Nelson Literary Agency shows you four easy steps for a “killer” opening—or, four things that will KILL your opening.

Does writing in the young adult genre appeal to you?  Or, are you already doing it but are unsure if you’re doing it well?  Mary Kole of Andrea Brown Lit pimps Regina L. Brooks’s book, Writing Great Books for Young Adults.


I’ve done a “Straight Dope” post on this, but don’t take it from me—take it from the Grammar Girl herself: Mignon Fogarty talks the capitalization of proper nouns.

Here, YA Highway’s Amanda Hannah helps you strengthen those sentences, simile-and-metaphor style.

Feeling tense?  Claire King is feeling first person present tense—and she makes a case for when and where (and why) it’s appropriate.

After checking out what Kristen Nelson says NOT to do in your beginning chapters, New York Times bestselling author (Across the Universe) Beth Revis spills on what TO do in order to hook readers in your first chapter in this post on the League of Extraordinary Writers.

Here, Gabriela Pereira of DIY MFA gives some concrete tips and exercises to create concrete characters.


Are you a Type A writer?  In this post, author Jody Hedlund suggests that, if you devise and stick to a writing plan, you’re likely to be a more successful writer.

End-of-winter sluggishness contributing to your writer’s block?  Here, horror writer of awesome Zoe C. Courtman offers tips on how to sweat through the blockage!


And while we’re on the subject of writing regularly and successfully, organization is key to clearing out distractions.  Incarnate author and ferret aficionado Jodi Meadows agrees in this post, where she shares her secret for keeping her inbox organized.

Where is all the time for writing?  It’s hard to come by, says D4EO agent Mandy Hubbard, but that’s no excuse.  She says you must find the time—and she does it with Debbie Ridpath Ohi cartoons!

I’m looking forward to seeing some writer friends at SCBWI this weekend—can’t wait to tell you all about it!

How about you?  Anything fun this weekend?

Whadd-Updates: 2/9 Name-Dropping Edition

I have been somewhat absent from the blogosphere as of late. That’s because, in the last three weeks, I have done a lot of things.

  • Spent a few days in Georgia, visiting friends
  • Facilitated a Shenandoah Writers meeting
  • Met with the fabulous people of the Arts Council of the Valley, who are helping me and the Write-Brained Network put on our WB Workshop
  • Gone to the dentist—not all that time-consuming, but it did take me away from work
  • Gotten my hair cut (not a pixie—sorry to disappoint)—ditto from above note
  • Traveled to Front Royal, Va., for a mini writers’ retreat with Sara McClung and Cristin Terrill
  • Gone with Jodi Meadows to an author reading/signing of debut literary novelist Hannah Pittard (The Fates Will Find Their Way)
  • Gotten sick

Here’s what I’m currently doing:

  • Trying not to be sick
  • Writing interview questions for both Wendy Toliver and Meg Cabot (I’m interviewing them for an article for the 2012 Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market [Writer’s Digest Books], and I need to send the questions, um, Nowsville, if I expect to meet my March 1 deadline.  Wha??)
  • Contacting potential speakers for the WB Workshop
  • Building a Web site for the WB Workshop
  • Oh yeah—and I also started querying (in a *tiny* round) my latest YA manuscript, so this is why I have to distract myself with all the other stuff.  So I won’t go nuts.

I was going to write a post about how wonderful and ooey-gooey it made me feel to see my former students and my Georgia be-fris, but decided I don’t have the brain power to dedicate to that this week.  All my energy needs to be focused on interviewing those two awesome authors.  And I definitely think the urge to clone myself and stick one Ricki clone back in Georgia would overwhelm me, so I don’t even want to go there.

I also wanted to write about how much fun I had at my writers’ retreat this past weekend, but Cristin did a great job of it here.  I agree with her wholeheartedly—that getting together with other writers and realizing you all think you suck is really important for a writer’s sanity.

I will say, however, I would recommend a get-together like this to anyone.  I felt completely recharged come Sunday morning, and I actually wish we’d had another day, since we all seemed to be much more in work mode—you know, at, like, 11 p.m. Saturday night.  Next time, we vowed we will add at least a day or two more.


We now have a date for the Write-Brained Network’s workshop.  We have a title, too.

Drumroll, please . . .

The One-Stop Workshop

for the Serious Writer:

A Roadmap from

“How to” through “I Did”


Mark your calendars for 9.10. 11, folks—for a full day of tips from the pros as well as writerly camaraderie.

Okay, well, that’s it for me at the moment.  I hope you can bear with me through all this craziness.  I promise to be back with a super awesome “In the Blogosphere” this Friday or Saturday.

Happy Wednesday, everyone!

In the Blogosphere: 10/18-11/12

“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 tons of links saved, dating all the way back to the summer (oh noes!)—but they are all still worth a look.  I’ll catch up eventually, right?


Here, author and D4EO literary agent Mandy Hubbard gives some spillage on some holes in the market as well as subgenres all editors want (hint: middle grade!).

Writer’s Relief talks lit agents—and how to find the best one for you.

Other than announcing he’s leaving the agenting world (!), Nathan Bransford has more bad news: the rejection letter of the future will be silence.

Here, FinePrint Literary’s Suzie Townsend chats about the waiting game.

We all know it’s important to build platform, but do unpubbed writers need to blog? Andrea Brown agent Mary Kole of weighs in.


Over on her blog, YA author Michelle Hodkin gives an ironic example of what your first pages should look like.* (Hint: if this is what your first pages actually look like, get that delete button ready!) *She also gives links to fabulous resources for fixing up those first pages.

Thinking of planning a trilogy?  Please don’t get started until you read this post by YA author (and my pal—hee!) Jodi Meadows.

Over at the Guide to Literary Agents blog, Chuck Sambuchino shares five screenwriting tips [from Neil Landau and Matt Frederick‘s 101 Things I Learned in Film School] *all* writers can use.


Ever wonder what full-time writers do all day?  Over at Writing it Out, Across the Universe author Beth Revis live-blogged a day in her busy writer life.

While we’re living vicariously through others, middle-grade author Stephanie Blake shares how she got plucked from the slush pile over at Adventures in Children’s Publishing.


As you know, I’m a huge enthusiast of writers’ conferences.  Well, so is the University of Cincinnati and Writer’s Digest’s Jane FriedmanHere, she talks about the benefits of attending these functions.

Having trouble formatting your synopsis? Here’s a checklist of the essentials, from WD.

Going along with that, Write Anything’s Annie Evett talks about the importance of building a writer portfolio—how to, what to include, etc.

Worried you’ll lose your blog content? Guest blogger Peta Jenneth Andersen explains how, over at Guide to Literary Agents blog.


Over at Self Editing Blog, author John Robert Marlow talks about jumping the gun.


You may be participating in this writing marathon, but you can still be healthy about it. Write Anything’s Annie Evett tells us how.

Here, YA author of awesome Maureen Johnson answers a slew of NaNo questions.

Here are some NaNo DOs and DON’Ts, courtesy of TerribleMinds.

And over at Write Anything, Andrea Allison offers some Web site aids to help you stick with it.


I heart Meg CabotHere’s an interview L.A. Times’s Carolyn Kellogg of Jacket Copy did with the author extraordinaire this summer.

Um, coolest thing ever?  Make your Twitter feed into a daily newspaper!

In the Blogosphere: 9/5-9/10

“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?


Agents are inundated with stuff pretty much year-round, which means a lot of their time is dedicated to clearing out their inboxes and whittling down the slush pile alone!  So, when they give advice on how to get their attention, it’s best to listen up.

Here, Barbara Poelle of Irene Goodman Literary Agency offers six tips on things you can do to make September rock—and, surprisingly, they’re not “revise” or “don’t contact me”—she says you shouldn’t be afraid to use a little shame.

Here, Getting Past the Gatekeeper says it’s basically a no-no to revise and resubmit a manuscript to an agent (meaning, you’ve revised it since they requested pages and you’d like them to look at the new pages instead)—but it *can* be done well.


Here, Editorial Anonymous answers the question of whether or not children’s books should take into account entertaining the adults who will be reading them to their kids.

Here, Tahereh makes me feel a lot better about being almost 29 and always going straight to the YA/teen section of the bookstore.  Solidarity!🙂


I have been telling people this for *ages*, but everyone (especially my [former] students!) always thinks I’m nuts.  Or it’s like, “Yeah, yeah—you’re right,” and then you just know they didn’t do it.  Maybe you’ll listen to Heather Trese over at See Heather Write?  It’s really a MUST in terms of revision.

Here, Lydia Kang of The Word is My Oyster talks about and gives examples of character sheets—great tools to make your characters frawesome! <—word stolen from Elana Johnson, and I feel like I can’t use it without giving her a shoutout!  Is there such thing as plagiarism when it comes to Internet slang? She says “fabu,” I’ve noticed, but I have said “faboo” for years . . . (yes, I know hers makes more sense, but I can’t go back NOW!) . . . so I feel like that one’s fair game.🙂

But I digress.

Let's bedazzle the crap out of something!


Over at Fuel Your Writing, Suzannah Freeman outlines the five mistakes you make when writing a blog postSo, stop it!

Here, Shiver and Linger author Maggie Stiefvater gives you a dose of reality in terms of the publishing industry—and she does it using a ham sandwich.

Here, Kevin Purdy of Lifehacker talks about what caffeine actually does to your brain.  I’m choosing to ignore it. Right now, actually!

I found out about this site by reading this post by Jeff Hirsch over at the League of Extraordinary Writers, where he calls it “The Greatest and Most Horrible Website Ever.”  I mean, how can you not click on something when it’s billed like that, right?

Hirsch is referring to this site, TV Tropes, which lists—in crazy number and detail—just about every trope* (narrative, character, etc.) out there . . . and it breaks them down by categories, genres, etc.  It’s just nuts.  There really isn’t an original thought to be had anymore!  Beware: The site is totally addicting!


Over on her blog, Kristen Lamb coughs up the single best way for authors to become a brand**—and it may be easier than you think.

And Jane Friedman discusses how to manage multiple (online) identities: avoid.

It can get complicated. Just ask Lana, Lois, and Chloe.


September is so back-to-school/let’s get down to business, and a lot of folks are talking about butt-in-chair-and-write time.

Here, Jody Hedlund talks about what to do when your writing routine is disrupted.

This is what I do.

Across the Universe author Beth Revis and my pal, The New Soul Trilogy author, Jodi Meadows—along with Authoress Anonymous (and probably some others) have been “word racing” on Twitter to get the words written.  Here are two great posts Revis did about their little project—what they’re doing and how it’s going.

We’ve got our own little GET WORDS WRITTEN thing going on over at The Write-Brained Network, and that’s WordWatchers.  It’s a little like NaNoWriMo, but you can tailor it to what fits in your schedule.  Details here.

Come play with us!

*Ahem—What is a “trope”?  In this sense, it’s a common or overused theme or device.

**Kyle, this is for you.

In the Blogosphere: 7/19-7/23

“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 (oh noes!)—but they are all still worth a look.  I’ll catch up eventually, right?


Querying/pitching is up there in terms of the most discussed topics on industry blogs and at writing conferences.  I find it always helps me to look at others’ queries in order to better gauge what does and doesn’t work with my own pitches.

Here, at The Public Query Slushpile, fellow Ohioan Rick Daley has dedicated an entire forum to queries and feedback. The idea of the blog being? Leave feedback on others’ queries. Post your queries.* Get feedback from others. It’s that simple.  The site isn’t exactly like Janet Reid’s Query Shark or Jodi Meadows’s Query Project (in that it’s not just industry pros offering feedback—it’s an open forum for all), but the entries do get a good amount of feedback from readers.  And we are all trying to appeal to readers after all, are we not?  Check it out!

Who says slush can't be delicious?

Over on her blog, Canuck mathematics textbook writer (<—Yes, I included that part for my math-ed professor hubs!) Cheryl Angst compiles and comments on a list of 10 things Howard Morhaim Literary Agency’s Kate McKean tweeted as things that she thinks while she reads queries. Very interesting read!

Going along with the two, more regular, query workshops above, D4EO agent Mandy Hubbard conducted her own query clinic back in May.  Here is the post where she discusses the concept, and here is the last in the series (I’ve included this one because she links to all four of the queries she workshopped in it).


Summer seems to be about the hardest time of year to find butt-in-chair-and-write time.

Here, YA paranormal romance author Maggie Stiefvater (Shiver, Linger, etc.) offers some thoughtful advice on how writers can to best manage their time.

Over at Writer Unboxed, Anna Elliott chimes in on this subject as well.


Afraid your characters are too one-dimensional?  Paulo Campos of yingleyangle gives three tips on how to breathe some life into your darlings.

Here, longtime industry insider Alan Rinzler offers some further insight on how to create and use author James Scott Bell‘s idea of a voice journal.


Since it was our four-year anniversary this week, I am posting this in honor of my husband.  Magazine editor and freelance writer Heather Trese says, “You might be married to a writer if . . . “

And, um, how random is this?  Molly is famous!  About a month ago, Annalemma Magazine used a picture of Molly (my beagly beagle) in an article they did about online writing communities.  The caption says that that pic was the first to come up when they Google image searched online writing community! (It looks like she’s since been ousted, however.  It’s on the fourth page.)

You're not the only famous beagle!

*There is a debate about whether or not to post your original work online.  It’s up to you.  Enough industry blogs host contests or query workshops all the time where people post their original queries, so I wouldn’t necessarily worry about someone stealing your work . . . but it *can* happen.  It would probably be pretty easy to prove your query was yours, though—particularly if you posted in on the Internet.  If you’d like feedback from other writers but you’re wary of posting your work on an open forum, try a password-encrypted, by-invitation-only community like *shameless plug* Shenandoah Writers Online!

In the Blogosphere: 6/21-7/2

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


As Sarah Jane Freymann Literary’s Katharine Sands discussed at Southeastern Writers association last week, when pitching, it’s important to be ready.  Over at Self Editing Blog, John Robert Marlow discusses jumping the gun: suicide by submission.

Likewise, Nelson Literary Agency’s Kristin Nelson describes the dangers of starting your novel in the wrong place.


You know, I sort of think this is kind of a fabulous blog post.  Writer and part-time doctor Lydia Kang of The Word is My Oyster says: Stop apologizing! Chuck that qualifying language and strengthen your writing.


Thinking of doing a little freelancing?  Down the Shore with Jen’s Jen A. Miller (@jerseyshorejen) explains four things you need in order to make it.  A must-read for all fledgling freelancers.

Aw, a baby freelancer.


Here, award-winning fiction and nonfiction author JC Hutchins of Writer Unboxed discusses crafting killer pitches by offering and analyzing examples of good ones.

I’m a little behind with my Blogosphere posts—I saved this one two months ago!!—but it’s too good not to share.  Young adult fantasy author Jodi Meadows of the Query Project gave us a gift on her birthday: the query she wrote for Erin Incarnate that helped her snag fab agent Lauren MacLeod of the Strothman Agency.


Looking for a little motivation to get words written?  The Michelle Wolfson repped Tawna Feske details a recent Twitter writing sensation, #1k1hr, where one must turn off her self-editor and get words on the page—1,000 of them, to be exact—in an hour.

If you’re looking for something just as satisfying but a little more flexible and a little more long-term, check out my new writing SWO program, WordWatchers. Pick a weekly word count goal, and divvy up the words written per day in a way that fits your schedule!


In honor of Eclipse coming out this week . . . if you thought the people who stand in lines for twelve hours to see the Twilight movies were wonky, you weren’t wrong—but there are wonkier folks out there.  Here, Great White Snark gives us a dozen such psychopaths.

If You Missed the SWO LIVE CHAT on Story Openings . . .

ME: I’m a little behind in typing up this recap.

VOICE IN MY HEAD:  A little?  You’re a month behind! *shakes a fist in Why-I-Oughtta fashion*

ME: *cowers* I know, I know.  But better late than never, right?

(End scene.)

At May’s SWO live chat, we discussed story openings.  Here’s a little precursor to our session.

If you missed the chat, or if you were there but it was too buggy to keep up (sorry!), here are the highlights:


At the start of the chat, attendees posted either their own story openings or the openings of their favorite books.  This was not meant to be a critique session (although a little of that went on); rather, we pointed out what the reader learns from each opening and what makes each opening successful or not.

This led to talk about what it means to have a “successful” opening.  It’s subjective, of course; but, for the most part, we agreed that in order to deem a story opening a success, it has to hook the reader in some way—because, while readers might give the author a few chapters before giving up, agents pretty much won’t.  Translation: Your opening needs to do something—and right away.

As we looked at real examples, we noted that the best ones oriented the reader.  As one member put it, an opening has to service your narrative in a clear way.

The best openings were those that:

  • Showed voice
  • Gave context
  • Displayed character insight
  • Raised questions


  • Work in age the main character’s age—especially important if you’re writing children’s or YA
    • Pay close attention to voice and diction here, as that can be very telling
  • Hone in on structure and pacing (i.e., if it’s supposed to be a tense action scene, your sentence structure and punctuation

    What's my motivation?

    should mimic that)

  • Indicate genre or story type
    • Injecting setting can do this (i.e., placing your characters in the woods might suggest it’s fantasy)
    • Names can do this (i.e., if a character’s name is “Zender,” like in one of the examples we analyzed, that gives the sense it’s sci-fi or fantasy—more so than if the dude’s name is “Bob”)
  • Indicate protag’s goals/motivations (i.e., if it starts off talking about a dungeon escape, the reader might deduce it’s probably not contemporary fiction)


  • Avoid gimmicks
    • Like the “fake-out” beginning (where you set it up to look like one thing is true, but you read the rest of the page and discover it isn’t.  Many agents—Nathan Bransford, for one—shy away from the “gotcha” opener)
  • Probably don’t start with poetry
  • You don’t need to start with a fireworks display—particularly if you can’t follow it up anything
    • If you do this, it can come off as “gimmicky”


Opening of Stephen King’s Gunslinger series:

The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.

  • This tells so much without saying anything at all, really
    • Good guy vs. bad guy
    • A chase—an escape
    • In many ways, this one line serves as a microcosm for the entire series.


Up-and-coming YA author Jodi Meadows was kind enough to send me her opening to the first book in her New Soul trilogy, Erin Incarnate.  I have posted her thoughts it on Shenandoah Writers Online under the “Files” tab at the top of the main page.  In the file, Jodi shows her original opening and talks about the changes her agent wanted her to implement—and why making those changes made her opening stronger.

For SWO members, click here to access Jodi’s file.*


We also indicated you can probably play devil’s advocate for each of these suggestions or cite counter examples in published books.  However, it’s important to remember we’re trying to establish some “rules” here—not exceptions.  As well, we’re talking about writers trying to break into the industry given today’s market—not established authors whose books are going to sell a bajillion copies no matter what they write.

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

*Not an SWO member yet?  Click here to get started.